Big Four Ice Caves are located at the Big Four Mountain in the Cascade Range, 34 km (21 mi) east of Granite Falls. The Big Four Mountain is about 1,880 m (6,180 ft ) high. Caves are nestled at the bottom of its north face that doesn't melt completely in the summer due to the shaded area. When snow-melting starts on top of the mountain, streams of water flow beneath the debris piles of the mountain and result in caves formed in ice formations. Since the structure is not very stable, the caves can take various forms and shapes at different times of the year.
The Big Four Ice Caves Trail is one of the most popular hikes in near Seattle within a two-hour driving distance from the city. So you can expect it to be quite crowded at any time of the year. The trail is about 4.8 km (3 mi) long and is rated as moderate. It features a waterfall and many scenic views.
Even though the Big Four Ice Caves Trail can be hiked year-round, it is not recommended to get inside the caves in the summer when the ice forming the walls and ceiling of the caves is melting and can collapse. In 2015, one hiker was killed and five others injured after a massive collapse. After the incident, the ice caves were closed for public for about a year. It is much safer to go inside the caves in winter when the ice domes are more stable, but you need to wear snow boots.
What's the best time of year to hike the Big Four Ice Caves?
The Big Four Ice Caves can be hiked throughout the year. However, hiking inside the caves is not recommended during the melting season as the ice formations can collapse. It is much safer to explore the caves in winter when the ice domes are more stable. However, visitors must wear appropriate gear, such as snow boots, to ensure their safety. Show more
Can visitors go inside the ice caves in the summer?
While hiking the Big Four Ice Caves Trail is possible during summers, accessing the caves is not recommended. The heat melts the ice formations, making them unstable and unsafe for exploration. Visitors can explore the caves during winters when the ice domes are firmer and safer. However, they should take safety precautions and carry the right gear to ensure they stay safe throughout the hike. Show more
How long does it usually take to complete the Big Four Ice Caves Trail?
With an estimated distance of 4.8 km (3 mi), the Big Four Ice Caves Trail is rated as a moderate hike. It usually takes about 2-3 hours to complete, depending on the pace, rest stops, and scenic enjoyment along the way. Visitors should carry enough water and snacks to ensure they're comfortable throughout the hike. Show more
What is the driving distance of Seattle from the Big Four Ice Caves?
The Big Four Ice Caves Trail is 34 km (21 mi) east of Granite Falls, nestled in the Cascade mountains while Seattle is approximately 109 km (67 mi) away from the trailhead. It takes a little under two hours to drive to the trailhead from Seattle, adjustments may be necessary for weather and traffic considerations. Show more
Are there any safety measures that visitors should be aware of before visiting the Big Four Ice Caves?
Visitors must exercise caution while exploring the Big Four Ice Caves as they can be hazardous. Falling debris and potential collapses pose a risk to visitors. Appropriate clothing and footwear, such as snow boots during winters, will help ensure safety. Visitors should follow safety guidelines and signs, carry water and snacks in sufficient quantities, and monitor weather forecasts. Hikers should respect the trail's closure when unsafe for hiking. Show more