"Hikers have been marveling at these frozen spectacles of nature for over a century. Reached by one of the most manicured trails in the Cascades, Big Four’s famed ice caves can be enjoyed by hikers of all walks. Formed from cascading water and warm winds hollowing out heaps of avalanche-deposited snow, the caves usually appear by midsummer. Instead of immediately heading for the caves, take a short diversion right, following a paved path 0.25 mile to the Big Four Picnic Area. This trail was once a rail line and was responsible for delivering thousands of tourists to a grand hotel where the picnic area now sits." Read more
"The nearly level trail, smooth and well maintained, crosses a series of water-spanning bridges and marsh-spanning planked walkways before arriving at the ice caves in the snowfields at the base of the 4,000-foot north face of Big Four Mountain. Hike to a stopping point beneath the tall, wide cirque headwall, dappled with snow patches and waterfalls. The ice caves are formed when the undersides of avalanche snowbanks melt from the action of water and wind. They vary in size and shape from year to year. They do not open until midsummer and are never safe to enter — ceilings have been known to collapse." Read more
"This trail is best known for the “ice caves” that form at the base of Big Four Mountain. These are not true ice caves but rather accumulations of snow from avalanches that occur in the winter and spring: As the temperature warms up, the snow melts out from underneath, and this is what causes the “caves” to form. The caves are hazardous and signs warn hikers to stay out of them.
Near the marsh you may observe wildlife: Beavers have left their mark on gnawed trees and branches, and you may see birds near the marshes, including hairy woodpeckers, nuthatches, and kingfishers. As for the flowers, you are likely to see fireweed, thimbleberry, elderberry, foamflower, devil’s club, bleeding heart, skunk cabbage, and a variety of ferns, mosses and lichens. In the forest I also saw bead lily, salmonberry, and false lily-of-the-valley, with its graceful heart-shaped leaves." Read more