Exploring the Eben Ice Caves in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Today, featured blogger Jesse Land of Things To Do in the U.P. tells us how to have a fantastic Pure Michigan winter adventure at the Eben Ice Caves in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. 

Photo courtesy of Habibi Photography

The Eben Ice caves in Marquette County are one of Michigan’s prime winter attractions. Each winter, once the ice caves start to freeze up (usually sometime in December), visitor’s flock to the tiny town of Eben Junction to see the ice caves and, while they’re out there, support local businesses like the Eben Ice Caves concession stand, the Rock River Cafe and the New Moon Tavern.

Eben Ice Caves – The Basics

The “Rock River Canyon Ice Caves” better known as the Eben Ice Caves, form when melting snow runs over the edge of a small cliff and freezes, forming “ice caves” Much like the large ice formations along Munising’s Grand Island and parts of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, if you were to visit here in the summer you would see little to no water running over the edge.

It’s the perfect combination of a slow snow melt and frigid temperatures that causes these “caves” of ice to form.

The Hike to the Caves

Photo courtesy of Things to Do in the U.P.

This isn’t an attraction where you can pull up in your car, walk a few feet and be done. It’s not a long hike, but yes, you will have to get out and stretch your legs. And for the pet owners out there, yes, the area is pet friendly. Each time I’ve visited the ice caves I’ve seen more than a few dogs on the trail.

The hike from the parking area to the ice caves is about .75 miles. The first .25 mile stretch is a very flat walk through a farmer’s field. And just a note on that, the farmer allows people like you and me to pass through the field at no charge and if the kind family that owns the land ever stopped allowing this, the hike to the ice caves would be much longer. In addition to that, the land owners now offer portable bathrooms in the parking area at no charge. So, show your thanks by purchasing a hot beverage or a snack at their concession stand if you’re able!

A Word on Snowshoes and Ice Cleats

Photo courtesy of Things to Do in the U.P.

After a foot of snow got dumped on the area just two days before my recent visit, I asked a friend who lives in nearby Chatam if I should bring snowshoes. “It’s never a bad idea to bring the shoes,” he said, “but I”m guessing it’ll be packed down by then.”

He was right. Snowshoes would have only made the hike more difficult. So if you have them, bring them in case you happen to visit right after a big snowstorm. Otherwise, wear ice cleats.

Some form of ice cleats (I like Yaktrax but any of them should help!) can go a long way toward enhancing your Eben Ice Caves experience. Trust me. On any given day, about half the people visiting the caves are wearing cleats, and the other half wish they had them. The main reason is that, with ice cleats, you’re able to walk around inside the ice caves on relatively sure footing. And without them, it’s a little treacherous. The ice inside the caves is very smooth so traditional rubber boots tend to slide around quite a bit.

But another reason to wear cleats is that the trail out to the caves has some steep ups and downs. You’ll see many spots where people slide down hills on their bottoms, and then struggle to get up the other side. In short, if you’re wearing cleats (like myself and my cohorts were on our last outing) you’ll be able to walk right up and down those slippery spots. On my last visit, a college aged girl looked a little stunned as I walked right by her on a slippery hill and said “Oh, so that’s what it’s like when you have traction.”

Okay, enough about the ice cleats. You get the point!

Getting There

Photo courtesy of Habibi Photography

The Eben Ice Caves used to be a little hard to find, but no longer. Just set your GPS for Eben Junction, MI. (Or use Google Maps to find it.) From M-94 in Eben Junction, turn north onto Eben Road and drive about 1.5 miles to Frey Road. Turn right on Frey Road and drive to the end (if you can) or if it’s a busy day just find a spot to park along the road. It’s not unusual to see fifty or more cars parked here on a nice weekend day. Also, Eben Road and Frey Road have yellow signs on them that say “Ice Caves”, so keep an eye out for those.

All in all, though it’s a bit of a drive out to the ice caves, I’d highly recommend checking them out! As far as Michigan ice caves go, these are the most accessible I know of.

Have you been to the Eben Ice Caves? What did you think?

 

Written by Jesse Land of Things to do in the U.P. on behalf of Travel Marquette Michigan.

 

 

Natural Wonders: Eight Photos of Michigan’s Frozen Waterfalls

Did you know that there are more than 200 waterfalls in Michigan? Many of these are located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and are a beautiful sight to behold in any season. When the temperature drops during the deep winter months, the free-flowing falls freeze over and transform into magnificent winter wonders.

Michigan visitors and residents alike venture out to feast their eyes on these natural beauties (and if you’re feeling adventurous, you can even learn how to ice climb one!). Some of these spectacular sights are relatively easy to access. Others require snowshoes, skis or a snowmobile. Find out how to access the frozen waterfall nearest you here.

In Michigan, you’re never more than six miles away from a natural water source. Why not take a day trip to marvel at Michigan’s frozen falls? For inspiration, here are eight fantastic photos of frozen Michigan waterfalls captured by our fans and other talented photographers around the state.

Frozen Munising Falls at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Photo by Neil Weaver Photography.

 Ice formations at Tahquamenon Falls. Photo by: Tracie Bishop Kochanny

Ice Climbing in Munising, MI. Photo by: Kathryn Lund Johnson Nature Photography

Enormous icicles at Munising Falls. Photo by: Paul Arno Rose

Upper Tahquamenon Falls. Photo by: Jeffrey Foltice

Munising Falls. Photo by: Michigan Nut Photography

Behind Tannery Falls in Alger County. Photo by: Photo by: Brian Kainulainen Photography – BWANA Design

 Tannery Falls. Photo by: Brian Kainulainen Photography – BWANA Design

For more, check our our Facebook or Flickr page and follow us on Instagram! Have you ever seen a frozen waterfall in person? 

Six Reasons You’ll Want to Golf on a Frozen Great Lake

You don’t have to leave the Midwest this winter to enjoy a mind-blowing round of golf. The U.P. Ice Golf Scramble will take place March 1, 2014, in St. Ignace. Calling it a one-of-a-kind event just doesn’t do it justice. Mindy Rutgers from St. Ignace Visitors Bureau tells us why:

1. A Chip Off the Old (ice) Block

You know your favorite course like the back of your hand. You may have even golfed all of the interesting venues in Michigan.  Let St. Ignace introduce you to a new course and a new twist on your favorite pastime. Anyone can say they shot the back nine, but how many of your friends can say they played on 12 plus inches of ice? Few duffers can lay claim to rounds on Lake Huron or Lake Michigan, but the UP Ice Golf Scramble has courses on both of the lakes.

2. A Fun and Level Playing Field

Literally and figuratively – this outing offers a level playing field. Literally – because the lakes are flat and the courses as level as Mother Nature can make them. Figuratively, because we’ve constructed an event that places the emphasis on fun. It’s a two-person, best-ball scramble, which is our way of saying that even if you’ve never golfed in your life, partner up and take a swing at a winter adventure. No handicaps. No pros. Just fun.

3. White is The New Green

Swap your golf cart for a sled and turn your white golf balls a color of your choosing and you’re ready to play one of the three courses offered – the Chief Wawatam on Lake Huron, the Mighy Mac on Lake Michigan or the Greenland, also on Lake Michigan.

4. Go to the Extreme

Golf is traditionally a quiet, relaxed sport. But in this age of amped-up activities, bucket lists, and thrill-seeking, what could be more extreme than playing through atop 20 fathoms of icy cold waters? St. Ignace has a long history of using the frozen Great Lakes as a playground – from snowmobiling to pond hockey championships – but if you haven’t golfed Michigan or Huron, you haven’t taken full advantage of the state’s winter wonderland.

5. A Mighty Mac of a Prize

Teams can also enter a decorated sled for judging and a chance to win two tickets to the top of the Mackinac Bridge towers. These coveted tours don’t come around often, so flex your creative muscle and get to work on a showpiece sled that will dazzle the judges and your fellow golfers.

6. Golf Clothes Never Looked So Good

Are you turned off by the stuffy attire required on some courses? Ice golfers can forget about the preppy polo shirt or the golf knickers. Pack your thermal underwear, your fleece and anything else that can provide layers of warmth. Make sure you have a touk (a knitted winter hat) or a Stormy Kromer (a stylish wool cap made in the Upper Peninsula) and remember your sun glasses because St. Ignace is known for beautiful winter sunshine!

Learn more and register for the U.P. Ice Golf Scramble at www.stignace.com or call (800)338-6660.

Have you ever played golf on a frozen Great Lake? Tell us about your experience!

Mindy Rutgers is the Executive Director of the St. Ignace Visitors Bureau. She has worked in Michigan’s tourism & hospitality industry since 1996, holding posts in the Detroit metro area, as well as in the Upper Peninsula. She is also a seasoned ice golfer, but will focus on hosting, rather than competing in, the UP Ice Golf Scramble.