As I’ve mentioned before in a post about Upper Johnston Canyon Falls, the hike in Johnston Canyon is one of the more popular hikes in Banff National Park. When I visited at the end of August 2014, the parking areas were completely full and people were parking on the road. The trail was very busy. People were trying to push their baby strollers down the trail, which was interesting, as the trail, while not difficult, wasn’t exactly built for strollers.
While some of the falls are named Johnston Canyon Falls, the falls in between have names. Stella Falls is the second of the three named falls you’ll encounter. The waterfall isn’t as exciting as the Lower and Upper Falls, but the scenery is stunning nonetheless. If you’re willing to do the 3.5 mile round-trip, it’s well worth it to see Stella Falls and five other falls.
This isn’t a particularly difficult set of waterfalls to find, with one minor hitch. The trail head is along of the Bow Valley Parkway (Highway 1A). If you’re driving along the Transcanadian Highway 1, there are limited entrances/connections onto 1A. In order to find the falls, you can either enter onto 1A a few miles after leaving Banff. You will be heading west if you take this exit, and the trail head will be on your right after driving for a while. (You can also exit at the junction of Transcanadian Highway 1 and Alberta 93. Instead of heading south, though, head north for a short distance. Then turn right and drive for 6.4 km. The parking area will be on your left.)
I mention a parking area, but if I remember correctly, that parking area was completely full. There were at least a hundred or so cars (possibly more) parked on the sides of 1A, so that’s where I parked. It added a little bit longer to the walk, but it wasn’t much.
Accessibility: 8/10 (easy/moderate, though strollers are honestly too big for the trail)
Distance of Hike: 3.4 miles round trip (to see all falls)
There are waterfalls in Iowa! In Decorah, Iowa, there are a few waterfalls in the area. Malanaphy Springs Falls is a few miles outside of Decorah, and does require some hiking to view. In the city itself, though, is Dunnings Spring Falls, which is very easy to view, and is surprisingly pretty.
I believe wedding photos were being taken when I visited Dunnings Spring Park, so I may have been a bit distracted. Once finding parking, though, it was a quick walk to view the falls. I believe there was a trail that led uphill to the left of the falls, and I followed it for a while. It does lead you to the crest of the falls, but it wasn’t anything very exciting, and I don’t believe I had any better views of the falls. It’s still a nice park to explore!
In Decorah, off College Drive, you’ll find Ice Cave Road (which Google also briefly shows as Quarry Street). Turn onto Ice Cave Road, which only heads to the east.
After a short distance, you’ll come upon Dunnings Spring Park. The waterfall is found inside the park. I may have had to walk a bit further to find parking, which I don’t remember where the best place to park was.
Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: 0.1 miles round-trip
Great Falls of the Passaic from the first viewpoint in July 2016
The first time I tried to visit the Great Falls of the Passaic was in 2009 when smart phones didn’t exist (at least not commonly). I was using a GPS system, and let’s just say it wasn’t as easy to identify the best place to head to and park. I ended up getting a bit lost and found myself on one of the busiest streets (full of people) that I had ever been on. I decided it wasn’t worth it.
In July 2016, I was visiting family in New Jersey. We headed back to Newark International Airport, and thunderstorms led to the cancellation of our flight. The next easy flight was 24 hours later, so we had another day to explore. I wasn’t sure what to do. We had already been to New York City, so weren’t going to trek back there. I then realized that the Great Falls weren’t that far away.
This time, with a smart phone in hand, Google Maps led us to the correct parking area for Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park. It was a much less stressful time. From the parking area, you can see the falls, but you can also cross the Passaic River and get closer to the falls. It’s hard to get a picture of the full falls, so both viewpoints are interesting as they give you different perspectives.
From I-80, take xit 57B toward Downtown/Paterson. (If headed west, it will be exit 57A-57B.)
Merge onto NJ-19 N.
Take the Grand Street exit. Turn left onto Grand Street.
Turn right onto Spruce Street.
Turn right onto McBride Avenue, and the parking area will be on your left.
Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: roadside
I visited Yellowstone National Park five years ago, and yet I’m just now getting to one of the major features of the park, Lower Yellowstone Falls. Upper and Lower Yellowstone Falls are stunningly beautiful, and they’re definitely worth seeking out if you’re in the park.
With Old Faithful and so many other geysers, Mammoth Hot Springs, and the wildlife, it can be difficult to choose what to do. And you should plan enough time to visit all of them. But you should also plan to visit a number of waterfalls, and if you only have time for a few, the falls on the Yellowstone River are probably the best to choose. The scenery around the falls is amazing.
The falls are very easy to get to and visit. They can be accessed just south of Canyon Village. From the North Rim Drive, Inspiration Point, Grandview Point and Lookout Point all give different views of the Lower Falls. From the South Rim Drive, Artists Point gives a view of the Lower Falls. As a waterfall fan, I believe I stopped at a number of these viewpoints since each stop is unique. Uncle Tom’s Trail is found on the South Rim, and that also leads down to a view of the falls. I did not do that, as I’m not a big fan of stairs/heights. No matter what, you’ll be able to find a wonderful view of the falls.
Canyon Village is found at the intersection of Norris Canyon Road and Grand Loop Road.
From that intersection, head south on Grand Loop Road, drive approximately 2 miles and you’ll find the N Rim Drive and S Rim Drive. Choose which viewpoint you want to visit, and that will help decide whether you want the North Rim or South Rim.
Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: variable, but often negligible
If you visit Iceland, and you explore outside of Reykjavík, you’ll likely end up on the Ring Road. If you take one of the tour buses to visit major attractions, many of them will head toward Skógafoss, which is one of the many stunning waterfalls in Iceland, and is extremely easy to visit. What I didn’t know the first time I visited Iceland in 2012 was that there was another waterfall about 1 mile away.
Kvernufoss isn’t as large or as exciting, but if you’re looking to get away from the crowds, and you can, Kvernufoss is the waterfall for you. Reaching the falls is a bit more adventurous, in that there are some unique steps. The start of the hike is near the Skógar Museum, but instead of stopping there, you pass the museum and some other buildings, and park at the end of that road near some abandoned farm equipment. Head east from that parking lot along the paths that have shown up. At some point, you’ll reach a wire fence that has been set to keep the sheep in/out. At the right spot, there should be a stepladder that you can use to safely cross over the fence. My sister was rather pregnant at this time, so it was interesting! After crossing that fence, it is pretty smooth sailing in terms of finding the falls. Follow the path toward the river/creek, and then once you reach the creek, turn north and follow the river upstream. That’s where Kvernufoss is!
The hike isn’t bad, but for the second half of the hike, it does climb uphill, and it can be a bit slippery, so wear appropriate shoes. You’ll likely have the trail to yourself. We ran into just a few other people. It’s a much quieter waterfall than Skógafoss, but it is also beautiful!
From the Ring Road, head toward Skógar, which is hard to miss because of the waterfall. If heading east, you’ll turn left toward the village.
Instead of heading toward Skógafoss, follow signs for the Skógar Museum. You’ll turn right at some point to arrive at the museum. Then follow the directions above.
Accessibility: 5/10 (moderate)
Length of Hike: 0.75 miles round-trip
Just inside the boundary of Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Bryson City, North Carolina are three waterfalls that can be seen in a not-so-difficult hike. Tom Branch Falls, Juney Whank Falls, and Indian Creek Falls can be found by starting at the Deep Creek Trail head. I think the trail continues on, but you can see all three falls within a 2 mile or so hike.
Tom Branch Falls is the first waterfall you’ll encounter, and you don’t have to hike the whole 2 miles to see Tom Branch Falls. The hike to Tom Branch Falls is only about 1/4 of a mile one-way, and the elevation gain is minimal. I remember the trail being rather flat up until this point. It does then change more in elevation to see the other two falls. I think I showed up when there wasn’t as much water flowing over Tom Branch Falls, so the other two falls were more exciting, even though they required a longer hike to view.
There isn’t one specific set of directions that will get you to the falls. It all depends on where you start. So head toward Bryson City, which is not far from US-19 or US-74.
Route 1337 (W Deep Creek Road) is the most direct way to lead to the trail head. It is off of 1336 (Old River Road), which is on the north side of the Tuckasegee River.
Drive 2.5 miles along Route 1337, W Deep Creek Road. Pass a number of other parking areas, and park in the Deep Creek Trail head parking area.
Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: 0.5 miles round-trip
I thought I would have written about Feather Falls already. The adventure getting to Feather Falls was definitely interesting, to say the least. Though once I had finally reached Feather Falls, it was definitely worth it!
I probably didn’t pay attention as much to the directions about the loop trail that exists, even as I’m reading it now. Realize there is an upper loop trail at 4.5 miles to the falls, and a lower loop trail at 3.5 miles to the falls. As many people probably think, let’s choose the shorter portion since it will be quicker. It is not, very simply. It is actually much more difficult to hike, at least when I visited in early March 2016. The lower loop trail seems to be constant up and down, and I would describe that trail as more “rustic”. It had been raining significantly the days before I arrived at the falls, and so the lower loop trail became very muddy, and in some parts had essentially a small but steady stream of water flowing downhill. I was soaked and muddy after doing the lower loop portion first. To get to the viewpoint for Feather Falls, you then steadily climb uphill, though it’s rather short. Unluckily, my knee decided to buckle and there was some definite pain, and I still had to return to the parking area. Luckily, I wasn’t injured where I couldn’t get back.
If I were to go on this hike again, I would absolutely recommend using the upper loop trail for the whole hike. There wasn’t any view on the lower loop trail that was remotely worth the difficulty. The upper loop trail was much more enjoyable, even with a knee in pain.
Once you reach the falls, as I mentioned, the whole hike becomes absolutely worth it. At 410′ tall, Feather Falls is stunningly beautiful. The scenery and geology around the falls is amazing. You definitely feel like you’ve entered Yosemite National Park (which isn’t really wildly far away.) So even though it might be a moderate/strenuous hike, it’s still a hike you should do if you love waterfalls!
I stayed in Oroville. If starting from Oroville, head east on CA-162. Drive 4-6 miles on CA-162 east, depending on where you start in Oroville.
Turn right on Forbestown Road, and drive for 6 miles.
Turn left onto Lumpkin Road and drive 11 miles.
Turn left onto Bryant Ravine Road and drive just under 2 miles to the trail head.
Choose which part of the loop you want to hike, and head to the falls.
Accesibility: 4/10 (Moderate/Strenuous)
Length of Hike: 7.4 to 9.8 miles round-trip