Since each waterfall is unique, you’ll always have a different experience when you hike from one to the other. California, USA, is endowed with an array of waterfalls, including San Antonio Falls, Rainbow Falls, and Alamere Falls, which are all amazing hiking destinations. In these hiking spots, you’ll find refreshing air, wildlife, and scenic views. They all have different levels of difficulty for you to try out. If you’re just starting out with hiking, it’s advised to start with the lowest level of difficulty and progress to other levels with time. Plan your hike in advance, as some waterfalls dry up during hot weather. Read on to find out more about the amazing top waterfall hikes in California, USA.
Trip101 recommends assessing the risks before hitting the hiking and trekking trails. Please be especially aware of the difficulty levels, the locations’ ground conditions, as well as the seasonal risks.
1. Switzer Falls
In the lush green canopy of Switzer Falls, there are different hiking trails with beautiful scenery. The trails are approximately 4.5-miles (7.2-km) long and of medium difficulty. Along the trails, you’ll be covered by a beautiful canopy of trees, protecting you from direct sunlight.
This is an ideal family hiking spot. You’ll see wild animals, like moose, and geographical features, like streams and hills. Wear water shoes, as you’ll pass through water bodies, like streams, along the trail. There’s ample parking space and dogs are allowed.
Address: 701 Angeles Crest Hwy, Tujunga, CA 91042, United States
Website: Switzer Falls
2. Cascade Falls
Cascade Falls is a magical destination near Tahoma, California. Short and sweet, the trail is easy to hike and only 1.4-miles (2.3-km) long. With the amazing waterfall views, come refreshing air and wild animals, like bears. You have breathtaking views at vantage points, like Emerald Bay, where you can see other physical features, like lakes and snow-capped hills.
Visit Cascade Falls during early summer and spring for an unforgettable experience. Wear the appropriate shoes for hiking, as it gets rocky and snowy along the trails.
Address: California 96150, USA
3. San Antonio Falls
Hiking at San Antonio Falls is fun and adventurous. You’ll cover a distance of 1.3 miles (2 km) in this easy hike. It’s both ideal for children and for dogs. With its scenic and paved trails, you’ll pass under numerous pine trees, offering a cool and refreshing atmosphere. You’ll come across wild animals, like squirrels and birds, and rocky cliffs along the way. For a great bonding time, visit this hiking destination.
San Antonio Falls
Address: California 91759, USA
4. Berry Creek Falls
The trails at Berry Creek Falls are frequently traveled, making them easy to follow. They’re also well-marked to avoid you getting lost. The trail is an 11.2-mile (18-km) loop, with amazing redwood trees. In terms of difficulty, it’s a moderate hike. To best enjoy the hike, get here early to beat the crowds and hike anticlockwise. This way, you’ll avoid the rocky steep hills.
Remember to carry water and snacks because the hike is long and dehydrating. Take a break once in a while at the designated areas and enjoy your snacks as you rest. During the winter, the falls are closed for safety measures and no hiking can take place, due to strong winds and flooding.
Berry Creek Falls
Address: California 95017, USA
5. Dawn Falls
Situated in Larkspur, California, Dawn Falls is endowed with well-maintained trails, stretching for 2.7 miles (4.3 km). These trails are shaded by tall trees, making them perfect for a rainy day. The moderately difficult hike comes with awesome views of hills and water bodies. You’ll see trees and plants, like redwoods, pines, wildflowers, and ferns. Other activities to indulge in here include birdwatching, nature walks, and horseback riding.
Address: Dawn Falls Trail, Larkspur, CA 94939, United States
6. McWay Falls
The entry to these magnificent waterfalls is through the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. The hiking trails are endowed with beautiful trees and a breathtaking coastline. They’re also well maintained and clearly marked. The vantage points at strategic locations along the trail offer beautiful ocean and sunset views. You’ll cover a distance of 1.1 miles (1.8 km) during this easy hike. It’s easy to get to the falls and there’s ample parking space.
Address: California 93920, USA
7. Eaton Canyon Falls
This family-friendly hiking destination is 3.5-miles (5.6-km) long and is situated in Pasadena, California. It’s a moderate hike endowed with decent trails. Hiking along the trails is easy and fun, as you’ll be covered by trees, offering plenty of shade. At the end of the trail, you’ll come across beautiful waterfalls that are a sight to behold. The trails are dog-friendly, so you don’t have to leave your dog at home or in the car.
Because of the popularity of the falls, they are usually crowded during weekends, so plan accordingly to better enjoy the hiking experience. Wear appropriate hiking shoes, as the paths are rocky.
Eaton Canyon Falls
Address: California 91001, USA
8. Rainbow Falls
Located in Mammoth Lakes, California, these magical falls feature trails that are 4.8-miles (7.7-km) long. They’re only open from May to October and hiking here is fine for beginners. The trails are easy to follow, well-marked, dog-friendly, and well maintained. As it gets very sunny and hot here, remember to carry sunscreen. Wear water shoes or carry an extra pair, as it can get wet along the way.
Hiking on weekdays is better, as this spot gets crowded on the weekend. Other than the beautiful waterfalls, you’ll also see wildflowers, like milkweed and coneflowers.
9. Sturtevant Falls
For a fun, moderate hike, visit Sturtevant Falls. The hiking trail is 3-miles (4.8-km) long and full of shade from the trees. November to March is the best time to enjoy this hiking destination. With its refreshing air, you’ll enjoy river crossings and beautiful waterfalls. Besides hiking, you can indulge in other recreational activities here, like bike riding and camping.
Due to its crowded nature, ensure you arrive here early to beat the crowds and get a parking spot. Carry water and snacks, as the hike may get exhausting and dehydrating. Wear water shoes, as you’ll pass by rivers.
Address: Forest Rte 2N40, Arcadia, CA
10. Alamere Falls
Alamere Falls is accessible all year round. With clearly defined and well-maintained trails, this hiking destination is moderately difficult. The trail is long, covering approximately 11 miles (17.7 km). As a safety measure, always check the solunar and tide charts before hiking. With this shaded trail comes a great coastal view and a breeze that’s sometimes windy.
Carry lots of water and snacks and wear a long-sleeved jacket and avoid shorts, as you may encounter poisonous plants, like poison oak, along the trail. In case it rains, wear shoes that are suited to muddy hiking. Avoid the side trail, as it’s not well marked, so you can easily get lost.
Address: California 94924, USA
Waterfall hiking at its best in California, USA
Create unforgettable memories in California by going for a waterfall hike and indulging in the other recreational activities at the above spots. Other than hiking, you’ll also enjoy California’s beautiful nature.
Get Trip101 in your inbox