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“Ice Caves” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
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Activities: Hiking, Camping
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Attraction details
Owner description: A cluster of 21 islands dotting the waters of Lake Superior; great for hiking, boating and camping.
Springfield, Illinois, United States
Level Contributor
19 reviews
16 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 23 helpful votes
“Ice Caves”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 10, 2014

Having seen pictures of the national lake shore during the summer it's amazing to see the transformation. This ice covered walk is a hike into another world!

Some tips for taking the hike:

-Get there EARLY or be prepared to walk a very long ways on the road. We got there at 7:15 am on a Friday and we got one of the last spots in the parking lot. It's even worse on the weekend. I'm not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination but it's so nice and quiet in the morning, and the less you have to walk on the road the more energy you have to walk on the ice! During the week you would have to be there by 7:30/8:00 most likely, during the weekend probably by 6:30.

-No matter how cold it is out, keep in mind that any part of your face that is exposed will get sunburned if you are out for a while. Even on a cloudy day! So either cover your face with a face mask or dab on some sun screen to exposed areas like the cheeks, nose, and forehead. I didn't think of this (we were out there for four hours on a cloudy day) and my Irish ancestry really made me pay later!

-Make sure to pack easy to eat snacks like granola bars and beef sticks. Hiking on the ice is a lot more difficult than you think and you do burn a ton of calories doing it. You burn even more if you're carrying a pack. The best way to not wipe out by the end is to eat a good meal the day before and snack during the entire hike.

-The hike feels a lot easier on the way out because you're excited, but the way back can be torture if you don't know your own limits! Make sure to turn around not when you are starting to get tired but BEFORE you get tired. By the time we were done we were really dragging our feet - and we're pretty healthy individuals in general.

-Bringing a GPS unit is very helpful to keep track of exactly where you are on the hike. If you have a cell phone that has GPS just make sure to fully load the map first because there won't be a data signal later. Have a printed copy of the cave maps or a downloaded copy on your phone and you can compare the two to keep track of your progress. This was very helpful for us because it was a lot easier to really see how far we had gone and which points of interest were still up ahead.

-Wear layers! The temperature and wind speed can change while you are on the hike so I was often removing and replacing layers because I was either too sweaty or too cold again.

-Set aside at least three hours for the hike. We hiked four hours and would have been out there longer if we had the energy because there was more to see. Some people spend more than 8 hours out there. It depends on how much you want to see and what you want to get out of the hike

-Yak Tracks or other traction products for shoes are a must. Even with packed snow over the ice it is still quite slippery and we witnessed quite a few wipe outs on our walk. We had Yak Tracks and ski poles and had no problems. This is especially important if you are clumsy like me and my husband!

-Just in case you fall anyway bringing a basic first aid kit is always a good idea.

Over all this

Visited March 2014
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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50 reviews from our community

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  • English first
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English first
Minneapolis, MN
Level Contributor
83 reviews
39 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 36 helpful votes
“Go see the ice caves!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 28, 2014

Get there early so you can park close to the trail! We went last Monday and it was pretty busy at 11 am when we arrived, but much busier when we left a couple of hours later. You need to be a fairly fit hiker-it's only about a mile there, but remember you're hiking over snow and ice-more difficult than trails. (And this is not for small children-we were shocked to see several pre-school age kids and their parents). I can't wait to go back and kayak this summer!

Visited February 2014
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
McFarland, Wisconsin, United States
Level Contributor
194 reviews
48 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 111 helpful votes
“A hike in the cold well worth the effort”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed February 25, 2014

First hint: get there early so you can park on Meyers Road ($3 fee but worth not having to walk further). It was cold (about 7 degrees) with the wind blowing. Just bundle up like you are going skiing in a blizzard and you'll be fine. We found having those heating packets you stick in your gloves and boots to be really helpful. Be sure to have a good set (my cheap ones didn't even make it out of the parking lot) of strap-on crampons/cleats for your boots. They really help when walking on the ice or on the packed down snow. They are more a safety factor ( I can attest to this) than you might think. Also, ski or trekking poles are also helpful. We also had ski goggles that were really helpful when we had to walk back with the wind in our face. Full face masks helped as well.

The hike is about a mile to the first ice caves but if you are up for it keep going for about another half mile at least to see the full range of ice formations. We didn't make it to the furthest ones (which would have been more than a mile further). Bring a camera but keep it on an inside pocket to keep it from getting to cold (batteries seem to not like the cold). If you are lucky, the sun will be out (not for us) and you'll probably see even more spectacular colors. Don't worry if the sun isn't out, we got more color in our photos than we expected. We saw people pulling their children in everything from sleds and toboggans to wheeling them in a runner's stroller (hint: wheels don't work as well as skis or sled bottoms for pulling kids). It took us about one hour to hike back from as far as we had gone.

Visited February 2014
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Level Contributor
34 reviews
11 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 18 helpful votes
“Amazing in the summer, stunning in the winter”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 23, 2014

Having kayaked the sea caves I was intrigued by the thought of walking out to them, but not being a fan of ice kept the thought of going in the back of my mind. Then the winter of 2014 came around and I saw photos. I knew I had to go! The caves did not disappoint!
The sea caves turn into an entirely different world once frozen in place. Icicles of pink, yellow, blue and impossibly clear are everywhere. We went on a weekday (recommended) and started early. Thought we might spend a couple hours…spent over 8 hours! The light changes and you're seeing everything differently.
Dress in layers, bring a lunch and spend the day! And for some extra fun bring a headlamp and check it out once the sun goes down.

Visited February 2014
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
28 reviews
9 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
“Amazing Experience, A Must See!!!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed February 22, 2014

Visited the Apostle Islands Ice Caves for my birthday this year and they were beautiful! Make sure to read the Welcome Sign when you arrive or know that when you go down the stairs, turn right immediately. There is (at least right now) a well worn path to the caves. We got there early and didn't read the sign and saw two people walking straight from the bottom of the stairs and then curving to the caves. You can certainly do this, but be warned, it's a tough walk thru a lot of fresh snow!

Once you get to the caves, they are magical and breathtaking! So gorgeous and worth the walk!

The park is free but the parking is $3. Bathrooms are available in the parking lot, but not on the lakeshore.

Visited February 2014
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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