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Apostle Islands – Ice Caves

Specs

Location Bayfield, WI
Distance ~6 miles
Total Elevation Gain negligible
Topographic Map

Every few years, we Wisconsinites get lucky and Lake Superior freezes over to a point where it is safe to walk through the caves along the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. If you happen to be in the area and you hear that the park has deemed the ice safe, go! It may be a once-in-a-decade opportunity.
While normally I advocate camping, I ended up staying in a cheap condo in Bayfield. All of the state parks had closed their campgrounds due to the extreme weather. Admittedly, I was actually a bit pleased to have an excuse to not freeze my butt off.
To get to the ice caves, park at Myer’s Beach and just follow the shoreline northeast. Take your time and explore every alcove, nook, and cranny. There is some seriously beautiful stuff out there! There isn’t really an “end” of the trail. You’ll figure out when you want to turn around based on the time, the weather, and when the caves start to peter out.


Notes

  • Go early in the morning!!! We got there around 5:45 am on a Sunday. It was awesome to be the only ones out on the ice. On the way in we saw maybe two or three people that closed our early start. Heading out, after turning around, we saw hundreds of people. The parking lot that had been empty when we showed up, was now completely full and folks were parking on streets and in surrounding lots. Had we gone later, it wouldn’t have been half as awe-inspiring.
  • There is a self-service pay station at the Myer’s Beach parking lot to pay for parking. Bring a couple bucks to cover the cost and avoid the ticket (you will get a ticket if you don’t pay).
  • If you stay in Bayfield, definitely go drive across the ice road to Madeline Island. There isn’t a whole lot to see on the island, but just driving across the ice is pretty neat.
  • Wear winter boots! This may be obvious to most, but I saw some people in sneakers. Don’t do this!
  • Check out some information on cave formations before you go. A lot of the ice looks similar to things you’ll see in caves and the comparison is pretty cool!
  • Quiet down and listen to the ice groan under you feet as the wave action stresses the ice. Tides still exist, even when the lake is frozen over.

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