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9 Must-See West Coast Waterfalls

Yosemite waterfalls

Waterfalls: You can hike to them, dance underneath them, appreciate them from afar, and listen to them up close. They're majestic and powerful, and no two look alike.

The nine West Coast waterfalls listed below are some of our favorite destinations outdoors — and they boast some of the most magnificent views of the natural world.

How many of these have you visited?


 1. Cedar Creek Falls, CA 

Visit these falls in Julian, California, during winter and you'll be met with a fantastic 80- to 90-foot-length of water plunging into a small pool below. This waterfall only runs seasonally but is worth the four-mile hike. Don't forget sunscreen! 


2. McWay Falls, CA 

Nestled in a small cove tucked into the jagged Big Sur coastline in California is McWay Falls — perhaps one of the more unique waterfalls on the West Coast because the water tumbles right onto the beach from the crumbly cliffs above. The beach itself is not accessible, but the view from the path above still takes your breath away. This waterfall is part of the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, and the windy drive along Highway 1 to get there is almost as thrilling as the waterfall itself. 



3. Yosemite Falls, CA 

At a staggering height of almost 2,500 feet, Yosemite Falls is the tallest waterfall in North America. It's rumored that drawings of these falls were the reason that Yosemite became a nationally protected park in the 19th century. Catch the rainbow that reaches across the waterfall in spring, and you'll understand why it's one of the most visited falls in the world. 



4. Snoqualmie Falls, WA 

This waterfall is a must-see for anyone in Washington. Its drop is only 270 feet, but the waterfall is powerful and spans over a wide area. The word snoqualmie is an English translation of the Salish word "moon," according to the waterfall's official website. 


5. Horsetail Fall, CA

This waterfall is another Yosemite gem. But it's not any normal waterfall. Visit Horsetail Fall in mid-February to witness one of the most beautiful natural phenomena the West Coast has to offer. Around sunset, the sun's tricks turns the cascading water a glowing orange, earning Horsetail its nickname, Lavafall. You have to see it to believe it. 


6. Alamere Falls, CA 

What's special about Alamere Falls is that you can enjoy the 40-foot-drop of rushing water right from the beach. Found in the bluffs of Point Reyes National Seashore in Northern California, this "tidefall" runs year-round and is one of two beach waterfalls found in California (the other being #2, McWay Falls).


7. Ribbon Falls, CA 

Ribbon Falls, with El Capitan standing proudly in the forefront, is a tall, thin waterfall in Yosemite Valley that free-falls 1,612 feet over the granite edge, making it one of the highest in the nation. 


8. Multnomah Falls, OR 

Where else can you stand on a bridge halfway up a waterfall and experience the roaring power up close? (Don't forget a jacket; you will get misted!) This waterfall, at 600 feet, is one of Oregon's finest sights.  A man named Simon Benson built the bridge in the early 20th century as a platform between the lower and upper halves of the waterfall. No matter where you're standing, though, it's a spectacular sight. 


9. Bridalveil Fall, CA 

Yes, another Yosemite waterfall. Yosemite may just be the waterfall capital of the nation — and for good reason. At 600 feet, Bridalveil Fall earned its name because the laces of mist spraying from the falls apparently resemble a bride's veil. It's a Yosemite icon, the cherry on top of the luscious view of the famous valley that everyone should see at least once. 



--Allison Montroy is an editorial intern for Sierra and a journalism student at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo. 


--image by iStockphoto/markross


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