Our Tibetan guide said the Pearl Shoal Waterfall (珍珠滩瀑布 [Zhēnzhū Tán Pùbù]) is the most beautiful waterfall in Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve (九寨沟自然保护区 [Jiǔzhàigōu Zìrán Bǎohùqū]; 9 Village Gully). I guess it's subjective whether it's this one or the also-popular Nuorilang Waterfall that's the more scenic, but I tend to think the scenery overall within the Nature Reserve definitely takes center stage. For Jiuzhaigou is a scenic marvel that has some of the most colorful and clearest lakes and ponds we've seen anywhere in the world. The waterfalls also seemed like second nature, but they were no slouches in their own right.
And as is fairly typical of Jiuzhaigou cascades and waterfalls where the water is rich in minerals (like calcium carbonate aka limestone) the underlying rocks of this waterfall formed all sorts of shapes like travertine, mini-caves, and even rounded bumpy ledges making for interesting photographs. We also weren't surprised to see trees and foliage growing out of nowhere right in the middle of the waterway (since these minerals can form dams that end up becoming their own flower pot). I guess waterfalls with trees and shrubs growing right in the middle of it aren't a very common occurrence in our experience, and perhaps that was why this was one of the more memorable waterfalls we've seen.
As for dimensions, this one is said to have a width of about 163m and a height of 21m. But on a clear day, it was said that we might have been able to see this waterfall with the backdrop of stunning alpine mountains. And in Autumn, we probably would've enjoyed the place even more when the leaves change color and provide even more color in the scenery. And as you can see from the photos on this page, neither of these things happened, but perhaps that means we have an excuse to come back here under more optimal conditions.
We experienced this waterfall as part of a one-way downhill shuttle hike by getting off the mandatory shuttle at the Five Colored Lake stop, which was one stop beyond the Panda Lake stop. There was supposed to be a 76m Panda Lake Waterfall nearby the Panda Lake, but it was dry during our visit so we didn't linger around for it (I believe it flows in August or September time frame). However, we definitely spent a good deal of time on the well-established boardwalk amongst the very colorful Five Flower Lake (or was it Five Colored Lake, Multi-colored Lake, or Peacock Lake?). That lake gave us plenty of photo opportunities as the water was a very colorful and clear blue with submerged calcified trees within its depths and snowy mountains rising in the background.
Our Tibetan guide said this was probably the most beautiful lake in the park, and Julie and I could certainly see why he'd say that. I swore continuing on our walk towards the Pearl Shoal Waterfall could've easily have been forgotten just from lingering in this one spot alone!
Anyways, we did continue on the walk, which gradually descended towards the waterfall we were after. It took probably between 20-30 minutes of walking to get there, which started by walking alongside its drop from its top. Eventually, the stairs descended towards a boardwalk that ran right across the front of the waterfall. And given the sheer length of the falls, there was no way we could capture it in one photo except from the stairs where we got a more angled profile view of it. It was too bad we were kind of looking against the hazy sun at this time of day though (perhaps afternoon would've made for better lighting).
Eventually, the walkway continued beyond the edge of the waterfall then ultimately arrived at another shuttle stop a few minutes later. Aside from the crowds (which came and went in waves), it was a thoroughly enjoyable nature walk.
Directions: You can think of the Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve's road system like a backwards "h" where the Nuorilang Waterfall and tourist center is right at the joint of the backwards "h".
Our guide made sure we were on the bus that took the road to the west of the visitor center going past the Mirror Lake.
Unless you have money to burn to take one of the private transport options, you're probably going to do what we did and join the crowds and take one of the shuttle buses that transport you to most of the designated stops within the park.
As mentioned earlier, we started the hike at the Multi-colored Lake, but that was after we visited the Arrow Bamboo Lake and Panda Lake (getting off and on the shuttle to visit those attractions and save a little time by minimizing the amount of walking).