Visiting the “last frontier,” the 49th state of the union, is an adventure. Alaska is untouched by man in ways that few places in the world are, so there’s no shortage of breathtaking landscapes, breathtaking glaciers, and an abundance of wildlife. And of course, that means that Alaska also has some of the most gorgeous waterfalls in the world!
The best part is that many Alaska waterfalls don’t require overnight journeys or extensive hikes. If you’re visiting Alaska, you definitely need to check out at least a fall falls.
Here are the 15 most incredible waterfalls in Alaska that should be on your bucket list.
15. Virgin Creek Falls
Closest Town: Girdwood | Height: 15 feet | Hike Time: 5 minutes
Visit this gorgeous and active waterfall in the Girdwood region rain forest (on the same mountain as the Alyeska Ski Resort) if you’re in the mood for lush vegetation. You’ll experience “old growth:” Devil’s ferns, mossy logs, and towering spruces.
These Alaska waterfalls themselves are around 15 feet tall and quite noisy. The falls are encased in ice during the winter, making for a spectacular picture year-round. The trek up to the falls takes about five minutes trek, so it’s suitable for children of all ages. Plus, these falls are located super close to other attractions.
The Lower Virgin Creek Falls path is one of Girdwood’s most accessible treks. The round trip distance is roughly 1/2 mile, with an elevation gain of 180 feet. The track is well-marked and winds through an enchanting forest, but watch out for tree roots and the steep embankment along the river’s side.
To reach this stunning waterfall, take Timberline Drive (the first road after crossing Glacier Creek while going toward the resort) until it stops from the Alyeska Highway in Girdwood. The unmarked route to the falls follows the stream upward for approximately 150 yards.
At the end of Timberline Drive is a trailhead sign. There is no parking lot, so park in front of houses/on the street. Because it is a temperate rainforest, carry a light rain jacket.
Once you’ve arrived at the falls, follow the short route down to the pool and waterfalls. Expect to see other people in the neighborhood since this is a popular spot and is busy on weekends (sometimes you’ll even see a wedding).
14. South Fork Eagle River Falls
Closest Town: Anchorage | Height: 25 feet | Hike Distance: 1/2 mile
South Fork Eagle River Falls is about a half-mile walk on ancient roads from the end of Ken Logan Circle in a subdivision off Hiland Road overlooking Eagle River Valley. A modest South Fork bridge is a few hundred yards upstream from the falls.
As it fills its narrow canyon with a roar that can be heard throughout the approach, this secluded, seldom visited waterfall seems enormous. The Alaskan waterfalls break into two channels as they tumble over a massive granite outcrop and are incredibly beautiful.
They are tucked within a canyon where the South Fork of Eagle River makes a 25-foot-plus plummet. The Eagle River Greenbelt system includes the surrounding access routes, although private land is nearby.
13. Thunderbird Falls
Closest Town: Anchorage | Height: 200 feet | Hike Time: 50 minutes
Thunderbird Falls is one of Alaska’s most famous waterfalls, falling 200 feet down a gap in the Chugach State Park foothills. You can see the falls from a viewing platform, located up a short (and occasionally steep) one-mile hike through a beautiful birch woodland beside the Eklutna River.
You can approach the canyon bottom through an access route and make your way upstream to the base to feel the icy spray of Thunderbird Creek on your face. During the winter, the falls generally freeze and create ropey ice columns. After the temperature drops, make sure your shoes have ice grippers.
Parents should be cautious of the canyon lip in all seasons and keep youngsters far away. While this is one of the most impressive waterfalls in Alaska, it’s also one of the most dangerous!
To reach Thunderbird Falls, take the Glenn Highway north of Mirror Lake to the Thunderbird Falls exit around Mile 25, the first exit. Exit at Eklutna, head toward the mountains and travel south on the Old Glenn beyond the Eklutna Lake turnoff. On the Old Glenn Highway, the trailhead is located less than a mile north.
12. Pitchfork Falls
Closest Town: Skagway | Height: 2,100 feet | Hike Time: 10 minutes
Pitchfork Falls is a waterfall with a reputation that is definitely justified – this is one of the most impressive waterfalls in Alaska. The falls are located approximately 6 miles north of Skagway, on the other side of the valley from the Klondike Highway, on the unnamed discharge stream of Goat Lake.
It is one of the best-kept mysteries of the U-shaped A fjord valley. The route leading to these falls is extremely short, and even first-time visitors will have no trouble finding their way here.
Because it may be difficult to see the entire waterfall from the path or the gravel parking lot, you will need to walk to the middle or lower area of the fall.
According to several sources (though some measurements are imprecise because these falls are DIFFICULT to measure), these Alaskan waterfalls drop approximately 2,100 feet as the water flows down the slope, putting it on various World’s Tallest lists in the past.
11. Brooks Falls
Closest Town: King Salmon | Height: 88 feet | Hike Time: 1.25 hours
Brooks Falls is one of the more popular waterfalls in Alaska on the Brooks River.
Sockeye salmon migrate up the Brooks River to breed every summer. To get to their spawning site, they’ll have to swim upriver and overcome a few additional obstacles, making this a prime bear-sighting spot. And these bears come in droves – they’re hungry creatures!
Between 200,000 and 400,000 salmon migrate upriver each year, sot he bears aren’t the only ones that go salmon fishing in the Brooks River. This river is a well-known fly-fishing hotspot. Brooks Lodge was explicitly created to accommodate visitors on fly fishing expeditions.
Later, it was discovered that this is also a fantastic wildlife viewing location. Hundreds of tourists visit Katmai every day during the summer months to witness brown bears, thanks to the construction of viewing platforms.
10. Blackstone Falls
Closest Town: Whittier | Height: 500 feet | Hike Time: N/A (visit by boat)
For Blackstone Glacier in Prince William Sound, this 500-foot cascade cascades into a cove encircled by massive rocks along the northwest edge of the inner fiord.
The Alaskan waterfall is one of the most photographed areas, and it is readily seen on maritime cruises. It is just about a mile from the active face of the glacier and approximately a mile within the fiord.
Kayakers, both self-directed and guided, will enter the cove’s entrance to immerse themselves in the roar and spatter of falling water and feel the vastness of the landscape. It’s only one of the numerous Alaskan waterfalls at Blackstone Bay’s head.
You’ll need a boat to go around and fully experience these falls. Most visitors take a marine cruise from Whittier to Blackstone Bay or organize a guided or self-directed kayaking experience. Entering the cove and looking up at the cascade—with a sight of the Northland Glacier dangling from the rock face—can be an incredible peak moment. Seriously – this is Alaskan nature at its finest.
Do not approach the pouring water shower under any circumstances. Always maintain a distance of several hundred yards – this is another one of the more dangerous waterfalls in Alaska. Northland Glacier chunks have been reported to fall into the ocean unexpectedly, so most boats prefer to stay a good distance away. Several decades ago, a kayaker was killed while attempting to fill a water bottle at the foot of the falls; it really pays to be cautious. But don’t let that scare you: these Alaska waterfalls are incredible and are certainly not to be missed.
9. Russian River Falls
Closest Town: Cooper Landing | Hike Distance: 2 miles
The Russian River is teeming with thousands of green-headed, red-bodied sockeye salmon between mid-June and late July. Hike out and see the giant runs rush upstream in the solid water for their native spawning places.
The Russian Lakes Trail starts at milepost 52 on the Sterling Highway, off the entrance road to the Russian River Campground at Cooper Landing. The route to the falls is two miles long and broad, with just minor elevation changes. It’s a short trek that seems more like a stroll, making it ideal for families and hikers of all abilities.
The trailhead starts with a woody entrance and ultimately leads to a clearing where the sun may shine through. Get off the usual road and stroll two miles to the falls, where you’ll be rewarded with stunning salmon views and the possibility of seeing bears.
Although the salmon flow is a natural spectacle near the falls, travelers should be aware of bear activity. Both black and brown bears dwell in this area, and they sometimes emerge on the river to scoop fish out of the water. There isn’t as much bear activity as some of the more popular waterfalls in Alaska but it’s definitely a possibility. There is an observation platform that offers a view of the falls but it’s sort of a hike-at-your-own risk situation.
This is definitely one of the more fun hikes where you can also check out waterfalls, plus there’s camping and fishing areas if you want to turn this waterfall visit into a full-on vacation. Since there isn’t much nearby, we recommend staying at these Alaskan waterfalls for a few days to get the full experience.
8. Horsetail Falls
Closest Town: Valdez | Height: 300 feet | Hike Time: 2 minutes
A few yards from a vast, paved pullout, the magnificent cascade plunges over a 300-foot rock within Keystone Canyon near Valdez. Horsetail is one of the numerous snow-fed cascades inside the three-mile-long canyon, just up the Richardson Highway from town, along with Bridal Veil Falls, which is just a few hundred yards away.
Horsetail Falls, which only flows throughout the winter and early spring, is fed by snow and ice melt and serves as the focal point for seeing multiple waterfalls.
The stunning waterfall cascades in two streams and sits immediately next to the road, making it the region’s most prominent feature.
Horsetail Falls, which sprawl out a little over the bedrock at more significant flows, is accessible on foot. These falls freeze into massive ropey curtains in the winter, attracting ice climbers from all over the globe. The trail leading to Horsetail is a treasure trove of incredible sights for intermediate and expert hikers. Despite the area’s steep slopes, beginners can give it a shot if they’re athletic (it isn’t too hard).
To reach Horsetail Falls, drive east from Valdez to the start of Keystone Canyon, which is around Mile 13 on the Richardson Highway. Drive 180 miles northeast of Anchorage on the Glenn Highway to Glennallen, then 100 miles south on the Richardson Highway to the canyon.
7. Nugget Falls
Closest Town: Juneau | Height: 377 feet | Hike Distance: 1 mile (with more advanced trails available)
This stunning waterfall plunges roughly 377 feet down the steep slope into Mendenhall Lake, about a three-quarter mile south of the active face of Mendenhall Glacier, and is one of the most remarkable natural phenomena around Juneau.
The cascade descends in two tiers (99 feet and 278 feet) before spilling into the frigid, turquoise sea, powered by meltwater flow from hanging Nugget Glacier. Before the glacier receded in recent decades, the falls splashed into the ice, though the picture is a bit different today.
The falls are only one feature of the Mendenhall leisure area, which include spectacular vistas of the receding Mendenhall Glacier and a lake where royal blue icebergs are visible. The visitor center has many museum-quality displays, and there are several hiking routes, including a mossy rainforest trek to the foot of Nugget Falls.
Hike to a sand-and-gravel flat at the foot of the falls that stretches out along the shoreline and let the tremendous foamy awe and noise wash over you. A new, low-grade route runs about one mile from the visitor center to the falls, making it a reasonably pleasant stroll for families with children.
Before you witness the falls, you’ll hear them!
6. Liberty Falls
Closest Town: Anchorage | Height: 20 feet | Hike Time: Variable (a short walk is available)
With snow-capped mountain ranges and beautiful wildlife and flora, this gorgeous setting is a nature lover’s dream.
A rushing, white waterfall bursts from a crevice in the rocks and plunges about 20 feet into Liberty Creek. The relentless noise permeates the rural campsite. The falls are visible from the Edgerton Highway on the route to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, which is a popular place for tourists to camp.
To access the modest recreation area and campground, use the gravel road that loops from two exits off the Edgerton Highway, about 24 miles east of the Richardson Highway.
Immediately downstream of the falls, the access road crosses the creek on a bridge. You may want to park at the bridge and stroll upstream to the foot of the falls to enjoy the mist and fresh air. You can spend the night at one of many campsites or tent platforms and fall asleep to the whoosh of the falls.
To get to these Alaskan waterfalls, from Anchorage, go 180 miles northeast on the Glenn Highway to Glennallen, then 32 miles south on the Richardson Highway to the Edgerton Highway intersection. (It’s about 82 miles north of Valdez.) Mile 23.5 is the location of Liberty Falls. The settlement of Chitina is seven miles away, and the Copper River bridge into Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is one mile farther.
5. Rudlestone Falls
Closest Town: Valdez | Height: 869 feet | Hike Time: 2 minutes
Travelers heading east in Alaska toward the vacation destination city of Valdez will enjoy seeing Rudleston Falls, a stunning but unexpectedly accessible Alaskan waterfall situated just off Richardson Highway.
These lovely falls, which are located across from a well-known Old Railway Tunnel, tumble slowly and generously over a rock face, surrounded by lush foliage and wildflowers in the summer. It’s a popular spot for people to snap photographs, whether for special events or fill up their Instagram grid! This is definitely one of the best Alaskan waterfalls for photos because it’s so easy to get to and is in just the perfect place to actually capture a human in front of the falls.
Valdez is an excellent spot to stay if you’re searching for a home base to explore Chugach National Forest and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve, yet this is a genuinely wild area, so be prepared.
4. Serenity Falls
Closest Town: Eklutna | Height: 1,200 feet | Hike Distance: 13 miles
In Chugach State Park, this typical mountain waterfall cascades down a massive wall in the valley beyond the head of Eklutna Lake. The free-fall drop is hundreds of feet—some say 700 feet—but the beautiful strand of whitewater cascades more than 1,200 feet from the alpine realm and makes for a spectacular shot across the valley.
In addition to being a popular ice climbing location in the winter, Serenity Falls is perhaps most stunning in the early summer when snowmelt increases the volume. The terrace of the Serenity Falls Hut, a multi-party public use hut administered by state parks, has excellent views.
Reaching the falls on a backcountry bike can be an all-day experience on relatively flat routes and jeep roads. An overnight stay at the Hut lets you take in the autumn scenery as the canyon dims in the twilight light. This is one of the best waterfalls in Alaska to visit if you plan to spend at least a few days in the area.
To get to the falls, leave the Glenn Highway at Eklutna (Mile 26.5) and drive ten miles to the state campground and day-use facilities at the end of the road.
The Eklutna Lakeside Trail requires 13 miles of biking, hiking, or vehicle transportation. Continue beyond the lake’s head at Mile 8 until you reach the Serenity Falls Hut turnoff at Mile 12. Continue another mile or two across the bridge until you see and hear the falls a few hundred feet into the woods.
3. Winner Creek Gorge
Closest Town: Anchorage | Height: 10 feet | Hike Distance: 3 miles
In Girdwood Valley, a journey through a foggy rain forest of tall trees leads to a tiny wooden bridge that spans the spectacular canyon where Winner Creek roars over steep rock walls. This site is unusual and even otherworldly, offering a deep-woods, high-adventure vibe, and an almost fairy-like vibe.
Making your way down the stream on the west/north bank, you can sit on stones below the falls, next to the rolling water, for the best views. The adventure, however, isn’t over yet. Go another 0.2 miles to the hand tram and trolley across Glacier Creek for some seriously incredible views. You can either visit the viewpoint, return the same way you came, take the tram over the creek, or go to Crow Creek Mine. There’s clearly lots to do here!
The track, which is part of the famous Iditarod system and is managed by Chugach National Forest, is generally level and family-friendly, rare for an adventure in the deep outback. You and the whole family will love this place.
2. Bird Creek Falls
Closest Town: Anchorage | Height: 20 feet | Hike Distance: 1.2 miles
This vast, high-volume waterfall lurks in a difficult-to-find valley about 1.2 miles up Bird Creek from its mouth on Turnagain Arm.
The falls drop roughly 20 feet into a pool, with the whole volume of Bird Creek blasting through a rocky cleft barely a few yards wide. The falls freeze into a magnificent ice curtain in the winter (seeps on a nearby rock wall also create a fantastic ice mural.)
It’s not a tourist-friendly attraction: you’ll have to descend slick slopes and crawl through the bush to get your waterfall fix. If you’re ready for an adventure, hiking to these falls is a blast, and you can manage route finding and some steep trekking descents since there are a few various options for paths. You’ll feel like you’ve been through hell and back and finally discovered the prize.
Indeed, this Alaskan waterfall is a hidden treasure in Chugach State Park.
1. Reid Falls
Closest Town: Skagway | Height: 15 feet | Hike Distance: 5 miles roundtrip
The spectacular Reid Falls, named after Frank Reid, who dedicated his life (and his family jewels) for the glory of Skagway, features two falls.
The first waterfall is around 100 feet up the mountain, whereas the second is roughly 800 feet up. Named after Frank, these two falls were known as Lower Reid Falls and Upper Reid Falls, respectively.
There is no way to trek to both waterfalls on the same path. It’s much too high. Before starting any trek, you should acquire a route map at the Visitor’s Center and read it.
Lower Reid Falls is reachable by almost anybody who is moderately athletic. The path is well marked – it would be difficult to get lost on this hide
Upper Reid Falls is more complicated. It would be best to trek up to Lower Dewey Lake and continue north until the trail’s end. The round trip distance is around 5 miles.
The Upper Reid Falls Trail does not go to Upper Reid Falls, making it one of its most misnamed hiking routes. The route ends at a lovely site along Reid Creek, where you’ll probably see other visitors stumbling about in hopeless attempts to find the waterfall.
Alaskan Waterfall Safety Tips
We always recommend caution around large waterfalls, but we can’t stress safety enough for some of these waterfalls in Alaska. Insane views = dangerous!
- Wear sturdy hiking shoes or boots.
- Always stick to well-maintained paths. Do not wander from viewing decks and platforms.
- Don’t ignore a warning notice or regulation put near a waterfall.
- Never climb on or near waterfalls.
- Never leap from waterfalls or dive into plunge pools.
- Supervise youngsters and pets carefully.
- Never play in the stream or river above a waterfall, or try to shoot photographs at the top of a waterfall.
The natural beauty of Alaska waterfalls just can’t be overstated! If you haven’t explored these waterfalls yet, you should include them in your itinerary.