Top 10 Waterfalls in Alaska

Published on August 25th, 2021

Considered by many to be a final frontier of sorts, Alaska is the destination par excellence when it comes to all manner of outdoorsy adventures — including epic waterfalls. Although there are more cascades in this state than you could count (or easily access), we’ve gathered the ten most unmissable, along with the details you need to get to them.

Top 10 Waterfalls in Alaska

1. Thunderbird Falls

2. South Fork Eagle River Falls

3. Virgin Creek Falls

4. Blackstone Falls

5. Russian River Falls

6. Brooks Falls

7. Rudleston Falls

8. Horsetail Falls

9. Reid Falls

10. Nugget Falls

Visiting Waterfalls in Alaska

Here are the top 10 most beautiful waterfalls to add to your Alaska itinerary, including the hikes you need to get to them!

1. Thunderbird Falls

Thunderbird falls in Chugach state park near Anchorage Alaska

Alaskan waterfalls exist along a spectrum of accessibility, and sometimes, the most scenic falls require a bit of effort to get to. (We’ll certainly get to some of those later on in this list!) But Thunderbird Falls is an excellent option if you’re looking for an absolutely epic view that only requires a small amount of footwork. Accessed by way of a short and easy hiking trail, measuring less than 2 miles and just about 300 feet in elevation gain round trip, these falls are a great choice if you’re traveling with children or simply don’t want to have to spend an entire day getting where you’re going. The falls themselves are more than 200 feet tall, and if you’re brave enough to hike (or snowshoe) out to them in the wintertime, they’re a solid blue column of water — pretty incredible! Pups are also welcome on this trail, but must be leashed at all times.

Things to do near Thunderbird Falls: At just half an hour outside of Anchorage, Thunderbird Falls is one of the most easily accessible falls not only on foot, but also by car — and it’s also right outside of the vast wilderness expanse of Chugach State Park. There are some incredible RVshare rentals and campgrounds in this area — which is perfect, since you need to stay a while to truly get a feel for it!

2. South Fork Eagle River Falls

South Fork Eagle River Falls

Yet another gorgeous, relatively easily accessible falls just outside of Anchorage, South Fork Eagle River Falls is known for its scenic surroundings, tucked as it is into a river gorge. Although the hiking trail to access these falls is just a little more than a mile round trip, and level enough for kids and other hikers who may not have their feet under them, it’s connected to a much longer trail that runs more than 10 miles through the Chugach National Forest, perfect for outdoor enthusiasts who want to extend their adventure out into something more rigorous and time-consuming. Either way, you’ll be rewarded for your efforts not only by the falls, but also by the other stunning natural scenery in the area.

Things to do near South Fork Eagle River Falls: Yet again, the relatively dense urban metropole of Anchorage is right nearby, as are its many excellent RVshare rentals and campgrounds. If you need even more outdoorsy options, the vast swath of Chugach State Park awaits, not to mention all of the other outdoor recreational opportunities in the area.

3. Virgin Creek Falls

Virgin Creek Falls in Alaska

If you’re willing to venture a little bit deeper into the Alaskan wilderness, on the south end of the Chugach National Forest, just outside the small town of Girdwood — best known as a gateway to a popular ski resort — Virgin Creek Falls awaits, a shimmering cascade surrounded by dense foliage and lush moss, tucked into the unique rainforest ecosystem of this part of the state. Despite its spot slightly off the beaten path, requiring a drive of an hour one-way from Anchorage, this falls requires a hike of only a mile round trip, with a small amount of elevation changes — it’s still suitable for beginning hikers and families. Along with the waterfalls, you’ll be treated to the view of beautiful wildflowers if you make the trip at the right time of year, though even in winter, it’s lovely.

Things to do near Virgin Creek Falls: This waterfall is nestled into a rich and dense part of the Alaskan landscape, moving out from the major city of Anchorage toward adventure destinations like Whittier and Homer. There’s a nearly endless treasure trove of outdoor adventure to be had here, so be sure to find an RVshare rental to call your home away from home!

4. Blackstone Falls

A kayaker paddles among ice burgs in Blackstone Bay to view the melt-water falls of Northland Glacier

Hidden away inside Blackstone Bay — which is so named after a 19th century miner who was sadly lost in a snowstorm — Blackstone Falls is truly a one-of-a-kind sight to behold, both for Alaskans and those who come from further afield to witness this unique landscape. A stunning, 500-foot-tall column of water that appears as a result of glacial melt in certain seasons, this waterfall doesn’t require a hike… but it does require a four-hour boat journey from Whittier, which can be taken from any number of local tour companies. If you’re an experienced kayaker, you can DIY the venture, but it’s a tough one in rugged, remote terrain, so be sure you’re prepared!

Things to do near Blackstone Falls: Whittier is a jumping-off point for so many incredible Alaskan outback adventures, from the wilds of Chugach State Park to other preserved area wildernesses like Surprise Cove State Marine Park. Here are some local RVshare rentals so you can stay in comfort and style!

5. Russian River Falls

Salmons jumping upstream for spawning, Russian River Falls, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska

Continuing south into the heart of the Kenai Peninsula, Russian River Falls can be found about an hour outside of Seward, deep in the heart of this majestic landscape. As the falls cascade into the Russian River below, you may be able to spy salmon leaping against the current depending what time of year you visit, and no matter when you arrive, you’ll be surrounded by some of the most incredible local flora and fauna, unfindable pretty much anywhere else in America or even the world. The hike to this spot is a little bit longer, but still fairly friendly: it’ll take you about five miles round trip, but the elevation gain is a reasonable 500 feet, enough to work up a slight sweat but not exhaust you. There is an entrance fee to pay at the parking area, so be prepared for that!

Things to do near Russian River Falls: The Kenai Peninsula is known by many as Alaska’s playground, and a trip to Russian River Falls takes you right into the thick of it. While you’re down here, be sure to save some time for Kenai Fjords National Park — and check out these local RVshare rentals if you’re looking for a place to stay!

6. Brooks Falls

A grizzly bear hunting salmon at Brooks falls. Coastal Brown Grizzly Bears fishing at Katmai National Park, Alaska. , Katmai National Park, Alaska.

Located deep inside Katmai National Park and Preserve, an expansive volcanic area known for its plentiful salmon (and therefore plentiful bear), a journey to Brooks Falls is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — the kind of trip that has National Geographic-level views at the end of it. From July to early September, visitors are basically guaranteed to see bears here, since they flock to this landscape to feed off the returning salmon and prepare for another long, cold Alaskan winter. There is a seasonal visitor center and campground in the area, from which daily bus tours depart during this season. Guests are able to stand on an elevated viewpoint platform to safely engage with this stunning natural phenomenon.

Things to do near Brooks Falls: This part of Alaska is truly away from it all, so you’ll need to plan your trip carefully! While the national park itself is only accessible by small plane or charter boat, you could rent a local RVshare vehicle back on the Kenai peninsula in Homer.

7. Rudleston Falls

Rudleston Falls alaska
Image via valdezalaska.org

Venturing further east in Alaska’s reaches toward the vacation destination city of Valdez, travelers will be happy to come upon Rudleston Falls, a dramatic yet surprisingly accessible waterfall located right off Richardson Highway. Located directly across from a remarked-upon Old Railway Tunnel, these beautiful falls cascade gently and broadly across a rock face, surrounded, in the summertime, by lush greenery and wildflowers. It’s a common place for people to take photos, whether for special occasions or just for a stellar Instagram grid shot!

Things to do near Rudlestone Falls: Valdez is a great place to stay if you’re looking for a home base from which to explore Chugach National Forest, and for the seriously outdoorsy, nearby Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve offers a truly endless roster of rugged to-dos, though this is truly a wild landscape and you should make sure you’re prepared before you venture in. Here are some local RVshare rentals to consider!

8. Horsetail Falls

Horsetail Falls Trail. Alaska

The landscape just outside of Valdez is peppered with stunning waterfalls, and another you should definitely add to your list is Horsetail Falls. This one is a particularly good option for slightly more advanced hikers looking for something that will challenge them a little bit before rewarding them with that epic view. Horsetail falls and just shy of 200 feet tall, making for an incredible backdrop as you enjoy a quick bite and a rest before turning around to take the steep trail that led you there back down to the start. Plus, this waterfall is within easy reach of another gorgeous and relatively easily accessible cascade, Bridal Veil Falls; you can turn it into a two-for-one!

Things to do near Horsetail Falls: Once again, all this splendor is just a short drive from the town of Valdez, which has everything to offer as far as resources, food, and urban to-dos are concerned. The town is also chock full of wilderness guides and outfitters who will take you on expert tours of the area! Here are some local RVshare rentals to peruse.

9. Reid Falls

lower reid falls in skagway alaska

Just outside of the town of Skagway, known for its position along the Yukon Route Railway during the Gold Rush era, the Ried Falls beckon to visitors. Accessible via a short, mostly flat hike that also winds visitors through a fascinating historic Gold Rush Cemetery, these scenic falls are the capstone of the experience — and there are actually multiple sets of waterfalls along this rushing river. While Upper Reid Falls will take a little bit more footwork to get to, we highly recommend looping them both together into one trek, which is still very doable as a day hike. Along with the falls themselves, be sure to gaze down to take in the gorgeous wildflowers, and keep your eyes peeled for secret caves and alcoves.

Things to do near Reid Falls: Skagway is a fascinating town to visit, and the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway is an absolute must-see. There are plenty of other unique memorials and museums in this small city to put on your list; here are some area RVshare rentals to consider.

10. Nugget Falls

Nugget Falls at Mendenhall Glacier Juneau Alaska

Not all that glitters is gold, but when you arrive at Nugget Falls, also sometimes known as the Mendenhall Glacier waterfall, you’ll feel as though you’ve discovered a shining jewel. Standing nearly 400 feet high and crashing down into the water with a nearby beach perfect for observing the majesty of this unique geological feature, Nugget Falls is accessed by an easy and mostly flat two-mile round-trip hiking trail — and the trail is very popular, so do arrive early if you want to avoid the worst of the crowds. In addition to the falls, you may also get to observe the glacier breaking off into icebergs that will float off on Mendenhall Lake, a process also known a “calving.”

Things to do near Nugget Falls: One of the premier destinations of Tongass National Forest, Nugget Falls is a favorite day trip for those visiting Juneau, from which it is only a 20-minute drive. Juneau, along with its many urban amenities, is home to some excellent RVshare rentals — perfect for staying long enough to really explore the area!

Planning an RV Trip to Alaska

As you’re probably well aware, waterfalls are only the tip of the (literal) iceberg when it comes to things to see and do in Alaska. No wonder it’s one of America’s favorite places to take an RV trip.

We’ve got your back if you’re up for the adventure: here are the best peer-to-peer RV rentals in the state, as well as guides to its best campgrounds, state parks, and biggest metropolitan areas.

Plus, of course, we’ve penned guides to the many incredible national parks in this frontier state:

Enjoy your trip!

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