Big Four Ice Caves

North Cascades, Washington

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Big Four Ice Caves


  • The boardwalk over marshy lowlands.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • A paved section of trail leading to Big Four Mountain.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • Marshy lowlands.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • Taking a detour to explore the South Fork of the Stillaguamish River.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • The new 224-foot aluminum bridge replaced the old wooden one after it collapsed from storm damage in 2006.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • Nearing the edge of the forest, a sign warns of avalance danger. Downed trees from previous avalances are visible in the background.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • Signs warning of rockfall, avalanches, and collapsing snowfields. - Big Four Ice Caves
  • Looking up at Big Four Mountian.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • The primary snowfield with muptile entrances visible.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • Carefully walking up the snowfield.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • The largest entrance to the caves under the primary snowfield. A collapsed section of an ice bridge is visible.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • Getting a closer look at the ice.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • Inside the cave looking back at the entrance.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • Deeper into the cave.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • Two entrances are visible.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • The large waterfall at the far end of the cave. - Big Four Ice Caves
  • Light bounces around the ice caves. A small waterfall drips from a hole in a crevasse.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • Climbing one of the many lage boulders in the area. Hall Peak is in the background.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • Looking northeast at Stillaguamish Peak (left, 5,720') and Mount Dickerman (right, 5,760').- Big Four Ice Caves
  • A cairn in front of the secondary snowfield northwest of the primary snowfield.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • Climbing another of the large boulders around the Big Four Ice Caves.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • Bouldering near the Big Four Ice Caves.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • Fireweed in front of the secondary snowfield.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • The ice caves are a very popular destination.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • - Big Four Ice Caves
Overview + Weather
Ice Caves. Well-maintained trail. Short approach.
Ice caves are dangerous. Big crowds.
Falling debris makes entering the caves very dangerous and potentially fatal. The caves are closed to visitors as of 2015 by order of the Forest Service. Trail access may be closed if visitors ignore warnings to keep out of these caves.
North Cascades, WA
Pets allowed: 
Net Elevation Gain: 
250.00 ft (76.20 m)
Parking Pass: 
NW Forest Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Total Distance: 
2.20 mi (3.54 km)
Trail type: 
Trailhead Elevation: 
1,700.00 ft (518.16 m)
Current Local Weather:
Hike Description

Hike Description


The Big Four Ice Caves are a series of ice caves at the base of Big Four Mountain. The hike out to the cave is on an easy, well-maintained trail. The trailhead is at the former site of a three-story, fifty-room hotel that was built in 1920 and burned down in 1949. Only the hearth and chimney survived, both of which still stand in the present picnic area.

The hike begins on a boardwalk over a lowland marsh known to host beavers. About a quarter-mile down the trail, a shiny new aluminum bridge spans the South Fork of the Stillaguamish River. It was constructed in 2009 after a 2006 storm destroyed the previous wooden bridge that had stood since the 1960s.

Signs warn hikers of avalanche danger near the edge of the forest, and hundreds of downed trees are evidence of previous slides. There is very little risk in summer and fall, of course. After you've reached the clearing, the primary ice field will appear off to the southwest, and the secondary ice field is further down the trail to the north.

Icefall, rockfall, and collapses are common in the cave, and people have been injured and even killed on multiple occasions. The edges of the caves are the most susceptible to rock and ice fall, so use extreme caution while crossing the threshold if you choose to enter the caves. Additionally, be very careful as you pass under ice bridges, and do not attempt to cross an ice bridge.

Late summer and fall are the best times to visit the ice caves, as they are only exposed from August through October. This trail is one of the most popular hikes in the area, reportedly attracting around 50,000 visitors every year, so crowds should be expected. For a more solitary experience, this makes a wonderful sunrise hike.

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(9 within a 30 mile radius)

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(47 within a 30 mile radius)

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