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Guler Ice Cave Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Inside The Tube, Guler Ice Cave (bobcat)
Entrance, Guler Ice Cave (bobcat)
Ice-talagmites, Guler Ice Cave (bobcat)
Exiting the second stretch, Guler Ice Cave (bobcat)
Road route to the Ice Cave area early in spring (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Caltopo
  • Start point: Ice Cave Seasonal Trailhead
  • Ending Point: Guler Ice Cave
  • Hike type: In and out
  • Distance: 2.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 80 feet
  • High point: 2,840 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: All year, but best in early to mid-spring
  • Family Friendly: Yes, with caution
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No


Hike Description

The Guler Ice Cave is the main “tourist” cave in an area which has scores of lava tubes. All of these tubes are the result of lava flows 12,000 – 18,000 years ago that issued from the crater now occupied by Lake Wapiki in Indian Heaven. The Forest Service does not publicize the locations of the other caves in order to reduce the possibility of vandalism and also the spread of white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that is devastating to bat populations. Some of these caves, however, appear on topo maps although most of them are on private property to the east of the Ice Cave. The cave stretches discontinuously for about 650 feet, with multiple exits and entrances. Note that navigating the entire Ice Cave will require crawling and squeezing through tight passages. You should wear winter clothing, gloves, good footwear, protective headgear, and knee pads, as well as carry a good headlamp with a second source of light.

The Ice Cave was known to Native Americans and also to early settlers in the Trout Lake valley. Chunks of ice were taken from it and sent by wagon to the towns along the Columbia River. Later, the ice cave became a commercial operation managed by a Mr. Christian Guler; it was used for storing produce from the local area until the time came to take it to market. You should be able to pick up a detailed map of the cave at the Mt. Adams Ranger Station, on your left as you drive out of Trout Lake towards the cave.

The best time to visit the Ice Cave is in early spring before mid-April. The temperature inside the cave’s Crystal Grotto is close to freezing and has, in the past, put on spectacular displays of ice formations as melting snow drips through into the chamber from above. With increasingly warmer winters, however, these displays are now much diminished. (The photos here do not do justice to some of the spectacular shows of the past.) Those coming to visit the cave between November 1st and March 31st will need to purchase a Washington State Sno-Park permit. While you can drive right to the Ice Cave, in order to see the best displays, you should come before FR 24, the main access road, is open to the vehicles. A short hike along the snow-covered road will take you to the turnoff for the Guler Ice Cave and its picnic area. (The turnoff sign alludes to George B. McClellan, who passed through here on his trans-Washington Territory survey mission in 1852. McClellan late became Commander of the Army of the Potomac and General-in-chief of the Union Army during the Civil War.) There’s an interpretive sign near the cave entrance, which has a detailed map of the cave.

Most visitors simply descend the ladder at the main entrance pit and visit the Crystal Grotto. Because the cool air is trapped in this part of the tube, there is an icy floor at all times of the year and microspikes are a good idea. You can make your way over some breakdown to the icy part of the cave, where you can view ice stalactites, stalagmites, and curtains. A constricted passage to the right takes you farther into the Crystal Grotto, where there may be more formations. The narrow passage opens up a little, and then you reach a dead end.

Return to the entrance steps and continue west. Keep right to find the narrow entrance to the Crack Room. You’ll need to crawl here before you reach a “secret” chamber with a smooth lava floor. Next, also on your right, admire a small natural lava arch: crawling underneath it takes you to another hidden chamber where you might see ice formations. Continue over a rock pile, and walk upright on a smooth lava floor. Just before the exit at a ten-foot-deep pit, look for the narrow Animal Den on your left.

Find the next entrance, and first explore a side passage, known as The Tube, on the right. The Tube also displays some pretty ice formations in season. Reach another open sinkhole, and enter the next section of the cave, a more open lava tube that runs to the largest pit. The final section of the cave is quite wide, but is entered by two very rough narrow passages that merge and then open up to the main chamber. Return to the big pit and climb out to walk back through the woods to the picnic area.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • $3.50 toll each way at Hood River Bridge
  • Sno-Park permit ($20 day; $40 season) required Nov. 1 to Mar. 31
  • Northwest Forest Pass (or America the Beautiful Pass) required at Ice Cave Picnic Area after it opens to vehicle access
  • Restrooms, picnic area, interpretive sign


  • Maps: Hike Finder
  • Green Trails Maps: Willard, WA #398
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Adams Wilderness, Indian Heaven Wilderness, Trapper Creek Wilderness
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Mt. Adams Ranger District
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: Gifford Pinchot National Forest
  • National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map: Mount St. Helens - Mt. Adams

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • Curious Gorge by Scott Cook
  • Washington's South Cascades' Volcanic Landscapes by Marge and Ted Mueller
  • Best Hikes With Kids: Western Washington & the Cascades by Joan Burton
  • Best Short Hikes in Washington's South Cascades & Olympics by E.M. Sterling & Ira Spring

More Links

Page Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.