While Washington has numerous caverns including the Ape Caves and Big Four Ice Caves, there are none quite like the Guler Ice Caves located in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest not far from Trout Lake! These unique lava tubes are filled with awe-inspiring ice formations nearly year round and can make for an unforgettable Northwest adventure.
Mount Adams is surrounded by several lava tubes, many of which aren't accessible to venture through. Luckily, however, you can still stop by and explore the Guler Ice Caves which were formed thousands of years ago from a pahoehoe basaltic lava flow! The caves can be reached just a few miles west of Trout Lake on SR141, or from a short hike or snowshoeing trip through Atkisson Sno-Park. They provide a parking lot, restroom and icy wooden stairway down to the cave floor.
Heading down, the slippery stairway descends about 20 feet into the cave where the floor is also covered in a thin layer of ice. Inside, the cave measures about 650 feet long and is divided into four different sections that are separated by collapsed ceilings.
As soon as you enter, you'll be immediately surrounded by jaw-dropping crystal clear stalactites and stalagmites. During the winter, these ice structures are formed from dripping water that freezes and they stay preserved since the eastern end of the cave serves as a trap to keep in heavy cold air!
Unlike many other places in the Indian Heaven Wilderness, you can access these impressive lava tubes any time of the year. Some of the ice melts during the summer, but it later re-forms so there's a new, unique formation to see every time you visit!
Here are a few of the wondrous ice sculptures seen in this ice cave. They're truly mesmerizing to view up close!
The cave also has a notably important history and once served as a major ice supply and place for storing huckleberries for early pioneers from Hood River and The Dalles. Some of the ice from here was even used to chill drinks in local taverns!
While planning your trip to this incredible ice cave, don't forget to bring a high powered flashlight, boots with a lot of traction and warm clothing since the cave stays lower than 32 degrees F! The ceiling can be low at times, so be extra careful if you don't wear a helmet. After you're done traveling through, be sure to check out the natural bridges, Cheese Cave and Ape Caves that are also nearby!