The mainland ice caves have developed quite a reputation over the years as a "bucket list" winter activity. The unique beauty and temporal nature of these ice formations serves to make the event all the more memorable and desirable.
Know Before You Go
Visiting the caves in winter requires at least a 2 mile hike (round trip) on the ice of Lake Superior. Travel on Lake Superior can be dangerous any time of the year. Traveling across the ice demands extra attention to personal safety. Lake ice is unpredictable, so traveling across it is never completely safe. Before heading out, visitors must understand all of the risks involved, and the physical demands required for hiking out to the caves.
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore staff checks the ice and monitors the weather to determine when the Mainland Caves are accessible. NPS is not, however, able to check every day. Cold temperatures can form thick ice, but wind and waves can break up that ice in a matter of hours, and make it unstable. Low Risk ice conditions allow the area to be deemed accessible to visitors.
Please Note: By the time we declare the caves accessible to the public, the surface of the frozen lake must also allow a reasonable route of access by rescue vehicles/teams to caves. This is just as critical as having safe thicknesses and locked in ice.
Sea (Ice) Caves Camera
Sea Caves Watch features real-time images of conditions at the Mainland Sea Caves, and tracks wind and wave height during the summer. During the winter, storms and spray from waves can coat the camera lens, making it impossible to see. Park staff try to get out regularly to clear it off, but because it's located in a more remote area, it can be difficult to get to immediately.
Planning Your Hike
The ice formations at the sea caves are beautiful, but they are very large chunks of heavy ice. They can fall at anytime so try not to spend much time underneath them. Keep in mind that what you enjoy about the spectacular formations at the caves is also what other people enjoy. Please do not damage the ice or break off the pieces.
More About Sea Caves
Last updated: January 30, 2023