The Eben Ice Caves are one of the most popular winter attractions in the Upper Peninsula. Located in the Rock River Canyon Wilderness, these caves are easy to get to and spectacular in their beauty. This makes for a perfect winter day hike.
The ice caves are created by water seeping through the rock in the canyon walls. Early in the winter, the water will form small icicles, which will coalesce into a giant ice wall. The cave is formed in the gap between the overhanging ice wall and the back of the rocky outcrop.
If at all possible, avoid going on weekends, or during holidays. The Eben Caves are quite popular, and will attract hundreds of people on busy days. If you are looking to get some nice pictures, weekday trips or early morning jaunts allow you to beat the crowds.
After arriving at Eben Junction along Highway 94, turn on North Eben Road. You should see small informal signs pointing you the way to the caves. Take a right on Frey Road, and continue until you hit a dead-end with a parking lot provided by local land owners.
Hiking to the Eben Ice Caves can be quite icy and steep. Foot traction devices are recommended along this trail, and quite necessary when traversing the slick ice beneath the caves. Let me repeat this because I have seen many people ill prepared for this hike. Please wear foot traction devices such as ice cleats. The trail is heavily trafficked, and the snow is usually well packed down. Unless you make the journey after heavy snowfall, snow shoes aren’t necessary to get there. The distance to the caves from the parking lot is about 3/4 miles.
After parking, walk across the open field as if continuing straight down the road, and into the forest. The walk across the field can be cold and gusty, so make sure you dress accordingly. After entering the wooded area, the trail is pretty easy to follow. You will soon come to a sign post on your left, marking the start of the Rock River Canyon Wilderness. Take this trail, which will lead you all the way to the ice caves.
In a while, you will come to the edge of a ravine surrounding Silver Creek. The trail descends steeply (not fun on hard packed snow) down to the creek. After following the footpath along the creek, you will come across a large gully along the slope. You will just be able to see the large wall of ice up at the top of the gully. It is pretty easy to overshoot the caves and keep walking. If you feel like you are not walking along a trail anymore, you may have passed them.
Early in the season water still flows in this area. But as winter progresses the stream will turn into a steep ice chute. This makes a climb up the stream bed impossible without crampons. Instead, ascend the slope up either side of the chute to reach the ice caves.
While in the area of the Ice Caves, bask in their beauty and natural wonder, but keep your safety in mind. Large icicles can break off and cause severe injury. While this is unlikely, it is something to be aware of. You may even see some ice climbers scaling the standing frozen columns. If there are climbers be sure to keep your distance to avoid falling ice.
Although this area is beautiful all times of year, there is no waterfall at the ice cave site. If you wish to visit the Rock River Canyon Wilderness in summer, I would recommend hiking to nearby Rock River Falls.
For more information, and current condition reports. Check out the Facebook Group.