Big Four Ice Caves, Granite Falls

#1 of 9 in Things to do in Granite Falls
Geologic Formation · Nature / Park
Big Four Mountain is a mountain in the Cascade Range of Washington, located 21 miles (34 km) east of Granite Falls. The mountain is about 6,180 ft (1,880 m) high. At the bottom of its steep, 4,200 ft (1,300 m) high north face, debris piles form from avalanches and are able to remain there year round because of the continuous shade provided by the mountain. At an elevation between 2,450 ft (750 m) and 1,950 ft (590 m), this ice forms the lowest-elevation glacier in the lower 49 states. During the summer, snow-melt streams flow beneath the debris piles and cause caves to be formed in the ice.

The Big Four Ice Caves Trail, a designated National Recreation Trail, (#723) is one of the most popular hikes in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest attracting over 50,000 visitors per year. Frequently exceeding several hundred hikers per day, the trailhead's two separate parking areas are often filled beyond capacity occasionally forcing hikers to park along neighboring Mountain Loop Road.

A severe autumn storm in November 2006 caused flooding of the South Fork Stillaguamish River destroying a major footbridge to the Big Four Ice Caves. Estimated repair costs to replace the damaged span were approximately $425,000, and repairs were completed in June 2009. While the trail is open to the public, the snowfield itself was closed temporarily due to cave-ins and slides which have killed four hikers in incidents in 1998, 2010, and in 2015. Because of the danger, hikers are advised to stay out of the caves.
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Big Four Ice Caves reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.5
104 reviews
  • Long drive from Tacoma but well worth the trip. Took my students on a field trip and really enjoyed our time at the park. The hike up to the caves was fairly easy. Even though it was raining, it was....  more »
  • I called it "almost nice" because the bridge is removed and you can't get the last couple hundred feet. But even so the hike to the bridge was really nice. If you're there in the winter it takes...  more »
  • This place is gorgeous and well maintained. The hike is not too difficult, but of course it depends on the person. It's about 2.2 miles. There is a picnic area to eat at the beginning of the hike. It's just amazing to walk through this huge forest, the water in the river is so clear, and then you get to the ice caves. Depending on when you go, there can be several and they stretch out from the mountain. We went during the hotter months, so it had receded, although no less an impressive sight. After hiking, feeling the cool air from them is refreshing on a hot day. There are all sizes of rocks/boulders in the area, and the view is gorgeous. Take plenty of water. You will get thirsty!!! But please, PLEASE follow the guidelines! The ice caves are not some stable structure, and people have been killed because they were one or in the caves, posing for a picture or just because. Large chunks of ice can break off and bounce and roll. There are warning signs, and even a memorial. Please be careful. It's beautiful there.
  • Pretty impressive, but probably still didn’t meet expectations only because they were built up so much from reading the reviews. Better to come earlier in the spring if weather allows as the caves start to melt & decrease in size as temperatures rise. Note- you need a National Forest Pass or Inter-Agency Pass to park here and get there by noon if you want to find any vacant parking.
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