There are many ways to enjoy Alaska, and one of our favorites is always to get outside. With countless beautiful waterfalls across the state, we like to stretch our legs and enjoy a visit to see some of the Last Frontier’s amazing beauty.
If you are in the Anchorage area, there can be plenty of spots to get out and enjoy the wilderness. But we love heading into Girdwood, just a quick 45 minute drive and home to many waterfalls due to the area’s frequent rainfall.
In fact, it rains on average 159 days a year in the small town of Girdwood.
But rain means waterfalls! So if you love to see a powerful natural force at the end of an easy hike, then you need to try the Virgin Creek Trail that takes you all the way to Virgin Creek Falls.
Located In A Temperate Rainforest
As Girdwood is located in one of the northernmost temperate rainforests in the world, it’s no surprise that it’s home to a couple of great hikes that lead you to breathtaking natural waterfalls.
Located in Chugach National Forest, this 5,940,000-acre forest is filled with many areas filled with impressive natural beauty.
One of our very favorite trails to explore this forest and the surrounding area is the Virgin Creek Falls Trail, a short and sweet hike to a two-tiered waterfall.
- Address: Virgin Creek Girdwood AK 99587
Hiking The Virgin Creek Falls Trail
This trail is considered a very easy route to travel. The entire out and back trail is only 1/2 mile long, and it takes you through some beautiful forested areas.
It can be a little steep in a couple of spots, but the entire elevation gain is only 180 feet throughout the entirety of the trail.
The trail is well maintained, but there’s many offshoots into side hikes. Watch for the signs and if you feel like you are walking awhile, you may have passed it. It shouldn’t take you more than 10-15 minutes to get to the falls. Many of the other hikes can spill into other parts of the neighborhood.
When you begin your descent to the falls, the rocks can be a little slippery from the spray. If it’s a rainy day, (which is more than likely,) the water can create a slick pool on some of the footholds you will need if you want to get closer to the falls.
Watch where you are placing your feet to reach the bottom safely.
But the view is worth it. In fact, the area is so picturesque that you will frequently see all kinds of visitors at the base of the falls, including those who want their picture taken in front of it.
Don’t be surprised if you run into wedding parties, senior portraits, or even family pictures!
Virgin Creek Falls
The falls themselves are beautiful, especially in the spring when the snow begins to melt and the water rises. The force of them can be quite powerful. But they are stunning all year long, regardless of when you get the urge to visit.
The water levels from Virgin Creek can vary throughout the seasons. If you want a good view of the creek before it turns into the falls, hike a little farther up the trail to reach the top.
What To Pack For The Hike
Because the weather can change pretty quickly, it’s always good to come prepared.
- Sturdy hiking boots
- A light waterproof jacket if it’s raining
- Bug spray are always a good idea
- Bear spray
You will be hiking in bear country, so if it’s later in the evening or the trail is quiet, don’t forget your bear spray. You could also make plenty of noise along your way so that bears and other wildlife can hear you coming.
Whatever you bring along, make sure to pack out again. Practice the tenants of “Leave no trace”, and keep the bears out of the area and the hike clean and ready for the next user.
The Hike To Virgin Creek Falls Is Available Year Round
This hike is well traveled, even in the winter months. The waterfalls freeze over, and form glistening icicles all along the tree branches. Bring your ice cleats to ensure you don’t slip down the frequently icy areas along the trail.
If you love to cross country ski, and you have avalanche safety training, bring your skis and explore the Upper Trail in the winter time.
It can be a difficult trail in the winter, but very beautiful.
Upper Virgin Falls Trail
If you want to continue your explorations, consider exploring the Upper Virgin Falls Trail. The trail will lead you up to Max’s Mountain.
This trail is considered expert level, and there’s lots of loose rock and shale along the way.
But if you love to ride or trail run, this is a great option that brings you further into Girdwood’s backcountry.
Who Would Enjoy The Trail
Because the trail is relatively easy, even beginner hikers can complete the trail with ease. Children and adults of all ages will enjoy the hike.
If you have any mobility issues, or need a mobility assisted device, this may not be the trail for you.
Getting To Virgin Creek Falls
Virgin Creek Falls is a hike that’s just a short drive from Anchorage, or just a couple of minutes if you are spending the night at Alyeska Resort. The hike is located in the very end of Timberline Road, off of the Alyeska Highway.
Just take a left on the Seward Highway once you reach the Tesoro Gas Station, and entrance into the town of Girdwood.
It’s located at the end of a residential road, so please be mindful of the homes and driveways nearby. Watch your speed and slow down!
There is not a lot of parking near the trailhead, so it’s best to travel to see it during the quieter hours of the day, like early in the morning, or later afternoon. Because it’s a residential road in the Girdwood community, locals would request that you obey the traffic laws and not speed down the road.
There are plenty of signs saying that they will tow if you park in front of their driveways, so be mindful of where your car ends up, and make sure you are not in the way.
If you are looking for a great way to break up a drive to Seward or the Kenai Peninsula, it’s a wonderful stop along the way.
Stretch your legs, soak in the sight of the waterfall, and enjoy some of the awesome sights to see in the Last Frontier.
After living over 14 years in Alaska, Megan McDonald can confidently state that there’s not much of the state on the road system that she hasn’t visited. From the Brooks Range to McCarthy, Homer, and everywhere in between, every nook and cranny of Alaska is always her new favorite place.
As President and co-founder of Alaska-based boutique media agency HuMu Media, she spends her work time writing, photographing, and traveling, and her off time writing, photographing, and traveling. They say do what you love, and she is lucky enough to do so!
You can follow her travels on Instagram at @theitinerantginger