Ice Climbing at Pictured Rocks

Ice climber ascending ice curtain
Ice climber ascending ice curtains along Sand Point Road

NPS photo

Ice climbing is an exciting winter sport at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore that becomes more popular each year. The combination of cold temperatures, plentiful lake effect snow, numerous waterfalls, porous sandstone cliffs, and water seeping out of the rock layers creates spectacular ice curtains and columns.

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. Recommended locations include:

Sand Point - Stunning 20-50 foot columns and blue ice curtains can be found at several points along the inland cliff escarpment between Munising Falls and Sand Point adjacent to Sand Point Road. Shortest access is from the Sand Point Beach parking lot.

Parking is not allowed on Sand Point Road. Park at the Sand Point Beach parking lot and walk the road 1/4 to 1/2 mile back to access the nearest climbing areas. Sand Point Road is narrow with no shoulder; watch for traffic and slippery conditions. Visitors can also start at the Munising Falls parking lot and walk/snowshoe the North Country Scenic Trail towards Sand Point to access other climbing locations. Please don't walk or snowshoe on the groomed ski trails in the area!

Map of Sand Point ice climbing and viewing areas (2.57 MB pdf).

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, just west of Munising.

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
  • Pets are not allowed on or off trails to Sand Point ice climbing locations.
  • Munising Falls is closed to ice climbing.
  • Camping is prohibited at climbing sites. See the Winter Camping page for backcountry sites where camping is allowed.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is the main location for the annual Michigan Ice Fest, held every February. Contact the organization for more information.

Last updated: December 13, 2022

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