Explored this trail on 21 November 2016. There was a lot of ice, especially on the steeper faces but most had the cable guards to assist in climbing. We got a late start around 9:00 and headed back at 12:00 when we reached the last tall peak before the descent to the caves. It's worth a trip.
This was a very challenging, fun, scenic hike! We thought it would take about 5 hours to complete, but were able to finish in 3 hours (20 minute break at the glacier to look around and take pictures included) because we kept a very fast pace! The path has a nice warm-up for the first mile or so as you walk flat terrain through the rainforest. Then things get interesting... Once past the first mile, you are required to scramble up slippery rocks, climb stairs, and maneuver around some trees... sometimes using the assistance of a rope. The trail can be hard to follow at times so keep an eye out for markers. The glacier has receded quite a bit so it takes some careful sliding down loose gravel to get up close. Be weary of hidden Moulin and ridges on the ice! Unfortunately, we went on a rainy day so the trail was extra slick in some parts and muddy. Challenging but highly recommend for the awesome views and a chance to explore ice caves!
October 22, 2016. Hiked this with 2 workmates. We started late, 2:45pm, and with sunset at about 5:30, we kept an eye on our time. We stopped a few times for pictures, and at about the 2 mile mark, got to a great observation point. We took more pictures and decided to turn around to be sure to have daylight for some of the trickier stone steps. Delightful woods, creeks, bridges and of course the view of the Glacier and lake. We covered about 4 miles in 2 hours.
This hike is incredible! The trail begins on the west glacier trail. You can park in the lot by the skaters cabin. After the first cable incline there is a viewpoint. Turn there to find a trail that goes downhill. You follow this trail until it ends and then use cairns and ribbons to find your way to the glacier. There is one section where you have to scramble up large, slippery rocks. That part of the trail is really intense. The rest of the trail is pretty easy going. There is a section where a tree blocks the path because a beaver cut the tree down. Some of the cairns have been knocked over too, so you need to be alert. It took us five hours roundtrip. That includes stopping for lunch and geocaching. As always, make sure you bring lots of water and you're wearing proper hiking boots.
The hike is OK, the views also OK, but neither were what I hoped for. Frankly, the views of the glacier are far better from the visitors center on the east side, even with the crowds. We had much better scenery and more challenging hike elsewhere on our trip in AK.
Sep 20, 2016 - This is a very easy trail with barely any elevation gain. It's massively over-crowded, but the only way to get to the falls by foot. Rangers stopped a bunch of us to allow a black bear and cubs cross the trail. Eagles are flying around the area grabbing salmon where they can. We even saw a little porcupine. It looked like the kayaks were the best method of getting close to the glacier. There's also a trail on the other side of the bay, but we couldn't find anyone who knew about it enough to take us there. We also didn't have enough time before the cruise ship left port.
Sep 21, 2016 - You'll need to take the White Pass train to the Laughton Glacier trailhead. They will drop you off and you just need to make sure you're back to the pickup location for the train back. There's an early train (~7:30am) and a later train around 12:30. We took the latter train and didn't have sufficient time to make it all the way to the glacier base. We ended up running back the whole way so we didn't miss the train. The only train that picks you up arrives around 3:30pm. This makes a long day if you caught the early train, but it's the only way you'll have enough time at the top.