Top 10 Waterfalls in California

Published on September 6th, 2021

Already well-known for its nigh-endless coastline, vast desert landscapes and dynamic mountain peaks, California is also a premier destination for those drawn to chasing waterfalls! Although there are dozens across the state’s nearly 164,000 square-mile area, we’ve chosen ten you absolutely don’t want to miss on your next Golden State adventure.

Top 10 Waterfalls in California

1. Burney Falls

2. Brandy Creek Falls

3. Alamere Falls

4. Grizzly Falls

5. McWay Falls

6. Yosemite Falls

7. Vernal Falls

8. Rainbow Falls

9. Eaton Canyon Falls

10. Sturtevant Falls

Visiting Waterfalls in California

Without further ado, here are the California waterfalls you’ve got to put on your itinerary.

1. Burney Falls

Picturesque McArthur-Burney Falls in northern California during autumn, USA

Only about a hundred miles south of the Oregon border, in the shadow of stunning Mt. Shasta, Burney Falls has long been a beloved if well-kept California secret: despite its stunning stature and unique makeup, not that many people have heard of these falls — at least as compared to, say, Niagara. Tucked as it is into its own memorial state park between the bulk of Shasta-Trinity National Forest and Lassen National Forest about an hour northeast of Redding, this waterfall is off the beaten path for many California travelers… but those who make the trek will be well-rewarded. (Case in point: Upon his visit, President Theodore Roosevelt called these 129-foot falls the eighth wonder of the world!)

Thing to do near Burney Falls: Given that it’s surrounded by national forest land, there are unending outdoor recreation opportunities in this area, including Mt. Shasta itself, which can be summited by those with technical climbing skills. You’re also not too far off from Lassen Volcanic National Park! Here are some local RVshare rentals to consider.

2. Brandy Creek Falls

Brandy Creek Falls is a pretty little 24 ft. drop along Brandy Creek in the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area.

A breathtaking, tiered set of waterfalls located just outside of Whiskeytown to the west of Redding, Brandy Creek Falls features multiple sets of waterfalls cascading into cool, whirling pools along Brandy Creek, making it an iconic Northern California getaway for both residents and visitors in the area. Along with the waterfalls themselves, this hiking trail is known for its proliferation of beautiful wildflowers, and leashed dogs are welcome to come along for the adventure — just make sure they (and you!) are prepared for rocky, sometimes steep terrain.

Things to do near Brandy Creek Falls: This part of California is too-often overlooked and absolutely chock full of things worth seeing. Head back toward town and stop at Brandy Creek Beach, where these falls meet Whiskeytown Lake, for a relaxing stroll in the sand. Here are some area RVshare rentals to consider for your adventure.

3. Alamere Falls

Alamere Falls, Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County, California

There’s something fundamentally unbeatable about a waterfall that cascades immediately beside the vast expanse of the ocean — and those who make their way to Alamere Falls get to experience just that. Plummeting down a 30-foot cliff to the sands below, catching every crag in the rock face along the way, this waterfall marks the place where the Alamare Creek meets the Pacific, and creates a stunning spectacle for those lucky enough to stand at its foot. Of course, an experience this special isn’t one you can just drive up to; Alamere Falls is accessible only on foot and requires an 11-mile round-trip hike with about 1,500 feet of elevation gain. Once you get where you’re going, you’ll want to spend some time relaxing and enjoying it, so be sure to pack a lunch!

Things to do near Alamere Falls: Located in the gorgeous coastal wilds just north of San Francisco, there are plenty of other rugged outdoorsy adventures to get into around Alamere Falls, such as exploring Wildcat Beach or Bass Lake (both also accessible along the Coast Trail you take to the falls). You can even turn your hike into an overnight and sleep under the California stars out here — or take it easy in one of these local RVshare rentals.

4. Grizzly Falls

Kings Canyon Grizzly Falls

Just west of Kings Canyon National Park, deep in the heart of the Sequoia National Forest, Grizzly Falls offers visitors the opportunity to experience a rugged and beautiful California waterfall without necessitating a long and arduous hike. The Grizzly Falls picnic area is located directly off a major roadway, and the falls themselves cascade an impressive 80 feet off the cliff above to the pool below, making for a decidedly excellent lunch spot. The lake that feeds the falls is bounded by a 2000-foot-tall granite wall, and also offers some great nearby camping. It’s a great introduction to the splendor of Kings Canyon if you’re planning to continue further east!

Things to do near Grizzly Falls: Obviously, Kings Canyon National Park is well worth devoting some time to, and Sequoia National Park isn’t that much further afield. It’s all only about two hours outside of Fresno, and there are some excellent RVshare vehicles and campgrounds to explore in this area, too!

5. McWay Falls

California's McWay Falls in Big Sur

Back on the coastline, tucked into the scenic and often-sung-about heart of Big Sur, McWay Falls beckons with a once-in-a-lifetime viewpoint: an 80-foot waterfall that plunges directly from the rock face above to the sand below in one powerful column, all along a shoreline rhythmically caressed by the ocean. Better yet, this fall doesn’t require you to have a certification in outdoor survival skills to access: it’s just a quick (if somewhat steep) walk from the parking area above, and the beach is broad enough to lay out a towel and truly soak up both the sunshine and the view for a few hours.

Things to do near McWay Falls: There’s a reason Big Sur is so famous and so much art has been made of it, and you’ll likely want to give yourself ample time to explore this place where the redwoods meet the crashing sea. McWay Falls is located right alongside Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, but there are many other state parks and wildernesses along the way, such as Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Limekiln State Park, Garrapata State Park and others. You can find some excellent RVshare rentals in the cities at either end of the drive, like San Luis Obispo.

6. Yosemite Falls

Upper and Lower Yosemite fall

Perhaps the most iconic waterfall on this list of iconic waterfalls, Yosemite Falls drops a total of almost 2,500 feet across the several separate waterfalls that make it up. This makes it America’s tallest waterfall, and its breathtaking power is accessible by a variety of hiking trails — so you can choose your own adventure based on your skill level and interest. For example, the trek to the top of the falls runs a little more than seven miles round-trip and requires hikers to haul themselves up 2,700 feet in elevation gain, which is to say: it’s steep and hard and will definitely get your quads and calves burning. On the other end of the spectrum, Lower Yosemite Falls Trail is only about a mile long and pretty much flat, and standing at the foot of this falls is just about as powerful as it is to see them from above. Do be aware that this waterfall is seasonal, drying up between about July and November and then running powerfully in the winter and spring!

Things to do near Yosemite Falls: Located inside — you guessed it — Yosemite National Park, Yosemite Falls is one of the primary things to see in this park, but it’s far from the only one. The deep valleys, rock-studded rivers and mountain peaks all add to the splendor; here are some area RVshare rentals to consider for your visit!

7. Vernal Falls

Vernal Fall, Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Falls might be the most famous waterfall in Yosemite National Park — but it’s not the only one! Just a couple miles down the Merced River, Vernal Falls awaits, cascading 317 feet to the waters below. The hike to the top is tough, but worth it: you’ll climb 1,200 feet over the course of about two miles one way, much of which is made up of literal stairs. Those who do make it to the top will be rewarded not only with the rushing view of the place this water falls, but also sweeping surroundings of the rest of the park.

Things to do near Vernal Falls: Along with the rest of Yosemite National Park, there are many other wildernesses to explore in this area, such as the Sierra National Forest — and, of course, Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park to the south. An RVshare vehicles is the perfect way to get around and see it all; here are some local ones to consider!

8. Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls Mammoth Lakes, California, USA

Southeast of Yosemite and just north of Sierra National Forest, tucked into the dense forest known as the Ansel Adams Wilderness, Rainbow Falls is an epic, iconic waterfall along the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River, which tumbles more than 100 feet into the carved rock bowl that catches it. The most popular trail to the falls starts at nearby Devils Postpile National Monument, and runs some five miles round trip, seeing about 500 feet of elevation gain along the way — which is to say, it’s pretty doable for most hikers in decent shape. While the waterfalls themselves are, of course, lovely, the unique surrounding rock formations and interior California flora make this adventure all the more enriching.

Things to do near Rainbow Falls: In the winter, nearby Mammoth Mountain is a beloved ski area — and no matter when you visit, this part of California is chock-full of outdoor adventure opportunities and hikes galore. Here are some local RVshare rentals to consider so you can relax and enjoy it all!

9. Eaton Canyon Falls

Waterfall at popular Eaton Canyon in the San Gabriel Mountains near Los Angeles and Pasadena in Southern California.

Year-round waterfalls are harder to come by as you move further south through California’s expanse; the southern desert is well-known for its frequent droughts and dry-ups. But Eaton Canyon Falls is fairly steadfast and readily accessible to much of the Los Angeles metropolitan area: tucked into the southern edge of Angeles National Forest, just under the shadow of Mount Wilson, this waterfall is accessed via a relatively short, relatively flat trail that runs under five miles round-trip and sees only about 500 feet in elevation gain. Do be forewarned that, because of its beauty, reliability and ease of access, the trail to this waterfall is a pretty popular one — but when you have access to something this stunning, what can we say? You’ve gotta share the wealth.

Things to do near Eaton Canyon Falls: The rest of the Angeles National Forest beckons, as do the many urban adventures that await in Los Angeles proper and its surrounding cities. Believe it or not, there are many great RV parks and campgrounds in the LA area — and, of course, some star-studded RVshare rentals to take them to!

10. Sturtevant Falls

Sturtevant Falls and Creek with motion blur. A popular Angeles National Forest natural area in the San Gabriel Mountains above Los Angeles and Pasadena California.

Another fairly reliable southern California waterfall — and only a scant few miles from Eaton Canyon Falls — Sturtevant Falls is an especially scenic destination, cascading some 55 feet along the rock face above to the pool below. Thanks to the combination of warm temperatures and ever-present water, the rock is colored with blue-green algae, adding to the effect. At little more than three round-trip miles and about 700 feet of elevation gain — most of which is seen on the return trip — this trail definitely falls into the moderate-to-challenging category, especially as compared to Eaton Canyon Falls. But hey, it’s a great workout with a scenic reward… and you may have fewer folks to share the trail with!

Things to do near Sturtevant Falls: Once again, the greater expanse of Angeles National Forest awaits, as do all the great things Los Angeles itself has to offer. Keep in mind, too, that there are many excellent state parks in this part of California, like Silverwood Lake, Rio de Los Angeles, Point Mugu and many others. Here are the best RVshare rentals and campgrounds in the area!

Planning an RV Trip to California

The waterfalls are just the beginning when it comes to things to see and do in California — and we’ve got the RV rentals you need to see it all in style! We’ve also written guides to dozens of California state parks, collected the top 10 campgrounds in the state, and added our notes on some of its most famous cities.

California is also well-known for its many national park locations, and we’ve got in-depth guides to all of those, too!

Enjoy your adventure — including the waterfalls you chase!

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