As soon as we stepped on the Icicle Gorge Trail it felt like fall was in the air. Where we have recently only seen lush green with multitudes of wildflowers, we were seeing browning vegetation and smelling that distinct fall smell. After the onslaught of heat we have faced over the past few months, that first glimmer of fall was more than welcome.
The trail is within a U.S. Forest Service Fee Area, so there is a $5/day fee (unless you have the America the Beautiful pass, and then there is no additional cost…seriously, this pass has more than paid for itself just in our National Parks visits, but getting these added bonus areas is a huge perk), and the parking lot was full when we arrived (someone was leaving as we pulled in, so we lucked out). Needless to say, the trail was rather busy (the only slightly negative part of this hike).
The Icicle Gorge Trail is a 4.5-mile loop that traverses either side of Icicle Creek. From the trailhead, we headed downstream, quickly crossing a bridge over a beautiful waterfall, and then turning upstream. The trail is one of the best (if not THE best) trail we have been on in terms of trail maintenance and upkeep and overall enjoyment of the hike. The views were great, the trail was a great distance with little elevation change, the trees were huge, and it was the perfect afternoon activity.
From reading reviews, we knew there was a lot of access to the river along the trail, so about a mile or so in, we found a great place to let the girls explore and play in the water. The spot we chose was a little island in the river, so the views were stunning. The water was not flowing fast, and Bird was able to safely wade in the water and jump between the rocks (with our help), much to her delight. Also, the rocks we found were on point. She quickly added way too many rocks to her backpack, which we pared down to a few to add to her growing collection. She has a good eye for rocks and has found some really beautiful and unique rocks on our journey.
At the far end of the hike where you cross back over the river, there is a nice little campground that had water stations where we were able to refill our water bottles and take another short break.
While the first half of the hike was more or less level with the river, the second half was more elevated with a great view of the gorge and the beautiful formations carved by the river. We really enjoyed the sounds of the water throughout the entire hike.
I truly cannot get over the quality of this trail and the love that has gone into making and maintaining it. It was an overall easy 4.5 miles, and both Will and I agreed that we could have happily done the loop again (Daisy did not agree). I would absolutely love to hike this trail again and again, especially to see how it changes across the seasons. I also want to return to see if my perception of the trail is accurate or if I am just that excited by the smell of fall.