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9 of the Best Caves in Michigan for an Ideal Adventure

By | Last Updated : 9th October 2021

Unlike the typical underground caves found in volcanic states like Arizona and Kentucky, Michigan offers a whole new experience when it comes to exploring them. Most of them are hollow formations in sandstone cliffs or the frozen state of seeping waters through them. You’ll also find hibernating bats in some that are now abandoned mines. They primarily sit in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, requiring different ways to access them from kayaking to scuba diving. Moreover, besides cave exploring, you can enjoy seeing other nearby sites and indulge in activities like hiking and camping.

Caves in Michigan

Caves in Upper Michigan

1. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore caves in Upper Michigan

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is on the southern shoreline of Lake Superior near Munising. These rocks are a multi-colored series of sandstone cliffs that feature naturally sculpted shallow caves and other rock formations. You can enjoy a self-kayak tour or a guided one to witness each of the wonders. The largest among the caves is Rainbow Cave, characterized by colorful mineral-stained rocks. Apart from this, you can ride to the distant point of Pictured Rocks to see Caves of the Bloody Chief, where ancient chiefs would tie their captives till death.

There’s no entrance fee charged here.

Other activities: As you tour on your kayaks to see these caves, you’ll also come across other attractions, including Miners Castle, Indian Head Rock, Kissing Rock, Shipwreck Point, and so on. Other than this, you can enjoy hiking, picnicking, and camping here.

Hours of operation: 24 hours

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2. Adventure Mine

Adventure Mine caves in Upper Michigan

Adventure Mine is in Greenland in the western part of the Upper Peninsula. It is a well-preserved copper mine that operated from 1850 to 1917. The Adventure Mine Company offers fascinating underground tours that give you an insight into its history and different mining techniques. The tours to the cave range from an easy 45-minute walk to 6 hours of exploration, including rappelling down the 80 feet mine shaft and exploring submerged areas. Do wear a light jacket and appropriate shoes as it is cold, wet, and somewhat muddy underground. You might also spot bats hibernating at a corner.

Other activities: You can shop for copper pieces extracted from these mines as a souvenir after exploring the cave.

Hours of operation: 9 am to 6 pm

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3. Eben Ice Caves

Eben Ice Caves in Upper Michigan

Eben Ice Caves, also known as Rock River Canyon Ice Caves, are in Rock River Canyon Wilderness within Hiawatha National Forest. It is a popular spot during the late winter months. These are not actual caves but form each year when water seeping through a sandstone cliff’s edge freezes. You can see spectacular vertical formations, including icicles hanging like a stalactite from the ceiling as you go inside. Remember to wear ice cleats as the one-mile trail starting from the parking lot is steep, and the smooth ice inside the caves is extremely slippery. You can also rent the cleats from New Moon Bar, located in Eben Junction. The short trail from the parking lot to the caves is under private property.

Other activities: You can enjoy hot chocolate and snacks from the concession stand after visiting the caves.

Hours of operation: 24 hours

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4. Grand Island Ice Cave

Grand Island Ice Cave in Upper Michigan

Near the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, you’ll find this seasonal wonder harbored in the southeastern part of Grand Island. The dramatic ice caves are formed by the seeping waters of Lake Superior along sandstone bluffs. About 30 feet high, the ice formations are pretty impressive, making it a lovely place to explore. To get here, you will have to walk along a short Sand Point Road from the Sand Point Beach parking lot, past a frozen lake. As you’ll be walking over snow-covered paths, be sure to wear snowshoes.

Other activities: You can also visit the nearby Munising Falls, which freezes in winter and offers a splendid sight.

Hours of operation: 24 hours

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5. Millie Hill Bat Cave

Millie Hill Bat Cave in Upper Michigan

Millie Hill Bat Cave is a sheltering place for one of the largest hibernating bat colonies in North America. It is an abandoned iron mine in which about 1 million bats come to stay every year. Self-guided interpretive programs are available at the site to enlighten visitors about these flying mammals. The best time to see the eye-catching display of the bats leaving or entering the cave in large numbers to catch prey is in dawn or dusk of any day between May and September.

Other activities: As it is nearby the Iron Mountain, you’ll find many hiking trails in the vicinity.

Hours of operation: 8 am to 9 pm

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6. Alger Underwater Preserve

Alger Underwater Preserve in Upper Michigan

Alger Underwater Preserve lies in the southern shoreline of Lake Superior, just a few minutes away from Munising. It attracts scuba divers of any skill level to enter into its shallow waters and explore different sites and formations underwater. Among these, you can witness the sea caves, which are hollowed sections of sandstone cliffs formed by regular wave activity. In addition to these, you will also enjoy seeing many shipwrecks. To access and explore these underwater attractions, do avail wreck-diving opportunities offered here and get the experience of a lifetime.

Other activities: You can visit many nearby spots, including Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Grand Island.

Hours of operation: Not recorded

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7. Skull Cave

Skull Cave in Upper Michigan

Skull Cave is one of the oldest geological formations found in the Mackinac Islands. It is a small cavern that was a burial spot in the 18th century, due to which it earns the name. It is said that Alexander Henry, an English fur trader, took shelter in it during the 1763 – Pontiac’s War. But, the following day, he was shocked to find out that he was sleeping on a heap of skulls and bone. Though it is no more a burial ground, it remains a popular tourist spot to date.

Other activities: You can enjoy exploring the historical sites and streets of Mackinac Island.

Hours of operation: 24 hours

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8. Spider Cave

Spider Cave in Upper Michigan

Spider Cave or the Burnt Bluff Cave, as it is alternately called,  sits above the base of Burnt Buff, a limestone cliff on the shore of Big Bay de Noc. It is an archaeological site featuring four pictographs inside the cave and at its entrance, drawn by the Native Americans. Among these, the significant one is about a man connected to a spider-like image by a spiral umbilical cord. However, due to the natural erosions and human contact, these pictographs have been gradually disappearing. This area is now a part of Fayette Historic State Park, and visitors are not allowed to access it at present.  

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Caves in Lower Michigan

1. Bear Cave

Bear Cave in Lower Michigan

Bear Caves are a few minutes’ drive away from Buchanan in southwest Michigan. A limestone formation, called tufa, created the structure of the cave. You will have to enter it through a gift shop on the premises via a 40-foot spiral stairway. Once you are inside it, you will come across impressive formations like stalactites and petrified leaves. It also bears historical significance. The cave was a vital part of the 1800’s Underground Railroad as it was used to hold slaves as captives. Moreover, robbers also accessed it to hide the loot from Ohio Bank in 1875’s robbery case.

Other activities: You could camp at the camping accommodations in the area. In addition, the St Joseph River nearby the cave is ideal for fishing and kayaking.  

Hours of operation: 9am to 5 pm

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Best Caves for Kayaking: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

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