Viewing ice "caves" and ice formations has become a popular winter activity at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and the surrounding area. Water seeping out of the porous sandstone cliffs freezes into spectacular curtains and columns of white ice tinged with blue, green, or yellow hues. The ice generally begins to form by mid-December and remains until early April.
The most easily-accessed ice formations for viewing are found along the Pictured Rocks escarpment between Munising Falls and Sand Point adjacent to Sand Point Road. Park at the Sand Point Beach parking lot and walk back on the road 1/4 to 1/2 mile. (Parking is prohibited on Sand Point Road itself.) Watch for signs just off the road to your left designating various ice climbing locations. Walk/hike uphill to the base of the escarpment to find and view the ice. There are no designated trails, but cliffs and ice can be seen through the forest as you walk along the road. People walking up to the formations create visible snow-packed trails over time.
Visitors can also hike/snowshoe from the Munising Falls parking lot along the North Country Scenic Trail towards Sand Point to view some of the ice formations from the top rather than the base.
View and download the ice viewing map (2.57 MB pdf).
The park’s waterfalls also freeze into stunning formations in winter. Munising Falls is the easiest to reach via an 800-foot trail from the Munising Falls parking lot. Climbing on Munising Falls is prohibited. For ice climbing information, click here.
PrecautionsSand Point Road lacks a road shoulder, and is usually snow packed in winter. Watch for cars and expect slippery conditions.
Ice cleats of some sort are critical to avoid slipping or falling while walking/hiking to the formations and exploring among the ice curtains. Ice cleats are slipped onto shoes and boots, and can usually be found for sale at local businesses. Snowshoes may also be necessary after heavy snow until a path gets packed down.
While ice frequently forms along the Pictured Rocks cliffs above the waters of Lake Superior, these areas are difficult to view. Ice on the Grand Island cliffs can be viewed from the Sand Point beaches. Walking on Lake Superior or across Munising Bay is not recommended - EVER - due to unknown ice thickness, thin and shifting ice, hidden underwater currents, and open water. No one can tell you if the ice is safe to walk on. Also:
Last updated: November 17, 2022