Beauty from above: A winter hike on the Lakeshore trail

Lakeshore Trail on ice - Jeff Rennicke photo

January 17, 2024

It has been a winter of extremes: the warmest December on record in many parts of the northland, historically low ice coverage on Lake Superior, and then the plummeting temperatures of mid-January. There were windless days on end with the lake barely rippled and then a storm bringing gusts up to 53 miles an hour at Devils Island churning the lake into waves of 12 to 15 feet.

There is beauty in extremes, the kind of beauty that can turn a hike into a journey through a landscape of enchantment.

Recently, our Executive Director Jeff Rennicke ventured into that enchanted landscape and sent back this glimpse of the beauty of the Mawikwe Caves from above as seen from the Lakeshore Trail.

Want to do your own enchanted hike?

WHERE: The Lakeshore Trail begins at the Meyers Beach parking area just off of Highway 13 north of Red Cliff. There is a fee area for parking. The trail begins just off of the parking area and extends six miles winding through hardwood forests, stands of red pines, and offering beautiful glimpses into the caves below. It is not a loop trail so be sure to give yourself plenty of time to hike out and back.

HOW: Winter conditions can make the trail icy and slippery. Ice cleats and trekking poles can be helpful. Snowshoes can be helpful although the trail is often solidly packed by other hikers. Skis are not recommended.

WHAT TO BRING: At times the trail is tucked into the forest out of the wind and other times leads right to the edge of the sandstone cliffs where the wind can be strong and cold. It is best to dress in layers, wear proper footwear, and exercise caution at all times. Bring water (there are no water sources along the trail), snacks, extra clothing. There is some cell phone coverage along parts of the trail.

WHAT YOU’LL SEE: The first stretch of the trail leads you 1.8 miles through deep forests, up and down a series of steep ravines and stream crossings, to a spectacular view of the first cave known as the Crevasse with a wooden bridge. From there, the trail skirts the wind-swept edge of the cliffs offering to spectacular views of the lake, steep cliffs, storm-battered trees, and takes you out on several dramatic overlooks to see the waves working the caves below. From a deep bay knows as “the Bowl” you can hike carefully out on points of land alone either side of the bay for scenic views. Beyond the Bowl, the third section of the hike begins with the trail following the cliff edge for a time and then dipping back into the forests for another 3.8 miles to end at the reservable campsite.

For more information on the hike: Check out the National Park Service website trail description.

Beauty from above – click to enlarge

Lakeshore trail cliffs covered in ice - Jeff Rennicke
Ice-covered cliffs and waves - Jeff Rennicke
Ice-covered tree trunks - Jeff Rennicke
Sea cave cliff with ice-covered boughs - Jeff Rennicke
Distant cliffs through the fog - Jeff Rennicke
Ice-covered branches above the cliffs - Jeff Rennicke

Jeff Rennicke is Executive Director of the Friends of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. He is also an educator, outdoor adventure travel writer and photographer.

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