Keystone Canyon Falls, Alaska

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Keystone Canyon Falls in August 2014

Keystone Canyon is one of those places that is hard to describe. On the way in to Valdez, I had been driving for about an hour and a half. (It’s about 5 hours from Anchorage via road.) Even if I had been driving for longer, I think I would still have had my breath taken away as I entered Keystone Canyon. It was drizzling a bit, giving the canyon a special atmosphere. The road winds through the canyon, at times crossing over the Lowe River. Cliffs climb above you on both sides of the road.

And then the waterfalls start appearing. Bridal Veil and Horsetail Falls are the two named waterfalls. As I’m driving along, though, I see another waterfall. I don’t know if this one has a designated name, and I wasn’t sure what the name of the creek was, therefore it’s Keystone Canyon Falls to me.

The mountains above the gorge climb about 5500′ feet in the matter of about 4 miles. So while you’re probably seeing about 100′ of waterfall in this picture, there’s likely more waterfall hidden above.

I often mention whether you should go out of your way to see a waterfall…In this case, it’s taken to extremes. I was headed to Valdez to go on a day-long glacier/wildlife cruise. As I mentioned, the drive from Anchorage to Valdez is about five hours, and there are long stretches of beautiful nothingness. You could fly, but then you’ll miss these waterfalls. On the way, you’ll get some great views of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, and a “short” detour from the road to Valdez will lead to Liberty Falls. In addition to Bridal Veil Falls and Horsetail Falls, there’s also Crooked Creek Falls in Valdez. With all of the additional beautiful, it’s a good reason to drive, but you’ve got to set time aside just for this.

Directions:

  1. There isn’t any other way to enter Valdez via road than on Alaska Route 4. From Anchorage, you’d follow AK-1 for a really long time to the junction of AK-4.
  2. Turn right and head south on AK-4, and then after an hour or so, you’ll enter Keystone Canyon. It’s clearly signed. It’s hard to miss the different waterfalls.

Accessibility: 10/10
Length of Hike: roadside
Height: ~100′ (could be more or less, not the greatest judge of height)

Where in the World is Keystone Canyon Falls?

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Horsetail Falls, California

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Horsetail Falls in early June 2013

There are a number of waterfalls in the Lake Tahoe region, and I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface. When traveling by myself, I tend to visit those that are easy to find or are well traversed. And Horsetail Falls is both easy to find and well visited.

At ~800′ tall or so, that could explain why it’s relatively popular. When I arrived in late May, the sun was shining and the parking lot was full. So full that I had to park along a portion of dirt side-road to the east of the official parking area. Others were parked there, and there didn’t seem to be any signs indicating it wasn’t allowed (though if that changes, please follow posted signs). Even if you can’t find parking, you can still see the falls, as they’re so large!

And while there’s supposedly a clear trail to the falls, I must admit it felt more like most people wandered around the area. The trail that leads to the falls ends up at a wilderness boundary, and you must sign a book indicating you’re entering the wilderness area. That’s if you want to get up close and person with the falls. I decided after wandering around for a while that I had enjoyed the waterfall enough from afar, though in the future I might check it out closer now that I know the general direction to head. I felt that I had some pretty awesome views without getting truly up close and personal.

Directions:

  1. From South Lake Tahoe, take US-50 south. At the intersection of US-50 and CA-89, continue along US-50.
  2. After just a few miles, you’ll be descending pretty quickly and after a few rather sharp turns, on your left will be the parking area for the falls. (You’ll be able to see the falls even before you arrive, and the Horsetail Falls parking area is also clearly marked. (There may be a fee to enter the area.)
  3. From the parking area, head toward the falls, following the path toward the wilderness area if you’d like to see the falls up-close and personal.

Accessibility: 7/10
Height: ~790′
Hike: ~3 miles round-trip (I probably only walked 2 miles or so)

Where in the World is Horsetail Falls?

Horsetail Falls, Oregon

Horsetail Falls in April 2008

It’s sorta hard to miss Horsetail Falls! It’s only a few feet from the road. It was so close that it was hard to avoid getting the stop sign in the picture!

Besides being one of the most accessible waterfalls you could possibly imagine, it’s also a very pretty waterfall. It’s not the tallest or the most spectacular in the Columbia River Gorge, but you’ve still gotta check it out! While you’re there, you can check out another waterfall, Ponytail Falls, which is on the same creek.

Directions:

  1. As long as you’re driving along the Columbia River Scenic Byway, you’ll find this falls. I think it’s to the west of Multnomah Falls, the most famous of the falls here. It’s to the east of the parking area for Elowah Falls.
  2. The parking area for the falls is across the street.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 214′
Length of Hike: Roadside

Where in the World is Horsetail Falls?

Ponytail Falls, Oregon

Ponytail Falls is one of the “hidden” waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge, considering that you can not directly view Ponytail Falls from the road. There’s a moderately steep hike involved with visiting this waterfall.

Ponytail Falls is on the same creek as Horsetail Falls, and is sometimes called Upper Horsetail Falls. Horsetail Falls is directly viewed from the road. If you’re in the Horsetail Falls area, visit Ponytail Falls also, though the hike is somewhat steep. I don’t think it was awful, but I had already tired myself out hiking or trying to hike to other “hidden” falls. Of the falls not visible from the road, this is one of the more accessible ones. Everything’s relative, though!

Directions:

  1. From I-84, get onto the Columbia Gorge scenic highway.
  2. Head west on the highway to Horsetail Falls, which is west of Multnomah Falls.
  3. From the parking lot where you view Horsetail Falls, take the trail that leads to Ponytail Falls.
  4. I think the trail is about 0.4 miles one-way, but it is steep, so it does seem longer.

Accessibility: 5/10 (moderate)
Height: 80′
Length of Hike: 0.8 miles round-trip

Ponytail Falls in late April 2008

Where in the World is Ponytail Falls?