Big Four Ice Caves Hike (Mountain Loop Highway)

Autumn hanging out at the Big Four Ice Caves
Autumn stays warm in front of the Big Four Ice Caves.

Another gorgeous weekend in the Seattle area provided the opportunity to hit the trail. We got a mid-morning start today and headed back to the Darrington District on the Snoqualmie-Mt. Baker National Forest where we hiked the Big Four Ice Caves trail – located about 1.5 hour north of Seattle on the Mountain Loop Highway.

Despite the beautiful hike, the drive up to the trailhead is as much fun as the hike. The Mountain Loop Highway is spectacular this time of year as the deciduous trees prepare for the winter months. There are a few small towns that dot the landscape but it’s pretty much just forested land along the Stillaguamish River.

20101017_0526The weather was a little cool this morning and produced ice on the boardwalks in the lower part of the trail. Ethan loved scarping all the ice off the boardwalk planks and resting benches. He also liked to taste it which we tried to put a stop too. He is an explorer and is very comfortable on a trail. He’ll explore anything and everything along the trail which is why it took about an hour to go the one mile length of the trail, and 45 minutes back down. We answered his questions and identified flora along the way. We also gently persuaded him to keep trekking. Don’t get us wrong, we know it’s all about the journey and not the end, but there are only so many mushrooms we enjoy viewing.

Autumn yapped most of the way up before succumbing to yapping fatigue and fell asleep. We woke her up for pictures, which she kindly obliged us with, and fell back asleep. This was her first hike in our Kelty Child Carrier and she did superb. It was nice for Laura to move around a bit more and I was happy to not have to chase Ethan.

20101017_0579We actually avoided the ice caves. We stayed on the trail and viewed them from a far where our kids were safe. There are plenty of warnings to not go near them or in them because of the chance that the ice will fall. Just a few months ago an 11 year old was killed while near one. But from what we could see it was a neat formation to visit.

We’re glad for the mid-morning start because when we got back to the trailhead the parking lot was almost full. There is no doubt this is a popular hike. The trail is one mile up a gentle slope to the base of the Big Four Mountains. The trail is in great shape with the first 1/8 mile paved and the rest either a wood boardwalk or compacted crushed rock. There is/was a lot of trail work that has made this a very accessible hike.

This is definitely a hike we’d do again with friends and family. It’s an easy hike for children (Ethan did the entire hike except for stream crossing where the bridge was being repaired) and a great drive through the forest.