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7 Spectacular Waterfalls in Alaska Away From the Tourist Trails

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Tucked away in verdant forests and cradled by majestic mountains, several breathtaking waterfalls await those willing to venture off the beaten track of Alaska.

You'll find that seeking out these cascades rewards you with more than stunning views; it's an opportunity to immerse yourself in nature's serenity and raw beauty.

Each waterfall carries its own unique charm, from secluded streams with gentle flows to mighty torrents that command awe with their power.

1. South Fork Falls (Barbara Falls), Eagle River

Barbara Falls in Alaska

Tucked away in the serene Chugach State Park, South Fork Falls, also known as Barbara Falls, offers you a tranquil retreat. 

You'll find it near Eagle River, a charming location near Anchorage. With a short 1.3-mile out-and-back trail, you can easily fit this adventure into your day.

The trail is accessible and manageable, with just a 190-foot elevation gain. You'll appreciate the simplicity and the refreshing sights as you trek. En route, expect the melodious sounds of the falls advancing towards you, building anticipation.

When you arrive, the waterfall is a glorious sight, with the water making a graceful 25-foot plunge into a small canyon.

Whether you're a seasoned hiker or out for a stroll, this place impresses. A small parking fee applies, supporting the maintenance and accessibility of the area for everyone's enjoyment.

2. Pioneer Falls, Palmer

Cascade at pioneer falls, alaska, united states of america, north america

Step into the heart of the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, just south of Palmer, Alaska, and you'll find yourself at Pioneer Falls, a splendid, secluded treasure within this vibrant landscape.

This spot, which flourishes with lush greenery in the summer and transforms into a winter wonderland, offers an idyllic retreat on a tranquil trail less traveled.

Getting to this secluded paradise from Anchorage is straightforward, taking just under an hour. The route is simple: drive north on Knik-Goose Bay Road, turn right onto Pioneer Peak Road, and continue until you reach the parking area at the end of Woodland Drive.

Upon reaching Pioneer Falls, you're greeted by the serene sight of water gracefully tumbling down the mountainside. Discover more about this hidden gem by checking out its TripAdvisor page, where you can find insights and reviews from fellow explorers.

3. Unalaska/Dutch Harbor Waterfall

You'll love the hidden gem tucked away in the heart of Unalaska/Dutch Harbor. This natural wonder perfectly suits those seeking a peaceful adventure in Alaska's great outdoors.

Reaching the Unalaska/Dutch Harbor area is an adventure, as it's located on the Aleutian Islands, far from mainland Alaska. You can get there by taking a commercial flight from Anchorage to Unalaska, often with a stop in between.

This journey is part of the allure, as it offers stunning aerial views of the rugged Aleutian landscape, setting the tone for an extraordinary Alaskan experience.

Once in Unalaska, the hidden waterfall is just a moderate hike away, inviting adventurers to explore one of the island's serene natural wonders.

Although the falls are accessible year-round, summer offers an ice-free experience. For a winter visit, come prepared with cleats or spikes, as the trails can get pretty slippery.

4. Lower Reid Waterfall, Skagway

Lower Reid Falls, just outside Skagway, Alaska.

If you're seeking an off-the-beaten-path adventure in Skagway, the Lower Reid Waterfall is a treasure.

Located near the historic Gold Rush Cemetery, this waterfall offers a tranquil retreat amongst the tall pines and vibrant mosses of the Tongass National Forest.

Accessing Lower Reid Waterfall is a breeze. Your journey starts with a shuttle ride around the quaint downtown of Skagway, which is $5 for a one-way trip.

As you step off, you'll be greeted by the serene setting of the cemetery, which marks the starting point of your short hike to the falls.

The trail itself is welcoming to all levels of hikers, with clear paths and minimal elevation gain. Within minutes, you'll arrive at the falls, where you can witness the crisp, clear waters cascading down the rugged Alaskan landscape.

5. McHugh Creek Falls, Anchorage

McHugh Creek, Chugach Mountains, Alaska

Nestled just south of Anchorage, McHugh Creek Falls offers a refreshing escape into the Alaskan wilderness.

You’ll trek along a one-mile trail lined with beautiful birch trees to reach these hidden falls. The path may be a bit steep at times, but it is well-traveled and manageable.

Once you arrive, the sight of the waterfall cascading down 200 feet will make every step worth it. The viewing deck presents an excellent spot to take in the falls’ full glory.

You won’t have to worry about large crowds here, as McHugh Creek Falls remains relatively undisturbed by heavy tourism.

For a well-rounded day trip, consider the McHugh Creek Recreation Area. It's equipped with amenities like parking and picnic areas. Keep in mind there's a small parking fee, which contributes to the maintenance of this stunning natural site.

6. Lunch Falls, Ketchikan

Nestled near Ketchikan, this hidden gem offers a delightful escape into Alaska's serene wilderness. The trail to Lunch Falls is a short and sweet adventure, taking you through lush rainforest to an enchanting waterfall.

Getting there is easy: a scenic 18-mile drive from bustling Ketchikan along the North Tongass Highway.

Once you arrive, you'll find the trailhead at Settlers Cove State Recreation Site. The loop trail is just 0.8 miles, making it accessible for hikers of all skill levels. You'll love the soundtrack of chirping birds and the waterfall's soothing rumble as you hike.

7. Rookery Falls, Whittier

Your experience with this stunning waterfall will be unlike any regular trail trek. Cascading into Passage Canal, Rookery Falls is fed by an unnamed stream that tumbles down from the surrounding heights, offering a sight to behold.

You'll find the falls across the bay from Whittier, providing a unique vantage point from the town itself. For those who seek adventures on the water, kayaking up close to the falls gives you an added perspective of their majesty.

Gain insights into the local avifauna at the adjacent Kittiwake Rookery, where the unmistakable sounds of thousands of black-legged kittiwakes echo across the area.

The falls—and the rookery—are a sanctuary away from bustling tourist spots and are often visited by marine tours.

Wrapping Up Your Hidden Waterfall Exploration

Exploring Alaska's lesser-known waterfalls allows you to enjoy natural beauty without the crowds. Each cascade has its unique charm, and your visits contribute to a deeper appreciation of the wilderness.

Whether you're gazing at the serene flow of a remote waterfall or listening to the thundering sounds of water plunging into a pristine pool, these excursions can be both refreshing and exhilarating.

If you're on the hunt for more hidden gems in Alaska, we've got a whole bunch more lined up for you right here!

 
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