Exploring Nature’s Majesty: Nugget Falls Trail in Alaska

Top hiking trails in the US worth exploring

Alaska, often referred to as the “Last Frontier,” is a land of breathtaking landscapes, vast wilderness, and awe-inspiring natural beauty. One such marvel that beckons adventurers and nature enthusiasts is the Nugget Falls Trail.

Nestled within the stunning Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area, this trail offers an unforgettable journey through pristine forests and a front-row view of the impressive Nugget Falls.

In this article, we’ll take you on a virtual tour of the Nugget Falls Trail, sharing its history, features, and the experience it promises.

The Trail’s Origins

The Nugget Falls Trail, located in the Tongass National Forest near Juneau, was established to provide easy access to one of Alaska’s most iconic natural wonders.

The trail was designed to accommodate a wide range of hikers, from beginners to experienced trekkers, and is considered one of the more accessible trails in the area, making it a popular destination for both locals and tourists.

The Hike

The trail begins at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, where visitors can gather information about the area’s flora and fauna, geology, and glaciology before embarking on their journey. The visitor center is itself an educational gem, featuring interactive exhibits and informative displays about the glacier and the surrounding environment.

From the visitor center, the well-marked and well-maintained Nugget Falls Trail extends for about two miles round trip.

The path is relatively flat, making it accessible to hikers of all levels, including families with children. It’s an ideal trail for a stroll or a brisk hike, depending on your pace and how often you stop to soak in the scenery.

The trail winds its way through the lush temperate rainforest, surrounded by towering trees, moss-covered boulders, and an enchanting variety of wildflowers.

Along the way, you may encounter local wildlife, such as bald eagles, black bears, and various bird species. This pristine forest is a testament to Alaska’s unparalleled natural beauty.

The Highlight: Nugget Falls

As you follow the trail, the crescendo of your journey is the awe-inspiring Nugget Falls. These falls are a powerful sight, with a roaring, cascading flow of glacial water thundering into Mendenhall Lake. The falls owe their name to the glimmering gold nuggets once found at the creek’s mouth.

The observation area at the base of the falls provides an incredible opportunity to witness the forces of nature at work.

The falls are framed by the backdrop of the massive Mendenhall Glacier, which descends from the Juneau Icefield. The juxtaposition of the falls against the glacier creates a visual spectacle that is hard to forget.

A Glacial Perspective

Mendenhall Glacier, often dubbed the “Drive-up Glacier” due to its convenient accessibility, is another attraction of the Nugget Falls Trail. While hiking to Nugget Falls, you’ll have excellent views of the glacier from various points along the trail.

For a closer look at the glacier, you can choose to take a separate path to Mendenhall Glacier’s face.

Here, you can witness the immense ice formations up close, observe the dynamic nature of glacial activity, and even hear the glacier creak and crack as it moves. Remember to exercise caution when near the glacier, as its environment can be unpredictable.


The Nugget Falls Trail is a quintessential Alaskan experience, offering a harmonious blend of wilderness, glaciers, waterfalls, and diverse wildlife. It is an accessible adventure for individuals and families alike, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the serene grandeur of Alaska’s natural world.

Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just looking for a relaxing stroll through pristine forest, the Nugget Falls Trail is a must-visit destination for anyone seeking to appreciate the splendors of the “Last Frontier.” So, pack your hiking boots, embrace the call of the wild, and embark on a memorable journey to Nugget Falls and Mendenhall Glacier.

Pearce Kibaale is a freelance writer, content creator, and Editor-in-Chief of Trip Dhow.