Prior to my arrival in Skagway, Alaska in the early Fall of 2008, I had found two trails which captured my interest and imagination.  These two trails were the Denver Glacier trail and the Laughton Glacier trail.  Because I only had one day in Skagway, I would only be able to hike one of these two trails.  Based on the trail descriptions and very limited information available on the internet, I chose to hike the Denver Glacier trail.  The interesting thing about this trail is that you can't get there by car or bus, but only by train.  It is necessary to take the WP&YR (White Pass & Yukon Route) railroad to get there.  From downtown Skagway, it is only 5.4 miles by train to reach the trailhead, but it costs a hefty $32 round-trip to go that short distance.  In 2008, Daria and I attempted the Denver Glacier hike after being dropped off, but our hike ended up being unsuccessful.  This was due to the pouring rain which was coming down throughout the day and the muddy conditions of the trail.  We just weren't prepared for the severe Alaskan weather which we had to contend with and hike through.  We actually ended up spending most of the day in the caboose cabin which sits at the beginning of the trailhead, trying to dry off and stay warm while we awaited our return train at 4pm.

If there's one thing that frustrates me to no end, it has to be failing to complete an important hike.  In this case, the trail was in Skagway, Alaska, which was at least 3-4 days drive from my house in Sonoma.  So it wasn't as easy as say taking a quick trip back to Yosemite or Death Valley to complete a failed hike.  But two years later, I finally had the chance to redeem myself and finish the hike which had left me with that feeling of emptiness.  Unfortunately, Daria was unable to make the return trip due to work obligations.  So this time I was hiking with Charlie, a long-time friend and fellow Yosemite backpacker and Death Valley hiker.  Most importantly, we had a day of absolutely perfect weather.  The Denver Glacier trail follows the East Fork of the Skagway River through a beautiful forest of mushrooms, berries, ferns, and trees (which include spruce, hemlock and alder).  Along the way, there are outstanding views of the river and the Sawtooth Mountain Range.  After about 2.2 miles, the trail gradually turns and without realizing it, we were following a side river through a canyon into the Denver Glacier valley.  The trail became very narrow and overgrown, but we finally made our way through to an opening in the forest at a vast rockslide area.  From that spot, we had tremendous views of the hanging seracs of the Denver Glacier, high above on the mountainside.  There was also a really pretty waterfall which cascaded down the mountain and an excellent view of the valley we had just passed through.  The hike was about 3.5 miles each way and proved to be yet another incredible Alaska experience that we will never forget.  The Laughton Glacier trail will have to wait for a future trip.
Getting dropped off by the WP & YR railroad at Denver Glacier station:
Watching the train steam off in the distance on its way towards White Pass:
The caboose cabin is situated right at the beginning of the trailhead:
Denver Glacier trail sign showing the route through the forest:
This is the caboose cabin.  It is available for overnight stays by reservation:
Looking into the front of the caboose cabin:
Inside the caboose there are some nice benches and tables, as well as a sleeping area above and the means to keep warm at night:
Heading off on the Denver Glacier trail for a 2nd attempt two full years later:
Very pretty rainforest during the entire hike:
Charlie heading down the trail in August of 2010.  This was his first hike since the botched Corridor Canyon hike in Death Valley in April of 2007:
The trail winds its way through the rainforest which was very wet during both of my hikes:
But the difference was this time it was not raining.  It was a beautiful day in Skagway:
Check out how this tree is bent over at such an extreme angle:
Steve walking through a forest of very tall trees:
After a while, we could catch a glimpse of the river through the trees off to our left:
And soon we were overlooking the east fork of the Skagway River:
During the hike, there are an abundance of side trails which lead down to the river.  The next three pictures were taken at the first short spur trail:
Continuing on the trail after briefly visiting the river:
The trail continued to stay close to the river for a while:
The first couple miles of the hike were mostly on gentle uphill terrain:
A clearing down below at the river.  On the hike back, I would stop by this location and get some nice pictures:
One of the many small streams which cross the trail and head down towards the river:
Huge leaves growing up from the forest floor:
A fallen tree blocking the trail which was easy to climb over:
Reaching the 2 mile marker on the Denver Glacier trail:
Another tree that has fallen over revealing a huge root system:
A short time later we arrived at a very scenic overlook point:
I scrambled down to the riverbank and took these two pictures of the east fork of the Skagway River:
A very old trail sign shows which way to go to continue:
Charlie pressing on as the trail got steeper and narrower:
We were now following a side river and the Denver Glacier valley came into view for the first time:
Looking back down the side river we were now following:
A close-up of some red berries.  The first time I hiked this trail we just missed a bear who had been feeding near here:
First glimpse of the corner of Denver Glacier high up on the mountainside:
Continuing through the forest.  The trail was quite overgrown from here on:
More ice of the Denver Glacier comes into view as we draw closer:
This piece of yellow tape warned about trail conditions to come.  An interesting way to let hikers know:
As the yellow tape warned, the trail became brushy and rough and quite narrow:
More of the green plants which were growing heartily in the rainforest:
Years ago, the Denver Glacier came all the way down the mountain side in the distance:
Close-up of the hanging seracs of the Denver Glacier.  Seracs are "large pointed masses of ice in a glacier isolated by intersecting crevasses.":
The trail ends at this rock slide area.  It's a good spot because you come out of the forest and have great views in all directions:
Denver Falls flows down the left side of Denver Glacier.  It's a glacial waterfall:
Looking across the rock slide area towards Denver Glacier.  There is no trail which leads directly to the base of the waterfall or bottom of the mountain.  In fact, it would be dangerous to stand at the bottom of the mountain because huge columns of ice could break off of the glacier at any time and fall on you:
Looking back down the Denver Glacier valley:
Steve and Charlie successfully accomplishing the Denver Glacier trail hike:
Steve with Denver Glacier and Denver Falls in the background:
Steve with the Denver Glacier valley in the background:
There were no more trails, but I still had some extra time so I decided to climb the rock slide area up to its source to look for even better views:
The going was very steep and rough, but I made it.  This is looking back down:
In this view of Denver Glacier you can get a true perspective of how steep the rock slide area was which I climbed:
One final view of the Denver Glacier from this majestic viewpoint.  I ended up framing a picture of this on my wall at home:
Panoramic view looking back down the Denver Glacier valley (click to enlarge):
Denver Glacier valley panoramic
Pretty wildflowers growing in the rock slide area:
Forest mushrooms which were growing extensively in the area:
In this picture, we have headed back down the trail until it was once again following the main river.  Here we are looking back up where we came from.  The canyon to the right is the one which leads to Denver Glacier:
From the river clearing, this was looking back into the forest which the main trail crosses through:
In the next two pictures, we are looking further down river:
The clouds finally cleared away showing the impressive peaks of the Sawtooth Range:
Back at the caboose, we signed into the official log book:
The White Pass train coming back to pick us up from the trailhead:
The final three pictures were taken of Daria during our 2008 hike and time in Skagway:
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