Exploring Rock River Canyon Ice Caves

Exploring Rock River Canyon Ice Caves
The Awesome Mitten - Rock River Canyon Ice Caves
Photo by Christine Snow

When it comes to unique destinations, Michigan can’t be beat. Every season brings somewhere new to explore! Rock River Canyon Ice Caves, located in the central Upper Peninsula, is one of those places. These stunning natural formations are spectacular and a must-see winter destination.

The Awesome Mitten - Rock River Canyon Ice Caves
Photo courtesy of Christine Snow

About the Ice Caves

The caves are part of the Rock River Canyon Wilderness area, which is located in the Hiawatha National Forest. This area, situated in Alger County, is home to an abundance of natural wilderness and many species of wildlife. Two canyons – Rock River and Silver Creek – are part of the stunning landscape. These canyons are approximately 150 ft. deep, with other elevations within the area ranging from 600 – 1,000 ft.

During winter months, water steeping over the edge of the canyons creates the stunning ice curtains in front of the caves. Cedar trees and sandstone around the caves contribute to the yellow coloring of the ice. Soaring walls of ice reach up to 50 ft. high.

The caves are also known as the Eben Ice Caves due to their location near Eben Junction.

The Awesome Mitten - Rock River Canyon Ice Caves
Photo courtesy of Christine Snow

Getting There

This is very easy destination to find. However, both Internet and GPS service in this area is limited. Before leaving, write down directions. When doing a directions search, use Eben Ice Caves as the destination.

After arriving in Eben Junction – the town where the ice caves are located – look for the yellow direction signs.  Follow these from the turn on Eben Road – they lead directly to the parking area.

Before setting out, be sure to have an emergency kit in your car that includes blankets, water, flashlights, jumper cables, and other winter necessities. Michigan weather can be unpredictable and snow storms can spring up suddenly, so it’s good to be prepared.

The Awesome Mitten - Rock River Canyon Ice Caves
Photo courtesy of Christine Snow

Trekking to the Caves

After arriving, a parking area with portable bathrooms will be available.

The hike to the caves is approximately 1.4 miles. The first part of the trip is across an open field, toward the woods. This part of the trail is on private property and unmarked. Follow the tracks from previous visitors to the wooded area.

After arriving in the woods, continue to follow the trail for a short distance until you see a welcome sign for the “Rock River Canyon Ice Caves” and “Rock River Canyon Wilderness” area.  Turn left at the sign and follow this trail to the caves.

The Awesome Mitten - Rock River Canyon Ice Caves
Photo courtesy of Christine Snow

Practical Tips for Visiting Rock River Canyon Ice Caves

Be sure to dress warmly!  Temperatures in this area are often below zero with wind chill factors at -20 to -30 below. This is typical Upper Peninsula winter weather, so be sure to bundle up!

Invest in some ice cleats. The area around the caves is extremely slippery and cleats will help provide extra traction. Inexpensive rubber slip-on cleats are available through Amazon or at almost any sporting goods store.

The trails to and from the caves can be steep and slippery, especially if there’s been a lot of foot traffic. Be sure to plan enough time to take it slow.

Use extreme caution when climbing or going inside the caves. Watch for unstable areas and be aware of where children are at all times.

Before heading in, take a minute to read the safety information posted on the Rock River Canyon Wilderness sign.

This destination might be difficult for smaller children, people with infants, anyone who has trouble walking/climbing, or is unstable on slippery surfaces.

For the most up-to-date information on cave conditions, visit the Eben Ice Caves Facebook page.

Are you ready to plan your visit to Rock River Canyon Ice Caves? Have you ever been before?

The Awesome Mitten - Rock River Canyon Ice Caves
Photo courtesy of Christine Snow