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Big Four Ice Caves

North Cascades, Washington

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Big Four Ice Caves

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  • Closed winter gate at the trailhead.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • Coal Creek.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • Stillaguamish River with Marble Mountain (5,111').- Big Four Ice Caves
  • Beaver Creek Campground.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • Stillaguamish Peak (5,740') to the north.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • Big Four Picnic Area turn-off.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • Big Four Mountain (6,135') and Hall Peak (5,484') from the picnic area.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • Big Four Picnic Area.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • Looking north from the summer trail.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • Stillaguamish Peak (5,740') to the north.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • Footbridge over the South Fork Stillaguamish River.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • Entering the old-growth forest.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • Trail through the forest.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • Big Four Ice Caves beneath winter snowpack.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • Looking east at Sheep Mountain (6,166').- Big Four Ice Caves
  • Hall Peak (5,484').- Big Four Ice Caves
  • Small avalanche on Big Four Mountain (6,135').- Big Four Ice Caves
  • Big Four Mountain (6,135') from the picnic area on the way out.- Big Four Ice Caves
  • - Big Four Ice Caves
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Old-growth forest. Huge vistas. Scenic River.
Cons: 
Large crowds. Bare trail in places.
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Alerts: 
Falling debris makes entering the caves very dangerous. The caves are closed to visitors. This area is also extremely prone to avalanche danger in winter. Exercise great caution in the avalanche zone near the ice caves.
Region:
North Cascades, WA
Congestion: 
High
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Groomed trail: 
No
Net Elevation Gain: 
320.00 ft (97.54 m)
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Winter
Total Distance: 
7.00 mi (11.27 km)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
1,616.00 ft (492.56 m)
Typically multi-day: 
No
Current Local Weather:
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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Contributor

A winter trip to the Big Four Ice Caves renders a quite different experience from that of the popular summer hike. For one, the ice caves themselves are not the primary point of interest, as they remain sealed shut beneath Big Four Mountain's relentless avalanche activity. The sheer north face of the mountain presents some of the most up-close and dramatic, if not downright intimidating, sights to be had on the Mountain Loop Highway. This serves as an exciting climax for the easy-going route, which primarily sticks to level road travel.

At 12 miles east of the Verlot Ranger Station, the closed winter gate at Deer Creek marks the Big Four Ice Caves winter trailhead.  If the sun happens to be out, expect a long row of vehicles here. Make your way through the gate and begin the tame journey up the unplowed highway. Around the first bend you will pass Coal Creek Campground and the bridge over rushing Coal Creek. Shortly after, intermittent gaps in the trees along the road reveal some pretty views of the Stillaguamish River rushing toward the rising green and white backdrop of Marble Peak. 1.3 miles into the hike, just beyond Beaver Creek Campground, patches of fallen timber give way to cluttered views of Stillaguamish Peak to the north. Veer right at the Big Four Picnic Area sign and arrive at the summer trailhead, where you'll enjoy jaw-dropping vistas of Big Four Mountain and Hall Peak spread out to the south. 

The summer trail cuts through open marsh land, which allows for outstanding panoramic views in all directions, before it crosses a long footbridge over the South Fork of the Stillaguamish River. Enter the thick fir forest and climb gently for 0.75 miles before breaking out into the slide-stricken slopes on the other side. Exercise serious caution here as you gape at the monstrous granite walls that tower above you.    

Recommended Gear

Before you head out on your next Mount Hood adventure, make sure you have the right gear! 

Here's a list of our go-to snowshoeing essentials to get you started:

Snowshoes: MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoe

Cushioned, Made in USA, Ultralight, 98.8 oz

Men's • $299.95 • MSR | Amazon | Backcountry | REI

Women's • $299.95 • MSR | Amazon | Backcountry | REI

Jacket/Shell: Arc'teryx Zeta AR Jacket

Waterproof, Adjustable Drawcord Hem, Pit Zips, GORE-TEX

Men's • $431-475 • Arc'teryx | Amazon | Backcountry

Women's • $475 • Arc'teryx | Amazon | Backcountry

Pack: Mammut Nirvana Pro Pack 

35L, Carry-On Size, Hip Belt, Ice Axe / Pole Loops, Hydration Compatible

Standard Fit • $189.95-199.95 • Mammut | Amazon | Backcountry

Small Fit • $199.95 • Mammut | Amazon

Insulating Layer: Moosejaw Dequindre Down Jacket

Water-resistant, Insulated, Adjustable Drawcord Hem

Men's and Women's • $179

Poles: Black Diamond Traverse Pole 

Aluminum, Adjustable with Lever Lock System, 21 oz.

$79.95 • Black Diamond | Amazon | Backcountry | REI

Gloves: The North Face GORE-TEX Gloves

Waterproof, Adjustable, Insulated, GORE-TEX

Men's • $99.95-181.63 • The North Face | Amazon | Backcountry

Women's • $99.95-100.00 • The North Face | Backcountry

Boots: Vasque Snowblime UltraDry Boot

Waterproof, Cushioned, Insulated

Men's • $149.99 • Vasque | Amazon | Backcountry

Women's • $149.99 • Vasque | Amazon | Backcountry

Gaiters: Outdoor Research Verglas Gaiter 

Waterproof, Breathable, Lightweight, Abrasion-resistant

Men's • $41.32-65 • Outdoor Research | Amazon | Backcountry | REI

Women's • $49.95-65 • Outdoor Research | Amazon | Backcountry | REI

Backcountry Safety

Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.

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Updates, Tips + Comments

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Location + Directions

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(8 within a 30 mile radius)

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