Lake Superior ice caves form as a result of the unique conditions that exist on the lake during the winter months. Lake Superior is the largest of the Great Lakes by surface area, and it is known for its cold, harsh winters. When the lake is frozen over, the ice that forms on its surface is often several feet thick.

Chequamegon Bay Ice Caves, Washburn, WI—Meagan-Van-Beest

The ice caves on Lake Superior are created by waves crashing against the cliffs that line the lake’s shores. As the waves hit the cliffs, they create an erosion process that eats away at the rock over time. In the winter, when the waves freeze, they create intricate, sculptural formations that resemble ice caves. They are typically found on the mainland cliffs of the lake, and they are only accessible when the lake is frozen over. This usually occurs from late January to early March, depending on the weather conditions. The ice caves themselves are a stunning sight to behold. They are lit by the sun, which creates a dazzling display of colors that range from deep blue to vibrant green. They are a popular tourist attraction during the winter months, and they offer a unique and unforgettable experience for visitors.

Ice Cave Safety

Michipicoten, ON ice cave—Ken-Reece

Exploring ice caves can be a thrilling and memorable experience, but it is important to take proper precautions to ensure your safety. Before heading out, visitors must understand all of the risks involved, and the physical demands required for hiking out to the caves. Here are a few tips for safe ice cave exploration:

  • Check the weather forecast: Ice caves are only accessible when the surrounding area is frozen, so it’s important to check the weather forecast before planning your trip. If the weather is warm, the ice may not be stable enough to support your weight, making it unsafe to enter the caves.
  • Wear the right clothing and gear: Dress in layers and wear warm, waterproof clothing to protect yourself from the cold and wet conditions inside the ice caves. It’s also a good idea to wear a hat, gloves, and a warm pair of boots to keep your extremities warm. Snow shoes are recommended for even footing over ice.
  • Take a first-aid kit in case of emergency.
  • Use caution when entering and exiting the ice caves: The entrance and exit points of ice caves can be slippery, so it’s important to use caution when entering and exiting the caves. Hold onto a sturdy handrail or support if one is available, and take your time to avoid falling. Use a flashlight or headlamp to help you see your surroundings and avoid tripping on any obstacles.
  • Follow all posted safety guidelines: If you are visiting an ice cave that is managed by a park or tour company, be sure to follow all posted safety guidelines. These guidelines are in place to help protect you and others from harm.
  • Check the ice conditions. Most popular ice cave locations keep up to date reports and close access when the conditions are too dangerous. Here are some ice safety tips from the Red Cross.
  • Let someone know your plans to hike out to the caves.
  • There are many experts that offer Ice Cave Tours around Lake Superior. Going with a tour guide that specializes in ice caves and knowledgeable about conditions will help ensure your safety.

By following these safety tips, you can enjoy a safe and enjoyable ice cave exploration experience.

Lake Superior Ice Caves

Apostle Islands Cornucopia, WI—Chad Briesemeister

The Apostle Island ice caves have become a bucket list item for many. The Apostle Island ice caves are a breathtaking natural wonder located in northern Wisconsin. The caves are formed each winter when the shoreline of Lake Superior freezes over, allowing visitors to explore the ice-covered caverns. The caves are located within the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and are only accessible during the winter months from Meyers Beach, when the ice is thick enough to support the weight of visitors. Conditions have to be just right in order to reach them. The National Park service keeps an updated status on the accessibility of the ice caves. Visitors can explore the caves on foot, following designated trails through the ice-covered caverns. The trails are relatively easy, but it is important to wear warm clothing and sturdy footwear, as the caves can be slippery and cold. Here are the current seasonal conditions for the Apostle Island.

Grand Island, Munising-MI – Matt Schroderus

The Grand Island ice caves are located half a mile from Munising on Lake Superior. The island is known for its colorful 200 foot sandstone cliffs, sea caves, and is home to the Grand Island East Channel Lighthouse and North, Grand Island Harbor Front Range and Rear Range Lighthouses. In the winter, the sea caves on the shores of the lake turn to dazzling ice caves.

Eben Ice Cave

The Eben Ice Caves is located is located just outside Marquette, MI at Eben Junction. The trail to get there is 2.1 miles (3.5 km) out and back that leads to the Eben Ice Caves, also known as the Rock River Canyon Ice Caves. This is such a popular winter attraction that there is even a temporary concession stand and portable restrooms for visitors flocking to the Eben ice caves.

Batchawana Bay ice cave–Shaun

There are many ice caves to discover on the Lake Superior bays in Ontario’s Algoma Country. Some of the most popular spots are Old Woman Bay, Pancake Bay, Batchawana Bay, Sawpit Bay, and Alona Bay. Pointe Des Chenes in Sault Ste. Marie is a popular beach in the summer, however during winter it becomes one of the best spots to go ice cave hunting. It’s also a has some great snowshoeing trails and offers great opportunities for watching ships go by from the Locks.

To see the latest ice conditions click here (Government of Canada)

Winter Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, ON – Sara Mauro

As you can see, Lake Superior is a winter wonderland for ice cave hunters and photographers. The photos used throughout this article have been submitted to the Lake Superior Circle Tour Adventure Photo Contest. The ice caves are a truly unique experience, with their shimmering blue walls and otherworldly formations. The caves are a photographer’s dream, with endless opportunities for capturing stunning images.

The ice caves are a popular destination for tourists and locals alike, and they are a must-see for anyone doing the Lake Superior Circle Tour during the winter months.