Big Four Ice Caves Trail

Snohomish County, Washington

Distance1.1mi
Elevation Gain521ft
Trailhead Elevation1,714ft
Top1,966ft
Elevation Min/Max1688/1966ft
Elevation Start/End1714/1714ft

Big Four Ice Caves Trail

Big Four Ice Caves Trail is a hiking trail in Snohomish County, Washington. It is 1.1 miles long and begins at 1,714 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 2.3 miles with a total elevation gain of 521 feet. The Ice Caves Trailhead parking is near the trailhead. There are also a shelter, bbqs, restrooms, parking, and grass.

Big Four Ice Caves Trail Professional Reviews and Guides

"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."

"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."

"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."

Big Four Ice Caves Trail Reviews

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8/1/2018
Beautiful little walk, very easy, great for kids. My niece and nephew went nutso over the caves and the refreshing cool breezes. Super crowded.
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5/27/2018
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10/1/2017
The view throughout and at the end of this hike was BEAUTIFUL! The forest is so quiet and serene, and it was lightly raining while we walked which just added to the lovely ambiance. When we emerged from the forest at the cliff face and ice caves, it was truly one of those moments where you just go "wow, nature is amazing!" We explored the entrances to the ice caves but did NOT go inside, because we were thoroughly warned about how dangerous it is to enter them. Nature is beautiful, but it to be treated with a great deal of respect, as it can be unpredictable. I highly recommend this hike; it is not very strenuous and is beautiful. You can get epic photos without venturing inside the caves-safety is more important than trying to become the next NatGeo photographer.
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2/16/2017
For some how is just recovery from knee surgery, this was not a difficult hike. I will say thought that you have to walk 2 mile to get to the trail head because the road is snowed over. Then the trails have 3 feet of snow...that's really cool. Once you get to the top however, the Ice Cave has been covered by and avalanche...DOH! I really want to go back once all that snow is gone.
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4/12/2010
Packed snow covered the trail the entire way... Made for slower going that expected, but not at all uncomfortable in 50 degree temps. The destination is well worth the trek, even with two young kids in tow.
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7/19/2009
Yes the hike is easy, but for me this place holds special memories of when I was a kid camping with my family. This was my first time back in over 15 years. It was crowded, but I didn't mind. I was reliving my childhood, except this time there were no parents to tell me I couldn't go into the caves. =)
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6/27/2009
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9/3/2005
Being from the east coast, I wanted to see as much of Washington as I can. I thought the Ice Caves would be something wonderful. They were, in a way. This is very unique. A free standing arch of ice. I am told that at one time it was a very deep cave. Now, the front 50 to 75' has fallen. There remains roughly 75' of arch behind a 20' high & 70' long pile of ice. The trail is maintained with wooden walkways & bridges. For a 1 mile hike it goes quickly. I think everyone should take their children to see this wonder. From what I saw, unless there is a few heavy snowfall & cold winters, this will be gone. This is a good weekend day trip / drive.
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Big Four Ice Caves Trail Photos

Trail Information

Snohomish County
Nearby City
Kid-friendly
Accessibility
Birding
Additional Use
Wildflowers
Features
Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Darrington Ranger District
Local Contacts
Green Trails No. 110 Silverton
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Sep 2018