California, United States of America
The highest waterfall in all of North America, Yosemite Falls is a two stage drop of 2,425 feet that descends from the pinnacle of an immense granite formation in the heart of Yosemite National Park. Falling over rough cliffs and steep scree slopes, wetting the leaves of high altitude pines and cedars along the way, the longest single drop is the Upper Falls, a 1,430 plunge that is ranked as one of the top 20 highest falls in the world. Short hiking trails can deliver visitors to the plunge pool at the base of the falls, said to be populated by snakes and witches in local Ahwahneechee legend. Getting to the pinnacle is a much tougher test, though a strenuous 3.5 mile hike from a forest camp will take the fit and hardy there in just a few hours.
Yosemite Falls were famously depicted on film by renowned photographer Ansel Adams back in 1945 when he visited this photogenic area. His incredibly detailed black and white pictures are spectacularly precise and clear, and lend a still and sombre silence to the falls, capturing their turbulent, ever-changing appearance as if suspended in ice. The photographs Adams took of this area have proven to be some of the most valued in the world, with one mural-size piece selling at a New York auction in 2010 for $722,000.
The wider Yosemite area is one of the last natural wildernesses left in North America, home to striking mountains, deep valleys and a diverse ecosystem. Receiving over 3.7 million visitors each year, the park includes famous sights such as the 4,737 foot high Half Dome mountain and the granite fissures of Taft Point. However, if you want to leave the well-trodden tourist path, make a beeline for Mairposa Grove to see the giant Sequoia trees, and get lost in the forest walking trails. If you are in a car, try the gruelling Tioga Pass for some of the most rewarding views in the vicinity. For a chance to see some of Yosemite’s famed, though often shy, wildlife, take a trip to the darkest woods of Yosemite Valley at sunset and wait for the black bears, mule deer, yellow-bellied marmots and mountain cougars to emerge.
Also located in Yosemite, the nearby Horsetail Fall is particularly famed for a short-lived optical illusion, visible in the last days of February during bright sunsets, that makes the falls appear as though they are on fire. For a few minutes at least, this 1,540 foot high waterfall looks like it is composed entirely of swiftly descending flames.