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Since 2003, the full-waveform laser altimetry system onboard NASA's Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) has acquired a worldwide elevation database. ICESat data are widely applied for change detection of ice sheet mass balance, forest structure estimation, and digital terrain model generation of remote areas. ICESat's measurements will be continued by a follow-up mission. To fully assess the application possibilities of the full-waveform products of these missions, this research analyzes the vertical accuracy of ICESat products over complex terrain with respect to land cover type. For remote areas, validation of individual laser shots is often beyond reach. For a country with extensive geo-infrastructure such as The Netherlands, excellent countrywide validation is possible. Therefore, the ICESat full-waveform product GLA01 and the land elevation product GLA14 are compared to data from the Dutch airborne laser altimetry archive Actual Height model of the Netherlands (AHN). For a total population of 3172 waveforms, differences between ICESat- and AHN-derived terrain heights are determined. The average differences are below 25 cm over bare land and urban areas. Over forests, differences are even smaller but with slightly larger standard deviations of about 60 cm. Moreover, a waveform-based feature height comparison resulted in feature height differences of 1.89 m over forest, 1.48 m over urban areas, and 29 cm over low vegetation. These results, in combination with the presented processing chain and individual waveform examples, show that state-of-the-art ICESat waveform processing is able to analyze waveforms at the individual shot level, particularly outside urban areas.