2 Days 164 Miles
Exploring the Wonder of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Winter
The infamous ice caves of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Wisconsin have seen quite a development as a bucket list winter destination. Thanks to its ephemeral beauty and temporal nature, the ice formations serve to make the experience one that visitors will remember forever.
Located on Lake Superior, the ice caves are an incredibly rare sight to behold. In order to create this natural phenomena, conditions have to be just right. Not only do the temperatures need to be incredibly cold, but the wind plays an important role as well. This perfect storm doesn’t happen every year, so don’t miss your chance to see this extraordinary occasion if the opportunity presents itself.
Our two-day itinerary explores Wisconsin’s natural winter wonderland and is perfect for a quick weekend getaway in the great outdoors. Be sure to dress for the frigid weather and keep an eye on the forecast for the latest travel conditions.
Arrival: Minneapolis, Minnesota
We recommend flying into Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport the night before, which is approximately a four-hour drive to Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Take the drive to Bayfield, Wisconsin, your homebase for the next two nights, and check in at the locally owned and operated Seagull Bay Motel nestled right on the edge of Lake Superior. The beautiful lakeside sunrise alone makes this accommodation well worth the stay during your time visiting the National Lakeshore.
Day 1 – Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Begin your day at Manypenny Bistro to fuel up on classic breakfast dishes and bottomless drip coffee before heading out. Our first day starts on the mainland, with several winter hiking trails to choose from depending on your interests and hiking abilities. Always check the current weather conditions to help you prepare.
If you’re interested in cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, check out Howl Adventure Center in Bayfield for all your winter rental needs.
At nearly 11 miles, the Lakeshore Trail is an out-and-back hike, so you can trek as little or as long as you like. It’s considered moderately challenging and great for backpacking, birding, and camping. The pet-friendly trail is open year-round, providing hikers with access to the mainland sea caves.
For a shorter hike, take the first portion of the trail, also known as the Meyers Beach Sea Caves Trail. This portion of the trail is about four miles round trip and gives you a chance to see the unique sculpted shoreline along Lake Superior. Adventure through boreal forest and peer over high cliffs along the way.
Mainland Ice Caves
When the conditions are perfect, stunning ice formations are created along the lakeshore that are only accessible by hiking on a frozen lake. If you’re lucky enough to visit during this natural phenomena, you’ll be able to see the Mainland Ice Caves along a two-mile round trip hike from the Meyers Beach area.
Note: Snow and ice transform this area into a stunning winterscape. However, conditions can be dangerous on a frozen lake. Call the ice line at (715) 799-3398 x3 for the current risk level. Cascading icicles are a photographer’s dream, and as you hike along the lake, you’ll see each of the red sandstone caves filled with an amazing display of icicles that change on a daily basis. Though tempting, look, but don’t touch. It can be dangerous and cause injury to yourself and others due to the delicate nature of the icicles. Sturdy footwear is always recommended.
Lost Creek Falls
Explore the nearby trails outside of Apostle Islands at the Lost Creek Falls Trail. This is an easy 2.2-mile roundtrip hike located near Cornucopia and features a beautiful, 8-foot frozen waterfall.
Where to Eat Near Apostle Islands
After a day of Wisconsin winter hiking, enjoy a delicious dinner back in town. Just down the road from your accommodations, you’ll find plenty of local restaurants serving some of the freshest lake-caught fish. Stop by Copper Trout for whitefish and trout specialties combined with classic Italian dishes. Or check out The Pier Plaza Restaurant and Pickled Herring Lounge, serving Midwestern classics lakeside since the 1950s.
Day 2 – St. Croix Falls
From Bayfield, make the three-hour drive to our next destination, St. Croix Falls. Day two is filled with nordic adventure along the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Just one of 11 National Scenic Trails in the U.S., the Ice Age Trail spans 1,000 miles throughout the state of Wisconsin.
And yes, you guessed it. The trail carved by glaciers crosses through the town of St. Croix Falls. Make a stop at Wild River State Park to rent snowshoes or cross-country skis from Wild River Ski Rental. Explore some of the 35 miles of trails here or head directly to the St. Croix Falls segment of the Ice Age Trail. This trail segment offers nine miles to explore, so you can venture as much as you’d like before returning your rentals for the day.
Where to Eat & Stay Near St. Croix Falls
Warm up with savory and spicy Indian cuisine from The Vegetarian in St. Croix Falls. While the menu is fully vegetarian, the flavors will please any palate. Each dish uses the freshest ingredients, herbs, and spices—no curry powder in sight!
After dinner, get a good night’s rest in one-of-a-kind accommodations. Check in at the Old Jail Bed & Breakfast, located in a former saloon and jail built in the late 1800s. Two charming and spacious suite options are available, both complete with remnants of the building’s historic past.
In the morning, breakfast is delivered directly to your suite so you can enjoy a leisurely morning before heading back to Minneapolis to catch your flight.