Apostle Islands' Frozen Ice Caves

Thanks to Kelly Marquardt for sharing her photo of the ice caves.

UPDATE: (1/09/15) Although the ice caves are not currently accessible in 2015, we encourage you to check back for updates. In the meantime, read about what the caves were like in 2014.

In 2014, for the first time in five years, the Apostle Islands and stunning ice caves 18 miles west of Bayfield were accessible in the winter. With Lake Superior being frozen, these sea caves and rock formations were reachable by crossing the Great Lake about a mile on foot.

While you may feel the ice moving on the water below it, the lake is solid. The experience of walking on a frozen Great Lake is a physically and psychologically exhilarating experience.Park officials monitor the ice conditions carefully and the last time the ice was deemed thick enough to venture safely across was in 2009. 

According to the National Park Service, the caves are a “fairyland of needle-like icicles.” The ice formations change from chamber to chamber and from day to day. The beautiful rock formations that hang above you and jut up from the ground below you are covered by ice. If you crawl underneath them, the ice floor is like a clear sheet of glass through which you can see the bottom of the lake. Centuries of wave action, freezing and thawing have sculpted the shorelines right along Meyers Beach.

The 21-island park is a well-known kayaking destination during summer, with the colorful, winding caves. In the winter, the seashore takes an entirely different quality. As the frigid wintry weather takes its toll on the Midwest, rock and ice formations are molded on the grooved and rigid geology.

Venture three miles east of Cornucopia, WI to the south shore of Lake Superior to explore the magical caves of the Apostle Islands. At the northern edge of Bayfield County, Meyers Beach on Meyers Beach Road allows access to witness the lake’s ever-changing handiwork. You’ll want to get there early to secure a spot in the parking lot. Overflow parking is along one side of Highway 13.

Dress for the weather and keep in mind there are steep steps going down to the caves. There is plenty of lodging and restaurants in Washburn, Bayfield and Iron River. For up to date information on the condition of the ice, be sure to check out Sea Caves Watch, which provides real-time webcam images and weather forecast information.

Tips for Visiting the Apostle Island Ice Caves

  • Call the Apostle Islands Ice Line at 715-779-3397 Ext. 3 to get current ice conditions.

  • View the Apostle Island Ice Caves FAQ

  • View and Print the Ice Cave Map

  • Keep safety in mind at all times. Watch for newly formed cracks, slushy areas or thin spots in the ice

  • Wear sturdy waterproof boots.

  • Wear warm clothes and be prepared for cold temperatures.

  • Carry a ski pole to help prevent slipping.

This entry was posted in Natural Attractions and Parks, Tours, Cross-Country Skiing/Snowshoeing