The caves did not disappoint as usual. Took some friends who had never been...
Big Four Ice Caves
Big Four Ice Caves
A popular, easy hike for all ages on a warm midsummer day, the Big Four Ice Caves boasts a well-maintained trail with a refreshing finish at a large snowfield edged by an intriguing natural phenomenon. Throughout the winter, large deposits of snow from avalanches form at the base of Big Four Mountain; as temperatures warm, water and wind carve out frosty caves that can be enjoyed for their rugged form as well as their cooling effect on the air around them.
There are two possible starts to the trail: either from the trailhead itself, or from the Big Four picnic area just west. Both have large parking lots with easy access to the trail, and their paths converge approximately one quarter-mile in toward the caves. Wherever you decide to start, the trail is largely level and very well maintained, comprised of compacted gravel and raised boardwalks. A rugged stroller could easily navigate the trail, although crowds may limit or slow down passage.
If beginning at the picnic area, the trail will start as boardwalk, traversing through wetlands that were once covered with enough water to allow for paddling around an inn (long since removed) that stood in the commanding presence of Big Four Mountain at the current location of the picnic area. After joining the main trail, an aluminum bridge allows for passage across the South Fork of the Stillaguamish River, and wood bridges span across Icy Creek at two other locations as you continue along.
The trail terminates at the rocky-edged snowfield and ice caves, with Big Four Mountain looming directly ahead, marked by numerous cascading waterfalls.
Please note: the snowfield and ice caves are very unstable, and should be enjoyed from a safe distance. Heed the signs along the trail warning of the danger of collapsing snow and do not enter the caves; serious injuries have occurred over the years.
Permits & Tips
Northwest Forest Pass required. A day pass can be purchased at the Public Service Center in Verlot. This is a very popular hike and can be quite crowded. The parking lots are generous and include toilets. A covered picnic structure and picnic tables ring an open field, grounded by a large brick fireplace, the sole surviving remnant of the inn that once stood there. Bring water as temperatures can be quite warm in the summer. Depending on the amount of snowfall, the caves are often not visible until mid-or-late-summer as the snowpack melts back. On some weekends, forest rangers guide groups of hikers; check in at the Verlot Public Service Center for more information.
How to get there
Head east from Everett on Hwy 2, following signs to Lake Stevens. Turn left on Highway 9, then right on Hwy 92 towards Granite Falls. Go through town, turning left on the Mountain Loop Highway to continue 26 miles to the clearly marked entrances on your right for the Big Four picnic area or the Ice Caves Trailhead just another .5 mile east. The Verlot Public Service Center is located along the Mountain Loop Highway, 11 miles from Granite Falls.