10 Best Waterfalls in Alaska & How To Visit Them

Fresh air, a relaxing walk, and the tranquil sounds of rushing waterfalls. Sounds like a beautiful experience, doesn’t it? Alaska is home to more than 43 breathtaking waterfalls and peaceful hiking trails, great for the family or professional hikers.

If you plan to make your trip to Alaska with family, many of these waterfalls are perfect as they do not require long hikes, and trails are well maintained and safe.

Some of them are even great for dogs!

Best Waterfalls in Alaska

On the flip side, professional hikers may find a moderately challenging experience with a few other waterfall trails, especially if you move quickly and keep up that brisk pace!

Sound enticing? Keep scrolling to see the spots where you can find exquisite waterfalls all across Alaska and learn how you can get to them.

1. Thunderbird Falls

Thunderbird Falls Alaska
Thunderbird falls in Chugach state park, Alaska

A brisk 1.8-mile walk along the Chugiak trail will bring you to Thunderbird Falls. Its pristine, chilly water gushes through a gorge, falling about 200 feet!

It is known as one of the best waterfalls for family excursions.

Chugiak trail is considered family-friendly because it is short, so the kids won’t become too tired. The trail is well maintained and dotted with handrails. However, it is highly suggested that you stick to the path as detours can prove dangerous.

When you arrive, use the viewing deck to get a straight-on view. This is the best option for families to keep children safe.

On the other hand, if you are more adventurous, try one of the side trails that takes you into the canyon. Beware, Thunderbird Falls is known for its slipping hazards. Remember to carry the appropriate equipment, including ice grippers on your shoes to stay safe.

  • Location: 25321 Old Glenn Hwy, Chugiak, AK 99567, United States
  • Closest big city: 28 miles from Anchorage
  • How to get there: Thunderbird exit on Glenn Highway near Mile 25
  • Entrance fee: None
  • Parking fee: $5 or state parks parking pass

2. Nugget Falls

Nugget Falls Alaska
Nugget Falls waterfall at Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska

Nugget Falls (also known as Mendenhall Glacier Waterfall) is among the waterfalls that are considered family-friendly — including pets on a leash.

This waterfall is 377 feet tall, running down into Mendenhall Lake. This two-tier waterfall’s natural beauty does not stand alone. It is accompanied by a visitor center with museums, beach access, and additional hiking trails.

After you get your waterfall fix, I recommend you spend a little time at the popular hiking spot nearby: Nugget Fall Trail. It’s about 2 miles long near Auke Bay.

I believe Nugget Falls promises an all-around enjoyable experience with a little bit of fun for everyone, making it a perfect day trip from Juneau.

  • Location: Nugget Falls, Juneau
  • Closest big city: 13 miles downtown Juneau
  • How to get there: Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center
  • Opening Hours: 10AM-4PM
  • Entrance fee: None
  • Parking fee: None

3. Horsetail Falls

Horsetail Waterfall is a breathtaking point of interest for visitors. With a 176 foot fall, this grand waterfall splits into 2 streams as it tumbles down the rocks.

The trail to access this waterfall is suitable for beginners. However, professionals can enjoy the trial too.

Even if you’re not interested in hiking, you can still visit. This is one of the waterfalls that are visible from the road!

The best time to visit would be Spring and Winter. This is because Horsetail is one of the waterfalls that’s replenished by snow and ice melt.

  • Location: Keystone Canyon in Valdez,
  • Closest big city: 17 miles From Valdez
  • How to get there: Richardson Highway Roadside
  • Entrance fee: None
  • Parking fee: None

4. Bridal Veil Falls

Neighboring Horsetail Falls is one of Valdez’s most well-known waterfalls, Bridal Veil Falls. Located 18 miles from Valdez, sitting off the Richardson Highway, this picturesque fall attracts many visitors.

If you are interested in viewing this waterfall from afar, you can see it from the side of the highway.

However, if you’re like me, you want to see it up close.

Park at the trailhead of the Keystone Canyon Pack Trail. You’ll hike about 2.6 miles before you reach your destination.

During the summer, this waterfall flows beautifully. On the other hand, in winter, it is frozen solid!

If you are an ice climber, Bridal falls is perfect for you! Join the Valdez annual ice climbing festival! Bridal Veil poses a Grade V climb, standing at 600 ft long.

  • Location: Bridal Veil Falls, Valdez
  • Distance from the closest big city: 18 miles from Valdez
  • How to get there: Keystone Canyon Pack Trail trailhead
  • Entrance fee: None
  • Parking fee: None

5. Blackstone Falls

Only accessible by boat, Blackstone Falls is an excellent tourist destination for those who are not a fan of hiking.

Glacier Quest Cruises takes you on a 45-mile journey for approximately 4 hours, showcasing Alaska’s gorgeous glaciers and breathtaking waterfalls. On this journey, you are sure to see the 500 foot Blackstone falls plunging into the watery depths below.

This is a great family trip, with hot meals included on your trip! The cruise leaves every Monday to Friday between 8:30AM and 5:00PM for multiple trips. These cruises are only available from May 22nd to September 13th, 2021, so book as soon as possible!

  • Location: Cliffside Marina, 100 West Camp Road, Whittier, AK
  • Distance from the closest big city: 1 mile
  • How to get there: Glacier Quest Cruise
  • Entrance fee: $129 for adults and $65 for children
  • Parking fee: None

6. Russian River Falls

Russian River Falls is known for its vibrant wildlife. You begin at the Russian River Campground in Cooper Landing, where you will find plenty of parking.

Now just imagine taking a leisurely hike down the 2.5-mile trail with your family, listening to the array of birds whistling. How peaceful of an atmosphere!

While hiking, you may spot ducks near the winter trail junction and the Russian River. This is a photo opportunity for those animal lovers who know their way around a camera. If you are a birdwatcher, you can find Red-breasted and common merganser, American three-toed and Hairy woodpecker, Townsend’s warbler, and more!

After your leisurely stroll, you will finally reach the Russian River Falls as it tumbles down the riparian canyon.

When you arrive, stay sharp! Birds and ducks are not the only wildlife you will find along the way. You will see the occasional moose or bear!

Remember to read up on bear safety before taking this trek!

However, there is a reason why bears love this area. This is one of the many waterfalls where you’ll see salmon returning from their lifelong travels to spawn! And fun fact; bears love salmon. Expect to see salmon jumping upstream, despite the rapids flowing against them.

It is a sight worth hiking for!

  • Location: Seward, AK
  • Distance from the closest big city: 31 miles
  • How to get there: River Campground in Cooper Landing
  • Opening Hours: 24 Hours
  • Entrance fee: None
  • Parking fee: None

7. South Fork Eagle River Falls

This little hidden waterfall holds vast beauty for its size. Falling down its bedrock face, South Fork Eagle River Falls (sometimes called Barbara Falls) stands at 25 feet, tumbling down a chasm.

Its stand-out feature is its two channels.

Of the many waterfalls in Alaska, this one has among the shortest loop trails at only 0.9 miles. Despite its length, it is a fun challenge for hikers of all skill levels. Take your furry friends along with you and enjoy the hike!

It is important to note that this waterfall lies near private property. Bushwhacking is discouraged!

  • Location: Eagle River, AK
  • Distance from the closest big city: 17 miles from Anchorage
  • How to get there: Ken Logan Circle gate
  • Opening Hours: 24 hours
  • Entrance fee: None
  • Parking fee: None

8. Winner Creek Falls

This small fall is an action-packed experience. Despite its small stature compared to the other waterfalls on this list, its beauty is remarkable.

You start your journey at Winner Creek trailhead, taking the trail on foot or bike. If you go on foot, you will be walking about 3.5 miles. If you aren’t going with friends, take your dog with you!

On your journey, you will first meet a wooden bridge. It leads you above this rushing waterfall, whose roar almost shakes the bridge!

Here, you can stand and take in nature’s beauty, enjoying the white, frothy water of this little fall. If you want a closer look, you can take a side trail to reach the river banks.

Past the bridge, you will continue your journey until you meet a hand tram. This safe metal cage is your way across the Glacier creek, dropping more than 100 feet below you.

Finally, on the last stretch, you can walk to Crow Creek Road and catch the Glacier Valley Transit bus to get back to your vehicle! This little fall is a must-do experience for those with the bravery and a sense of adventure.

  • Location: 601 Crow Creek Rd, Girdwood
  • Distance from the closest big city: 27miles north of Whittier
  • How to get there: Winner Creek trailhead
  • Opening Hours: 24 hours
  • Entrance fee: None
  • Parking fee: None

9. Pitchfork Falls

Standing at 2100 feet in height, Pitchfork is one of the tallest waterfalls in the world. This hydroelectric facility is said to provide power to Skagway.

Unlike other waterfalls, you are unable to hike to it.

As a hiker, this can be pretty disappointing. However, it is an easy check off the bucket list for a family since you can view it driving across the Klondike Highway.

Otherwise, to see Pitchfork Falls, you’ll have to take a plane ride or a trip along the Yukon Highway on a Bus Tour.

  • Location: Pitchfork Falls, Skagway
  • Distance from the closest big city: 7 miles from Skagway
  • How to get there: Bus Tour or Klondike Highway
  • Opening Hours: 24 hours
  • Entrance fee: None
  • Parking fee: None

10. Liberty Falls

Liberty Falls is the perfect place to stop if you’re on a road trip through Alaska, even if you’re using an RV!

With camping grounds available for 15 days and No RV size limit, the Liberty Falls State Recreation Site is the ADA facility you want to use before taking the trail up to the falls.

Arrive a day early and set up camp! It will cost you $25 to stay. Enjoy time with friends and family, cooking, making jokes, and telling spooky stories.

But don’t stay up too late! The next day, you’ll face a 1.7-mile hike to see the beautiful Liberty Falls.

If you aren’t much of a camper, it’s free to park, view the waterfall, and head on out.

  • Location: Liberty Falls State Recreation Site Rd, Chitina
  • Distance from the closest big city: 9 miles from Chitina
  • How to get there: Liberty Falls State Recreation Site
  • Opening Hours: 24hr
  • Entrance fee: None
  • Parking fee: None

Alaska Waterfalls: Frequently Asked Question

How Many Waterfalls Does Alaska Have?

There are 43 officially named waterfalls in Alaska, according to the United States Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System. You will find many of them within easy reach for viewing, but others will take careful planning for a trek to the backcountry. (There are even a couple you can drive right up to!)

What is the Best Time of the Year to See the Waterfalls in Alaska?

The best time to visit waterfalls is in the Spring or Winter. If you enjoy ice climbing and other Winter activities, you should stay in the winter season. If you are interested in seeing the beauty of a flowing waterfall, Spring is the best time to visit. This is because waterfalls are created by ice and snowmelt, which is more abundant as warmth returns in Spring.

What is the Tallest Waterfall in Alaska?

Pitchfork Falls is the tallest waterfall in Alaska. It also is one of the tallest waterfalls in the world! Standing at an elevation of 2100 feet, this is one of the waterfalls that must be on your to-do list.

Rookery Falls in Whittier may not be as big as Pitchfork, it only clocks in at 600 feet. But it is one of the largest that you will see from a cruise ship! Catch a glimpse of this beauty flowing from the Learnard Glaciar as your boat makes its way for Prince William Sound.

Can I Swim in Alaska’s Waterfalls?

It can be dangerous to swim near many of the waterfalls on this list. Hazards like big boulders or fallen logs may be present under the water.

However, if there are any lakes nearby, you may be able to swim there. Just be warned the water in Alaska can be bitterly cold, even on a warm summer day. I went swimming in a lake once because the temperatures were in the 70s, but the water below the first few inches was cold enough to cramp my muscles!

Conclusion

Alaska has many breathtaking waterfalls for you to visit. Whether you are a professional hiker, an outdoor enthusiast, or traveling with your family, there is something for you.

Each hike is a marvelous experience, with grand payoffs when you experience the bliss of nature’s beauty! Add a visit to one of the many waterfalls in Alaska to your travel plans! It will be worth it.

Keep browsing our website for more information and travel guides about Alaska.