Alaska Waterfalls Directory
We all love the primal spectacle of a waterfall. It’s the exciting roar and whoosh of the cascade. It’s the mesmerizing sparkle and shimmer of the curtain over rock. It’s the invigorating rush of that cool, fresh air against your face—saturated with zesty negative ions and smelling of mountain spirit. (Plus, kids love them!)
Alaska has gobs of great waterfalls both big and small—some close to parking or scenic viewpoints, some at the end of backcountry treks. The interaction of mountain topography with high coastal rainfall and snowmelt generates more cataracts than you can visit in a lifetime.
The Easiest Waterfalls To See
You don’t have to take an epic road trip to view worthy waterfalls in Alaska. Go here for directions to eight easy-to-visit mountain cascades inside or within easy drives from urban Anchorage, plus one human-engineered waterfall at a dam next to a public salmon hatchery.
You will find waterfalls wherever Alaska highways traverse the mountains. Here are a few exhilarating gems.
McHugh Creek Falls
Seward Highway, 15 mins south of Anchorage
McHugh Creek thunders through a slot into a pool right next to parking, picnic areas and a viewing platforms. One of the most popular and accessible trailheads and waysides in Anchorage, McHugh Creek is at Mile 111 inside Chugach State Park. See Anchorage’s Best Waterfalls for details.
Virgin Creek Falls
Girdwood, 45 minutes south of Anchorage
A dramatic gem of a waterfall surrounded by lush undergrowth, Virgin Creek Falls is only a few hundred feet from the end of Timberland Drive near the Alyeska Ski Resort. People say it’s almost primeval. See Anchorage’s Best Waterfalls for details.
Explorer Glacier Waterfall
Portage Glacier Highway, 1 hr south of Anchorage
A sparkling skein descends hundreds of feet from Explorer Glacier’s hanging buttress in a postcard worthy setting—one of several nice waterfalls visible from the road in Portage Valley.
Edgerton Highway near Chitina, 4 hrs from Anchorage
This powerful, surging and very loud cataract anchors its own intimate roadside campground in the forest near the western entrance to Wrangell St. Elias National Park.
Horsetail & Bridal Veil Falls
Richardson Highway, 20 mins from Valdez
Lowell Creek Waterfall
Lowell Point Road in Seward
This dramatic ocean-side waterfall erupts from a historic tunnel built to divert Lowell Creek and prevent snow-melt or rain-storm flooding in downtown Seward, and it’s a doozy.
Ketchikan Creek Falls
Right in downtown Ketchikan
Just upstream from the famous Creek Street boardwalk, the falls on Ketchikan Creek and the fish ladder nearby concentrate both the richness of salmon and the vagaries of human history in one leisurely stroll. Tlingit Natives were drawn to the falls for the fishing since ancient times, as were the later pioneers who founded this popular Southeast Alaska town.
South Tongass Waterfall
Tongass Highway, 20 mins from Downtown
Depending upon rainfall and snowmelt, this high volume waterfall fills the senses near the south end of this Southeast Alaskan town’s road system.
Take a Boat to Tidewater Plunges
Boat tours out of Whittier, Seward and Valdez may market themselves as the gateway to viewing marine mammals or calving tidewater glaciers. But these popular trips swing past scores if not hundreds of spectacular and interesting waterfalls. Here are the best.
Kittiwake Rookery Falls
Whittier, Prince William Sound
This powerful, photogenic waterfall plunges into the ocean right through the middle of one of the biggest bird rookeries in Prince William Sound.
Northland Glacier Falls
Whittier, Prince William Sound
Dropping at least 500 feet into a cove inside the inner fiord for the terminus of Blackstone Glacier, this often-photographed waterfall is only one of several at the head of Blackstone Bay.
Whittier, Eaglik Bay, Prince William Sound
The biggest waterfall in Prince William Sound descends more than 170 feet off a sheer mountain face in two steps, with its final, foaming plunge filling Cascade Bay with a roar.
Here are some short trips to several great waterfalls. They are family friendly, close to parking and don’t require special preparation.
Gulch Creek Trail
Mile 57-58 Seward Highway, 1.5 hrs from Anchorage
While technically not a waterfall, this Class V rapid inside the Canyon Creek gorge just about explodes through a slot right beneath a narrow bridge at the start of a mining trail up Gulch Creek. It has the feel of a harrowing natural wonder.
Russian River Falls
Russian River Campground, Cooper Landing
With a viewing platform and the very real chance to see brown bears fishing for a meal once salmon migrate during summer, this waterfall is an easy round-trip hike on a good trail often accessible to wheelchairs.
Mile 25 of the Glenn Highway, 30 mins north of Anchorage
Perhaps the most visited waterfall in Alaska, the 200-foot cataract plunges into a gorge along an easy one-mile trail from parking and restrooms. One of Anchorage’s best hiking adventures for families with kids. See Anchorage’s Best Waterfalls for details.
South Fork Falls (Barbara Falls)
Eagle River Valley off Hiland Road, 30 mins north of Anchorage
Almost a secret, South Fork Falls plunges about 25 feet in its own small gorge down the hill from a suburban neighborhood on the mountain slope overlooking the valley. See Anchorage’s Best Waterfalls for details.
Eklutna Lake Trail, 50 mins from Anchorage
A classic mountain waterfall, Serenity threads a white line at least 700 feet down a big mountain face in a narrow valley beyond the head of Eklutna Lake. A 26-mile round-trip bike ride or hike over a mostly flat multi-use trail that’s doable by fit and adventurous families. See Anchorage’s Best Waterfalls for details.
Mendenhall Lake, 13 miles from downtown Juneau
This large, spectacular waterfall plunges in two steps some 377 feet into iceberg-strewn Mendenhall Lake, and is one of Juneau’s most popular summer attractions. A new, low-grade trail leads about .8 miles from the Mendenhall Visitor Center to the falls.
North Tongass Highway, 18 miles from Ketchikan
A pleasant hike through a coastal rainforest leads to an overlook of this waterfall about 18 miles outside of Ketchikan on the North Tongass Highway.
3 – 5 day backpacking trip, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park
Want to try something epic to satisfy your waterfall fix? The Chitistone River plunges in two steps about 300 feet deep inside a gorge viewable in some places along the the gnarly Goat Trail backpacking route. This three-to-five day trip is one of Alaska’s classic wilderness treks—basically legendary as a destination, with glimpsing the falls one of the journey’s treasures.
- Waterfalls thrive or shrivel based on available water. A period of hot, sunny weather will turbocharge the volume of glacier-fed waterfalls. Likewise, cataracts that drain hanging valleys will increase following big rains, while cold snaps and mountain frosts tend dry them up. Inspecting waterfalls is a great day trip when it’s been pouring.
- When driving through the Kenai, Chugach or Talkeetna mountains, don’t hesitate to check out unofficial hiking trails along streams descending adjacent steep country. Chances are you’ll find a little-known but-spectacular waterfall at the end of reasonable hike. Example: A short walk up a placer mining trail along the relatively mild Spokane Creek (Mile 64.8 of the Seward Highway, a mile north of Johnson Pass Trailhead) leads to a loud, churning downpour that has the intimate feel of a secret grotto.
- Waterfalls by definition descend cliffs, scarps and steep slopes. Don’t let the excitement of photographing a mass of roaring whitewater blind you to hazards. Don’t lean over edges or stand on overhangs. Enjoy your waterfall from stable, solid ground with zero chance of falling. Be sure of your footing and exposure, and keep children under control.
This hidden, little visited waterfall feels immense as it fills its small canyon with a roar that can be heard during the approach. Tucked into a gorge where the South Fork of Eagle River takes a 25-foot-plus plunge, the falls split into two channels as they cascade over a giant bedrock outcrop and are very photogenic. One of the Chugach’s secret places. The surrounding access trails are part of the Eagle River Greenbelt system, but private… ...more
With just a short walk from the parking area you will find a beautiful 20 foot water fall. The trailhead starts off paralleling the Turnagain Arm and there are a number of small trails that go to different lookouts. Take the trail to the left for a short distance and you will find the McHugh Trail branching off to the right. The trail zig-zags upward through the woods and provides ever better views of the Turnagain Arm and mountains.
Prince William Sound
This wildlife sweet spot is worth a visit. The Russian Lakes Trail begins off the access road to the Russian River Campground in Cooper Landing, at milepost 52 of the Sterling Highway. Get off-the-beaten path, hike two miles to the falls and enjoy the immediate reward of spectacular salmon viewing.
Located towards the head of Tutka Bay on the north side is Tutka Bay Falls. The beach in front of the falls is a good spot for clam digging, pink salmon fishing and just lounging around. Explore along the trail that parallels the waterfall and take a backcountry shower in one of the pools. Be courteous of private property in this area.
Valdez / Richardson Highway & McCarthy / Kennicott
Bridal Veil Falls and the Valdez Goat Trail: This two-mile-long hike is a restored section of the Trans-Alaska Military Pack-train Trail that was the first glacier-free route from Valdez to the interior of Alaska. There’s a fantastic overlook about a mile down the trail.
Deep inside Wrangell St. Elias National Park, this waterfall requires a multi-day backpacking trip or flightseeing tour to see. Several overlooks of the falls can be found along the Goat Trail traverse during a trip between Skolai Pass and Glacier River. For sure viewing that doesn’t involve an epic wilderness trip, book a flightseeing charter.
The first part of this trail is a bit steep, but once you’re out of the spruce forest, the rest of the hike is pleasant and takes you along the ridge. Once on the ridge, there are places where the trees open up and there are great views of the surrounding mountains. The official trail ends at mile 1.7, but you can continue another 0.25 miles to the lake and even further on unbroken trails.
Leaving from the end of Tongass Highway, enter the Lunch Creek Trail and very soon take the trail to the left as this steps you quickly down to a waterfall viewing platform and then the rest of the way down to where, to the right, you can also cross the Lunch Creek bridge, which provides waterfall views as well as the ocean where the creek flows into.
In the town that boasts of being the Alaskan salmon capital of the world, here’s where you can see the salmon in action — hundreds of thousands come through every summer. This spot, right next the library and at the end of Creek Street, offers a prime view of the crowds of salmon on their way to spawn.
As you continue north, Dorothy Creek flows out of mountains to the left past the red cabin on the far bank of the Nome River. About one mile up the creek is a scenic waterfall. While there is no trail, some people visit the waterfall by crossing the open tundra on the south side of Dorothy Creek and clambering down the steep incline either just above or below the waterfall.
A stunning 200-foot waterfall cascades from mountain cliffs into the waters of Passage Canal just across from Whittier. The falls — a stop on most marine tours and a popular destination for kayakers — pours right through one of the largest bird rookeries in Prince William Sound.
This 500-foot cascade plunges into a cove surrounded by immense cliffs along the northwest wall of the inner fiord for Blackstone Glacier in Prince William Sound. One of the most photographed in the region, this waterfall is easily viewed during a day cruise from Whittier.