Enjoy first signs of winter on Ice Caves hike

I made my first snow angel of the season on Sunday. I had to drive a bit to find the snow, but it was worth it.

A friend and I headed out the Mountain Loop. We drove as far as I was confident going without putting on chains, just a mile or two short of where the pavement ends. By that point, the road was covered with about 5 inches of snow. A couple cars had clearly driven the road recently. Presumably they were lucky enough to have all-wheel drive, which my car does not.

We stopped, marveled at the gorgeous trees, took a few photos, threw a few snowballs and then headed back to hike the Big Four Ice Caves.

The gate is open to the picnic area, but not the trailhead. An inch or so of snow covered the ground.

The trail is easy to follow, even in the snow. The bridges are really slippery though, so watch out for that. The trail itself is fine. The gravel and rocks underneath are nice and grippy.

Big Four is a super fast, easy hike. We were the first ones up there that morning, but we were soon followed by a father and his two young sons and several other groups, including a couple with a baby.

The caves are fascinating to look at right now. They’re still clearly visible, as the snow isn’t very deep. The tops are cracking in many areas, making lines of blue. The vegetation is covered in a light layer of snow. Even the shelf fungi were wearing little snow hats.

The whole area was lovely and peaceful. We regretted not bringing a thermos of cocoa.

I’ll bring some next time. Although I suspect the next time I head out that way, I’ll need snowshoes.

Bring on the snow!

If you go

Big Four Ice Caves is a short, easy hike, only 2 miles roundtrip. It only gains about 200 feet of elevation. To get there, follow the Mountain Loop about 25 miles past Granite Falls. Turn into the picnic area, which is clearly marked with a large sign.

At some point, when the snow gets deep enough, the county will close the Mountain Loop at Deer Creek, a few miles before the Ice Caves. If you’d like to check on the status of the road or trails, call the Verlot Public Service Center at 360-691-7791. You can also stop in. It’s open Friday to Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., although they may soon be open only Saturday and Sunday. Check their website for details.

Important: Do not go in or near the ice caves. They are dangerous. Large chunks of falling ice can be fatal. This area can also have avalanches, so once the snow starts piling up, check the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center or call the Verlot Public Service Center to check in.

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