Skip to main content

The state of Alaska’s population is mercifully sparse, meaning there’s still plenty of unspoiled wilderness left to see. Let’s explore some of the best vistas and prettiest waterfalls that the Last Frontier has to offer. From Blackstone Falls to Pitchfork Falls, Alaska’s waterfalls are bucket-list-worthy sights to see.

10. Brooks Falls

Brooks Falls(image via Flickr)

Located in Katmai National Park, Brooks Falls is located on the Brooks River, a mile and a half from Brooks Lake and Naknek Lake. There’s a camp near here so that visitors can observe the Alaskan brown bears catching salmon along the falls. (If you can’t make it out, you can always check out the live bearcam.)

9. Ketchikan Fish Ladder

Ketchikan Fish Ladder

There are several salmon ladders that you could go see, and this particular waterfall isn’t an enormous, terrifying force of nature or anything. But it’s still an interesting draw. Ketchikan is a unique town. Incorporated in 1900, the city still has a lot of its historic downtown preserved, notably on Creek Street—which is actually built over the creek itself rather than simply on its shore. The salmon ladder and waterfall are located on “Married Man’s Trail,” which branches off into the woods from the main area of town.

8. Nugget Falls

Nugget Falls

Nugget Falls is also known as Mendenhall Glacier Falls. Nearby Nugget Glacier sends water flowing down into a creek towards Mendenhall Lake, with a 99-foot drop and a 278-foot drop in succession. The glacier has actually receded a fair bit since the area was discovered, so this may be one of those places to go see before it’s gone.

7. Russian River Falls

Russian River Falls(image via Flickr)

Like some of the other falls on this list, this isn’t necessarily a big, dramatic drop, but rather smaller drops as the river tumbles down a riparian canyon. What makes these falls worth checking out is, of course, the salmon swimming upstream and the brown and black bears that have also made the journey to see what the salmon are up to. There’s a fish ladder at these falls as well, in a slightly less unusual setting than at Ketchikan. There’s a hike along the river here, but it’s only a couple of miles to the overlook. Do be mindful of bears, and look out also for harlequin ducklings. They’re not as dangerous as the bears, but they are super cute.

6. Blackstone Falls

Blackstone Falls

Blackstone Falls tumble off of the Blackstone Glacier and into Prince William Sound. The glacier is named for a mail carrier who got lost en route to Whittier. His brother went out to search for him but never found him—just his mail packet on the glacier that now bears his name, a mere three miles from the town he was trying to reach. You have to be in Prince William Sound to actually see the fall, but it’s worth the trip, and there are plenty of cruises that’ll show you around the area.

5. Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls, in Keystone Canyon, descends from 300-foot cliffs in a bridal-like succession of cascades. Located close to Horsetail Falls, it’s one of several snow-fed waterfalls within the three-mile-long canyon. In winter, these falls transform into massive frozen curtains, attracting ice climbers from around the world.

4. Virgin Creek Falls

Virgin Creek Falls(image via Flickr)

This fall is only 15 feet high, but it’s nestled in the midst of a Pacific temperate rainforest near Girdwood. The fall is gorgeously pristine and clear, which might have something to do with the name. The falls are only a hike of a mile or so off Timberline Road in Chugach National Forest. While you’re in this part of the state, check out the skiing community of Girdwood.

3. Pioneer Falls

Pioneer Falls(image via Flickr)

Pioneer Falls is something of a hidden gem. Those who do know about the falls love it. It’s close to the road, though the trek is a little complicated by a poorly maintained trail. The view is well worth the short but tricky journey. While the drop of the waterfall is a pretty solid height, the meandering course of the falls, combined with the foliage, means that it’s hard to get a look at the whole thing at once.

2. Pitchfork Falls

Pitchfork Falls

Its use as part of a hydroelectric dam has led to some nitpicking about its exact height, but whatever number you want to ascribe to it, Pitchfork Falls is impressive. You can see the roughly 2,000-foot falls from the Klondike Highway or the White Pass and Yukon Railway as it cascades down from Goat Lake into the Skagway River Gorge. While the falls are beautiful to see when they’re flowing, they have a rather serene sheen when they’re frozen over.

1. Thunderbird Falls

Thunderbird Falls

Thunderbird Falls is a great one for both accessibility and impressiveness. The fall is basically a 200-foot wall of water that tumbles over a drop in the Eklutna River. The hike out to the falls is only a mile long, and it’s a pretty easy one as long as you stay on the trail. In winter, the falls freeze into some gorgeous patterns that look like an impressionist sculpture.