There are some places we go that just feel like home. We’ve been there many times over the years, sometimes multiple times a year. We’ve seen these places in all different seasons and weather. Big Four Ice Caves is one of these places for my family. Aaron took me there for the first time before we were even married. It was my go-to hike when Gabe was a baby, when I didn’t know where else to go and had nobody to go with me. It was where he first experienced snow.
Big Four was Annika’s first hike, at seven weeks old. I went with two other moms with multiple children and it took us 2 hours to get everyone fed, diapered, nursed, clothed, and ready to hike from when we arrived. I’ve been there when the snow was just melting out, and shortly before the first snow fell in the autumn.
I haven’t been able to get out hiking for the last month, and was starting to feel pretty desperate. We all needed to sleep in and had to be back for an event in the evening, so I figured Big Four would be a good choice for a low-key outing. The weather was perfect – just warm enough from the autumn sunlight.
The colors of the foliage were muted in their intensity, and seemed to me to be a bit less bright than other years. Sometimes we have to look harder for the beauty; sometimes we find it in unconventional places.
We saw all kinds of fungi on this trail. Fall is the best time for seeing mushrooms and other fruiting bodies, and we were delighted by the variety we encountered.
We had enough time and the hike was short enough that Gabe could take lots of photos without annoying us too much.
The Forest Service has placed some new warning signs since the last time we were there.
These signs kind of freaked Annika out, and she was nervous to be in the basin. We sat well back from the caves and the cliff face, and enjoyed some snacks. There was no water in the stream bed, so it was easy to cross over to the little pond.
The social paths by the pond are pretty grown over, and the light wasn’t right to make the water pretty, so we didn’t spend much time over there.
We had to bundle up with our warm clothes for the hour we spent in the basin. The sun was behind the mountain, and there was still plenty of cold air filtering down from the ice caves. The caves look to be well developed this year, and were interesting to view from a distance.
We enjoyed just sitting and relaxing there. But eventually we needed to return to the car. I felt happy and refreshed from just a brief afternoon outing.
If You Go: Fall is the perfect time to visit the Ice Caves. The risk of avalanche is very low, and the summer crowds are gone. The caves have formed almost as much as they will before winter’s snows start building them up again. Fall colors are pretty and the air is fresh. Round Trip distance is 2 miles, with 200 feet elevation gain. The trail is super well groomed from beginning to end, and even the youngest hikers will be able to walk it. Please heed the warning signs and stay well back from the cliff face, and above all, do not enter the caves. You’ll need a NW Forest Pass to park, which you can pick up at the Ranger Station in Verlot if they are open, or at the trailhead if the kiosk is stocked. The road closes in the winter at the Deer Creek Snow Park.