Ultimate Guide to Guler Ice Caves, Washington (Tours, Pricing, History, Map)
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Guler Ice Caves is a part of the 650 ft long cave network known for its beautiful ice and rock features. The ice cave retains the bulk of the features throughout the year due to the lower eastern end as it helps trap the cold air that comes in during the winter months.
Guler Ice Caves is an inactive lava tube created more than 20,000 years ago. It is the main tourist attraction here, and people come here to witness the Crystal Grotto, a unique phenomenon. Temperatures can be close to freezing depending upon the season, so you should choose to wear warm clothes and dress in layers.
History of Guler Ice Caves
Gifford Pinchot National Forest is filled with natural caves that have been created from the many volcanoes that are found here. There are many caves near Trout Lake, of which Ice Caves are one. A story goes that the cave was discovered by two boys a long time ago. The boys stumbled upon a small hole, but they knew that it was a cave after dropping a stone through it.
Another story says that someone called Jack Aerni discovered the cave in 1895. However, it is believed that the cave’s existence was known before as the pioneer traveler R.W. Reynolds noticed cool drinks in the taverns of Dalles City in the summer of 1860. These drinks were cooled with ice from the caves. And there is another story that says that the Native Americans stored huckleberries in the cave.
In 1928 an opening was blasted out, a stair was constructed, and a house was built was just above the entrance. A long series of racks were created inside the cave for storing food. The cave was managed by Mr. Christian Guler, who experimented with using the cave as cold storage.
Many food items were stored in the cave, such as cheese, apples, strawberries, and Yakima potatoes. However, an article later published in 1939 revealed that the cold storage idea was never a success, and the caves remained open for the public for most of the year.
Geological Cave Formations
Guler Ice Caves are classified as lava tube cave systems, and their underground chambers are relatively small. However, it is shallow and allows the novice cavers to explore. The cave has beautiful stalactites that rise from the ground like statues. Beautiful ice formations hang from the ceiling, and the crystals come in various shapes and sizes as they are formed by water dripping down slowly and freezing.
Guler Ice Caves are located within Gifford Pinchot National Forest. You will come across several species of animals within the park premises, such as spotted owl, occasional sightings of bears, and various fish species like bull trout, coho salmon, and chinook salmon.
Is Guler Ice Caves Haunted?
These caves are known for their excellent rock and ice features and are not haunted by any stretch of the imagination.
How Big are Guler Ice Caves?
The length of the caves is around 650 ft.
Guler Ice Caves Tours
As you go down 20 ft into the cave, you will feel the significant temperature change. The stairs will be a bit icy, so you need to exercise caution. The cave floor is covered with large rocks that can be unstable, and the forest department recommends that you wear a helmet before entering the cave.
Guler Ice Caves is a small network of caves in the Indian Heaven Volcanic Field near Mount Adams. A wooden fence surrounds the cave entrance, and there is a staircase that will lead you to the mouth of the cave. There is a cave map next to the cave entrance, and you must see it properly before entering the cave. Since the cave is dark, it can be a little disorienting, and the map will help you see all the features.
The longest section of the cave will be on your right as you go down the stairs. After you have moved about 250 ft, there would be a collapsed section of the lava tube known as a pit. The pit is a sloped entrance to the cave, and you can leave the cave if you can crawl here!
To check out more of the cave, make your way back to the entrance but stick to the left side of the cave. There is a natural bridge around 90n ft before the staircase, and this bridge is a lingering piece of the smaller tube. If you continue on your left, you will come to a small chamber known as the Crack Room.
If you are coming in spring, there will be a small ice pool in front of the Crack Room. Inside the cave, you will come across beautiful geological formations that include stalactites, stalagmites, and other types of formations.
The cave walls produce a dazzling glow when covered with ice, but the glow still remains when the ice has melted. This feature is known as Crystal Grotto. After seeing the Crystal Grotto, you can turn back and return to the surface.
Tour Prices and Discounts
There is a charge of USD 5 for entry into Guler Ice Caves.
Is Guler Ice Caves Cold?
The caves have a temperature of around 32 degrees throughout the year.
What to Wear?
You must dress appropriately when you come here as it is always cold here. Wear waterproof anti-slip boots as the cave floor is always covered in slippery ice and water. Since the cave will be full dark, you need to carry a flashlight and spare batteries.
Guler Ice Caves Hours
Guler Ice Caves remain open 24 hours a day.
What to Do (Beside Tours)
After you have finished spelunking Guler Ice Caves, you can check out the natural surroundings, enjoy the view of Mount Adams or relax in one of the luxury cabins operated by private operators.
There is also an Ice Cave Picnic Area just above the cave, a cluster of tables and fire pits. So, bring your lunch and have a wonderful day with your friends and families.
Best Time to Visit
One can visit any time of the year but the best time to explore them is in spring and early summer. You will be able to see the maximum ice in April and May.
How to Get to Guler Ice Caves
Guler Ice Caves is a 2-hour drive from Portland. From the Hood River, you need to take the Hood River Bridge across Columbia to Washington and then turn left on Highway 14. Now drive west about 2 miles from White Salmon and turn North on Route 141 towards Trout Lake. On Forest Road 24, turn west and travel for about 6 miles to the Guler Ice Caves.
There are decent hotel options near Gifford Pinchot State Park, such as Rodeway Inn Dillsburg, Wyndham Garden Hotel York, and Best Western Inn York.
Guler Ice Caves Fun Facts
- The Lava tube ice caves were once used as natural refrigerators, and the Native Americans stored the huckleberry harvest there.
- There is no light inside the caves.
- They can be accessed in any season and not in winter alone, as perceived by many.
Guler Ice Caves Details
- Length: Around 650 ft
- Time Recommended: 1 to 2 hours
- Difficulty: Easy
- Kid-friendly: Yes
- Dog-friendly: Not allowed
- Fees: USD 5
- Hours: Open 24 hours
Visiting Guler Ice Caves
Do you need more information before visiting Guler Ice Caves? Call (509) 395-3400 for an information packet.
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