International Falls. You’ve probably seen the signs, but have you gone for the hike yet? If not, what are you waiting for?
Just past the Fraser border crossing, it’s a pretty chill adventure you can easily do enroute to Skagway. Shortly after you pass Canadian customs (you will see a rest stop on the left, with the green outhouses), take the next pullout on the right. There’s a big avalanche warning sign and usually some cars parked there.
From the parking area, head to the left and down a steep hill. There are a series of four ropes set up to help you make your way down safely. Cross the river at the bottom, which, depending on the season, will be ankle-deep or up to your knees. There are small stones from one side to the other that you can try to make your way across, to stay dry, but the day we went was roasting hot, so I trampled right into the water, without hesitation, accepting wet feet and welcoming a little cool down. Once across the water, follow the trail up and to your right and stay on the right side of the river. We, of course, immediately went the wrong way, which we realized after we’d crossed more water and were mid-boulder climbing, which conveniently gave us a great view of the well-worn trail across a field and a set of falls from us.
Back on track with the actual path, we passed the sequence of waterfalls and pools, each more striking than the last, that make up International Falls. This is one of those adventures you can make as long or as short as you want. The scenery from the top of the falls is 360 degrees of breathtaking. You don’t need to go far to feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere, even though the highway is right there. If you want to continue, keep heading back away from the road and a little to the left. The path becomes less obvious the farther back you go. We were on it one minute and unable to spot it the next, but as we continued we stumbled upon it once more (though there’s a chance we’re just really bad at following trails!). As we wandered farther, we found smaller water crossings, patches of snow and eventually reached a ridge with a spectacular view of glaciers and the valley that hosts the Chilkoot.
Even with a slight detour in the beginning, taking our time mozying and admiring glaciers, with snacks in hand, we were back to the car within three hours.
The hike itself is not challenging; just beware of the first hill down if you aren’t okay with heights or a bit of climbing … beyond that you’re in the clear. Pack some water, snacks and get out there before the snow starts flying. Don’t forget your passport as you’ll have to come back through customs. My only regrets are forgetting sun screen, not wearing a bathing suit to jump in one of the pools; oh, and how many years it took me to realize this adventure is so awesome and so easily accessible.