I LOVE hiking. Long hikes, short hikes, hard hikes, easy hikes. I love exploring the outdoors while getting a bit of a workout. I especially love hiking when I can include my daughter. Of course, kids have different levels of endurance on different days, and what works for her one day might be way too much for her the next. Whenever we’re planning a hiking excursion, we try to read as much about the difficulty and other peoples’ experiences as possible to try to gauge whether we think she can handle it. The funny thing is, though, she always can. She complains sometimes (one time she even fell asleep!), but she always makes it and loves remembering it afterwards. Case in point: the time we visited the Big Four Ice Caves when she was only 3.
Now, this is not a particularly difficult hike, nor a very long one. Just over 2 miles, roundtrip. It’s just that when you put a 3 year-old in the car for more than an hour, and then try to get her to keep pace on a mostly uphill trip, you simply don’t know what to expect. Despite our fears, she did great, and we had an awesome day making memories in the mountains and learning not to underestimate our little explorer!
If you aren’t familiar, the Big Four Ice Caves is a scenic, um… avalanche field! Big Four Mountain has a very steep north face, and over the winter the snow and ice slides down forming a small year-round glacier. In the summer the snow melts into deep and beautiful caves, which you can hike right up to – but really shouldn’t.
In this photo you can see the roof of the cave at the bottom, the ice field, and the waterfall forming the cave at the top. The caves are large enough to easily walk through, but can collapse without warning.
The caves are cool, but the rest of the hike is pretty great as well. We could easily spend a full day picnicking here and enjoying the scenery. The path starts out in a boggy area with a floating boardwalk, then heads uphill into the forest, and comes out into the large avalanche area – a clearing filled with boulders and patches of snow. The clean mountain streams and abundant wildlife are a serious plus.
If you go: bring a kid! This is a great beginner’s hike to introduce a little one to the wilderness. Just be safe around the caves – keeping more distance than you think is necessary is a good bet. I’d also recommend timing your trip between June and August for an easy hike with maximum flora and fauna and low-risk of avalanches. Wait until late summer though, and the ice caves may have melted, so check recent trip reports.
If you go, or have been before, I’d love to hear about how you liked it in the comments!