Beautiful views into Washington of St. Helens, Adams, and Rainer. Ending at a glacial cave, this is a unique destination for a day hike.

The hike to the caves begins at Top Spur Trailhead. The hike to McNeil Point is 5.4 miles one way, and 2200 feet of elevation gain. The trail starts in the forest, but will eventually open up to views of Mt Hood, as well as St. Helens, Adams and Rainier on a clear day.

There is a shortcut up to McNeil Point that is steeper and shorter, and it ends right at the stone hut at McNeil Point. It is difficult to locate on the way up (especially in snow), but a good shortcut for the way back.

When you reach McNeil Point, you should be able to spot three of the cave entrances on the glacier directly below the summit. From here, the hike to the caves is maybe a mile, with probably an additional several hundred feet of elevation gain.

Take the climber's route up the ridge, keeping an eye on the caves. Follow the ridge as long as possible, but at some point you will need to come off the ridge and traverse off-trail across the glacier to the caves. This portion requires crampons and an ice axe, as the glacier can be pretty steep.

Allow yourself some time once you get to the caves to explore, as the four entrances are close, but not necessarily right next to one another.

Pack List

  • Crampons
  • Ice Axe
  • Helmet if you intend to enter the caves
  • Warm Clothing if going in Autumn or Spring
  • Ten Essentials
  • Northwest Forest Pass or Day Use Permit
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RT Distance 12.5 Miles
Elevation Gain 2800 Feet
Activities Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Advanced
Season Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Forest
Scenic

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UPDATE

As a heads up, the cave entrances (from a report on 1/28/2017) are collapsed and snow-packed so you can't visit them at the moment. I'd suggest waiting until the warmer weather comes along.

Unreal experience

Walking through the Pure Imagination ice cave was one of the most unreal experiences I've ever had. The melting ice water running under your feet makes the moment that much more terrifying and real. Be smart about traversing these glaciers in the night while seeking cold temps. Stay away in the summer. The melt is dangerous.


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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