When you think of Michigan’s natural beauty, you may picture four of the five Great Lakes, pristine beaches, and lush, green forests. It’s true that the state has all of those things and more to make you shake your head in amazement. And, believe it or not, there are a lot of caves in Michigan.
Many of Michigan’s numerous caves are man-made and hearken back to the Mitten State’s mining history. However, many others develop naturally from the dissolution of dolomite, gypsum, or limestone bedrock along cracks and faults. The result is underground drainage systems instead of surface streams.
So, if you’re up for some exploring, grab your gear, and check out these caves in Michigan.
Adventure Mine | Greenland
Greenland, in the Western Upper Peninsula, is home to a remnant of Michigan’s former mining glory days. There are many copper mines throughout the peninsula, and some are currently still active.
Adventure Mine is one of the state’s best-preserved mines and features seasonal tours so visitors can experience underground mining like it was in the 1800s. One of the coolest things is that Adventure Mining Company offers three different tours:
- The Prospector’s Tour takes visitors on a 1.5-hour journey through some of the mine’s largest cave rooms.
- The Miner’s Tour lasts three hours and offers a chance to replicate miner movements — rappelling 80 feet, crawling through small spaces, and hiking some of the oldest parts of the mine.
- The Captain’s Tour lasts five to six hours and takes visitors to areas not seen anywhere else in the mine. You’ll see the inner workings of multiple mine levels and finish things off with a pasty lunch in the mine.
Millie Hill Bat Cave | Iron Mountain
You won’t be a crime-fighter if you visit this Upper Peninsula spot, but you’ll see a cave full of bats, as the name implies. The best time to visit Millie Hill Bat Cave is between April and September, and if you come at just the right time, you’ll be treated to the sight of a massive display of bats in flight.
Spider Cave/Burnt Bluff Cave | Fayette
Just a few miles south of Fayette Historic State Park, Spider Cave is one of the most unique caves in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Spider Cave is the site of four pictographs or cave drawings. Arguably, the most famous of these drawings is a spider-man – a man connected to a spider by what appears to be an umbilical cord.
The Spider Cave pictographs were advertised as a tourist attraction by Ruth and Henry Lang, who bought the land in 1947. In the 1970s, the State of Michigan purchased the area around Burnt Bluff, which is now part of Fayette Historic State Park. It is no longer open to the public.
Eben Ice Caves | Eben Junction
If you really love Michigan winters, then you absolutely must get up to Eben Junction, just outside Marquette. The Rock River Canyon Ice Caves form when melting snow runs over a small cliff edge and then freezes, allowing daring visitors to climb on and even walk through ice as they explore.
The Eben Ice Caves are a winter adventure to take, and they start freezing in December. If you plan on visiting, plan for the hike, and wear ice cleats if possible, especially after a big storm. The cleats let you walk around inside caves with relatively sure footing and will keep you from sliding.
Alger Underwater Preserve | Munising
Perhaps some of the strangest caves in Michigan are those at Alger Underwater Preserve. The sea caves were formed by centuries of waves pounding against sandstone cliffs. The hollowed-out caves go about 10 feet underwater. If you’re a fan of snorkeling, this is an impressive opportunity.
The Alger Underwater Preserve was actually the first preserve established in Michigan and is one of the most popular scuba diving areas in the Great Lakes. Not only can you see sea caves, but you can see intact shipwrecks.
It’s one of the safest places to dive because many of the wreck sites and caves are protected from waves and winds by Grand Island. Also, visibility is usually very good.
Grand Island Ice Caves | Munising
The Grand Island Ice Caves near Munising are a sight to behold.
Although ice forms frequently along the Pictured Rocks cliffs above Lake Superior’s waters, these locations are difficult to see. From the Sand Point beaches, you can see ice on the Grand Island cliffs.
Safety Note: Due to undetermined ice thickness, thin and moving ice, concealed underwater currents, and open water, walking on Lake Superior or across Munising Bay is not recommended.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore | Munising
The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is an Upper Peninsula gem that gets more than 800,000 visitors annually and offers plenty to see in the way of forest and lakeshore. But if you’re a kayaker or go on a kayak tour, you can have a completely different experience.
In a kayak, you’ll find numerous caves you can enter while still in your kayak, making you appreciate Pictured Rocks even more. Along the 15-mile lakeshore, several picturesque sea caves have formed from years of weathering of the limestone cliffs.
On paddle and hike tours, you might see Rainbow Cave and Miners Castle, where the water flows between sections of sea caves under this formation. If you visit the park during the winter, you can also visit several frozen waterfalls.
Skull Cave | Mackinac Island
Mackinac Island is renowned for its fudge and many attractions, but it’s also home to Skull Cave. This is a small cave, but it has some big historical connections. Fur trader Alexander Henry is said to have taken refuge there during Fort Michilimackinac’s capture during Pontiac’s War.
Mari Vineyards | Traverse City
There are many kinds of caves in Michigan and one of the most unique is undoubtedly the Mari Vineyards wine caves in Northwest Michigan. If you’re a wine enthusiast, this is a spot you must visit.
These caves have a constant 60-degree temperature, which is ideal for winemaking. Visitors must book a tour at least two days in advance, but you’ll be able to see the production area and the barrel-aging process up close.
Bear Cave | Buchanan
Located deep in Southwest Michigan, Bear Cave is a treat for all who visit. You can traverse the cave after walking down a 40-foot, winding staircase. The cave is 15 feet deep, 4 to 6 feet wide, and 10 to 15 feet high.
Also, it has a great bit of history. In 1875, a bank robber chose to stash his loot there, and the incident was immortalized in the 1903 silent movie “The Great Train Robbery.”
Frequently Asked Questions About Caves in Michigan
Are there any caves to explore in Michigan?
Yes, there are lots of caves to explore in Michigan, and many of them have unique features. In the winter, you can go to the Upper Peninsula to check out the ice caves.
In the summertime, you can kayak along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore to check out the sea caves.
If you’re in the Lower Peninsula, you can travel to Traverse City to see unique wine caves. Or, check out Skull Cave on Mackinac Island.
Not all Michigan caves are open to the public – please verify that you are welcome on any property and follow any rules before exploring caves in Michigan.
Are there caves in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan?
There are several caves in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Some of the most famous are the sea caves found along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore near Munising, Spider Cave in Fayette, Alger Underwater Preserve near Munising, and Millie Hill Bat Cave near Iron Mountain.
In the wintertime, you can check out the ice caves near Eben Junction and the Grand Island Ice Caves.
Where are the sea caves in Michigan?
Some of the most colorful and unique sea caves can be found around Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. You can also check out the Alger Underwater Preserve near Munising to go snorkeling into a 10-foot cave.
Can you visit Eben Ice Caves in the summer?
You can, but you would see no ice and little to no water running over the cliff edge. It’s best to wait until the cold winter months because that’s the only time the ice formations develop.
Where are the Grand Island Ice Caves?
The Grand Island Ice Caves are located in Munising, not far from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Access requires walking across more than a half-mile of frozen Lake Superior and is not recommended due to ice safety precautions.
Can you visit caves in winter?
Some of the caves mentioned above may be open to visitors in winter months, however, it is always best to verify with the property before planning a visit.
What is white-nose syndrome?
White-nose syndrome is a fungus that affects hibernating bats. When visiting caves, please consider the native inhabitants and use proper precaution to avoid the spread of this fungus.