Hike Thunderbird Falls in Chugiak, Alaska

Thunderbird Falls is an easy waterfall hike in Chugiak, Alaska, which is about a 30-minute drive north of Anchorage.

At only 1.28 miles roundtrip, this out-and-back, family-friendly hike is a great stop for anyone who needs to stretch their legs, or wants to see one of Alaska’s amazing waterfalls.

In this post, I’m going to share how to hike Thunderbird Falls Trail in Chugiak, Alaska.

Hike Thunderbird Falls Trail in Chugiak

Trail Summary

Traditional Land: Dena’ina (Visit Native-Land.ca to identify whose land you live, work, and play on.)
Distance: 1.28 miles roundtrip
Time: 1 hour
Elevation Gain: 100 feet
Difficulty: Easy
Dogs: Yes

Quick Tips

  • Parking is $5 for the day
  • Public bathrooms are available
  • Take the creek trail to get a closer view of the falls
  • Bring water shoes if you want a super up close view
  • Dogs must be on leash

How to get to Thunderbird Falls from Anchorage

Thunderbird Falls Trailhead is located 27 miles north of Anchorage. It will take you about 30 minutes to drive there.

  1. From Anchorage, head north on the Glenn Highway
  2. Take the exit towards Thunderbird Falls
  3. Continue right onto the Old Glenn Highway

Thunderbird Falls Trailhead

Thunderbird Falls Trail is located in Chugiak and is part of Chugach State Park. You’ll find a large parking lot at the trailhead, which is even suitable for RVs.

Since this is a popular trail and it’s directly off the highway, you may find that the parking lot is full. RVs are able to park here as well.

thunderbird falls trailhead chugiak alaska

The trail mostly follows a wide, dirt trail. You’ll notice an incline as you start walking through cottonwood and birch groves.

waterfall hike southcentral alaska

The first viewing deck you come across is the Gorge Viewing Deck. If you take a look beyond the wooden banister, you’ll see a large gorge beneath you.

Here, you can also read a few different informational boards about the area.

thunderbird falls hiking trail alaska

Just a little further and you’ll see that the trail splits into two. You can continue straight along a wooden boardwalk to reach the Thunderbird Falls Viewing Deck or you can head down to the left to follow the Thuderbird Creek Trail.

waterfall hike alaska

The falls deck is only a .64-mile walk from the parking lot. Parts of the wooden boardwalk have recently been renovated for safety improvements.

boardwalk trail near anchorage alaska

Thunderbird Falls is a 200-foot waterfall, but it’s really hard to imagine its size when you’re standing on the viewing deck, especially since the waterfall is still a good distance away.

Still, this is one of the easiest waterfall hikes near Anchorage, and the access is directly off the highway.

thunderbird falls easy waterfall hike alaska

If you want to get a closer look, head back down the trail and take the creek trail. You’ll lose about 150 feet of elevation here as you make your way down the dirt trail to the creek.

Taking this route will add another 1/2 mile to your total hiking mileage, but you’ll be rewarded with up-close views.

thunderbird falls creek view

The trail ends near the waterfall, but direct access gets cut off by a cliff.

At this point, you can either wade the creek (bring the right shoes) and get super close to the waterfall, or you can climb up the cliff a little bit to get a better vantage point.

If you decide to take either of these routes, just be careful!

thunderbird falls trail hiking in chugiak alaska

During the winter, the snow covers the creek and the cascading waterfall turns into a frozen block of ice. Make sure the ice is solid before making your way onto the creek to explore the frozen waterfall.

Happy hiking!

Other Hikes Near Chugiak

If you’re looking for more hikes near Chugiak, check out Twin Peaks, Bear Point, Mirror Lake, and Reflections Lake.

Answering Your Questions

How long does it take to hike Thunderbird Falls?

Thunderbird Falls is less than 1 mile long and takes less than one hour to hike out-and-back.

Can you hike Thunderbird falls in the winter?

You can hike Thunderbird Fall in the winter. You will probably want to bring ice grips to wear.

Can you swim at Thunderbird Falls?

This is not the best place to go swimming, but I have seen people take a quick dip in Thunderbird Creek.

How do I get to Eklutna Lake?

If you take the next exit after the falls parking lot, you will get to Eklunta Lake. From the Glenn Highway, it’s another 14.5-mile drive along Eklutna Lake Road.

Are there waterfalls in Alaska?

Alaska has many waterfalls and a lot of them do not have names or have yet to be discovered.


Read More

Hike Barbara Falls in Eagle River

7 Best Outdoor Adventures In Alaska

What to Wear Hiking in Alaska (Summer)

Southcentral Alaska 100 Hikes Challenge


Pin For Later

Hike Thunderbird Falls in Chugiak, Alaska. This is the best waterfall hikes near Anchorage in Southcentral Alaska. If you are traveling to Anchorage, Alaska, this is a great day hike to add to your Alaska vacation. #alaska #hiking #alaskahike #anchorage #travelalaska

Do you have any questions about hiking Thunderbird Falls in Alaska? Let me know in the comments.

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