Our Life in the Pacific Northwest

Big Four Ice Caves

Big Four Ice Caves

Mountain Loop Hwy/Verlot

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

July 18, 2010


I wasn’t going to write a blog on this particular day spent at the ice caves, but decided I should as a reminder and a warning about the dangers of entering or getting too close to the ice caves.



I’ve been to Big Four Ice Caves a number of times and even blogged about our first hike to the caves back in 2007. Never in the past had we ever been inside or even close to the caves even though my children begged me. However, in July of 2010 we went with some friends and their kids for a picnic lunch and a fun day at the caves, and I did something very stupid and reckless.

On this particular day the caves were quite large, the largest I had ever seen. It was crowded and there were people inside the caves walking in from one side and out another through a tunnel. I have to admit that seeing them inside the caves created instant jealousy. I wanted to take my camera in there and photograph what I had never seen before.

                                                Vapors from the cold air

Unfortunately, I made a terrible judgment call and went along with everyone else. I went against all of my better sense and broke an extremely important rule. I kept telling myself “what are the odds that something would happen this time since there hadn’t been any incidents since 1998?”

While inside I was thoroughly enjoying the experience since I had always wondered what it would look like from the inside. The only thing that worried me was my camera getting wet from the melting water dripping down. The melting ice should have made me realize just how unstable the ice caves really are. Fortunately for us nothing terrible happened that day and we were able to return to the Big Four picnic area safely.


On August 2nd, just 9 days later, a tragedy occurred at the Big Four Ice Caves. An 11 year old little girl was killed just by being near the caves, and her mother was injured as well. It wasn’t her parent’s negligence or anyone’s reckless decisions that caused this tragic event, just being at the wrong place at the wrong time ended her young life.

** I am posting the photos for everyone to see so they can relinquish their curiosities and won’t be tempted to ever go inside the caves.



Smaller cave in front of larger cave

When I heard about this I was mortified. Just that morning I was talking with a friend about the caves since they were planning a hike for that very afternoon.  I admitted that I had gone inside and how cool it was. That evening when the news broke, my fear was that my friend was somehow involved. She had a young daughter and they were supposed to be at the caves at the very time this accident happened. For a half hour I was anxiously trying to call her and text her. In the forefront of my mind was my worst fear – that she had wanted to experience what I had been talking about that morning and was involved.

  Fortunately they were turned away while on their hike to the caves. They closed the trail after the accident happened, so thankfully they didn’t get near the caves that day.  I felt so incredibly stupid after hearing what had happened. I vowed that I would never again do something as reckless as that ever again on any trail, beach, mountain, etc.  We often underestimate the awesome and destructive power of nature.

Interesting Facts:

 *The Big Four Mountain North Face is 6,000 ft.
*They named it “Big Four” many years ago when someone spotted a number four shaped into a high snow bank
on the mountain face.
*The trail rises about 300 feet from a beginning at 1,700 feet, making Big Four the lowest glacier cave on record anywhere!
*  Debris piles form from avalanches and are able to remain there year round because of the continuous shade provided by the mountain. During the summer, snow-melt streams flow beneath the debris piles and cause caves to be formed in the ice.
*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.

Driving Directions: 
From Granite Falls, travel 26 miles east on the Mountain Loop Highway to the trailhead, on the right.
  Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest
Verlot Ranger District – 360.691.7791

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One thought on “Big Four Ice Caves

  1. Jean Deaux on said:

    I did not catch your name but I just wanted to give some input. You can’t take responsibility for negative events in other people’s lives. If you show a guy a Ferrari and he buys one and crashes, is that your doing? Sounds as if you are having some adventures. I would say share as much as you can. There are people who may never get the chance to go where you have gone. Your photos (and blog) can bring the adventure to them.


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