Hiking Big Four Ice Caves in Washington

Location- In the North Cascades Mountain Loop Highway

Time and distance- Roughly 1 hour 50 minutes and 70 miles from Seattle

If you have lived in Seattle for as long as I do, you will agree with me about the unpredictability of the weather. True it rains a lot, and probably that’s how the state of Washington got to be known as the “Evergreen State”. You will wake up one fine weekend to see it gloomy, depressing, and raining, only to go back to sleep and wake up in a few hours to find it absolutely sunny and gorgeous outside. If that has been the case and you don’t have a lunch invitation, you are not on call, and you are tired of watching TV, pick up your camera, hiking shoes, and car keys and gear up for a drive followed by a hike to the Big Four Ice Caves.

Big Four Mountains

Why Big Four?

Because it’s an easy hike, roughly 1.2 miles one way, with amazing views of the mountains, a bridge to cross over the Stilliguamish River , waterfalls, snow fields, and like the name suggests, ice caves. Yeah, you heard me right. Caves made of real, pristine white ice. You can spend the day, or spend a couple of hours. You can pack a lunch and eat by the caves (please don’t venture inside) or near the picnic area by the trail right before the hike. I’ve heard a lot about the Salzburg ice caves in Austria (though I hear they don’t let you take pictures inside), but Big Four is one of its kind, something unique I haven’t seen anywhere in Washington.

Walls of the ice caves

When to visit?

I’ve visited once in February and once in July. Fall should be great too.

A word of caution-

It is better not to venture into the caves. Don’t be coaxed or cajoled into entering the caves, even if for a bet, an adventurous picture of you inside the cave, or to impress your friends into believing how brave you are. Accidents and deaths are not unheard of. I was happy enjoying the air conditioned breeze from outside the cave. The icy breeze mixed with the warm air outside gives an amazing feeling.

Happy Hiking.

PS: Pics taken by me and my friend KG.


One of the many ice caves

Inside the ice cave

Inside the ice cave

Peeping into a kaleidoscope of amazing ice formations

Ice and Waterfalls

Ice caves formed of snow debris

Beautiful icicle formations on fronds

More icicle formations on leaves and fronds

Bye Bye Big Four Mountains


  • Good, so you visited Big 4 ice caves too. We visited in Summers of 2005 when my wife was pregnant and my son was just enjoying on top of the caves. Initially my wife didn’t like the idea for 1.2 mile hike, but she also enjoyed after seeing the view.
    I liked this place so much that when I visited Seattle in March 2010 with couple of other colleagues I took them here and they also enjoyed the place too much.

  • nayan says:

    amazing…!! chaliye jao…

  • Devasmita says:

    Upanshu, isn’t big four ice caves awesome? It is one of its kind, never seen anything like that. It’s amazing we have both been to so many common places, isn’t it? :)

    nayan, thank you !! Dhonnobaad :)

    • nayan says:

      i have seen one interesting cave in Bastar district named “kotamsar Gufa”…..it is naturally made limestone cave 70 mtr down under…..a small amount of light can make them glow like 1000 wt bulb….alas…..those places are painted RED now…

      • Nayan,

        Good to read about Kotamsar Gufa and simultaneously sad to know that its painted RED. I wish that that menace would be over soon and we could develop infrastructre to make it an enjoyable experience for all.

  • travellers says:

    Hi Devasmita,

    Great pics. Thanks for acquainting us with the fascinating world out there.


  • Mahesh Semwal says:

    Dear Devasmita,

    Its amazing. Totally a new experience to me. No words for the pictures.

    One can visit these caves only in winters or any time?

    Is it dangerous to go inside the caves?

    Thanks for sharing with us.

  • gk says:

    Maybe next time we will do it together! sounds/looks very very amazing

  • nandanjha says:

    so close to a big city doesn’t sound real :-)

    thanks for sharing.

    Pics – They would look even better at a bigger size. I would send you some tips. Thanks again.

  • Yes, they are awesome and that is the reason I visited couple of time. The only complain I have is you have not posted any long shot picture which shows all the caves. I am not sure if I can upload some on this blog.

  • I too wish Devasmita that the pictures would be bigger for the readers to enjoy the full beauty of the place.

  • I am reading this post on a cold winter day here in London.. And should i say it was a chilly experience? Haha..
    Well, like almost all of your posts, the narration is fabulous! Pictures appear small on this layout I guess, but still clear!
    I have always wanted to go hiking.. Will begin looking out for good places around! Thanks for inspiring!

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