The Community Land Model (CLM) is an effective tool to simulate the biophysical and biogeochemical processes and their interactions with the atmosphere. Although CLM version 5 (CLM5) constitutes various updates in these processes, its performance in simulating energy, water and carbon cycles over the contiguous United States (CONUS) at scales which land surface changes and hydrometeorological and hydroclimatological applications are more locally relevant is yet to be assessed. In this study, we conducted three simulations at 0.125° during 1979–2018 over the CONUS using different configurations of CLM, namely CLM5-biogeochemistry (CLM5BGC), CLM4.5BGC, and CLM5-satellite phenology (CLM5SP). We validated and compared their simulations against multiple remote-sensed and in situ data sets. Overall, the parametric and structural updates (e.g., carbon cost for nitrogen uptake, variable soil thickness, dry surface layer) in CLM5 improve its ability in capturing terrestrial biogeochemical dynamics. The low evapotranspiration in CLM5BGC is associated with biases in simulating vegetation phenological characteristics rather than soil water limitations. The mismatch between CLM5BGC-simulated peak leaf area index and reference data can be attributed to CLM5BGC's inability in simulating phenology of trees and grasses. The differences between CLM-simulated irrigation and reference estimates can be attributed to differences between processes represented in models and in reality, and uncertainties in input and validation data sets. Evaluation against observations at small catchments suggest that hydrologic parameters needed to be calibrated to improve simulations of runoff, especially subsurface runoff. Additional efforts are needed to incorporate spatially distributed plant phenology and physiology parameters and regional-specific agricultural management practices (e.g., planting and harvest).