Explore 11 Coolest Caves in Michigan
Michigan isn’t exactly famous for its caves, but there are still plenty of cool caves in Michigan. Typically, Michigan’s natural beauty is credited to the Great Lakes, the sandy beaches, and the abundant forests that thrive inland, but thanks to a combination of natural phenomena and human intervention, caves and caverns can be found all over the state.
Some were formed naturally over thousands of years ago, some were carved out by miners within the last few centuries, and some are a fleeting seasonal attraction, but all are worth seeing.
We’ve created a list of 11 caves in Michigan that you must explore, as well as an interactive map to help you find your way. Read on for some amazing Michigan caves for exploring and scroll to the bottom for the interactive map!
Caves in Michigan Upper Peninsula
Where: 200 Adventure Ave, Greenland, MI 49929
Greenland, in the western upper peninsula, is home to one of the most well-preserved remnants of Michigan’s mining days. Copper mining in the upper peninsula was once a booming business alongside the prosperous lumber industry and today some of the copper mines are still active. Adventure Mine, however, is no longer active, but well preserved and available for visitors to tour. Three different tour options will provide visitors with unique experiences and depth of exploration.
The Prospector’s Tour is a 1.5-hour trip through the mine, featuring some of its largest cave rooms. Offered by the Adventure Mining Company, you’ll have a caves guide to answer your questions. The Miner’s Tour is double the length of time and offers the opportunity to step into the shoes of a miner by repelling, crawling through small spaces, and hiking some of the oldest parts of the mine.
The Captain’s Tour is the most extensive, lasting five to six hours, and the most exclusive, showing visitors to areas of the mine not seen anywhere else. See the inner workings of multiple mine levels and enjoy a pasty lunch in the mine by the end of it all.
PRO-TIP: The Keweenaw Peninsula area is an amazing spot for Michigan fall colors. If you’re doing one of the Great Lakes fall circle tours, you should add this this to your list.
Hendrie River Water Cave
Where: Near the Tahquamenon River in the Eastern U.P.
Located in the eastern upper peninsula, the Hendrie River Water Cave is the longest known cave in Michigan, making it a favorite for advanced spelunkers and cavers. Located off the Hendrie River, a tributary of the Tahquamenon River and part of the Tahquamenon Falls River system, this limestone cavern formed through natural erosion. When an acidic swamp water seeped into cracks in the rock, they eventually widened and wore into the cave system we know today.
As we know it, the Hendrie River Water Cave stretches for about 1,500 feet of mostly high, narrow passageways. A stream runs along the floor of the cave as well, so come prepared and wear appropriate shoes and gear to ensure a safe and enjoyable caving experience.
Please note that the Hendrie River Water cave is owned by the Michigan Karst Conservancy. You can contact them to set up a tour the third weekend in May-Oct. Entering the cave without permission is potentially dangerous and trespassing.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Caves
Where: Munising, MI
There’s a reason Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Munising is a highly beloved place in Michigan. This upper peninsula gem hosts more than 800,000 visitors every year, many of which enjoy the forest and lakeshore, but kayakers at Pictured Rocks have a totally different perspective. Sitting in a kayak on the water below the cliffs of Pictured Rocks gives you the opportunity to see things those on the shore can’t.
Find numerous caves that are filled with water, meaning you can kayak right into them for a moment of tranquil solitude. The gorgeous caves along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore were formed through erosion, where the waters of Lake Superior weathered the base of the limestone cliffs, creating these caverns. Two of the most visited caves are Rainbow Cave and Miners Castle, which are often stops on paddle and hike tours. Use our guide to Kayaking the Pictured Rocks and Map to help you find some of these spectacular sites.
In the winter, visit Grand Island, just off the coast of Munising, to see the famous Grand Island Ice Caves. Try a tour, towed behind a snowmobile that transports you the ½ mile across a frozen Lake Superior. There’s room to bring snacks, too, so you can comfortably explore some of the most amazing Michigan caves as long as you like!
Where: Buchanan, MI
Deep in the southwest of Michigan’s lower peninsula, near the border with Indiana, Buchanan is a quiet town, known for its nice people, but there’s more to Buchanan than its small-town charm. Near here, you can find Bear Cave, which sits in the forest out of town. Take a hike in the southwest Michigan woods and head down a 40-foot winding staircase to reach the cave.
Bear Cave itself is about 15 feet deep, 4 to 6 feet wide, and 10 to 15 feet high and feels like the kind of place a pirate might hide their treasure, but there’s actually a really good reason that you might feel that way. Bear Cave is actually famously the site of where a bank robber stashed his takings in 1875. This event inspired one of the most famous silent movies of all time, “The Great Train Robbery.”
Millie Hill Bat Cave
Where: Iron Mountain
If you find yourself in Iron Mountain near the upper peninsula’s border with Wisconsin, take some time to stop by the Millie Hill Bat Cave. As you might guess from the name, this cave is home to bats, and lots of them. Once a vertical iron mine, the site was abandoned and is now home to one of North America’s largest bat colonies, consisting of up to one million bats.
The entrance to the mineshaft is covered by a specially designed steel grate that prevents people from falling in but allows bats to come and go as they please, so if you want a good view of the bats, you’ll need to head up to a viewing area. The best times to go are around April to May and September to October when the bats are leaving or entering the mine to hibernate.
Eben Ice Caves
Where: Eben Junction
Did you know there were ice caves in Michigan? There are, and they’re part of the Rock River Canyon Wilderness area.If you love Michigan winters and want to see something unlike anything else, you need to take a trip to the Eben Ice Caves in the Upper Peninsula.
Located near Eben Junction, just outside of Marquette, a trip to the ice caves is the perfect winter getaway for the adventurous. The Eben Ice Caves form in the winter, when melting snow runs over cliffs and freezes during its descent. The frozen water running creates amazing ice formations that draw vistors from all over! Visitors can walk through the caves created by the ice or even climb up on the ice itself if they feel brave enough.
The ice begins to freeze in this manner around December, and stays frozen, weather permitting, throughout winter. Visitors should prepare for an icy hike and wear ice cleats, if possible, especially if a big storm has just swept the area. Ice cleats will make your hike safer and prevent you from sliding by using spikes to grip the ice.
Spider Cave/Burnt Bluff Cave
Where: Fayetette, MI
Head south from Fayette Historic State Park to find a Burnt Bluff Cave, known more commonly as Spider Cave. You might be a bit spooked by the name, if you’re not a fan of bugs, but don’t worry, the name Spider Cave doesn’t come from a large population of spiders, but instead from an ancient cave drawing. In Spider Cave there are four known pictographs, but the most famous one for which the cave is named, depicts a “spider-man,” a man connected to a spider by what looks like an umbilical cord.
In addition to the ancient cave drawings, quite a few artifacts have been found here, including projectile points, such as spearheads for example. These projectile points found are believed to be from a time known as the Middle Woodland Period, which dates back to 1000 BCE. The combination of ancient artifacts and fascinating cave drawings makes Spider Cave one of the most unique and historically significant caves in Michigan.
Where: Mackinac Island
Mackinac Island is famous for many things, including their fudge, their exclusion of motor vehicles, and the Grand Hotel’s massive porch, but it’s also home to Skull Cave, one of Michigan’s most notable caves. Despite its small and shallow stature, there’s an interesting history that surrounds Skull Cave.
During Pontiac’s Rebellion, when Fort Michilimackinac was captured, a fur trader named Alexander Henry fled until he came across a cave where he took refuge. To his horror, he found that inside the cave heaps of human skeletons covered the cave floor. It was this morbid discovery that gave Skull Cave its spooky name.
Where: Old Mission Peninsula
Not every cave in Michigan is an untouched natural enclave or rugged industrial tunnel. Along northwest Michigan’s Old Mission Peninsula Wine Trail, Traverse City’s Mari Vineyards has a unique cave of their own – a wine cave. Caves tend to have very stable levels of temperature and humidity, typically around 60 degrees F and 70% humidity. These temperatures and humidity levels are perfect for the winemaking process, so Mari Vineyards built their famous wine caves.
You can book a tour of the wine cave system at Mari Vineyards and see just how the caves facilitate winemaking and the barrel-aging process. Additionally, visitors are able to enjoy a wine tasting session in the Mari Vineyards production area, which makes this cave a must-see for any wine enthusiast.
PRO-TIP: The northern Michigan climate is perfect for winemaking, both on the Old Mission Peninsula and also in nearby Leelanau County. You’ll discover some of the top wineries in the country along these two beautiful ares. Consider doing a Traverse City wine tour if you visit.
Alger Underwater Preserve
Where: Lake Superior Near Alger County
Off the coast of Munising in the upper peninsula, the Alger Underwater Preserves some of the strangest caves in Michigan – sea caves. These sea caves formed over time as the waves of Lake Superior eroded the sandstone cliff sides. The water in these Alger County caves is only about 10 feet to 20 feet deep, making it a remarkable spot for snorkeling.
Beyond the caves, this area is known locally as “The Shipwreck Coast.” Because of its collection of shipwrecks, divers frequent the area hoping to see some intact ships at the bottom of the lake and maybe even explore them a little bit.
Where: Grand Rapids MI
Part of the now defunct Domtar Mine in southwest Grand Rapids, the Pellerito Cave is a beloved spot for avid Michigan cavers. During its operational years, the Domtar Mine extracted gypsum from the earth and it was during these operations that a man named Russell Pellerito discovered the cave which would become his namesake.
Pellerito Cave itself is a gypsum solutional cave, meaning it was formed in a soluble rock, usually limestone. These are the most common types of caves and though most made are made of limestone, can be found in other soluble rocks, such as gypsum in this case.
Michigan Karst Conservancy
According to National Geographic, “Karst is an area of land made up of limestone. Limestone, also known as chalk or calcium carbonate, is a soft rock that dissolves in water. As rainwater seeps into the rock, it slowly erodes. Karst landscapes can be worn away from the top or dissolved from a weak point inside the rock.”
The Michigan Karst Conservancy, founded in 1938, is dedicated to preserving and studying Michigan’s significant Karst areas. Visit their site to learn more about their fascinating work.
There are many caves in Michigan for exploring. From the Bear Caves in southwest Michigan to the Alger Underwater Caves in the upper peninsula, you’ll find caves to explore. Many of the caves are located in the upper peninsula, but you’ll find caves in the lower peninsula as well.
There are some amazing underwater caves in Michigan for exploring, including the caves at the Alger Underwater Preserve and the caves located in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
You can find Michigan ice caves on Grand Island off the coast of Munising and at the Eben Ice Caves near Eben Junction south of Munising.
More Cool Things to See in Michigan
About the Author –
Bella DiMascio is a Content Editor for mymichiganbeach.com. She grew up in the Detroit suburb of Westland. She later attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo where she majored in Communication Studies and minored in English: Writing. Creative writing has been a hobby and interest of Bella’s since she was in elementary school. She is thrilled to be using her talents to highlight the Great Lakes State. Outside of writing, Bella enjoys getting outside with her two Australian Shepherds, playing video games, and binging shows on Netflix.