The World's Most Beautiful Waterfalls—and the Scenic Hikes That Go There

Love adventure? Want to explore ecologically preserved sites for new photography and learning opportunities? Love scenic water views and refreshing places to cool down? Hiking provides it all. Some spectacular sites, like the largest waterfalls in the world, can be seen along the trails—both those rarely trod and heavily travelled. These eco-wonders are not just beautiful, but beneficial to the environment by providing purified water, nurturing aquatic life and flora and fauna and also by calming our minds and souls. Climate change is altering many of Earth's natural landscapes so be aware of variable conditions along trails as you feed your sense of adventure.

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Athabasca Falls is a waterfall in Jasper National Park. Getty

Running Rapids
Athabasca Falls
Alberta, Canada

Water from the Canadian Rockies flows down into the waterfalls of Jasper National Park creating a flow with wild vigor. The falls are wheelchair accessible, with a paved path taking admirers to a number of viewpoints. Venturing off the path allows visitors to explore both the upper and lower regions of the trail.

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Hawaii. Thomas Doering/Getty

Lush Landscape
Akaka Falls Trail
Hakalau, Hawaii

A short half-mile hike is big on sights and low on strenuous activity. The well-kept loop trail ushers sightseers around to see a number of waterfalls, including the 442-foot main attraction, and beautiful local flora among the lush landscape. Though there are no hills to climb, there are a number of stairways to navigate

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Mendenhall glacier. Getty

Winter Waterfall
Nugget Falls
Juneau, Alaska

Located in Tongass National Forest about 12 miles from Juneau, the Mendenhall Glacier has produced Nugget Falls, a fan-like waterfall that leads into a lake. A series of short hikes allows for different views of the waterfall and icy surrounds, which are also known for frequent brown bear sightings.

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Yosemite Valley and Falls, California. Getty

California High
Yosemite Falls
Yosemite Valley, California

Yosemite National Park is America's oldest national park and home to the fifth tallest waterfall in the world. Hikers can reach it by taking a 1-mile loop trail from the lodge or the 7.2-mile round-trip Yosemite Falls Trail route. Late spring is best, with the highest water flow. In the winter, the temperatures dip below freezing. A park admission fee applies.

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Cascada de Tamul in Tamul, Mexico. CREDIT: jose carlos macouzet espinosa/Getty Jose Carlos Macouzet Espinosa/Getty

Top and Bottom Views
Cascada de Tamu|
Huasteca, Mexico

There are two ways to reach this waterfall, located in a canyon on the Gallinas River. To see it from above, you'll need to trek from the parking area to the top of the waterfall. Some tour companies take guests rappelling off the top of the falls, allowing vistas from the top and the bottom. Or, via the village of La Morena, adventurers can take a small rowboat to the falls.

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Iguazu River between Brazil and Argentina represents the largest set of waterfalls in the world. Getty

Cross-Border Cascade
Iguazu Falls
Argentina and Brazil

The series of waterfalls that makes up Iguazu Falls constitutes the world's largest waterfall system. Multiple trails lead to various viewing locations from both the Argentina and Brazil sides. Depending on water flow, there can be over 200 waterfalls flowing at once.

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Skaftafell National Park, South Iceland. Olga Gavrilova/Getty

Black and White
Skaftafell National Park, Iceland

The black basalt columns of the surrounds here contrast with the gushing white of the Svartifoss waterfall. Plus, it's surrounded by a lush green landscape. To see this wonder, you'll need to hike about a mile uphill from the National Park's visitors' center on a route that ushers walkers past other, smaller falls along the way.

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Orrido di Bellano in Italy. Jef Wodniack/Getty

Ancient Steps
Orrido di Bellano
Lake Como, Italy

A 15-million-year-old gorge is host to one of Italy's most spectacular waterfalls. Adventurers can hike down staircases and across walkways into the narrow space where they'll hear the echos that helped the area gain its name. Reaching the end of cavern trail reveals a blue lagoon with calm waters.

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Lumangwe Falls on the Kalungwishi River in northern Zambia. Jasper Neupane/Getty

Cascading Curtain
Lumangwe Falls
Chimpempe, Zambia

Though it's easy to mistake Lumangwe Falls for the more famous Victoria Falls in photographs, the Namibian landmark has its own unique landscape—including a nearby rainforest, ripe for exploration. Paths lead to the foot of the falls, allowing for an up-close look at the water flow, which is at its height in mid-spring. The site has only been open to tourists since 1996.

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Ban Gioc Waterfall is located on the border between Vietnam and China. Tuan Hoang Van/Getty

Border Beauty
Ban Gioc Waterfall
Cao Bang, Vietnam

Located on the border with China, the Ban Gioc Waterfall area is located within Non Nuoc Cao Bang Geopark. Divided into a number of falls except during the wettest season, the flows are joined by bamboo bridges hikers can use to explore. Steep paths connect the area from top to bottom to reveal spectacular views.

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Yarn Kelambu Waterfall on the island Lombok, Indonesia. Jacob Stock/Getty

A Beautiful Duo
Sendang Gile and Tiu Kelep
Lombok, Indonesia

These waterfalls are a jointly ticketed attraction that are relatively easily accessible, even for casual hikers. Sendang Gile is encountered first, then it's a further half-hour hike to Tiu Kelep. Depending on the weather, though, the path to the falls can be slippery. But the payoff for making the trip is spectacular.