Big Four Ice Caves Hike
The Big Four Ice Caves are a popular spot, and the hike to get there is quite easy. The caves in the receding snow are formed by water and melt, causing tunnels under the snow to appear. The caves are very cool to explore, but we must stress the importance of not going inside of them and not climbing on top of them. Multiple people, including children, have been killed at this site. The snow is unstable and can collapse on top of you or underneath you. It’s incredibly important that children and adults alike enjoy the caves from outside and off the snow.
The route to reach the caves is fairly easy, with only moderate elevation gain required. En route to the caves, you’ll be treated to views of mountains and waterfalls. Wildflowers grow alongside the trails in the spring. It’s quite a charming area and this hike is definitely worth adding to your list.
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Route Description for Big Four Ice Caves Hike
The Big Four Ice Caves are fascinating to see. Perfectly rounded tunnels formed by water and wind cut through a sheet of snow, reminiscent of a gnome’s front door. The hike to reach the caves is excellent in its own right, with a great view of Big Four Mountain and the waterfalls that tumble off of it. This is also a great place to enjoy Washington’s wildflowers in the late spring and early summer, when trillium, magenta fireweed, valerian, and queen's cup begin to sprout.
While this is a neat trail to hike, especially with family, it’s crucial that you do not hike into the caves or on top of them. People have been killed on several separate occasions here when the snow collapses on top of them or out from underneath them. As stable as the snow may look, the whole reason the caves exist is that they’ve been hollowed out from below. There is plenty of signage detailing the dangers of ice caves, but yet you may still see hikers in or on the caves. Don’t follow them.
There is also avalanche risk near the caves. A plaque in memoriam of Grace Tam, an 11-year old girl killed by falling ice at the site, serves as a solemn reminder to keep your distance.
Start from the parking lot and take the paved route through the trees. At the first junction, there’s an old hotel, or at least the remains of one. Keep going straight.
At the Stillaguamish River crossing, there is a bridge to help you out. If the bridge is out when you arrive (which can happen due to washout), please be very cautious if you choose to cross the river. Late in the summer, it’s often only calf-deep. Earlier in the season, it can be thigh-deep and has swept users downstream.
Across the river, you’ll soon come up to Ice Creek, which you’ll cross as well. Climb gradually up, hiking over a mixture of boardwalk and gravel. You’ll enter a meadow, where Big four Mountain and its waterfalls tumble down.
This meadow is usually full of wildflowers in the spring and summer. You’ll see the caves up ahead. There’s a good spot to view them at the end of the trail in the circle of rocks. We don’t recommend inspecting the caves any closer.
When you’re ready, you’ll head back to the trailhead via the same route.
Hiking Route Highlights
Big Four Ice Caves
The Big Four Ice Caves form at the base of Big Four Mountain in Mount Baker National Forest. These unique caves are formed by flowing water underneath the snow and the effects of wind. The “entrances” to the caves are sometimes so round, they look purposefully built.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which state has the Big Four Ice Caves?
The Big Four Ice Caves are in Washington.
Can you go inside the Big Four Ice Caves?
Please don’t! The snow isn’t stable and there is a risk of it collapsing on top of you.
Insider Hints for Big Four Ice Caves Hike
- A Northwest Forest Pass is required for this hike.
- We like this hike best in the late spring.
Getting to the Big Four Ice Caves Hike Trailhead
The trailhead for the Big Four Ice Caves hike is off Mountain Loop Highway.
Big Four Ice Caves Hike Elevation Graph
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Big Four Ice Caves Hike Reviews
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