If you’re in Anchorage and want to go on an easy little hike without a lot of traffic, Barbara Falls is perfect. Dogs and kids are welcome, but be careful exploring near the falls since it’s steep.
- Difficulty: easy
- Location: Eagle River (near Anchorage), Alaska
- Kid Friendly: yes
- Height of Falls: roughly 60 ft.
- Dog Friendly: yes
- Distance: 1.0 miles round-trip
- Elevation Gain: about 500 ft.
- Season: year-round
- Lat/Long: 61.28603, -149.47618
- Directions: From Anchorage, drive north on Glenn Highway towards Eagle River and get off at the Hiland Rd/Eagle River Loop Rd exit. Follow Hiland Rd for 10-20 minutes until it splits, and then take the left route onto River View Dr. This road will eventually split as well, and you’ll take the left route onto Waterfall Dr. You’ll follow this winding road for a bit (ignore “Barbara Falls Dr”) until it turns into a T, where you’ll then take a right onto River Park Dr. Now if you’re following your phone’s GPS, it’ll tell you to continue down this road until it ends. DO NOT FOLLOW THE GPS. You’ll instead take a final left at Ken Logan Cir (you’ll see a Dead End sign) and park wherever you find a space.
You’ll feel like you shouldn’t be there since there are private property signs and a house nearby, but don’t be phased. Walk right past the gate at the end of the road and continue down the trail. You’ll cross a bridge, walk for a little while, turn right when the trail splits, and eventually take a second right when you see a little sign that says “Barbara Falls” (the left side will have a private property sign). Within minutes you’ll reach the viewing area for the falls.
As soon as we settled in Anchorage, Kevin and I immediately wanted to find all the best local hiking spots. Sadly most of the popular hikes are overcrowded and overhyped, plus there aren’t too many options close to town. And as beginner hikers have probably noticed, Alaska’s version of an “easy” hike is skewed compared to other states… especially by national park standards. So when I say Barbara Falls isn’t crowded or difficult, I mean it!
As you can guess from the directions, this hike is weirdly hard to find. There aren’t any helpful signs along the way or easy little maps, and a lot of locals don’t even know about it. It took us at least a half hour to find the parking area, and even then we felt nervous walking past the private property signs. Just remember that once you cross the bridge at the beginning, take your first right and then your second right when you see the "Barbara Falls" sign.
The hike only took about 30 minutes there and back since it’s decently flat most of the way and pretty maintained. We first visited the falls in summer and only ran into one other couple on the trail. Normally we run into other hiking couples, but I think these two lovebirds wanted some alone time in the forest… So word of advice to similar couples: don’t wear flip-flops when you hike or else you’ll slip into the mud, and please don’t try to hookup in the trees… other people can see you. Blek.
The viewing area in front of the falls is a great place for a photo, but be careful if you have little ones with you; it’s steep! We found a way to climb down to the water but it was difficult helping Zuko down. Thankfully we equipped him in his Ruffwear Web Master Dog Harness so it wasn’t too bad. The bottom of the falls has a ton of rocks and rushing water so be prepared to get your shoes and calves soaked if you want to cross. Zuko was nervous crossing the water so Kevin grabbed his harness and lovingly dragged him across.
Surprisingly we didn’t have too many issues with mosquitos like other hikes, and we didn’t see any wildlife besides the occasional bird or squirrel. We still kept our bear spray handy as we explored the surrounding area. It was damp and shaded like most of the deeply wooded areas in Alaska, so next time we’ll bring our Kachula Adventure Blanket so our butts don’t get wet.
We came back to the falls in winter and enjoyed the easy adventure. Even though our eyelashes and nose hairs froze instantly, the view was well worth the ‘refreshing’ walk. The water had mostly frozen over and made the falls look almost like a glacier. We tried to access the lower area but the difficult trek down was even more slippery and unstable. We didn’t dare continue toward the falls because the rushing water made the ice extremely unpredictable. At least it was a pretty view though!
All in all, this hike is a perfect beginner hike away from the public. The view is great and it’s an easy picnic location.