209 forum posts
Based on continued requests, here is more of the hiking you can do in Southeast Alaska - Juneau - area. Its amazing how few tourists actually research where they go, as many of these sites should be packed with tons and tons of visitors. However, they don't, and it makes things a lot more tranquil for us locals. ^_^
Herbert Glacier is part of the Juneau Ice Field - an area of about 1500 sq miles of glacial ice sitting at altitudes of 5,000 to 8,000 feet. Some of the more famous glaciers off the field include the Mendenhall, Herbert, Eagle, and Taku. The Mendenhall Glacier is almost visible from my house and is probably the most visited glacier in the US, with Taku probably the 2nd most popular (due to its proximity to the Taku Lodge and accessibility by float plane & boat), followed by Herbert & Eagle Glaciers, both of which are off Lynn Canal and 15 miles north of Juneau.
The trail was developed for both hikers and bikers - don't let the 'mean' bikers get to you, they feel you are encroaching on their trail. Most of them just don't know proper trail etiquette. But back to the trail - its a nicely groomed & fairly wide trail that runs about 4 miles then it looks more and more like trails you and I are used to... and you end up on a sand bar with amazing views of Herbert Glacier. At about 4.25 miles in, you can walk out on the sandbar or stay on the trail. The trail starts to break up and can be hard to follow.
Many people don't take advantage and throw a tent down, but there are plenty of areas to do this - just make sure you aren't too close to the river as Jökulhlaup's can happen - this is a sudden release of a glacial lake hidden under the snow/ice and can flood everything downstream... so make sure you are a bit above the water level ^_^
Starting out the trail is fairly wide and flat. About 1/3rd of a mile in, you'll find a rotting car that someone left here many, many years ago! It has since found use as a target for all our folks with guns. The trail then runs parallel with the Herbert River before jutting back into the rain forest. The trail goes in and out of the canopy, offering some great views of the surrounding mountains. At about mile 3 you will stumble upon a nice lake and bench overlooking it - providing this view:
Trail continues on and starts to wind more with some elevation gains & decreases, but nothing too bad. As you get closer to the glacier, you will come upon another lake and 2 more benches - one besides a very relaxing cascade (which is also a great source of fresh water). The trail continues for about another 1/4 mile and you'll come upon the wash / sand bar. The trail will get a bit more tricky, as you will be hiking on a much thinner part cut out from rock and a nice lil 10 foot drop into the Herbert River should you make a bad step - and finally end up here...
At the end of the rocky point, you can then traverse on the 'unofficial' trail to the north face of the glacier and actually walk on it - however you should have some rock climbing knowledge/experience, and some rope wouldn't hurt as we've had a few people die here. its not that its difficult - the rocks can get slick and people misjudge their grip.. the results aren't always pretty.
Looking westward towards Eagle Beach / Chilkat Mountains visible in the background.
perfect spot to toss a tent ^_^
Rapids provided ambient white noise, probably the best night of sleep I've had in a while, despite it not getting dark until 1130pm (and light again at 2am).
follow the orange ribbons to get to the north face of the glacier..
part of the trail that actually looks like a hiking trail ^_^
and here's what most of the trail looks like.. when you don't have a biker barkin @ ya! ^-^
And these can cause a lot of mahem here if you live along a river.
Herbert Glacier on a sunny day