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.

 

 

Six Stunning Marquette County Beaches

Marquette County is home to dozens of beautiful beaches. Today, guest blogger Jesse Land highlights a few of his favorites.

Black Rocks Beach at Presque Isle Park

Black Rocks Beach

Located within Presque Isle Park, this rock beach is a unique find treasured by rock collectors for it’s huge and vast collection of smooth Lake Superior stones. Nestled between two cliffs, Black Rocks Beach is a scenic spot all on it’s own. However, if you happen to visit on a warm summer day you’re likely to see the young (and young at heart) cliff diving off the Black Rocks rock formation right in front of the beach!

McCarty’s Cove

There’s a reason McCarty’s Cove is one of the most popular (and most photographed) beaches in the Upper Peninsula. With it’s rock islands, sand point, proximity to the Marquette bike path and view of the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse from anywhere on the beach, this beach is tough to beat.

Pebble Beach

Another popular spot for rock hounds, Pebble Beach is located a little north of McCarty’s Cove (just past Picnic Rocks). This beach is has quite a bit of sand but the sand gives way to smooth stones where Lake Superior meets the land. The pebbles continue into the water so if you plan on wading here, I’d recommend that you bring your water shoes.

South Beach on Marquette's southside

South Beach

This wide, flat beach is located on Marquette’s south side. It’s locally known to be one of the more “kid friendly” beaches, as the water near the beach is very shallow. Playground equipment dots the section of this beach near the lifeguard stand, while the section further south is wide open, dog friendly and not watched by a lifeguard.

Sunset Beach

One of the best beaches for sunset watching near Marquette, this five mile stretch of pristine Upper Peninsula beach is dog friendly and, because it’s a little out of town, often not very busy. A sandy bottom greets you as you wade into Lake Superior. And due to the expansiveness of this particular locale, this beach is blessed with a better than average view of Lake Superior and the surrounding area.

Teal Lake Beach

This small but pleasant beach is located in Negaunee, just a few miles away from Marquette. A shallow, sandy entry makes this a kid friendly beach and it’s distance from Marquette means it’s often less busy than some of the other beaches. Also, because Teal Lake is an inland Lake, its water is often a bit warmer than Lake Superior!

Teal Lake Beach

Details about all of these beaches, plus photos, and a map to twelve waterfalls and thirteen scenic views are all included on the Marquette County Waterfall Map. Get one for free by calling the Marquette Visitor’s Bureau at (906) 228-7749.

This post was written by Jesse Land on behalf of the Marquette County Convention Center and Visitor’s Bureau.

The Ultimate List of Upper Peninsula Breweries

National Beer Day is Sunday, April 7! In celebration, we asked Jesse Land of the travel site “Things to do in the U.P.” to share a roundup of Upper Peninsula-based breweries. Let us know in the comments section below if you have a favorite U.P. brewery!

Did you know that the Upper Peninsula has thirteen breweries? From Brickside Brewery at the tip of the Keweenaw to Soo Brewing in the eastern U.P., breweries have been opening up (and sticking around) regularly over the past few years.

Following is a full list of all the fully operational breweries in the U.P., as well as one bonus location I don’t want you to miss.

Brickside Brewery
64 Gratiot St.
Copper Harbor, MI 49918
(906) 289-4772

Funded in part by a successful Kickstarter campaign, Brickside opened its doors in 2012 and makes a terrific addition to Michigan’s northernmost town.

Red Jacket Brewing Co.
300 Sixth St.
Calumet, MI 49913
(906) 337-1910

Part of the Michigan House Café, Red Jacket Brewing serves several beers at the Michigan House as well as a wide variety of other beer. Historic charm and excellent food make this a great stop for lunch or dinner.

The Library Brew Pub
62 Isle Royale St.
Houghton, MI 49931
(906) 487-5882

Known for their killer pizza, the Library Brew Pub also boasts a nice selection of excellent beer and a great view of the Portage Canal waterway.

Keweenaw Brewing Company
408 Shelden Ave.
Houghton, MI 49931
(906) 482-5596

The U.P.’s largest brewer by far, “KBC” beer is distributed across Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The KCBC tap room in downtown Houghton features two bars, a lounge area, fireplace, free wifi and outdoor seating.

Jasper Ridge Brewery
1075 Country Lane
Ishpeming, MI 49849
(906) 485-6017

Jasper Ridge in Ishpeming is a sports friendly brewpub and restaurant. I wouldn’t call it a sports bar, but their lounge area is definitely a good spot to have a burger and a craft beer while watching “the game.”

The Vierling
No. 119 South Front
Marquette, MI 49855
(906) 228-3533

The Veirling is a fixture in Marquette. It’s known as much for its excellent food and cool, historic atmosphere as it is for is beer. And it’s also just two blocks away from the equally historic Landmark Inn.

Blackrocks Brewery
424 N 3rd St.
Marquette, MI 49855
(906) 273-1333

Just a short walk away from The Vierling, Blackrocks is located in a converted house. The owners have done an excellent job with the space and it’s become one of Marquette’s most popular watering holes for good reason. Blackrocks also features live music Sunday through Thursday.

Ore Dock Brewing Co.
114 Spring St.
Marquette, MI 49855
(906) 228-8888

Marquette’s newest brewery is another wonderful addition to the town. With a sharp focus on sustainable building materials, local community, and Belgian beers, Ore Dock is loved by locals and tourists alike. The Ore Dock is within easy walking distance of both Blackrocks and The Vierling.

Hereford & Hops
624 Ludington St.
Escanaba, MI 49829
(906) 789-1945

Hereford and Hops is “grill your own steak” type restaurant and brewery in Escanaba. They always have a variety of beer on tap and feature seasonal favorites throughout the year.

Shooters Firehouse Restaurant & Lounge
408 Mill St.
Munising, MI 49862
(906) 387-3540

Shooters is an established restaurant and bar in Munising that just started serving their own craft beer a few weeks ago.  They have five different types of beer on tap and many more varieties ready to serve. 

Lake Superior Brewing Co.
N14283 Lake Ave.
Grand Marais, MI 49839
(906) 494-2337

Lake Superior Brewing in Grand Marais is an idyllic little place in an idyllic little town. With much talked about pizza and favorites like their garlic parmesan popcorn or scotch eggs, this establishment could get by just fine without it’s own beer. But add a nice selection of craft brews to the mix and this definitely becomes a must try brewery.

Tahquamenon Falls Brewery
Upper Tahquamenon Falls
Newberry, MI 49868
(906) 492-3300

Built to resemble an old logging camp, the food here is widely accepted as being better than average and the beer is some of the best I’ve had in the U.P. I’ve yet to hear anything other than great things about this brewery from anyone, and I’ve asked a lot of people! It’s located just off the parking area for upper Tahquamenon Falls.

Soo Brewing
223 W Portage Ave
Sault, MI 49783
(906) 632-4400

Another fairly recent addition to the list of Upper Peninsula breweries, Soo Brewing brought craft beer back to the Soo. I haven’t been here yet myself, but the feedback I’ve heard is that the beer is good and the space is comfortable.

The Fitz
5033 Front St.
Eagle River, MI 49950
(906) 337-0666

I’m giving The Fitz in Eagle River an honorable mention here, and if you visit the place I’m sure you’ll agree with me. With over 100 different beers available, most only found in bigger cities, The Fitz should be on any beer lover’s radar. These guys know their beer.

That’s it for now, folks. I hope to see an Upper Peninsula beer tour in your future!

A native Yooper, Jesse Land lives in Iron Mountain and enjoys hiking, biking, skiing, and camping with his family. He runs the U.P. travel site “Things to do in the U.P.” (www.thingstodointheup.com).