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More than just a waterfall, this trail provides a glimpse into a uniquely carved gorge on a glacial creek, plus a stroll through the lush forest at the foot of the Chugach Mountains.
The hike reaches two viewing platforms as well as a steeper path down to the creek, for an up-close view of the falls. Begin from the Thunderbird Falls trailhead, which is part of Chugach State Park and requires $5 or an annual pass for parking.
The trail is broad and smooth, but somewhat steep to start out.
It continues on flatter and steeper sections to go deeper in the forest.
The creek is not visible right away, but at the first viewing platform you'll peer into the gorge and find it way below.
Interpretive signs explain more about what you can see from here. It's just a bit farther to the second wooden platform, and a zoomed-out view of the falls.
To see it better, you'll have to take the spur trail that goes steeply downhill, into the bottom of the creek valley.
There you can dip your feet in the water and get close to the base of the falls.
It pours out of an alcove that's somewhat hidden from view, however.
To see more you'll have to make a slick scramble up a rocky bank.
The climb may not be for everyone, but reaching a spot beside the creek is rewarding enough. This hike is most popular in summer and fall, when a few muddy spots are the only hazards.
When snowy or icy or particularly muddy, however, caution is needed on the steeper parts and traction devices may be necessary.