Visitors know Washington state for its rugged seaside landscape and abundance of natural beauty. The state contains many natural attractions that make it a popular destination for tourists and travelers.
One draw is the two ice caves in the north and south of the state. We’ll dive into the ice caves of Washington and get a better understanding of what makes an ice cave.
What Are Ice Caves?
Ice Caves are caves that host ice year-round. While some have more ice than others, they are all in bedrock and register at a lower temperature than natural rock cave formations.
These caves are unique because, for ice to form, there must be a natural water source within the cave. The low temperature of these caves, combined with the water source and the bedrock location, allows them to trap the winter wind and keep it in circulation throughout the summer.
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Are Ice Caves Safe?
Though ice caves are beautiful and full of natural fauna, they can be dangerous. Hikers have ventured into ice caves to find themselves trapped by a sudden avalanche. Even without avalanches, unstable snow and slippery ice patches can pose a danger to curious explorers.
As a casual viewer, it is safer to admire ice caves outside. Though you may not get the same experience of seeing the full ins and outs of the cave for yourself, there is plenty to see while staying safely in the mouth of the cave.
These Ice Caves in Washington Can Be Visited Year Round
No matter the time of year you plan your visit, the caves will be open for you to see. Even in the summertime, you can experience the beauty of these phenomenal structures. Let’s look at two of Washington’s most prominent ice caves.
Guler Ice Caves
Location: Trout Lake, WA
How Long Is Guler Ice Caves? 650ft in length
About: The Guler Ice Caves are 20,000 years old and are at the base of Mt. Adams. Some think the caves formed from the lava flow from an eruption.
Though it is not a long cave, it has four sections separated by collapsed cave sections. The floor of the cave is solid ice. You can see many stalagmites and stalactites from the top of the stairs that lead into the caverns.
The mouth of the cave is easily accessible year-round and is a perfect stop to add to your snowshoe and cross-country tour. Be sure to bring a torch with you while inspecting the entrance, as it is very dark.
Big Four Ice Caves
Location: Granite Falls, WA
How Long Is Big Four Ice Cave? 3,168ft in length
About: The Big Four Ice Caves are at the bottom of Big Four Mountain. These caves can be reached by the Big Four Ice Trail year-round.
Much more extensive than the Guler Ice Caves, these caves formed over thousands of years by ice melting in summer at the base of the Big Four Mountain. Due to the dangerous nature of the caves, hikers are highly discouraged from entering the mouth of the cave.
These caves have seen several unfortunate tragedies due to slippery ice within the structures and outside avalanches. However, there is still much beauty to be seen along the trail and from the mouth of the cave. The Big Four Mountain is also a stunning sight.
How Were the Big Four Ice Caves Formed?
The Big Four Ice Caves form through a repeated process of avalanches occurring in the winter, then melting to form the hollow structures of the caves in the summer. This has happened over many years. Due to the shadowy location of the mountain’s base, this cycle continues each year and allows the cave to grow.
What Do You Wear to Ice Caves?
No matter what time of year you visit Washington’s ice caves, you’ll want to make sure you take warm clothing with you. When you reach the base of the ice caves, you’ll most likely find cooler temperatures.
Even if you visit during warmer months, it may be a good idea to stick a scarf and a jacket in your backpack for when you reach the caves. For proper shoe attire, wear snowshoes or other shoes with excellent grip as the areas around the caves may be slick.
Is It Worth Visiting the Ice Caves in Washington?
Now you know a little more about the Washington ice caves. These spectacular natural formations are tourist attractions with high traffic, and it’s not hard to see why.
Located in some of the most beautiful areas within the state of Washington, these rare caves are definitely worth the trip. If you wish to hike the trails or hit the slopes, these ice caves are a unique stop that will improve your journey.
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