Big Four Ice Caves
A couple weeks ago, we had a busy weekend.. I didn’t want to sit around the house all weekend (or maybe I was avoiding chores), so I decided to take the dogs hiking. It had been about a year since I’d been to Big Four Ice Caves, so we headed out there for the day.
As we drove, the sky was looking pretty stormy, but I kept going with the hope that the tiny bit of light sky at the end would turn out to be a nice day in the mountains. Once we got past the stormy clouds, the weather improved a little, but there was still intermittent rain at times.
Mountain Loop Highway, the road to Big Four Ice Caves, passes by this station. You can buy your park pass here, or use the restroom. A Northwest Forest Pass is required to park at Big 4 Ice Caves, so if you don’t have one, stop here to buy one.
Across the street from the station is a giant log with this plaque on it.
Each of those black spots on the log used to have small plaques on them as well, marking off important moments in history in the past 700 years, such as the civil war and the invention of the steam engine. When this tree sprouted, Leonardo DaVinci was alive.
Next stop was the Big Four Ice Caves parking lot.
There used to be a lodge here, but it burned down at some point.
Quincy was a happy dog! He loves being out and about. Ok, who am I kidding, he’s ALWAYS happy.
I have a special fondness for liverwort (the strange, flat, scaly plants below the log). They like similar environments as moss and ferns, but I believe they need to stay moist a bit more than moss and ferns.
Although not a concern during the summer, once you got past these signs, you could definitely tell that winters are pretty harsh up here.
It was pretty clear that many trees had been wiped out by avalanches. Only the toughest plants survive this area! Even the small plants showed signs of avalanche abuse.
The area below the ice caves is very rocky.
The melting ice and waterfalls produce a lot of moisture in the air, and after just a few minutes walking around in the mist, both dogs were pretty damp. They really didn’t seem to care or even notice though.
Quincy was waiting to say “hi”. Bentley was waiting to bark.
Looking away from the ice caves, the amount of mist was rather surprising. This all appeared to be from evaporation.
More beautiful liverwort, this time with fruiting bodies.
What makes these strange holes, all in a row? Woodpeckers? Insects? I don’t know, but there was definitely some method to the hole-making, since they were all lined up in neat little rows on this fallen log.
I believe these are also a liverwort, rather than moss. I could be wrong, but they have some liverwort charactaristics.
I believe this mushroom is “chicken of the woods”, but I have not properly IDed it. These mushrooms were growing all over, but most of them were far up on dead tree trunks. Even this one was almost out of reach.
It was past huckleberry season, but there were still some wild blueberries. Wild blueberries are much more sour than the farmed varieties, and not really all that enjoyable, unless you like super sour things. They’re great in pancakes though! I don’t know if you’re allowed to pick things in state parks, so I didn’t touch it.
While other people had their kids or girlfriends pose in front of the ice caves, I had my dogs pose… I heard people talking about it. Apparently we were cute. Please note, the people climbing on the ice caves are NOT supposed to be up there. The ice melts during the summer, causing the caves to become fragile. People have died climbing on them!
They even have a rock telling you so.
This is a really nice and pretty easy hike. The trails are some of the best manicured trails in the state, and the incline isn’t too crazy. It’s very dog friendly, and you’ll probably encounter quite a few on this hike. It’s also pretty popular with people, and even on a somewhat rainy day there were crowds. If you want to get away from people, this isn’t the trail for you, but if you don’t mind the company, the spectacular views more than make up for the people.
Have you been to Big Four with your dogs? Tell us about it!