Lake Superior Ice Caves – a breathtaking winter adventure
As snow and ice transform the quiet landscape, Northern Wisconsin winter has something for everyone in Bayfield. During the winter season, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore offers a popular attraction in the dazzling shoreline ice caves at Mawikwe Bay along the mainland.
The winter adventure of seeing the beauty of the ice caves will take your breath away. Lakeshore cliffs along Lake Superior form crimson red borders to create an arctic landscape. Pillars of ice extend to the cliff tops where waterfalls have hardened in place. Frozen Lake Superior water encrusts the base of the cliffs. Inside the ice caves awaits a fairyland of needle like icicles. The Lake Superior ice cave formations change from chamber to chamber and from day to day.
The most common way to get to the Lake Superior ice caves is to hike out to them from Meyers Beach Road, which is well marked on the Bayfield Peninsula’s Highway 13 (approximately 3 miles south of Cornucopia from Bayfield). Park your vehicle and hike approximately one mile east to the ice caves. Although each year hundreds of visitors trek out to experience the fantasy, hikers are warned that conditions can be dangerous and appropriate hiking boots are needed as the ice can be slippery and bumpy with snow cracks and ice and snow mounds.
During the weekdays, parking is available at Meyers Beach Access & Parking. To get directions, click here. In the event that the parking load is full, you may park on Meyers Rd while making sure not to block traffic and allow emergency vehicles past. Parking is also allowed on the north side of Hwy 13, toward Lake Superior.
The Meyers Beach Parking had a fee of $3 which can be paid after parking. Make sure to follow all law enforcement instructions and being courteous to other visitors.
The hike from the bottom of the stairs at Meyers Beach to the beginning of the cliffs with the caves is 1.1 miles away. The cliffs with the ice caves continue for another 2 miles along the shore. The hike will take you over very uneven terrain, posing the potential for injury. On busy days, the parking lot fills quickly and you may have to park along the road a half mile or more from the parking lot.
The most up-to-date information on ice conditions is always available on the Apostle Islands ice line: (715) 779-3397 x3.
For additional information click here to download the Apostle Islands Ice Caves FAQ.
- Wear supportive winter boots. Use ice cleats for extra traction.
- Carry a ski pole or walking stick.
- Be sure to dress appropriately for the conditions.
- Be prepared for potentially dangerous wind chill.
- Wear layers so that when you heat up from the hike, you can remove a layer. When you get colder you can add those layers back on.
- Restrooms are in the parking lot only.
- Can I take a snowmobile?
- No, Snowmobiling and ATV use is not permitted within ¼ mile of the mainland from Saxine Creek to Sand Point.
- Can I take a bicycle?
- No, bicycles are not permitted off-road within the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, including on the ice.
- How long should I plan for?
- Most people find that 3 hours is a good amount of time for the hike out, time at the caves, and the hike back.
- When are they open?
- The ice caves are a feature of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and do not have set hours. We advise planning your trip during daytime hours.
- Should I bring my snowshoes?
- Snowshoes are not advised, except right after a significant snowfall. The trail is currently well packed down and a good pair of boots will serve you well. A ski pole and/or ice cleats on your boots are helpful. Be aware that the ice near (and especially in) the caves is very slippery.
- Can I bring my dog?
- Yes. All dogs must be leashed and you’ll need to pick up their waste, but they are welcome.
- Can I bring sled dogs?
- Yes. Personal sled dogs trips can be made to the caves. Commercial sled dog trips are not allowed. The same rules as regular dogs apply – clean up after your dogs. And please be considerate of other visitors. Keep in mind that there is no place to access the lake near Meyers Beach with a sled dog team.
- Can I ride a horse to the caves?
- No. Horses are not permitted on the frozen surface of Lake Superior within the boundaries of the Park.
- Can I ice climb?
- No. Climbing, scrambling or rappelling on the cliffs or ice formations is not permitted along the mainland sea caves. The delicate nature of these formations makes them highly susceptible to damage. Also, if ice or rock were to give way and fall on someone it could cause serious injury.
We update a weekly report on current conditions for all our winter activities. Please check the Winter Recreation Report for the most current conditions.