With spring in the air, it’s time to get off the couch and get outside. If you need greater motivation, we’ve found five trails that include outstanding water features, so you’ll be inspired to get to the end and either take a dip or spot a rainbow. With this in mind, members and editors at VirtualTourist.com have selected the “Top 5 Waterfall Hikes.”
Pipiwai Trail, Haleakala National Park, Hawaii
Along Maui’s Hana Highway (or “Road to Hana” as it is commonly called) there are countless picturesque spots, including Mokulau and Honomanu Bay. On the southeastern side of Maui, just off Route 330, visitors will find the Pools of ‘Ohe’o, commonly known as the Seven Sacred Pools. One of the most popular attractions in East Maui, the gulch is a string of pools and waterfalls that are easily accessed for swimming, cliff jumping and people-watching. While the Seven Sacred Pools is beautiful, continuing on the Pipiwai Trail for 1.8 miles into Haleakala National Park is truly rewarding. First, you’ll come across the Falls at Makahiku, which plunge almost 200 feet. If you continue on, the hike culminates at Waimoku Falls, which drops more than 400 feet above you. The trail is maintained by the National Park Service, so it is relatively well-traversed and you will most likely pass other people while on the hike.
Plitvice Lakes National Park, Karlovac County, Croatia
Plitvice Lakes is Croatia’s best known national park and the only natural spot among Croatia’s seven UNESCO World Heritage sites. Located in the mountainous area of central Croatia, just off the border of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the park is comprised of 16 interconnected lakes between two mountains. While VirtualTourist members said the entire park, with its network of paths, provides ample hiking and water features, Veliki Slap (the Big Waterfall) seems to be a particular draw for visitors. Located in the Lower Lakes area of the park, the Veliki Slap falls 255 feet. Although there are viewing platforms at the bottom of the falls, there are also stairs that you can climb to the top of the waterfall as well as a tunnel where you get to look down upon the waterfall.
Aber Falls, Snowdoin National Park, Wales
Multiple nominations came for picturesque Aber Falls in Snowdonia National Park located in the northwest corner of Wales. At 3,559 feet, it is the highest mountain in Wales and England so the national park’s rolling hills provide fantastic views of Snowdonia, Ynys Môn (Anglesey), Pembrokeshire and even Ireland if you reach the summit. This hike is just a short 2-mile walk from the parking lot, but can also be the first half of a 4.5-mile circle if you’d prefer to not walk in and out the same way. Aber Falls is 115 feet tall and although the pool at its bottom is swimmable, it should be noted that the water is very cold, even in the summer months!
La Fortuna Falls, Arenal Volcano National Park, Costa Rica
Whenever waterfalls or hiking are mentioned, Costa Rica often comes to mind, as the small country is rich with natural spectacles and rain forest. This waterfall hike to La Fortuna is located just inside Arenal Volcano National Park. Situated in the shadow of Arenal Volcano, an active volcano which is presently in a resting stage, the trail to the falls can be completed on foot or on horseback. Along the hike, visitors pass through both pasture and rain forest with toucans, monkeys, and other rain forest inhabitants often spotted along the route. It is only a short trip from the trailhead to the falls, which plummet 200 feet to a swimmable pool below. Another suggestion: the Rio Celeste Waterfall Hike at nearby Tenorio Volcano National Park, which also looks beautiful, but is suggested only for people in relatively good shape as it is a more rigorous experience.
Lower Calf Creek Falls, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
With the number of hikes available in Utah, it’s a tough assignment to choose only one, but we were assured that Lower Calf Creek Falls at Capitol Reef National Park is a great bet. At 6 miles round trip, it is the longest of the hikes on the list, but the geological and archaeological points of interest along the hike make it well worth the longer journey. While the hike doesn’t have much elevation change, the trail is quite sandy so it can be a bit more strenuous than a normal flat walk. Calf Creek provides a greater variety of vegetation than other parts of the park, so the trail is a great spot for bird watching — hummingbirds, downy woodpeckers, golden eagles, and mourning doves can all be commonly seen in the area. Upon reaching Lower Calf Creek Falls, you can marvel at the way it has carved into the rocks above before falling 126 feet (38 meters) into the pool below. Swimming is allowed and encouraged. so don’t forget to wear a swimsuit or bring a change of clothes for after taking a dip. There is a small day-use fee for parking and a modest fee for camping, at sites with fire rings/grills.