10 Hidden "Wow" Worthy Waterfalls

by Paul Sebesta

As the driest state in the country, it's hard to imagine Nevada with natural waterfalls. In fact, most waterfall maps ignore our state completely, yet Nevada is home to many hidden waterfalls that will take your breath away. They’re no Niagara or Yosemite Falls, but the hidden waterfalls of Nevada steal the show in their unexpectedness. Very simply, we've rated these waterfalls by their unexpected and unbelievable factors. Enjoy these top ten hidden waterfalls that'll make you say "Wow!"

   Lost Creek Falls

Location: Red Rock Canyon, Clark County
Lost Creek Falls will be the easiest waterfall to reach on this list. This pretty waterfall is reached at the end of the Lost Creek Canyon Trail from the scenic loop drive at Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area. For such an easy to reach deluge (perfect the entire family), you'd expect a diminutive tumble. Quite the opposite. After walking an easy 3/4 of a mile, you'll be rewarded to a 200-foot splash of supreme goodness! The water has carved out a mini cave at the base of the falls meaning you can even stand beneath and behind the water, one of the only type of falls like this in Nevada.

Lost Creek is highly seasonal so get here right at the onset of spring (usually in March) to see this tumble at its absolute best. From Red Rock Canyon, follow the signs for "Willow Springs Picnic Area" and "Lost Creek Trail" on Rocky Gap Road.

   Falls Creek Falls

Location: Santa Rosa Range, Humboldt County
Placing this amazing waterfall so far down on the list was heartbreaking, but just because it is #9 doesn't mean you won't say "wow" to this one! In fact, we guarantee you'll be astounded. If you've never heard of Falls Creek, you're not alone. To fully appreciate the grandeur of this hidden place, arrive here in spring and early summer when Horse Creek rushes out of the canyon with fresh snowmelt. You'll thank us later.

Falls Creek plunges 65 feet over dramatic phyllite cliffs into a churning pool. If you don't mind battling the brush to reach the base of the falls, this waterfall bellows out lovely clouds of mist that you'll no doubt appreciate! The only reason this one isn't further up the list is its lack of shade. Falls Creek is completely exposed, so bring plenty of sunscreen, and a few essentials along the way. What's even more amazing is its short distance from Winnemucca. If you're an avid hiker, you can continue above the waterfall and further deeper into the majestic Santa Rosa Wilderness. If you arrive here in winter, you'll find blankets of ice clinging the steep cliffs.

   Mary Jane Falls

Location: Spring Mountains, Clark County
This snow-fed desert waterfall is found two miles into a moderate hike on the flanks of Mt. Charleston. We'll be honest. Although people do come for the waterfall, Mary Jane's panoramic scenic view is the real reward here. Depending on the time of year, Mary Jane may be more of a trickle (or possibly even frozen) depending on what time of year you arrive, but the rock waterfall is certainly unique and quite refreshing from the dry desert heat below. Mary Jane Falls is more of a shower that tumbles 250 feet over a rock ledge, so don't expect a wispy "horsetail." Anybody who's anybody makes it a point to "shower at Mary Jane." Stand beneath the icy-cold tumble and gaze out to that spanning piney view below! Mary Jane Falls has its own marked trail and parking lot at the end of Kyle Canyon Road (SR 157).

   Big Falls

Location: Spring Mountains, Clark County
Ah, Big Falls. If it just wasn't so damn far away, this one could easily be higher up the list if only for the fact that it might be the tallest waterfall on this list! In addition to its monster height, Big Falls is the only true "horsetail" falls on this list. Arrive here during a good water year, and this one almost resembles a miniature Yosemite. The problem is, the horsetail is very seasonal, so once again get here early in the year. The trail to Big Falls is more suited for the intermediate hiker and think real hard before bringing along the little ones. The trail isn't overly difficult as it is steep and slippery during the spring. The unofficial trail splits off from the Mary Jane Falls (#8 on our list) trail at a signed junction for a former campground. The overall moderate hike here is about four miles round-trip, but it is worth the tough scramble. When active, Big Falls slices 300 feet down limestone cliffs and collects into a lovely pool of water high above Big Canyon. This hidden beauty is a great destination just north of Las Vegas.

   Tamarack Peak (Galena) Falls

Location: Mt. Rose, Washoe County
This snow-fed waterfall is just one of many pleasant surprises for hikers on the Mount Rose Trail. At roughly 9,600 above sea level, this waterfall is the highest one on this list - located at a convenient halfway mark to the Mt. Rose summit from the parking area. And frankly, we can't think of a better spot for a break.

The headwaters of Galena Creek tumble an impressive 100 feet over a granite ledge where at its base, we're treated to a lovely meadow and a spanning view of Reno and the Truckee Meadows far below! If that wasn't enough, this pretty waterfall flows all year-round (albeit a trickle by fall) and almost always includes a generous display of wildflowers in the early season. This is one fall you must see once in your Nevada lifetime! It would earn a higher spot on this list if it wasn't completely exposed without shade at such a high elevation.

From the parking area on Mount Rose Highway (SR 431), expect to reach Tamarack in about 3.5 hours. The hike is a bit rigorous, so take it slow and bring plenty of sunscreen.

   Hunter Creek Falls

Location: Carson Range, Washoe County
Hunter Creek Falls, on the outskirts of Reno, is certainly one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the state. Hunter isn't the largest waterfall on this list, but what it lacks in size makes up for in its lovely setting and relatively short hike from a major urban center. This breathtaking waterfall is a 30-foot cascade of snow melt through a shaded forest. In fact, its profile and setting is something right out of the Pacific Northwest. In recent years, a downed tree became lodged in the waterfall, adding to its wild beauty and forested character. Visit here on an overcast rainy day and you might even think you've found yourself in Olympic Park or the Columbia Gorge.

Depending on the time of the year, Hunter Creek may be muddy, clear, or snowy. To reach the falls, look for the Michael D. Thompson Trailhead at the end of Woodchuck Circle (from Caughlin Parkway) in southwest Reno. The hike begins on a long exposed stretch of steppe desert, so bring sunscreen to combat this pesky portion of trail. Afterwards, the hike becomes moderately difficult as it enters Hunter Canyon. Expect about 2.5 hours one way.

   First Creek Falls

Location: Red Rock Canyon, Clark County
At only 7 feet, this is the smallest waterfall on our list, but don't be fooled. There is absolutely no other waterfall like it in Nevada and when you visit here, you'll see why we've placed it so high up on our list. Head west out of Las Vegas toward the Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area. Continue past Red Rock to a well-marked trailhead to "First Creek" along SR 159. First Creek is located between the Red Rock fee area and Bonnie Springs Ranch.

Once you endure the two-mile hike through open desert, this deluge magically appears out of nowhere - a shady waterfall that pills into a large "punchbowl" (pool) filled with fish and other creatures. Punchbowl-type falls are extremely rare throughout the country, let alone in the nation's driest state ... so needless to say, we're a bit elated to own one here in Nevada. What you get is literally an oasis in the desert, complete shade trees and its lovely swimmming hole. First Creek Falls tends to turn into a trickle pretty early in the year, so it's best to arrive here in early summer.

   Waterfalls of Thomas Canyon

Location: Ruby Mountains, Elko County
This series of deluges takes us into the spectacular innards of Lamoille Canyon, 30 miles south of Elko in the Ruby Mountains. Here you'll find Thomas Canyon, a glacial-carved side canyon within Lamoille that will almost always reward you with beautiful hidden waterfalls. Never heard of them? You're not alone. The 2.5-mile, family-friendly trail to the top of the canyon begins at the campground and thanks to year-round snow at Thomas Glacier, you can expect to come across several waterfalls along the way all year long.

Rather than pick one single fall from the canyon, we've decided to label them all as one listing. The cool part about the Thomas Canyon waterfalls? Each one is uniquely different, with different gradients, profiles, and even a horsetail falls at the very end of the hike. (Reaching the very last waterfall is bit tricky.) With the sheer number of falls here and the much shorter hike to reach them compared to the rest of the entries on our list, the Thomas Canyon waterfalls earn a proud #3 spot.

   Kings Canyon Falls

Location: Carson Range, Carson City
25 feet. That's all Ma Nature needs to make a breathtaking waterfall. Best viewed in the spring, this hidden place on the outskirts of Carson City is not only one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the state, it's also very easy to reach. The trail to Kings Canyon is less than a mile long, making it the ideal trail for families with young children. Did we mention you may even see some wildlife along the way?

The best thing going for Kings is its beautiful "fairy falls" profile - one that splits into several streams of water as it drops in a picturesque shaded box canyon. This one is definitely one of the more unique falls on this list as we haven't encountered any others like it in the state. (Although we don't recommend it, there are two smaller waterfalls above the lower falls that require a bit of rock climbing on slippery granite to reach.) And to think: Kings is only two miles from the State Capitol building. This one will certainly leave you uttering "wow" under your breath ... or out loud, if you can hear yourself over the waterfall's incredible tumble! Being the easiest waterfall to reach on this list, its close proximity to an urban center, and combined with its pretty tumble, it was a toughie not to place Kings Canyon as number one.

So what waterfall could possibly top this one? Only something in the most unlikeliest of places.

Honorable Mentions
Before we reveal our Number 1, let's take a few moments to honor the waterfalls that *fell* just short of the list!

Icebox Canyon Falls

Location: Red Rock Canyon, Clark County
Southern Nevada, bombared by relentless sun, is also blessed with several amazing waterfalls. Icebox Falls is one of them. It's best to visit this 160-foot waterfall just after the rain because well ... you'll see multiple waterfalls along the way. This one fell just short of the list because it does tend to dry up very early in the year, but when it's on, it's on! The moderate to difficult hike through the red rocks, deciduous trees, cacti and wildflowers will take you about two hours roundtrip. It can be strenuous at times so be prepared.

Angel Lake Falls

Location: East Humboldt Range, Elko County
We tend to think this pretty tumble is the cherry-on-top for Angel Lake. To see this waterfall, you must arrive here just after the road opens (usually two weeks before Memorial Day) to about the end of June. Angel Lake Falls is an impressive 162-foot tumble of snow melt down the steep mountainside right behind Angel Lake. In fact, you can see the waterfall as you arrive from the road. Access the waterfall from the East Humboldt Wilderness trailhead and hike around to the north shore of the lake. Try to arrive here around mid-June for some very pretty wildflower displays in and around the falls!

James Canyon Falls

Location: Carson Range, Douglas County
You won't find any indication that this extremely hidden waterfall exists just above Jacks Valley. From Genoa, follow Jacks Valley Road north for about 4 miles to "James Canyon Loop." Make your way through the unfinished subdivision heading in the direction of a large water tank (you can't miss it). Park behind the tank and hike up the steep trail to the canyon mouth. You can thank us later. Not only is this an impressive waterfall, but its sweeping view of Carson Valley below is equally lovely. The 15-foot waterfall collects into a diversion pool sometimes planted with trout.

1. Stonewall Falls

Once again, we were torn whether we wanted to include this off-the-grid spot in the public eye, but we trust many will visit this wild place in respect. First, we ask that you follow these directions VERY carefully because getting lost in this very inhospitable region of the state is probably one of the worst things that could happen.

Trip your odometer as you leave Goldfield on US 95 (yes, Goldfield) and look to the left for a graded dirt road 14.4 miles south of town. Reset your odometer as you turn here and don't forget to close the gate behind you! Follow this road for 2.9 miles to a fork, turn right, and follow the graded road to the east. Look for another road going off to the right 3.9 miles in from US 95. It's here where you'll leave the graded road behind and continue east on this dirt track ...

... In about one half mile you will reach the perimeter fence to the off-limits Nellis Air Force Range and Nevada Test Site. This is one of the only spots where the public is allowed onto Nellis as you'll see a sign specifically stating that you must remain on the road to avoid trespassing on the test range. Pass through the gate (closing it behind you) and continue toward a giant slash in the mountainside. This giant defile is known as Stonewall Falls - the holder of the coveted #1 spot on this list. I know what you're thinking. This needs to be a pretty damn good waterfall to place #1, right? Don't expect the size and grandeur of any of the falls you've witnessed on this list. Stonewall is rarely more than a trickle, but in this particulary arid region, this trickle is priceless. So, why did we decide to name it #1?

No doubt if you've turned off the highway, the notion of running across a waterfall is the last thing you'd expect in this desolate region of the state. And this is precisely why it earns our #1 spot. Stonewall Falls is fed by year-round Stonewall Spring and uniquely stair steps some 400 feet into a tiny pool. The flows are certainly diminutive compared to Kings Canyon or Hunter Creek, but in the spring, expect a small patch of grass, moss, and even a carpet of wildflowers at the base of the waterfall! Try to arrive here sometime in March or April to see Stonewall at its absolute liveliest. If there ever was an oasis in the middle of nowhere, Stonewall Falls is wipes the floor with all of the entries on this list! Sadly due to global warming, Stonewall Falls may not be around in the next fifty years, as scientists on the air base have monitored the spring's flow. As as tempting as it is, please avoid camping here. Our furry friends greatly depend on this vital source of water in this inhospitable terrain. Look on the bright side: you'll be sitting in awe at a location that few of your fellow Nevadans will ever know about.

Stonewall Falls ... we salute you!

Author: Paul Sebesta

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