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15 Best Waterfalls To Visit In The USA (2023 Review)

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Last Updated on June 21, 2022 by Nicole

Visiting waterfalls makes you happier – a bold statement, but there is plenty of science that says regular exposure to waterfalls improves mental and physical health. That seems reasonable because most waterfalls require some activity to access. In addition, surrounding yourself with nature improves your sense of wellbeing. However, most of all, they are just simply beautiful and awe-inspiring to watch. Thankfully, there are some incredible ones all over the United States. Here are 15 of the best waterfalls to visit in the USA.

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Different Kinds Of Waterfalls

A waterfall is not always one type, each is a unique combination of landscape, and amount and speed of falling water. There are:

  • Plunges – water falling vertically from a height without contact with the underlying rocks.
  • Horsetails or fans – the water fans out giving the impression of a swishing horse’s tail.
  • Punchbowls – the water falls into a bowl-shaped pool that invites swimming.
  • Wide blocks – where water falls in a rectangular shape over the cliff edge.
  • Tiers or steps – a series of mini waterfalls building one larger waterfall experience.
  • Segmented – the water falls in parallel streams of two or more separated by underlying rock.
  • Cascades – the water rushes down a sloped surface. 
  • Chute – the water falls through a narrow gap producing lots of spray and noise.

A waterfall changes with the seasons depending on available water from snowmelt and rainfall. The effect of light and water droplets can give rainbows and moonbows, and freezing weather can create spectacular frozen waterfalls. But even without extra special effects, most waterfalls are inspiring, comforting, and a joy to observe. 

Other Vacation Options

If you have some time put aside for a vacation in the USA but have no idea where and when you should go, you are not alone. Here are a list of other destinations (cities, towns and some state and national parks) that would be ideal during the year.

If you want a vacation that offers mild summer temperatures, then this article provides some helpful suggestions – 20 Best US Destinations To Escape The Sizzling Summer Heat. Alternatively, if you have had enough of cold weather in winter months, please see 50 Best US Beach Destinations For A Warm Winter Getaway.

If you are more the outdoor type and would prefer to spend your holiday visiting one of the amazing national parks in North America, then please see these articles –

For those who love all things snow, please see 24 Best Snowy Winter Wonderlands To Visit In The USA.

If you dream of spending time lounging in some spectacular natural hot springs, then check out 10 Best Natural Hot Springs in Northern and Southern California.

Best Waterfalls To Visit In The USA

Here are fifteen of the best waterfalls to visit in the United States. Most of them offer amazing walks or hikes either to or from them, and interesting or fun activities to do in addition to staring at wonder at them. In addition, I have supplied some accommodation options as many of these American waterfalls are not near city centers.

best waterfalls to visit in the USA
Nugget Falls, Alaska

Nugget Falls, Alaska: Best Glacial Waterfall

Depending on who you ask, this waterfall pouring out of the Mendenhall Glacier is Nugget Falls, Nugget Creek Falls, or the Mendenhall Glacier Waterfall. Whatever name you call it, this waterfall is spectacular to go see all year round. It is one of the best waterfalls to visit in the USA.

The glacier is in retreat, and the water that once splashed onto sparkling ice now falls over 300 feet into the chilly lake at the glacier’s end. The Mendenhall Visitor Center is about 13 miles from Juneau.

You can fly into Juneau International airport and hire a car, or take a cruise and visit from the cruiseship terminal. 

Other Reasons to Visit

Aside from the spectacular waterfall, a trip to Alaska is an adventure in which you can:

  • Experience the Northern Lights between September to April.
  • Nature watch – brown bears and leaping salmon, amongst others. 
  • Hike, hunt, and trek.
  • Dolphin and whale watching.
  • Visit Alaska State Museum.
  • Enjoy a rain forest garden in glacier country.
  • Explore Mount Roberts by Tram.
  • Enjoy water and winter sports. 

For many people, Alaska is a once-in-a-lifetime trip to a spectacular wilderness, and you may wish to plan an extended adventure taking in all the Alaskan sights. 

Accommodation

The most affordable accommodation is the Driftwood Hotel next to the Alaska State Museum and within one mile of the Mount Roberts tramway. Try the Waterfront House with glacial views if you prefer a luxury home away from home. There are four bedrooms, a patio, and all the creature comforts you need with spectacular scenery outside every window. 

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Cumberland Falls, Kentucky

Cumberland Falls, Kentucky – Best Waterfall To See A Moonbow

In the fall, you can visit Cumberland Falls in the Cumberland Falls State Resort Park in Corbin, Kentucky, for a classic rectangular waterfall surrounded by red and gold fall foliage. If you enjoy the combination of rainbows and waterfalls, this charming scaled-down Niagara-style waterfall allows you to see both. 

A moonbow (sometimes known as a lunar rainbow) is an optical occurrence caused when the light from the moon is refracted through water droplets in the air. The amount of light available even from a full moon is far less than that produced by the sun so moonbows are very faint and rarely seen. However, at Cumberland Falls, this unique vision does occur.

If you want to catch a stunning photograph, you need a combination of lucky weather with a decent camera and a tripod to capture the image. The enhancing lunar bow needs clear skies and a full moon to give you a chance to catch a glimpse of this ethereal phenomenon in the waterfall mists. 

The trails to view the waterfall on the river’s east bank are exceptionally family-friendly. Other more challenging trails give you access to this waterfall and others in the area. 

The nearest towns to Cumberland Falls are Corbin and Williamsburg on Interstate 75. Parking at the State Park is free.

The Sheltowee Trace Adventure Resort offers whitewater rafting, paddle boarding, and kayaking if you like to explore the falls from the water. If you prefer a more sedate pace to enjoy the scenery, take a day trip on the Cumberland Star riverboat to get up close and personal with the falls. 

Other Reasons To Visit

Corbin has plenty of antique shops for treasure hunters and collectors – try Antiques and Accents or Ona Whim Antiques. If you prefer a more contemporary souvenir, try shopping at the aptly named Moonbow, where you can find local crafts and art.

Colonel Harald Sanders, the founder of the world-famous Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise, started empire-building in Corbin. You can visit the original Sander’s café for an insight into the beginnings of KFC and a fried chicken dinner. 

The main attractions around Corbin involve outdoor adventures with trails, horse riding, and wildlife watching both at and around the “Niagara of the South,” otherwise known as Cumberland Falls. 

Travel and Accommodation

If you want to stay in the park in a rustic one-bedroom cabin, you are close to the trails, and it is more comfortable than camping.

If you prefer a few more amenities in your accommodation, Corbin is the place to stay for proximity. The Lake Cumberland Condo gives you access to a pool, golf, and other nearby attractions.

If you travel on a strict budget and don’t mind basic accommodation try the OYO Hotel in Whitely City – it is dog friendly, has free parking and Wi-Fi, and is within 12 miles of Cumberland Falls State Park. 

Your closest local airport is the London-Corbin Airport if you want to fly and drive. The nearest international airport is in Cincinnati which is 163 miles to Corbin. 

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San Antonio Falls, California

San Antonio Falls, California: Best Waterfall After A Snowfall

In addition to the laid-back summer beaches, California is home to many spectacular waterfalls. The San Antonio Falls is incredibly stunning when snow on Mount Baldy melts and swells feed the waterfall. It is one of the best American waterfalls to go see.

In high flow in winter or after a heavy spring rain, you can spot an amazing waterwheel created when the force of the falling water is thrown back up into the air until it falls once again. It is a fascinating natural phenomenon. San Antonio Falls has three primary levels, and the scenery is like an Alpine valley with rock scree and pine trees. 

The trail varies from paved to more challenging, with some scrambling involved, depending on how much of the waterfall you want to explore. You get a decent view from Mt Baldy road. You will need a Forest Service Pass that you can buy in advance or locally in Baldy Village. 

Other Reasons To Visit

If you visit in the winter, you can combine a visit to the waterfall with skiing and snowboarding on Mt Baldy. Keen hikers and nature lovers may enjoy the Ice House Canyon Trail. For this hike, you will also need a (free) wilderness travel pass that you can get in Mt Baldy Village. 

Travel and Accommodation

The DoubleTree by Hilton provides four-star accommodation a short hop (under 10 miles) from Ontario International Airport. You have a 33-minute drive to San Antonio Falls Road from this hotel.

If you prefer to be in the middle of winter sports and don’t mind a longer drive (just over an hour) when you visit the waterfall,  Mountain View Cabins may suit you. It is 21 miles from the airport. You have several bars and restaurants within walking distance for meals, nearby lakes, and the Mountain High Resort on your doorstep. 

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Mystic Falls, Colorado: Best Elusive Waterfall

Getting to Mystic falls may take up to three hours to reach and you need to be happy scrambling and crossing streams. However, it is one of the best waterfalls to visit in the United States and worth the effort. The waterfall plunges over a hundred feet into an exceptionally narrow canyon. You can view it from the top and at the bottom.

Mystic Falls is in the San Juan National Forest. Fortunately or unfortunately, there are other waterfalls in the area, so you may need to keep an eye on your GPS. You don’t want to be staring in awe at Upper Ames Waterfall in the mistaken belief that you’ve found Mystic Falls.

To complicate matters, there is more than one Mystic Falls in the States. In addition, there is a more famous one in Yellowstone Park, to confuse the intrepid waterfall hunter. 

You start your hike from Ames Power Station, and you need a map to ensure you don’t trespass on the surrounding private property. 

Other Reasons To Visit

Telluride is the closest town, and while visiting the many waterfalls, you can:

There is plenty of outdoor exploring by foot, horseback, or off-road vehicle. Telluride has the distinction of the largest concentration of peaks exceeding 14,000 feet in the States. If mountain bagging is your thing, you can achieve many trophies in Telluride. 

Travel and Accommodation

If you want to enjoy a hotel with unique architecture, try Teller House in Silverton. It is 46 miles from  Durango-La Plata County Airport. Also, it is within easy access to all the ski lifts and the Kendall Mountain recreation area.

Try Bear Hollow Cabin in Tacoma if you want to be closer to the waterfall and enjoy hot springs. If you want to get into the water, then Durango Hot Springs will also cater to you with some spa-style pampering as well. Pinkerton hot springs are historical, but other local gems wait for discovery. 

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Cold Water Falls, Alabama

Cold Water Falls, Alabama: World’s Largest Human-Made Waterfall

Alabama contains hundreds of stunning waterfalls – the “Land of a Thousand Waterfalls” courtesy of the 77,000 miles of streams and rivers flowing through its wild spaces. So why visit a human-built waterfall when there are so many natural wonders to explore?

Cold Water Falls in Spring Park in Tuscumbia, is a marvel of determined engineering. Spring Park opened in the early 1800s and the human made water fall still draws the crowds. Take 2,000 tons of local sandstone, and you can create an 80 feet wide waterfall with a drop of 42 feet that looks natural.

Other Reasons To Visit

You can enjoy an early evening sound and light show at an adjacent fountain. The park has plenty of other amenities for your family to enjoy, and when you get tired of the fun, you can rest quietly beside this beautiful waterfall. 

In addition, there are plenty of other nearby attractions:

Travel and Accommodation

Try Marriot Shoals Hotel and Spa in nearby Florence if you prefer a four-star hotel. You get a free shuttle to Northwest Alabama Regional Airport, and Spring Park is less than 7 miles from the hotel. There are a couple of museums within walking distance. While you are in the area, you can fit in a visit to the Wilson Dam on the Tennessee River.

Best Western Muscle Shoals is closer to the airport (less than 4 miles) and offers a swimming pool, room for your dog, and an excellent American breakfast. 

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Grand Falls, Arizona

Grand Falls, Arizona: Best Waterfall For The Off-Road Adventurer

A stunningly beautiful waterfall, Grand Falls is a rich chocolate brown waterfall that pours in stepped cascades over 185 feet from the top to the pool below. The best time to visit is March and April after the snowmelt and heavy summer rains also give a short but spectacular display. It is an astounding sight and one of the best waterfalls to visit in the USA.

Flagstaff is the closest town, and you need to seek permission from the Navajo Nation to access this waterfall along a dirt track. Grand Falls is most magnificent after heavy rain or snowmelt. In the arid climate of Arizona, it can cease to exist until the rains return. Accordingly, check the weather before you visit to avoid disappointment. 

Four-wheel drive is not strictly necessary, but it does make life easier. You can access Grand Falls from Indian Road 70 or Indian Road 6910.

Other Reasons To Visit

Other fun activities in the area include:

Accommodation and Travel

Little America Hotel in Flagstaff is less than an hour’s drive from Grand Falls and less than 5 miles from the airport in Flagstaff. It is in an excellent location set in 500 acres of woodland and plenty of local attractions within walking distance.

If you have Route 66 and the Grand Canyon on your bucket list, you might consider staying at Green Tree Inn. The Grand Canyon Railway is five minutes from the hotel, and Route 66 is within 3 miles. 

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Hemmed-in Hollow Falls, Arkansas: Tallest Waterfall in Arkansas

The two-to-three-mile hike to view Hemmed-in Hollow Falls is not an easy stroll. Despite the challenges, you will see plenty of company on the trail to see the 209-foot drop of water pouring as if from a tap. 

You pick up the trail from Highway 43 just south of Compton. You should bring lots of water because of the elevation change.  

In winter, you may see an ice dome at the foot of the waterfall, which is a spectacular feature. The waterfall is most stunning in late winter to early spring as it can dry to a trickle for the rest of the year.

Other Reasons To Visit

While you are in Arkansas, you can also visit:

Travel and Accommodation

If you enjoy privacy and a cozy retreat, you can book a holiday home in Ponca that is seventeen minutes from the falls. The closest airport is Boone County Airport at eighteen miles. If you travel with a crowd, the Days Inn provides consistent budget accommodation, and the falls are a 33-minute drive.  

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Ender Falls, Connecticut

Enders Falls, Connecticut: Five Different Waterfalls with Swimming Pools

You find Enders Falls in Enders State Forest near Granby Town. The tallest of the five waterfalls drops thirty feet. The amount of water falling and its appearance is greatly impacted by heavy rainfall and snowmelt.

Enders Falls is enjoyable on a hot day where you can enjoy swimming after hiking around the state forest. Although the pools are swimmable, the park authorities recommend that you don’t because of the risks of slipping on wet rocks. 

You get to Enders Falls on Route 219, and it is well signposted.

Other Reasons To Visit

While you are in the area, you can also:

There are plenty of other state parks in the area, and in winter Ski Sundown gives you guaranteed skiing with snow-making facilities. 

Travel and Accommodation

Green Acres Bed and Breakfast gives you old-world charm with modern living – a converted 18th Century farmhouse with delightful grounds for you to enjoy. The closest airport is Bradley International Airport (11.7 miles), and you have a short 20-minute drive to Enders State Forest. The location means you get access to plenty of additional attractions to round off a full vacation.

Avon Old Farms Hotel is a 25-minute drive from Enders Falls and is another historic building conversion to a luxury hotel. 

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Falling Waters Sinkhole, Florida

Falling Waters Sinkhole, Florida – Most Unusal View From The Top Of A Waterfall

Florida is flat and has many beaches, but it also has some unusual waterfalls because of sinkholes and depressions. Case in point – You can follow a two-mile trail in the Falling Waters State Park to see Florida’s largest waterfall dropping 73 feet down a sinkhole. The strength of the waterfall depends on rain-fed springs. Viewing platforms lets you feel the mist on your face, and the noise is incredible. It is one of the best waterfalls to see in America.

The limestone sinkhole is part of an extensive system of caves and sinkholes that helped hide Native Americans fighting in the Seminole Wars. During the Civil War, these waterfalls powered a gristmill. Later on, it supplied water for a distillery.

Other Reasons To Visit

Other attractions in the area include:

Plus, you are within an hour’s drive of some of the best Florida beaches. 

Travel and Accommodation

If you want a hotel close to Falling Waters, the Super 8 is a ten-minute drive away.

Alternatively, the Bonifay Estate provides more luxurious accommodation and is a half-hour drive. You get access to a spring-fed swimming pool, and the nearest airport is 35 miles away at Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. 

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Amicalola Falls, Georgia

Amicalola Falls, Georgia: One of Georgia’s Seven Wonders

From the Cherokee words for “tumbling waters,” there is plenty of tumbling water and spray filling the air at Amicalola Falls. The falls are 729 feet, inside Amicalola Falls State Park and are best visited in the summer when the trails are easier to navigate. Inside the park, there are plenty of other hiking trails, in addition to ziplining and archery. Plus, you can learn about native wildlife and survivalist camping.

Other Reasons To Visit

You can visit three nearby lakes in the area to enjoy boating and fishing – Lake Petit is one of the most popular and contains native fish varieties and rainbow trout. The trails tend to be challenging, but you can explore some wild places with a jeep tour

Accommodation and Travel

If you want to stay within walking distance of the Amicaolo Falls, try Amicalola Falls State Park and Lodge at around an hour’s drive from Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. It’s the ideal destination if you want to spend your trip exploring outdoor trails in the area.

If you have a larger party, you can enjoy the luxury and seclusion of Trails End Rental Cabin in Big Canoe, but you will have a half-hour drive to visit the falls. The closest airport to this property is DeKalb-Peachtree Airport at 41 miles. Alternatively, if you don’t mind the extra miles, Hartsfield Jackson Airport is 58 miles.

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Waimea Falls, Oahu

Waimea Falls, Oahu – Best Waterfall Closest to Hawaiian Beaches 

Everyone visits Hawaii for the volcanos, beaches, and sea, but if you visit Bay Beach Park in Oahu and fancy a fresher water swim, take the beautiful walk to this waterfall. The water is not too deep so perhaps hold back from making any fancy diving moves.  

You reach the waterfall by strolling through the botanical gardens in Waimea Falls Park. The tropical plants are lush and oversized, and you can book cultural activities as part of the waterfall experience. Swimming is encouraged with changing rooms and a lifeguard. 

When you visit Hawaii, the main attractions are the beaches and the culture, but if you are a fan of waterfalls, it is worth seeking out while visiting Oahu one of the best waterfalls to visit in the USA.

Other Reasons To Visit

  • Close encounters with turtles and dolphins.
  • Byodo-In Temple – a replica of a Japanese Buddhist temple.
  • Pearl Harbor National memorial.
  • Off-road adventure tours.

Travel and Accommodation

One of the closer properties to the falls is Beach Side Studio, within walking distance of some fabulous beaches. In addition, you can find Laie Falls nearby, but you will need a permit to visit it.

Kalani Hawaii Private Lodging is a bit further away but is excellent for surfing and water sports. 

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Shoshone Falls, Idaho

Shoshone Falls, Idaho: Best Waterfall in Western United States

In Twin Falls, Southern Idaho, Shoshone Falls is the star attraction at Shoshone Falls Park. The best time to visit is in spring because the water that feeds the 200-foot waterfall gets diverted for irrigation in summer and fall.

Other Reasons To Visit

If you visit Idaho and are willing to spend a couple of hours in the car, then there are some surprising places to visit in the area:

The Craters of the Moon is a national monument – the landscape is otherworldly and volcanic. Stick to the trails while exploring as this is a unique and fragile ecosystem.  

Hells Canyon is the deepest river gorge in North America and has some excellent whitewater rafting. You can visit Hells Canyon in early spring through to late November, but not in the winter because of severe storms. If you see the Shoshone Falls in spring, you can also enjoy Hells Canyon.

The attack on Pearl Harbor in WWII meant many Japanese people living in America were interred in one of ten camps like the one in Minidoka. You can go on a guided tour or explore the visitor center and surrounding trails. Winters here are severe, and the attraction closes in severe winter weather, so check on whether it is open before you visit. 

The Hagerman Fossil Beds are part of a national park with trails and a visitor’s center. The area is famous for the abundance of fossil finds, especially horses.

Accommodation and Travel

The nearest airport is Joslin Field – Magic Valley Regional Airport, and there are several hotels within ten miles of the airport. La Quinta provides comfortable air-conditioned rooms and access to hot tubs (ideal after hiking in cooler spring or winter weather). The falls are a 17-minute drive from this hotel.

Fairfield Inn (part of the Marriott group) gives easy access to the falls and a few more amenities. 

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St. Louis Canyon Waterfalls, Illinois

St Louis Canyon Falls, Illinois: Spectacular In Winter

Starved Rock State Park is home to plenty of trails and waterfalls. The best time to visit is spring when the water is flowing. In summer, the heat and water abstraction reduces the cascade to a trickle. 

These falls are 80 feet high and one of the highest in the park. They are less than two miles from the visitor’s center and are a vertical drop surrounded by weather layers of rock in this stunning canyon. You may see impressive icicles in the canyon in winter, but ice climbing is not permitted in this area.

Other Reasons To Visit

Other places to visit:

  • Buffalo Rock State Park – more trails and river walks. You can explore by bike, skis, or on foot. You may locate a geocache.
  • Reddick Mansion and Gardens – an indoor and outdoor attraction.
  • Take a cultural tour.
  • Shop for a glass art souvenir at Starved Rock Glass. You can watch the artist at work and perhaps book a class.

Accommodation and Travel

You can stay in a lovely town home about half a mile from Starved Rock State Park or Quality Inn within ten miles in Ottawa. The nearest airport is Chicago Rockford International with a 60-70 mile drive. 

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Big Clifty Falls, Indiana

Big Clifty Falls, Indiana: A Stepped Cascade

In Big Clifty Park, you can see some of the best waterfalls in the USA. You can walk a trail ( 4.4 mile loop, mainly downhill) that shows you four waterfalls, or you can stop at the first one, Big Clifty Falls. The impressive 60-foot cascade is like a set of steps, but it is entirely natural. Further along, are the Little Clifty Falls which are the same height but a single drop rather than a cascade. Still further, you find Tunnel falls (close to an old railway tunnel), which at 83 feet is the tallest waterfall in the park. Finally, you see Hoffman Falls tumbling 78 feet down the limestone hillside. 

Other Reasons To Visit

Other attractions available in the area include:

  • River tours – you are on the Ohio River.
  • Historic sites – mansion tours, historic buildings, and museums.
  • Shop for antiques – plenty of small antique stores in Maddison.

Accommodation and Travel

There is a shortage of accommodation close to Big Clifty State Park but the hotels and holiday rentals are reasonably priced. Clifty Inn provides hotel accommodation with the usual amenities and is within 50 miles of Louisville Airport and Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

Red Comfy Cottage gives you a home away from home at the same distance from the nearest airports. 

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Tahquamenon Falls, Michigan.

Tahquamenon Falls, Michigan: The Amber Niagara

One of the largest waterfalls on the east side of the Mississippi is Tahquamenon Falls. It has the alternative name “Root Beer Falls” because of the amber-colored water. The water color comes from the tannin in the surrounding hemlock and cedar swamplands. It features in the Hiawatha poem by Henry Longfellow. Over 50,000 gallons of water per second drop over the upper falls after the spring rains. It is spectacular to see and one of the best waterfalls to visit in the USA.

The waterfall splits into the upper and lower falls four miles downstream. The lower falls comprise two adjacent falls, each over a hundred feet wide. The drop is only 22 feet, but the noise is incredible. You can hire a rowboat if you want to get a dramatic photograph from the water.  

Other Reasons To Visit

In addition to the waterfalls, people come to Paradise, Michigan for excellent walking and bird spotting. Whitefish Point is on one of the world migration routes. If you enjoy exploring culture and history, then the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum is worth visiting. 

Accommodation and Travel

You have limited accommodation options in the area – Paradise Cottage and Tahquamenon Motel. Chippewa County International Airport is the closest, and you face a 70-mile drive. 

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Last Word

Waterfalls are a spectacular natural phenomenon. Visiting any waterfall, but in particular, one of the best waterfalls in the USA will likely improve your mood and your day. Wherever you choose to go on vacation, make sure you make time to visit a waterfall. It will bring you closer to nature, get you out on your feet walking, and allow you to appreciate the wonders of nature.

the authorNicole
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