The second hike we did after moving to Alaska was Thunder Bird Falls. In April of 2017 we climbed the ice covered paths to the viewing deck overlooking the falls. At this time we were unaware of what microspikes are. We slipped and slid with Jasper strapped to my husbands back. It would have been so much easier with microspikes!
Thunderbird falls is less than an hour outside of Anchorage and literately right off the Glen Highway! This is a well-kept trail, you are actually looking into some back yards while walking parts of it. This trail is relatively easy. However, there are some steep inclines, especially if you take the creek side trail. With a 35 lb toddler on your back (like me) you will get a bit of a workout. In addition, there are some steep drop offs, so when Jasper is walking, I have to keep a close eye on him. For those looking for seclusion, this is not a trail for you. Even in the middle of a snow storm, there were other hikers on this trail. During the summer months the trail is very busy. The parking fee from this hike is $5, and during peak times, parking can be limited.
This is a one mile trail that forks near the end. If you continue up the trail, you will reach the falls viewing deck. The drop for Thunder Birds falls is 200 ft. However, the rocks around it block the view when looking from the top. If you choose to take the creek side trail, you will be taken to the base of the falls. We have been to Thunder Bird Falls a handful of times now. I don’t think the hike is worth it just for the viewing deck. The only way to view the falls properly is from the bottom. However, if it isn’t winter and frozen over, you will need to get out into the water a bit. Bring some good shoes for doing this, because is it totally worth it! If you are visiting in the winter, some of the water should be frozen enough for you to get right now in front of the falls.
In addition to seeing the falls up close, one of the highlights for us is what Jasper calls the “tree house.” It can be found on the trail down to the base of the falls. Any tree with a hallow in it is a tree house to Jasper.
It is a fun fact that parts of Alaska qualify as rain forest. However, I have always been confused as to what part of Alaska actually is rain forest. Yet, the trail down to the base of the falls is probably the most “rain-foresty” of a place that I have ever visited!
Though some of the water flows quite fast down from the falls, there are areas that are calm enough for toddlers to splash in. Jasper and his friends love being able to splash in the water and fish out little rocks. There is also a nice little muddy little area for them to squish around in. What toddler doesn’t love mud!
This is a very popular and family friendly hike. However, there is some caution that needs to be taken on this hike. You will notice the signage along the path warning hikers to stay on it. This is very important. This location does run along some steep drop offs. There are around 3 rescues a year along this trail.
Thunder Bird Falls is a beautiful hike. It is on my list of easier ones that I can bring people who are visiting us from out of state. However, fair warning, it is a bit of a workout with a toddler in tow!
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