Although popular summer attractions, waterfalls can be more stunning in winter, when they transform into frozen wonderlands rivaling those of Narnia.
When waterfalls turn frosty and the spray turns to ice, these thundering cascades can turn into Instagram-worthy magical marvels surrounded by fairytale landscapes covered in snow during the coldest months. To explore many of these properly, you’ll need a pair of ice cleats, as trails can be slick with ice and snow. If you’re thinking about taking your family to one of these falls, do your research first to make sure it’s safe for young adventurers. After that, get ready to bundle up, brave the cold and start exploring.
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WHERE: Ausable Chasm, Keesville, New York
This sandstone gorge, known as the “Grand Canyon of the Adirondacks”, is a popular tourist hotspot known for boat tours and tubing in summer. But, in winter, Ausable Chasm, located near Keeseville, transforms into a scene from Narnia as huge icicles form over the Ausable River. There are a series of frozen waterfalls including the 70-foot Rainbow Falls, which is jaw-dropping when it ices over. Either explore by yourself or opt for a two-hour guided tour, which takes you into the inner depths of the chasm and along the Inner Sanctum Trail. There are walkways and staircases you can take to the top and onto the bridge that spans the river. From here you have prime views across the gorge and over to the frozen Rainbow Falls.
No mountain hiking experience is needed and snowshoes are available to rent.
Niagara Falls (Horseshoe Falls)
WHERE: Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
Anyone seeing what are arguably the world’s most famous waterfalls in sub-zero temperatures will be blown away. The series of three waterfalls, which includes the iconic Horseshoe Falls, draws crowds every winter. The scenery changes into an enchanting fairytale wonderland as the spray freezes as it goes over the edge of the falls, turning nearby trees and lampposts into magnificent ice sculptures. The best views of the Horseshoe Falls are from the Canadian side and you can walk to either side across the Rainbow Bridge (remember to bring your passport.) From November through January, it’s worth visiting at night when the falls are illuminated in a rainbow of colors. There’s also a firework display every Friday night, which makes great viewing for all the family.
INSIDER TIPFor some of the best views, head to the top of the Skylon Tower on the Canadian side.
WHERE: South Minneapolis, Minnesota
It’s a rare treat to find a waterfall in the middle of a major city, but in the heart of South Minneapolis, you’ll find Minnehaha Falls. As temperatures plummet, the thundering roar grows silent and this urban waterfall is transformed into a magical frozen fortress of giant icicle daggers and hidden caverns bathed in blue light. It’s free to visit, but the bottom of the falls is out of bounds in extreme conditions. Some people ignore the trespassing signs and go down to the base, even venturing behind the falls, but police ticket anyone who gets caught. The safest places to enjoy the view are from the footbridge and the overlook opposite the Sea Salt Eatery.
WHERE: Vail, Colorado
This 165-foot waterfall located in Vail, Colorado is even more beautiful in winter than summer. The Fang is popular with ice climbers from all over the world who are drawn to the astonishing 100-foot high, 8-foot wide ice column, which forms in extreme temperatures from the top to the bottom of the falls. For the rest of us, it’s better to do the moderate hike to get to the base, which takes around 30 to 40 minutes.
WHERE: Quebec City, Quebec
Located minutes from downtown Quebec City is Montmorency Falls, a mighty 272-foot waterfall, which is higher than Niagara Falls. In winter, the spray freezes and an unusual giant ice cone known as the “sugarloaf” forms at the base of the waterfall. For prime viewing opportunities, hop on the cable car and then walk to the suspension bridge. The area is illuminated after dark, showcasing dramatic ice formations surrounding the falls and cliffs. Montmorency Falls is famous for the legend of the White Lady, who was said to have thrown herself over the falls after her lover was killed in battle.
Bridal Veil Falls
WHERE: Provo Canyon, Utah
Utah is home to an array of falls that freeze including the 607-foot Bridal Veil Falls in Provo Canyon, which is dubbed one of America’s top 100 waterfalls and is one of the state’s most photographed falls. The rushing waterways come to a stop and epic ice formations are created down the rocks. There’s a parking lot at the base and easy trails to explore, although they close in bad conditions.
Josephine Shaw Lowell Memorial Fountain
WHERE: Bryant Park, New York City, New York
Although not exactly a waterfall, the Josephine Shaw Lowell Memorial Fountain in Bryant Park made it on the list as it is New York City’s closest answer to one. This stunning fountain is an unexpected treat in the coldest months of the year when the cascading water freezes up. Icicles form and the resulting ice sculpture, which looks somewhat like a giant melted candle, is mesmerizing. If you’re in Manhattan during winter, wrap up warm, grab a hot chocolate from the holiday market and go check it out.
Fall Creek Falls
WHERE: Fall Creek Falls State Park, Spencer, Tennessee
Although Tennessee is home to hundreds of waterfalls, you’ll probably be surprised to hear that any of them come close to freezing in this southern state. However, Fall Creek Falls is one that does. You can drive up to the lookout, which is by the parking lot, for the best views of this 256-foot winterized beauty. There are 30 cabins available to rent should you want to stay longer to explore the park more fully.
WHERE: Chugach State Park, Chugiak, Alaska
This roaring 200-foot waterfall just outside Anchorage is even more dazzling in winter when it turns into an awe-inspiring ice sculpture. Beneath the snow and ice-covered falls, water still flows from the top into an enchanting blue pool at its base. While you can follow the trail to the base of the falls, the best way to witness them in all their glory is from the viewing deck, which is a fairly easy 1.8-mile round trip hike.