Hiked On: December 19, 2004
Weather Conditions: Low Fog, Occasional Rain & Sleet, approximately 40°F
Distance from Seattle: 70 miles
Forest Service: Trail #723, Darrington Ranger District
Diann & I picked up this hike also based on a recommendation from the same book as we used from last week's hike ( Winter Hikes in Puget Sound & the Olympic Foothills: Mostly Snow-Free Trails from Lowland Forests to Summit Views , ISBN 1570611491). The hike was approximately 2.5 miles round trip on all improved trails (approximately 0.5 miles of wooden-plank boardwalks and occasional bridges, the remainder was pebbled). There was a long footbridge going over the Stillaguamish River, which is a beautiful (and presumably glacially-fed, based on the color of it) river. The actual ice caves themselves are formed by snow/ice debris falling off the rock face of the Big Four Mountain and packing at the bottom; the waterfalls flowing under then melt out the bottoms and create the caves. The US Forest Service indicates that entering the caves or climbing on the ice pack is subject to extreme danger, so we didn't do that… yet. It took us approximately 1.25 hours to get to the trailhead and about 1.5 hours of easy hiking to do the round-trip.