UPDATE: The Ice Caves are NOT currently accessible and most likely will not be accessible this winter. As winter conditions change, visit the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore's Facebook page for the most current information. In the meantime, read about what the caves are like when frozen solid, and take in the area's winter beauty along miles of mainland hiking trails.
Pro tip: If the conditions aren't cooperationg, check out the nearby Red Cliff Ice Caves for a similarly spectacular adventure!
Apostle Islands Ice Caves
The Apostle Islands and stunning ice caves sit 18 miles west of Bayfield during winter. When Lake Superior freezes over, these sea caves and rock formations are 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, and park officials monitor the ice conditions carefully.
The Apostle Islands mainland ice caves feature some of the most spectacular cliffs and sea caves found in the Great Lakes. The features are different every year, as is the route to see them.
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 hanging above you and jutting 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.
Venture three miles east of Cornucopia to the south shore of Lake Superior to explore the magical caves of the Apostle Islands. At the northern edge of Bayfield County, Meyer's Beach 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 Meyers Road and one side of Highway 13.
There is a small fee (16 years and older) only in effect when the ice caves are officially deemed accessible by the National Park Service staff. At other times, the regular per-car parking fee is applicable.
Dress for the weather and keep in mind there are steep steps going down to the caves. There are plenty of options for lodging and restaurants in Washburn, Bayfield and Iron River, or stay on Madeline Island for a special adventure. The Sea Caves Watch website features real-time images of conditions at the Mainland Sea Caves.
Tips for Visiting the Apostle Islands Ice Caves
- View the Apostle Island Ice Caves FAQ.
- Reference your own map of the ice cave area.
- 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 and wear ice cleats to help prevent slipping.