Category Archives: Waterfall

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park
Location: Mariposa, California
Length of visit: half day to multiple days
Major draws: Iconic granite, scenic views, wildlife
Strenuosity: 0 to 6 out of 10
Cost/Fees: $30 per vehicle or free with America the Beautiful pass
Additional considerations: High elevation, steep trails
Description: Giant sequoia trees, massive waterfalls, and miles of hiking trails make this one of the most heavily-visited National Parks in the world, but it was fairly quiet the week before Thanksgiving.

Spouting Horn

Spouting Horn
Location: southern Kauai, Hawaii
Length of visit: half hour
Major draws: Natural blowhole, scenic views, sea turtles
Strenuosity: 1 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free
Additional considerations: Limited parking and viewing space
Description: Two lava tubes that open to the ocean create the Spouting Horn, which splashes out one and breathes out the other. The south shore of Kauai tends to be the sunniest part of the island and has plenty to see.

Alakai Swamp

Alakai Swamp—Koke’e State Park
Location: northwestern Kauai, Hawaii
Length of visit: half day
Major draws: Scenic views, unique species
Strenuosity: 7 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free
Additional considerations: Muddy and steep trail
Description: The wettest spot on the planet (averages 452 inches of rain per year) takes time to drain, so it naturally creates a swamp with plant and animal species unique on the island. There is boardwalk in the swamp, but to access that we hiked miles of muddy, slick trails.

Kauai Backcountry Adventures Tubing

Kauai Backcountry Adventures Tubing
Location: eastern Kauai, Hawaii
Length of visit: half day
Major draws: Tubing, historic hand-carved tunnels
Strenuosity: 1 out of 10
Cost/Fees: About $100 per person
Additional considerations: Water temperature is invigorating
Description: To get the rainwater from the wettest spot on earth to the sugar plantations below, workers dug miles of irrigation ditches and tunnels by hand. Now it’s a really fun not-so-lazy river.

Hanakapi’ai Falls

Hanakapi’ai Falls
Location: northwestern Kauai, Hawaii
Length of visit: half day
Major draws: 300-foot waterfall
Strenuosity: 9 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free
Additional considerations: Multiple waist-deep stream crossings, flash floods, trail slippery when wet (all the time)
Description: This trail follows the treacherous Kalalau Trail for the first 2 miles then heads up the soggy valley an additional 2 strenuous miles to reach the impressive falls. It is incredibly difficult to photograph due to the spray at its base, so be sure your equipment is waterproof.

 

Kalalau Valley

Kalalau Valley
Location: northwestern Kauai, Hawaii
Length of visit: multiple nights
Major draws: Uninhabited beach, scenic views, birding
Strenuosity: 10 out of 10
Cost/Fees: $20 per person per night
Additional considerations: Permits limited to 60 people per night and they sell out months in advance, feral goats but no chickens
Description: The trail to Kalalau is hell, but the place itself is paradise—the most beautiful place in all the Hawaiian Islands. Two nights is the minimum amount of time we would recommend staying.

Napali Coast State Wilderness Park

Kalalau Trail—Napali Coast State Wilderness Park
Location: northwestern Kauai, Hawaii
Length of visit: multiple days
Major draws: Scenic views, uninhabited coastline
Strenuosity: 10 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free
Additional considerations: Sheer cliffs, trail slippery when wet (all the time)
Description: The only access to the idyllic Kalalau Valley is via this 11-mile one-way treacherous trail along the stunningly beautiful Napali Coast. Several deep stream crossings and deep mud require shoes or sandals that can get wet and not destroy your feet as you ascend and descend each of the numerous valleys.

Waimea Canyon State Park

Waimea Canyon State Park and Koke’e State Park
Location: western Kauai, Hawaii
Length of visit: half day
Major draws: Scenic views, waterfalls, hiking, birding
Strenuosity: 5 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free
Additional considerations: Feral goats on trail, trail slippery when wet (which is all the time)
Description: The “Grand Canyon of Hawaii” is 3,600-feet deep and very colorful. Many trails crisscross these two state parks, including the one we took to the top of 800-foot Waipo’o Falls.

 

Chickasaw National Recreation Area

Chickasaw National Recreation Area
Location: Sulphur, Oklahoma
Length of visit: 2 hours
Major draws: Bison, natural springs, reservoir
Strenuosity: 1 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free
Additional considerations: Hard to see bison or Lincoln Bridge (on OK quarter) through trees
Description: Originally purchased by the U.S. government in 1902 and once named Platt National Park, this historic area in the middle of the Chickasaw Reservation has both fresh and mineral springs.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Location: Tennessee-North Carolina border
Length of visit: half day to multiple days
Major draws: Waterfalls, wildlife, fall colors
Strenuosity: 0 to 6 out of 10
Cost/Fees: Free
Additional considerations: Heavy traffic, limited trailhead parking
Description: The Smokies are a great place to see fall foliage with a diversity of hardwood species and a range of elevations that increase the length of this colorful season.