Waterfalls in Alaska – Travel Alaska

Nothing embodies Alaska’s blend of majesty and serenity more than Alaska’s waterfalls. While Alaska undoubtedly brings to mind snow-covered tundra, epic mountain ranges, and incredible coastline, it’s also home to some of the most magnificent waterfalls in the western hemisphere. With stunning waterfalls across all five regions of the state, Alaska waterfalls inspire all who visit, with options for every type of traveler. Many are accessible via trail, car, air, and boat. Here are some of the best waterfalls in Alaska:
These falls are a hidden gem. With little foot traffic and located just a half-mile from the Hiland Road neighborhood in Eagle River, these photogenic falls (also known as South Fork Falls) drop 25 feet and offer exceptional views of forest and water. The falls are especially pretty in winter when the cascading water freezes onto the rock face.
Barbara Falls in Eagle River Alaska

This 200-foot waterfall is one of the most visited in Alaska. It can be accessed via a one-mile trail above the Eklutna River and boasts a beautiful viewing deck. The falls can be reached year-round, but cleats or spikes on shoes are recommend in winter as the trail can be slippery, especially on the initial brief climb. While this is a family-friendly hike, visitors with young children should be cautious of cliffs and drop-offs along the trail.

Walkway on the way to Thunderbird Falls Alaska
Walkway on the way to Thunderbird Falls; Photo Credit: Travel Alaska, Ben Prescott

One of the easiest waterfalls to reach, Virgin Creek Falls has a magical appeal surrounded by dense trees, moss-covered rocks, and ferns in a temperate rainforest. The trail is a quick 20-minute hike, and great for families of all ages. The trail is easily accessible year-round, offering great photo ops and close proximity to many of Girdwood’s attractions.
Virgin Creek Falls in Girdwood

Home to over 150 glaciers within 10,000 square miles of protected waterways, Prince William Sound is a haven for waterfall-seekers. Impressive cascades including Cascade Falls, Northland Falls, and the Kittiwake Rookery falls can be found in the area’s bays, coves, and tumbling town from alpine glaciers. The best way to view these falls is on a day cruise or guided kayaking trip from Whittier that will bring you up close and personal with the falls.

Kayakers in front of Cascade Falls in Prince William Sound Alaska
Cascade Falls, Prince William Sound

Located on the west side of the Richardson Highway just less than 20 miles from Valdez, these two easily accessible falls boast 300-foot cliffside plunges in the Keystone Canyon. Both falls have parking areas right off the highway and can also be viewed on foot along the Keystone Canyon Pack Trail. A photo-worthy option year-round, the falls attract ice climbers in winter.

A woman in front of Bridal Veil Falls near Valdez
Bridal Veil Falls

One of the best kept secrets of the Palmer-Wasilla area, these cascading falls can be found off the side of East Knik River Road, about a mile from the Old Glenn Highway. They can be reached just outside of the parking lot and hiked to with minimal effort. If you’re looking for a place to enjoy the views without the crowds, these falls are one of your best options.
These falls offer a great glimpse into the sockeye salmon spawning season. Located off the Russian Lakes Trail, be sure to be bear aware as you walk the trail to the falls as bear sightings are common. This family-friendly hike travels two miles on a wheelchair-accessible trail with gentle elevation. At the end of the trail is a large observation deck over the falls to take in the sights and view spawning salmon from above.
Cascading 2,000 feet down the mountainside from Goat Lake, these are the tallest falls in Alaska. They’re viewable from the Klondike Highway between Skagway, Alaska and British Columbia, Canada. The White Pass and Yukon Railway goes over the falls so you can see it by road, train, or even by air.
White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad over Pitchfork Falls outside of Skagway

A short walk from Ketchikan’s famous Creek Street will bring visitors to Ketchikan Creek Falls, viewable from the bridge and viewing platforms on either side of the falls. The falls is notable as a great spot for salmon viewing during the second half of summer, with a man-made salmon ladder that was built to help salmon travel upstream during spawning season.

Ketchikan Creek
Ketchikan Creek; Photo Credit: @dan_in_real_life_photography

A quick hike along Photo Point Trail will lead you to these incredible 370-foot falls that rush into Mendenhall Lake next to Mendenhall Glacier – one of the most popular destinations in Juneau. You may get to see drifting icebergs on the lake since the falls lie in an active calving zone. The 0.8-mile hike to this falls is a great option for families visiting the Mendenhall Glacier Recreational Area.
Nugget Falls and Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau

With views of the Sisters Mountains and dense coastal rainforest, this 4.6-mile long trail climbs gradually alongside the Indian River and crosses multiple log bridges and boardwalks. The end of the trail is Indian River Falls, a 70-foot waterfall that plunges dramatically from the cliffside.

Indian River Falls in Sitka
Photo Credit: @fatimamcortez_

These world-famous falls are the backdrop for one of the most iconic sights in Alaska, as massive brown bears gather by the dozens to catch spawning salmon as they leap up the falls to travel upstream. Viewing platforms next to the falls and downriver give visitors unparalleled views of the action. Katmai National Park can be accessed by boat or plane on a bear viewing day trip or multi-day trip.
Bears at Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park

One of Alaska’s off-the-beaten-track national parks, Lake Clark National Park is home to vast stretches of wilderness and just a few miles of established trails. The Tanalian Falls Trail is part of the park’s main trail system at its headquarters in Port Alsworth. This easy 4-mile out and back trail takes you through the forest and features views of Lake Clark before leading you to the rushing Tanalian Falls. 

Tanalian Falls Trail in Lake Clark National Park, Alaska
Photo Credit: Alexei Perelygin, istockphoto.com

While you may not travel to Unalaska/Dutch Harbor just for the waterfalls, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the falls cascading down the green hillsides outside of Dutch Harbor. Take a hike or view waterfalls from the sea on a day cruise or fishing charter.
Waterfall outside of Dutch Harbor Alaska

Located west of the upper Nome River, this waterfall has no official trail, but can be reached by crossing the open tundra on the south side of Dorothy Creek and climbing down beside the waterfall.

Dorothy Falls in Nome, Photo Credit: Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, Flikr
Photo Credit: Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, Flikr

There are various waterfall options throughout Gates of the Arctic National Park but getting there is not for the faint of heart. Many small waterfalls can be reached on backcountry backpacking journeys throughout the park.

Gates of the Arctic National Park, Alaska
Photo Credit: Travel Alaska, Michael DeYoung

Savage River can be reached on the Savage River Loop Trail, which is a 1.7-mile trail that begins at the Savage River parking lot. This scenic river has some small cascading falls which can be found just beyond the footbridge, 1 mile down the trail. Keep an eye out for wildlife along the way.

Savage River Loop Trail in Denali National Park Alaska
Savage River Loop Trail, Photo Credit: jtstewartphoto, istockphoto.com
Upper Reid Falls in Skagway, Alaska
Reid Falls, Skagway; Photo Credit: Travel Alaska, Brian Adams
Liberty Falls near Chitina, Alaska
Liberty Falls near Chitina; Photo Credit: Ahtna Land and Culture

About the Author: Warren Jones’ Yupik name is Mairaq, and he is Gwich’in, Yup’ik, and Iñupiaq. His family comes from Nenana, Hooper Bay, and Nome. He was born in Bethel, Alaska, and spent his early…
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