3 reasons to head to the Washington Big Four Ice Caves and one very stupid thing not to do while there
Update: Due to a fatal accident at the Big Four Ice Caves in July 2015, the trail and caves have been indefinitely closed. Please check the USDA Forest Service and Washington Trails Association before you venture out.
It’s that time of year again. Time to throw on a pair of shorts, throw a sweatshirt in a day pack and strap on some good walking shoes or hiking boots. The Washington Big Four Ice Caves are open and you don’t want to miss it. This natural wonder is worth the drive out to Mount Baker. After all, it’s only once a year you get to see these ice caves in Washington state.
Easy day trip from Seattle
The drive to the Big Four Ice Caves is about an hour and a half from Seattle. Locals don’t need a reason to get out into nature usually, but if you have been feeling a bit sluggish and need an excuse to smell a few trees and gaze at some snow, the ice caves are a big one. The Big Four Ice Caves only open up for a few weeks every year. They are never the same. Every year is magical for adults and children alike.
The hike up to the Big Four Ice Caves is easy enough for a two year old to do it. Trust me, I’ve done it with a two year old. I’ve even carried an infant in a baby carrier up the trail to the ice caves. The path is well marked and maintained, making it easy for hikers young and old to experience the ice caves for the first or fiftieth time.
Snow in summer
Although you can get to snow pretty easily in the Pacific Northwest (Mount Rainier has snow year round), these Washington ice caves are the easiest way to play in the ice and snow in summer with minimal effort. You will want to wear shorts and a t-shirt for the hike up, but as you make your way over that final crest you will start to feel the arctic breeze from the Big Four Ice Caves hit your skin. The closer you get to the ice caves, the cooler you will feel. Soon that bead of sweat rolling off your upper lip will be no more. Pull out the sweatshirt you brought and you will be fine. Hike to the farthest ice cave first if you can (it does get more slippery the farther out you go normally). Make your way back peeking into the caves and up at the waterfalls, but please, don’t do anything stupid, like go in.
Do not go into the Big Four Ice Caves. I repeat- do not go into the ice caves. People die in there. There are warning signs everywhere, and yet, what do people do? They go in the ice caves. Yes, you can get some cool shots in there, but is it worth your life? What about the life of your kid as you bring them with you? The ice caves are just as beautiful from the front I promise. Your kids can still lick snow and kick the walls all they want from the outside. So stay out already would you!