Our Life in the Pacific Northwest

Big Four Ice caves

Big Four Ice Caves

Mountain Loop Hwy/Verlot

July 17, 2007



I had never been to the ice caves before and neither had my friend, which I guess is odd around here since everyone gasps when they find out. So we decided to see what all of the fuss was about, and took all of the kids to the Big Four Ice Caves. By the way, “Big Four” refers to the name of the mountain that backdrops the caves and from which the waterfalls fall. They named it “Big Four” many years ago when someone spotted a number four shaped into a high snow bank on the mountain face. Interesting… I know.





There used to be a very popular hotel near the trailhead, which is now a picnic area. The name of the hotel was…yep, the Big Four Inn. It was built around 1920 and burnt to the ground in 1949. Only the tall fireplace and the sidewalks still exist. It is a beautiful spot for a hotel, I can see why they chose this specific place.




The trail is only about a mile, very easy for the younger kids we take along. It starts out on a boardwalk that travels over a marsh and it is highly maintained. The elevation gain is minimal, nothing too strenuous,  just enough to warm you up a bit. The scenery along the trail was beautiful and the kids found several activities along the way. There were several uprooted trees and climbing opportunities. Just beyond the dense forest you can see the 6,000 ft north face of Big Four Mountain, which is a phenomenal sight, especially the cascading waterfalls on the face of the mountain.




Through our research the night before on the conditions of the trail, we learned that the foot bridge used to cross the Stillaguamish River had been washed out during our last flood.



Fallen trees were situated across to form a makeshift bridge which was very easy for even the littler kids to manage. So between me and my friend, we had five kids to get across to the other side. One or two found it to be somewhat intimidating; the others relished in the challenge of it.




I believe it made the trail more fun and once we were on the other side the kids were proud to have made it. When we came to the signs warning of the danger of avalanches, we knew we were close to the ice caves, the kids excitement began to build again.









Once we reached the clearing to the ice caves we were somewhat disappointed by the size. The kids were amazed, but from the photos we had seen, we expected it to be a better spectacle. The incredible snow pile was amazing, but the caves were smaller than we were expecting. Our enthusiasm increased the closer we came to the openings, for there was a thick vapor of cold air billowing out creating a need for jackets. The kids were fascinated.




After spending about an hour of playing on the snow and boulders, we decided to head back. A group of teenagers had arrived shortly before and began to climb the snow pile, which was prohibited, and they went inside the cave which was also forbidden.




 The kids were shocked at their lack of good judgment, but still we watched until the teens were almost to the top, which was quite a distance. I kept expecting one to fall into a crevasse. They must have made it down safely since we didn’t hear any reports of dim-witted teens falling to their death.



As we left and headed back to the trail, my 12 year old daughter was stung by a bee on the arm. Luckily we had an antiseptic spray that contained anesthetic to ease the sting.





Amazingly enough, as we reached the picnic area to let the kids run around, my youngest daughter was ALSO stung by a bee. Two bee stings on one hike, what are the chances of that? 


“Big Four Inn”    





                                                         Dumb teens being reckless.     



Big Four Inn Fireplace. 



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5 thoughts on “Big Four Ice caves

  1. I love this hike! Sounds like you all had an adventurous time despite the small caves. I have experienced very large and open caves most often in late July or August. It really depends on the amount of hot weather there has been.

    I have made this hike countless times. I have been with groups that include elderly people, as well as infants. Very family friendly (when the trail and bridges are intact.)

    For the adventurous, and experienced climber there is a rough free climb that starts from far right of the snow field and follows up to the left all the way to the top of the face behind the “glacier”. It is a tough one (takes a crazy person or lots of guts) but well worth the view.


  2. I forgot I wanted to post this link that explains how the ice caves develop. It’s rather interesting.




  3. Thanks for the site David, very informative.


  4. Dana Schutte on said:

    I grew up in Granite Falls and have been to the icecaves many times. These pictures are awesome its nice to know people still go up there.


  5. I guess I’m a little late to comment, but it looks like a great trip. Nice to be able to take kids to such spectacular spots. Your whole site looks impressive.


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