As of Jan 30th the US Park Service has yet to certify the ice on Lake Superior to be thick enough to allow travel. But the Madeline Island Ice Road is now open so we may see the Ice Caves open soon.
Directions and advice on touring the ice formations are at the bottom of this page.
We greatly enjoyed our first visit to the Bayfield Ice Caves, so we had no problem talking ourselves into a return visit. Located near Cornucopia Wisconsin, and part of the Apostle Islands National Park, the Lake Superior Ice Caves are located at the NW tip of the Bayfield Peninsula. Each year Mother Nature creates a new landscape in the ice formations so even if you've been to the Ice Caves 10 times before, your next trip will always have new surprises.
While we brought our snowshoes we left them in the car because there was already a well trodden path to the caves and no substantial recent snowfall. I think they may have made the trip out to the caves a little easier - primarily because we could have taken short cut rather than trekking along the beach path.
If you visit the ice caves, make sure you pack some water and bars because your trip out there and back, plus exploring the caves can easily consume two or three hours.
Here's an example of how the ice sculptures change from year to year.
(Click on little pictures for a larger view )
Ice Cave Photos
On our previous trip I took a picture looking out towards the lake through this arch (left view).
On this trip, from roughly the same vanatage point, this same arch looked quite different ( right view).
So every year Mother Nature sculpts unique formations in ice and snow which is why many people make an annual visit to the Bayfield-Apostle Island Park Ice Caves to see the latest exhibits on display. In recent years the ice hasn't been thick enough to allow the Park Service to OK the safety of the trail. But the winter of 2014 was very good for thick ice and thousands of people have enjoyed the trek out to see and experience the ice caves and ice sculptures.
Bayfeild Wisconsin Ice Cave Photo by Ty Daniels
< < Look how this huge pipe organ shaped ice formation dwarfs onlookers.
< < < I liked this interesting cave.
I recognized this rock formation from the last time we took the Apostle Islands Park Lakeshore Hiking Trail in the summer to the top of the caves.
Here's this formation as viewed from the top in the summer (see right).
< < < This one reminded me of the jaws of the Alien Monster in the classic movie "Alien."
On the way back, the setting sun provided an attractive silhouette of this ice shrouded bluff. > > >
< < < Ice Cave Trekkers almost finished with the long hike back to Meyers Beach.
Ice Cave Video
Access Conditions to the Lake Superior Ice Caves
Lake Superior Ice thickness varies from year to year. In 2009 as of Feb 1, the over-the-water ice cave trail was open and the ice safe enough to walk on and trail was well trodden by that time. But when I checked on conditions in 2011, by mid-February the lake ice trail had yet to be declared safe and wasn't for the rest of the season. In 2014 ice formed early and was safe by mid-January.
As of Jan 30, 2015 the ice trail to the caves wasn't open, but that could change very soon with colder weather in the near term forecast.
So if you want to check on up-to-the-minute conditions, the Park Service phone # is (715) 779-3398 x3. The Bayfield Chamber of Commerce also posts information on their Winter Recreation Report page. Another source of information would be the folks at Ehlers General Store in Cornucopia. Try this e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
When you go, bring some beverages and bars with you because the hike to the caves, then touring the caves themselves, and hiking back can easily take a couple of hours. (You'll walk from 3 to 6 miles depending on how extensively you explored the ice caves) I've been told porta-potties are on site but it would be a good idea to take care of those "chores" before you get to Meyers Beach (especially on a weeekend). Also on a weekend because of parking out on the highway you may have to walk a distance before getting to the lakeshore. I've heard there are shuttle buses between Meyers Beach and Cornie but a good idea to check that out ahead of time either in Bayfield or Cornie depending on which direction you are coming from.
Directions to the Ice Caves. The turn-off to Meyers Beach (parking for the Ice Caves) is 4 miles east of Cornucopia on Highway 13. (click on map for Ice Caves parking lot location)
Ice Caves 2014 - Thanks to the Bayfield Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau and the Friends of the Apostle Islands for providing funds to maintain seasonal park service staffing for the Ice Caves. And the Town of Bell has volunteered to assist in keeping the Meyers Beach road & parking areas plowed and clear of snow.
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