Sea Caves/Ice Caves
Conditions at the apostle islands mainland caves
DECEMBER 26, 2019: CLOSED
The mainland ice caves in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore are currently INACCESSIBLE. Despite recent cold temperatures, there is OPEN WATER surrounding the caves.
In general, the ice caves are usually not accessible until February or March and then only if conditions allow.
Visitors are also advised that the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore does not permit any vendor to charge a fee for tours of the ice caves. While other sandstone formations outside of the National Lakeshore (in the surrounding area/Chequamegon Bay) may sometimes be accessible by ice, visitors do so at their own risk.
Please be aware that the sandstone/brownstone cliffs along the shoreline outside of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore are not the same as the Apostle Islands ice caves and are less dramatic since the shoreline is more protected from the crashing waves (which causes erosion and creates the more distinct formations that appear in the National Lakeshore).
When ice caves are accessible - $5/person (16 years and older). This is only in effect when the ice caves are officially deemed accessible by the National Park Service staff. It is a "special event" fee in order to pay for the extra staff and resources required to accommodate people in an area that is not normally accessible to the public.
When ice caves are NOT accessible - there is a daily use fee to access the trail and beach - $5 per vehicle 20 feet or less; $8 per vehicle over 20 feet.
When the caves are not directly accessible, you can still hike on the mainland trail above the caves and view them from that vantage point.
Also, when there is solid ice on the Chequamegon Bay but not out at the caves at Meyers Beach,check with the Washburn Chamber of Commerce for other possible places to get out on the ice to view ice formations even when the mainland caves are not accessible.
General information about visiting the ice caves when they ARE accessible
Be prepared for a 3 hour hike (round trip) once you get to the ice. Allow extra time for parking and the walk to the stairs at the Meyers Beach access point. Dress for the weather and be prepared with proper footwear for conditions. Be sure to read the Park Service's Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) before you head out. On busy weekends, there is sometimes a shuttle that runs from Cornucopia to Meyers Beach.
Find additional information on the Bayfield Chamber and Visitor Bureau Ice Cave page.
A great place to start your visit is the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center which is open 7 days/week, located near the intersection of Highway 2 and Highway 13 - a perfect starting point for your trip along the Wisconsin Lake Superior Scenic Byway.
In warmer months, there are lots of ways to view the sea caves including:
- Hike the mainland trail above the caves
- Kayak to the caves in the summer
- Take a boat tour with a local guide
- Charter a boat
- Take a cruise with Apostle Islands Cruises
For more information on the self-guided options, make sure to check with the National Park Service before heading out: Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Visit the following sites for additional area information including dining, lodging and shopping:
Central Bayfield County:
Southern Bayfield County:
Go to the main visitor page for an interactive map with all the things to see and do in Bayfield County including restaurant, lodging and activities.