Hike to Goat Lake and Big Four Ice Caves

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A last minute decision to visit Goat lake turned out to be a fantastic one. Along with visiting a beautiful lake, we also got to explore ice caves. Sai and I planned to visit San Juan islands initially but on the morning of the trip, Sai told me that he hadn’t booked the ferry and we were left with ferry availability on odd schedules. So Sai decided on Goat Lake instead and I agreed since I hadn’t visited it. Sai, Meg and I drove to Goat Lake trailhead via Mountain Loop Highway. It was a clear day and we enjoyed the views en-route. We parked at the crowded trailhead and started our hike at 10 AM.

The 5 mile trail to the lake goes beside gushing Elliot Creek, through lush green forest and some amazing waterfalls. The trail has most of the steep sections only in the end but other than that it was gentle and easy with most of it in shade. I wasn’t exactly in my hiking attire which caused a little discomfort. Snohomish County Hiking Meetup group organizer, Mathew was leading a group and I was surprised that he remembered seeing me somewhere. I had been on his Mt Pilchuk hike last year. We reached lake to witness some spectacular beauty and spent some time snacking and exploring. Many had camped the previous night yet it didn’t feel crowded. It was a very pleasant atmosphere under the shade overlooking snow covered mountain. Some jumped in the cold waters too but I didn’t even wet my feet. We took some pictures and left the lake. We covered the return journey with a much faster pace and lesser breaks.

Goat Lake Route Overview

Morning, I had seen Big Four Mountain en-route and I wanted to have a clearer view of it. So I stopped at a picnic spot near the mountain. Apparently, it was trailhead for Big Four Ice caves which was only a mile away. I had forgotten about these caves after researching about it months back. We asked people who were coming back and they shared the exact location of big caves which encouraged us to go visit even though we had just returned from a 10.4 mile hike. The trail had gentle slope and the views got better as we approached the base of the mountain. The melting snow on the huge mountain created multiple cascades of waterfalls – I counted 10 – which looked breathtaking.


There were many signs on the trail depicting of avalanche and falling ice risks. Some people have died in the caves too. The trail ended and we could see some caves around. We continued further looking for bigger ones. The 2 big caves was formed below waterfalls and there were less people. We started with the first one which was around 5 feet tall and 10 feet wide. I went inside the cold dripping cave and was very excited to have been there. I went only a bit further since I was scared of falling ice. The suns rays pierced through ice and some part of the inside was bluish green. It was an awesome experience, outside it was quite hot, but inside, the cold air and dripping water created a refrigerator like atmosphere. Also a fun incident happened. Meg and I had come early and we were in the cave. Sai was searching for us but we could see him clearly from inside the cave. The confused look on his face when I shouted for him was funny to see.

Best viewed in 480p and above

We went to the next cave and it was much taller and wider. I hesitated to go inside as it was formed under a thick sheet of ice. We returned to the trailhead recalling the experience. Washington has so much stuff to keep me hooked to nature and I only crave for more. We drove back to Seattle and had dinner at an Indian restaurant before making it to home. It was a fun day with Sai and Meg.

Big Four Ice Caves Route Overview

Nikhil Navali

Categories: Adventure, Outdoors, Seattle | Tags: , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Hike to Goat Lake and Big Four Ice Caves

  1. Pingback: Seattle Outdoors | Life is an Adventure

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