In February and March, the shores outside Sault Ste. Marie are battered constantly with freezing cold waves, snow and sleet, giving birth to the most famous Lake Superior attractions in Ontario: the ice caves. 

Highlighted as one of the New York Times’s 52 Places to Go in 2019, these stunning natural formations of snow and ice range from small depressions in the ground to towering maws toothed with icicles. 

Located off the beaten path, venturing out to see the Lake Superior Ice Caves requires more than just a coat and two layers of socks! Walking along the frozen shores of the lake requires care and equipment. However, the reward is certainly worth the effort, just to stand at the mouth of an ice cave and stare into the crystalline depths within.

What to do Before Visiting the Ice Caves of Lake Superior

Before visiting the Ice Caves of Lake Superior, it is integral to prepare for the cold and look up the local ice conditions beforehand. Dressing in layers is essential as well as wearing good quality hiking boots, some even recommend putting on snowshoes before heading onto the ice. 

Ice picks, rope and walking sticks can also be essential tools if someone falls through the ice and needs to be pulled out. A first aid kit along with water and snacks are also important in case of an emergency. 

Finally, the most important thing you can bring on a winter nature excursion is a buddy or two. Going out alone can be dangerous, especially in winter. Here are some more tips on ice safety from the Canadian Red Cross. 

The Best Spots to See the Lake Superior Ice Caves

The position of the ice caves are different every year, and in some warmer winters none even form at all. However, there are a number of spots near Sault Ste. Marie that are known to be the go-tos for anyone who wants to check out these special Lake Superior attractions in Ontario. 

Alona Bay

Located just off the Trans-Canada Highway, the Alona Bay Scenic Lookout is one of the best places to go to get a view of the winter-swept coastline of Lake Superior. From the overlook, head on down to the shore to see the snowy ridges and go hunting for ice caves. 

Coppermine Point

Located just past Pancake Bay Provincial Park, Coppermine Point is known for its steep ridges and the strong waves which shape some of the most beautiful ice caves on Lake Superior. The waves by Coppermine Point are so fierce, that they caused one of the worst shipwrecks in Sault Ste. Marie’s history, the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975. On some days, some of the wreckage of the ship is visible from Coppermine Point. 

Gros Cap Conservation Area

Found just outside Sault Ste. Marie, the Gros Cap Conservation Area is a great place to visit for those who want to see ice caves without venturing too far away from civilization. The area is popular for snowshoeing and has many icy ridges in winter, as well as ice cave formations. 

Hibbard Bay

Located about Halfway between Lake Superior Provincial Park and Sault Ste. Marie, ice caves lay thick along Hibbard Bay’s windswept shoreline. In addition to seeing Sault Ste Marie ice caves, the bay is a short walk from Coppermine Lighthouse, which was decommissioned and moved from its original position in 1969

Red Rock Park

A popular spot for ice fishing just outside of Sault Ste. Marie, Red Rock is also a great spot for scouting out some Sault Ste. Marie ice caves. It is however off the beaten track, so get ready for a hike and make sure to bundle up before heading out to the shore of Lake Superior. 

Sawpit Bay

Located just west of Pancake Bay Provincial Park, Sawpit Bay lies just off the Trans-Canada Highway and features some of the best ice caves off Lake Superior in Ontario. Simply walk along the coastline and keep an eye out for any ice caves along the way. 

Pointe Des Chenes

Pointe Des Chenes by the Sault Ste. Marie Airport is a popular beach in the summer, however by winter it becomes one of the best spots to go hunting for Sault Ste. Marie ice caves. It also features some popular trails for snowshoeing as well as a chance to see passing ship traffic. 

The Lake Superior Ice Caves: A Fleeting Vision

Despite their imposing appearance, the ice caves on Lake Superior, Ontario are a truly vulnerable natural phenomenon. With the trend of rising temperatures and increasingly mild winters in Northern Ontario, their continued existence is far from certain. Additionally, the warmer weather makes going out on the ice to try to get a closer look at these unique ice formations increasingly dangerous as the frozen surface of the lake grows thinner and more prone to collapse. 

As such, it’s important to only go out to see the Sault Ste. Marie ice caves when the weather is appropriate in the peak seasons of February and March. If possible, we highly recommend finding a local guide who can help navigate the deep reaches of Algoma County. Nonetheless, it can still be a life-changing experience to witness the majesty of the Lake Superior Ice Caves before they’re gone forever. 

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