Nestled in the Rock River Canyon Wilderness, about two miles north of Eben Junction, is the Eben Ice Caves. For those new to the area it’s pronounced eh-been not eeeeee-been. Rock River Canyon is one of the six designated wilderness areas of Hiawatha National Forest. The Rock River Canyon was created by congress in 1987 and consists of 4,600 acres in Alger County. There is another canyon, Silver Creek, which is separated by a wide flat ridge. Both canyons are about 150 feet deep.
The Eben Ice Caves are pretty easily accessible thanks to the private land owner who has given permission for a trail to cross their field into the woods, providing a nice shortcut. The entire trail is about one mile round trip (about a 15-20 minute walk each way) and typically has well packed snow. As long as there is no fresh snow and you don’t plan on getting off the beaten track, snowshoes aren’t a necessity. However, good balance and good tread on the boots is nearly a requirement. There are a couple of steep sections which can get pretty icy, though many opt for sliding down on their butt.
To get to the Ice Caves, head north on Eben Road from highway M94 at Eben Junction (directions). Drive two miles and hang right on to Frey Road. There is a small parking area at the curve and room to park on the shoulder on busy days. From there the trail across the field is easy to find and will lead you the rest of the way. There are even portable toilets and a temporary concession stand. Oh, and if you arrive at “Journey’s End” you’ve driven too far.
Sunday was a particularly beautiful sunny Upper Peninsula day, which meant a lot of people! At peak, I counted over 70 people at the Eben Ice Caves. Including all of the people still on the trail there were easily over 100 people in the peak hours of the afternoon. Dogs, children, college students, parents, and grandparents alike were out exploring. The parking area had at least 40 vehicles. So it gest busy! If you prefer a quieter time in the wilderness we suggest going early in the morning on a weekday.
As the quip goes, “Take only pictures, leave only footprints.” Advice taken. I took nearly as many photos as I left footprints.
Have you been to the Eben Ice Caves? What are your favorite winter locations to explore?