So I had written this assuming I had missed the main drop along Virgin Creek, only to discover that I had seen the main drop, but it I had posted two separate photos of different drops along the creek! I have seen the main drop of Virgin Creek Falls!
Even if you miss the main drop of Virgin Creek Falls, which is about 15′ tall, it’s still an amazing creek that produces beautiful photographs! I love how the moss has grown over the tree branches and the rocks, clinging to any stable surface. It definitely provides a clear sense that you’re standing in a temperate rain forest!
- Drive along Highway 1 from Anchorage. About 35 miles south of Anchorage, you’ll come to the town of Girdwood. It could be rather easy to miss at first.
- If you are heading southeast, turn left onto Alyeska Highway. Drive just over 2.5 miles to Timberline Drive.
- Continue along Timberline Drive for 1 mile or so to the very end. The road does curve a bit with many offshoots, but continue along to the parking area (which I don’t clearly remember).
- From the parking area, a sign should be right near a house, indicating you’re on the right path. (Again, I don’t seem to remember the sign.) It should be 0.1-0.2 miles from that area. (I’ve seen conflicting numbers, not that there’s a huge difference!)
Accessibility: 10/10 (very easy for the short portion I hiked)
Length of Hike: 0.4 miles round-trip
Virgin Creek Falls (June 2011)
A drop on Virgin Creek (June 2011)
Where in the World is Virgin Creek Falls?
Thunderbird Falls in early June 2011
I guess the first thing I’ll say is that Thunderbird Falls is one cool name for a waterfall! And to go along with that, it’s also one cool waterfall. After taking a look at the falls I visited in my short time in Alaska, Thunderbird Falls has go down as my current favorite. There aren’t a whole lot of competitors, and that might just be because many of the waterfalls are unadvertised or unknown (by most people).
There’s something about the falls that is just right. It’s in a perfect forest setting. Coming in at a two-mile round trip hike, it doesn’t take a terribly long time to get to the falls, but you also get to explore the Alaskan scenery around you. When you get to the falls, there are two different options here…The first option is to go to the viewing platform near the crest of the falls. This is where the photograph shown was taken. It really reveals both segments of the falls and its height. There’s one portion that’s hidden from view. Now, if you don’t feel like you’re close enough to the falls, the second option is to descend down to the base. The hike down isn’t difficult until you get nearer the base. At that point, it’s actually flat ground, but in early June, there was still a significant amount of ice near the river, and the falls were flowing pretty well, so I did have to be extremely careful to ensure I didn’t slip on the ice. But once you get near the base, you’ll be impressed. It does require a little more work, though…
- Exit Highway 1 (Glenn Highway) at mile marker 25 (which is north of Anchorage).
- The signs clearly indicate the direction to the falls. There is a parking area, and a $5 entrance fee. (I feel that some people may have parked outside of the parking area to avoid that?)
- Follow the trail to the falls!
Accessibility: 7/10 (easy/moderate, to full viewpoint)
Length of Hike: 2 miles round-trip
Where in the World is Thunderbird Falls?
Falls Creek Falls in June 2011
There are a number of interesting drops along the Alaska coastline that don’t get frequently mentioned. I understand that they are not always that large, but they are still very easy to visit, so why not do so.
One such example is Falls Creek Falls, which is right off of the Seward Highway south of Anchorage in Chugach State Park. I think I pulled off on a whim to see whether there was any significant waterfall, and there is something there. It would probably be better described as a cascade. There is a trail that climbs almost 3000′ feet in about 2.7 miles, and while I had no wish to do that, you will still get a great view of some idyllic cascades. Even with out the cascades, the area along the Alaska shoreline is intensely beautiful.
- You’ll be driving along the Seward Highway, and inside the Chugach State Park boundaries, there is a small pulloff with room for about four cars. This is the trail for Falls Creek. It is somewhat more obvious when heading north along the highway.
Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 15′ (could be much taller)
Length of Hike: Roadside (or 5.4 miles round-trip)
Where in the World is Falls Creek Falls?
McHugh Falls in May 2011
I have to admit McHugh Falls doesn’t have a huge amount of appeal. It’s a rather small waterfall, and I don’t like to discriminate against waterfalls, but you really can’t get very close to it. With small waterfalls, they’re best enjoyed nearby, not behind a fenced area.
It’s one redeeming quality is that it is very easy to visit. I believe there are a number of unadvertised waterfalls in Alaska, but how many are actually accessible? This is one of the few that is accessible. As you driving south along the Seward Highway from Anchorage, you’ll enter Chugach State Park (which is very expansive), and pass the parking area for McHugh Falls. There’s a $5 daily fee to enter the park, which I always support paying, though the first time I visited, I just got out of the car and took a few photos, and then left. There is a trail that leads somewhere, though I’m not sure where.
- Head south on the Seward Highway from Anchorage.
- You’ll enter Chugach State Park, and after a ways, you’ll find the entrance/parking area for the falls on your left. It may be easy to miss, so pay attention. I’d say it’s about a 1/4 of the way from Anchorage to Seward…
Accessibility: 10/10 (Easy)
Length of Hike: Roadside
Where in the World is McHugh Falls?