Known for its magnificent scenery, abundant wildlife, and diverse landscapes, Alaska is one of the most exciting destinations for outdoor enthusiasts. Explore all the natural riches that America’s “Last Frontier” has to offer, from glaciers and mountains to the ocean and beautiful waterfalls.
The state’s otherworldly and wild beauty is enhanced by these gorgeous cascades framed by lush forest, majestic mountains, and alpine lakes. Uncover some of the state’s best waterfalls by hike, boat, rail, or road trip where you can experience some of the magic first-hand. From easy- to-access cascades to falls that require a challenging hike, one thing is for sure, the waterfalls in Alaska are nothing short of spectacular.
Plan your adventure in the 49th state’s vast wilderness and feast your eyes on some of the most awe-inspiring Alaskan waterfalls.
Nugget Falls, Juneau
Located just outside of the southeastern Alaskan city of Juneau, Nugget Falls is powered by glacier runoff water.
This two-level cascade can be reached by a short, two-mile out-and-back trail through the Tongass Forest with a lookout for great photo opportunities.
The 377-foot total drop of the two tiers spills into the vibrant blue Mendenhall Lake, one of Alaska’s best lakes, in dramatic fashion. All of this is against a backdrop of striking mountains and the adjacent Mendenhall Glacier.
Listen to the thundering water as it plunges into the lake and enjoy taking pictures from your up-close vantage point. Wear your raincoat as you may even get sprayed by the mist. Keep an eye out for wildlife; brown bears are often seen wandering the area.
A visitor center with information and exhibits about the region, including the famous Mendenhall Glacier, as well as several other Alaskan hiking trails can be accessed from here too.
Bridal Veil Falls, Skagway
The misty Bridal Veil Falls along Klondike Highway in Skagway is one of the area’s top roadside attractions and best waterfalls in Alaska, fueled by a tributary of the Skagway River.
A pull-off and viewing point is located on the highway where it’s possible to see a portion of the falls that drop approximately 50 feet into a rocky pool.
Viewing this natural wonder is amazing from the highway, but hopping aboard the historic White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad brings it to a whole new level.
Wherever you choose to see Bridal Veil Falls, make sure to have your camera handy; it’s the perfect Alaskan subject for dramatic landscape shots.
Thunderbird Falls, Anchorage
Thunderbird Falls is proof that you don’t have to venture too far outside of urban areas in Alaska to view one of Mother Nature’s finest works of art.
Located half an hour north of Anchorage, this 200-foot cascade is a popular destination for nature lovers with a short, mostly flat, one-mile hike through a stunning birch forest.
Venture along the trail which skirts the Eklutna River canyon until you reach the observation deck and the marvelous Thunderbird Falls. While the views from this platform are undoubtedly some of the best, they aren’t the only vantage point to enjoy while exploring the falls.
A side trail takes hikers down into the canyon where you can hike to the base of the waterfall for a closer perspective. You’ll almost certainly be misted by the falls as you relish in this thrilling experience.
Accessible year-round, this natural attraction changes beautifully with the seasons. Gaze at it during the Alaskan summer surrounded by greenery or into fall as the foliage turns red and gold.
Winner Creek Falls, Girdwood
Head to Girdwood, approximately 45 minutes from downtown Anchorage for one of the area’s most popular hiking trails to Winner Creek Falls.
With two hiking trails to pick from, the journey to this cascade is a choose-your-own-adventure. For a shorter route, embark on the lower Winner Creek trail and enjoy a leisurely three-mile walk from the Alyeska Hotel to Crow Creek Mine.
A combination of dirt and boardwalk make up the wide trail, leading you through North America’s northernmost rainforest.
Marvel at Winner Creek Gorge as you venture across the wooden bridge where you can peer down at the powerful water rushing below. Side trails allow adventurous hikers to go down into the gorge and get a closer vantage point of the racing river and waterfall.
Although this cascade is on the shorter side, the 10-foot drop is dramatic thanks to the power of the river.
If you’re in search of a longer hike, the out-and-back upper trail covers nine miles into the high country, round-trip. After spending time at the waterfall, you’ll venture right at the gorge to continue on the trail.
With river crossings and alpine valley views, this trek will immerse you in pure Alaskan backcountry. Absorb the scenery, take photos, and breathe in the crisp Alaskan air. This is one of the top hikes in the Anchorage area.
Pitchfork Falls, Skagway
View one of the tallest waterfalls in the world when you visit Pitchfork Falls in Skagway, Alaska.
With a drop of approximately 2,000 feet, the dramatic cascade down the canyon walls sits just north of town and is fueled by an outlet stream from nearby Goat Lake. This giant set of falls isn’t just a beautiful natural site; it also provides the town of Skagway with hydroelectric power.
Due to its size, this waterfall can be seen from the Yukon highway, as well as from above, on a flightseeing tour. A train ride on the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad is another exciting way to view the spectacle.
The waterfall gets its name from the pitchfork shape it takes as the water cascades down the side of this Alaskan mountain. A roadside pull-off provides a great spot to park and take in the falls before continuing your journey along the scenic route.
Russian River Falls, Seward
Attracting many travelers during the thrilling annual salmon river runs between May and September, the Russian River on the Kenai Peninsula also tumbles over steep rocks to create a beautiful waterfall.
The trailhead to reach the waterfall is located off the Sterling Highway, a little over an hour from Seward.
Viewing the falls in the picturesque canyon with the wild sockeye salmon leaping upstream is one of Alaska’s most memorable scenes.
Hike the easy two-mile trail through mixed white spruce forest to reach the viewing platform for both the waterfall and wildlife viewing; this is one of the premier spots from which to watch brown and black bears feeding on the salmon.
Additionally, moose have been known to appear in the area as well. For both waterfall and bucket-list wildlife viewing opportunities, Russian River Falls is one of the top Alaskan waterfalls to visit.
Ketchikan Creek Falls, Ketchikan
Venture up the creek from historic downtown Ketchikan to view the Ketchikan Creek Falls and famous Salmon Ladder.
Here, the salmon run occurs from mid-July to mid-September, dazzling visitors with the show as thousands of silvery fish make the effort to swim against the foaming current, up the creek.
Historically, the Tlingit Natives fished here long ago and eventually founded the town of Ketchikan.
Make your way up the Creek Street boardwalk past the historic houses, perched on stilts. At the staircase, you can venture along Married Man’s Trail, weaving over the river, with scenic views of the town and harbor. This is where you’ll find the waterfall and Salmon Ladder as well.
Virgin Creek Falls, Anchorage
Situated 45 minutes outside of Anchorage, Girdwood’s Virgin Creek Falls is a storybook Alaskan scene. This year-round hike really shines in the spring season, when snowmelt fuels the falls.
To reach the falls, you can take one of two trails through the shaded temperate rainforest, the tall, green pines draped with lichen, moss coating the forest floor. The well-marked lower trail is a quick half-mile hike along the edge of the river to reach the waterfall.
A short path leads to the pool at the base of the falls; take some photos and marvel at the gorgeous scene before you, taking in the soundtrack of the rushing river.
The Upper Virgin Creek trail veers to the summit of Max’s Mountain after stopping at the waterfall. Max’s Mountain is popular with runners, challenging those who wish to tackle it with a steep, mile and a half incline to the top.
South Fork Eagle River Falls, Anchorage
This almost hidden gorge waterfall can be found just half an hour north of Anchorage along the south fork of the Eagle River.
Situated on the edge of the magnificent Chugach State Park, the South Fork Eagle River Falls (also referred to as Barbara Falls) requires a short, mile-long hike that’s manageable for all fitness levels.
Start your adventure by crossing a wooden bridge and enjoy the easy hike to the falls, which you’ll hear before it comes into view.
The 25-foot drop fills the narrow canyon with dramatic flair as it splits into two cascades. Take it all in from both the upper and lower viewpoints, getting different perspectives.
It’s possible to turn your waterfall adventure into a longer one by starting your hike on the Lower Eagle River Trail by Briggs Bridge and making the six-mile trek to reach the waterfall.
South Fork Eagle River Falls can be enjoyed year-round; hike in the summer or come in fall as the trees begin to turn. Whatever option you choose, you won’t be disappointed with a visit to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Alaska.
Lower Reid Waterfall, Skagway
Uncover one of Skagway’s most popular natural features, just north of town off the Klondike Highway. Accessed by Gold Rush Cemetery, the falls are named after American soldier Frank Reid, who is famous for killing a notorious gangster in the late 1800s.
Hop aboard a shuttle bus in town, or stretch your legs on the extra half-hour walk from the heart of Skagway to the cemetery. A flat, five- to ten-minute stroll leads to Lower Reid Waterfall, a picturesque cascade with rushing water that makes for great photo opportunities.
Due to its proximity to town and accessibility, this waterfall can get busy. It’s best to go early in the morning if you want to have this lovely site to yourself.
Lunch Falls, Ketchikan
Head out on a dirt-and-boardwalk combination trail through the southeastern Alaska Tongass rainforest, surrounded by old-growth Sitka spruce, red cedars, vibrant green moss, and hemlock trees.
Located northeast of Ketchikan, this loop trail, less than a mile long, is an easy hike, also frequented by trail runners. It’s actually a portion of the longer Lunch Creek Trail, which stretches five miles, one way.
It’s possible to venture only to the falls, or to continue further and complete the distance of your choice before turning back. The scenery along the trail is breathtaking, seemingly torn from the pages of a fairytale.
Enjoy the sounds and sights of beautiful Lunch Creek and its waterfall. Access to a beach is available off the trail as well, adding to the allure of this unspoiled Alaskan paradise.
Chase cascades in one of the most beautiful places on earth. From rainforest chutes to waterfalls next to glaciers, Alaska delivers in a big way.
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