The ice caves at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore are straight out of a fairy tale.
Giant pillars of ice extend down from the red sandstone cliffs.
Icicles hang in crazy formations.
It’s a magical, winter wonderland.
Before 2014, the last time the caves were accessible – when Lake Superior is frozen enough to walk on it safely – was 2009, meaning the opportunity to see this spectacular sight is sporadic.
We visited the ice caves last year when Daley was 6 and Finley was 2 (and got to ride on her Dad’s back in a baby carrier). If you plan to make the trek with little explorers, here are some tips from our experience.
1. Bring poles and ice cleats for your boots as walking on the lake can be extremely slippery and the terrain can be uneven.
2. Bring a sled to haul your (tired) kids and gear. We didn’t and wish we had. It is 1.1 miles from the Meyers Beach parking lot to the beginning of the stretch of caves. Thus, at a minimum, you will walk 2 miles round trip (on ice). However, if the parking lot is full, you’ll have to park along Highway 13, adding at least another 1/2 mile to get to the beach (and another back). Furthermore, the ice caves extend almost 2 miles from their start, so if you plan to explore at all, your total mileage increases even more.
3. If you bring a sled, pile on a blanket too. The wind off the lake can be biting.
4. Bring water, snacks, and a thermos with a hot drink. It can be really cold out on the lake, especially if it is windy.
5. Bring sunglasses for everyone to cut the glare from the ice.
6. Bring sunscreen for cheeks and noses, especially if the day is sunny.
7. Dress in layers so you can shed clothes (another good reason to bring a sled) as you heat up from the hike and put them back on when you get chilled.
8. Bring exact change for the entrance fee, which is $5 (for 16 years and older) in 2015.
9. Bring extra clothes to change into when you arrive back at your car, especially for the kiddos who will likely be wet from climbing in and around the nooks and crannies of the icy caves.
10. Have everyone use the port-a-potties in the parking lot before heading out on the lake.
Lastly, before leaving home for your adventure, check for updated information at the Apostle Islands Ice Caves Facebook page, as access is unpredictable and dependent on current weather conditions.
Another option for current ice conditions is to call the automated ice line at 715-779-3397, ex. 3.
For a map of the caves, check out the National Park Service’s website.
Have you visited the ice caves? Any tips to add? Share your experiences in the comment box below. Thanks!