Ice climbing is a popular winter sport at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. With cold temperatures and ample lake effect snow, numerous waterfalls, porous sandstone cliffs, and water seeping out of the rock layers, curtains and columns of ice are common.
Snow and ice are generally present by the second or third week in December and remain until early April. While ice frequently forms along the Pictured Rocks cliffs above Lake Superior, these areas are not recommended for climbing due to hazardous exposure to the lake.
The most accessible ice columns are found along the Pictured Rocks escarpment between Munising Falls and Sand Point along Sand Point Road.
Sand Point columns and blue ice curtains are 20-50 feet high. Parking is located at Sand Point Beach or at Munising Falls. The Sand Point Road is narrow with no shoulder; therefore, parking is prohibited along Sand Point Road.
Please note that Munising Falls is closed to ice climbing.
Additional columns are located at Miners Falls and on the east side of the Miners Basin.
Miners Falls is a 40 foot column. Access requires a three mile ski or snowshoe trek in from the end of the plowed road at the junction of Carmody and Miners Castle Roads.
Miners basin falls is located 1.2 miles north of Miners Falls on the east side of the escarpment. Travel to this column is over land.
Other popular areas for climbing are within Grand Island National Recreation Area, which is administered by the Hiawatha National Forest. Grand Island ice curtains are accessed from the Grand Island Ferry Landing off M-28.
NOTE: Travel between Sand Point and the thumb portion of Grand Island is not recommended due to frequent hazardous ice conditions caused by lake currents.
Ice Climbing Regulations
When setting belay points from above remember it is your responsibility to preserve and protect vegetation and other natural features. Secure belay ropes to trees with a diameter larger than 8 inches that are growing well back from the edge.
For more information
Ice Climbing and Winter Camping (pdf)
Last updated: February 1, 2019