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Katie Eberhart - Writing & Observations


Hike to Thunderbird Falls
Chugach Mountains, Alaska

June 8, 2001
...Click an image to see a larger version...
(Driving Directions)
More Hikes, Drives and Views

my mountain "blog" -- Talkeetna and Chugach Mountains, Alaska

Thunderbird Falls is an easy approximately one mile hike to a boardwalk and viewing platform, perfect to sandwich between a morning of working and a late afternoon movie matinee. The afternoon was pleasant, about 65°F., with small clouds that periodically blocked the sun. The gorge below the trail to Thunderbird FallsThe wooded trail, about six feet wide and graveled, follows along the side of a ridge above the Eklutna River channel.
We started up through predominantly birch forest, dry and warm, the sun filtered through the tops of the Birch trees. Oak Fern forms a fractal pattern on the slope above the trailAfter a while the hill extended higher above the trail and the vegetation changed to include ferns and Devil's Club on the forest floor. Oak Ferns floated on nearly invisible stems, their leaves horizontal, across a steep slope above the trail. >>>

View of Thunderbird FallsThe last part of the trail is a boardwalk suspended along the ridge, ending in a wider platform with a view of Thunderbird Falls.
The falls have cut a deep channel into the rocky mountainside.

Creek TrailAfter taking some pictures, we walked back along the boardwalk and took the creek-side trail rather than returning directly to the parking area. >>>

The creek side trail drops sharply to a fern-covered bench and then another short hill to the river. We followed the silty glacial stream upriver towards the falls, fascinated by the sun-highlighted Devil's Club LeavesDevil's Club leaves, small and still emerging from the tops of their dangerously spiny stalks.
This creek side trail ends about 100 yards short of the bottom of the falls, with a warning sign to stay off the cliffs. Thunderbird Falls from creek side trailWe could hear the thundering of the falls and see the base of the falls and the misty spray as the river pounded it's way through the narrow channel in the solid rock. >>>

Sunlight Filters through Birch Canopy creating highlights on FernsRetracing our steps to the main trail gave us a chance to experience more of the exquisitely lit forest, sunlight filtered through the Birch canopy, the nearly florescent Devils' Club leaves and the extraordinary fractal patterns of the ferns.
Star FlowersBack on the main trail as we descended towards the parking lot, I noticed many tiny Star Flowers seemingly floating on the forest floor.

The Friday afternoon we hiked to Thunderbird Falls, a lot of other people had the same idea. It is definitely a popular summer walk. (driving directions)

The walk to Thunderbird Falls, including stopping to take pictures, took about one-and-a-half hours. (Dont forget the insect repellant.)

Driving Directions: Drive south on the Glenn Highway from the Matanuska Valley, north on the Glenn Highway from Anchorage. Take the Eklutna Exit and turn toward the mountains. Follow the signs to Thunderbird Falls. It's only a mile or so from the freeway. There is ample parking and pit toilets at the trailhead.

This page last updated June 22, 2011


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