Big Four Ice Caves. You’ve probably been there, right? Or at least heard of it? You might have seen this place in the news, since time and time again, people go into this dangerous cave, when it’s posted everywhere NOT TO. But have you been there when the snow level is so low you feel like you could reach out and grab a snow ball? Have you noticed the way the mountains reflect in the water surrounding the boardwalk so distinctively that you could almost step out and walk on them?
The snow will be coming soon and although this hike is a popular snowshoe, right now it’s worthy of going. We went the day after Thanksgiving and the entire way, I was struck by the beauty of this well-known trail. The main parking area is currently closed, but the picnic area is open and call me crazy, but I think I like this way better. Let me show you why….
See that long boardwalk? This is the beginning of your hike and as you follow along the board walk, the mountains sit right there up in front of you. It’s incredible that a place this beautiful is so easy to access. Also- this trail is for ALL levels. It’s easy, you guys! 2.2 miles roundtrip!
When our family does this hike, we talk in the car beforehand about how we will NOT be going in the cave, WHY it’s dangerous and how we’ll most likely see people that choose to go in. For me as a Mom, it helps to have this conversation first. We want to enjoy our time and be as relaxed as possible, ya know? So, prep your kids beforehand. On this particular day, we brought a picnic and sat back from the cave to admire the views while we ate.
When we did this hike last, it was fall, a few years back. We picked huckleberries along the way and loved what an easy hike this is for kids. Now it’s almost winter and the cave is big, the berries are gone and the snow is threatening to cover the trail any day.
The Mountain Loop Highway is clear and the drive is gorgeous. Each season seems to offer something new and wonderful around here. Isn’t it great to be able to enjoy these things with our families? So here are the details:
Who: Everyone. This hike is 2.2 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of only 220ft.
Where: From I-5 in Everett, take exit 194 for Snohomish/Wenatchee, then take exit 204 for Lake Stevens. Follow this road for 2 miles, then turn left onto Hwy 9/9N Granite Falls. Proceed for 1.5 miles, turn right onto E 92/Granite Falls. In 6 miles, come to a roundabout that has a log sign for Granite Falls. Take the following roundabout to Quarry Road and stay on it through two more roundabouts.
Come to a stop sign and turn left onto the Mountain Loop Highway. In 10 miles, pass the Verlot Ranger Station on the left. A mile after the ranger station, cross a blue and grey bridge. 13 miles from the bridge are two signs for the Ice Caves on the right hand side of the road. The first one will be for the picnic area. A quarter-mile beyond that is a sign marked Ice Caves Trailhead; turn in here. There is a paved parking lot with plenty of parking, vault toilets and a self-serve pay station for a one day Northwest Forest Pass, which is required for the trail. (source WTA)
When: Now! Grab the kids and go before the snow falls and be sure to check recent trail reports before you head out. Things change quickly.