Minnesota has over 100 different caves and ice caves to explore. We have a great selection of show caves, hidden caves, and even some you can explore on your own.
Caves are a blast o explore, whether by visiting a show cave on a guided tour or just stumbling upon one on a hike somewhere. Whenever I see a hole in the wall, I always get a bit apprehensive about what I might find inside.
My first thought goes back to the childhood concern of a sleeping bear! But after a couple of seconds, your eyes adjust, and the fun begins!
Best Caves in Minnesota
There are two types of caves in Minnesota, natural and man-made. Natural forming caves are found in soft bedrock and they can be anything from a few feet deep to thousands of feet deep.
They are hiding all over the state, including under Minneapolis. These have classic characteristics like nonuniform walls and stalagmites and stalactites.
Man-made caves were created for various needs over the years. Most were due to storage needs, refrigeration, and mining. But that doesn’t stop the fun of exploring then.
Wabasha Street Caves
The Wabasha Street Caves is probably the most well-known cave in Minnesota. This sandstone cave dates back to the 1840s. Its “seismogram” walls give it a blush-black look with jazzed horizontal lines running through it.
They’ve been used for growing mushrooms and storage. During its prime, there were two nightclubs inside. Opening just after prohibition Mystic Caverns and the Castle Royal were very popular. But it got its haunting tale from the Castle Royal.
A group of gangsters had a shootout inside. When the young woman at the front heard the commotion, she called the cops and was told to lock the door and wait outside. Interestingly enough, when the cops got there they found no sign of trouble.
The rumor is they used the back tunnels to hide the bodies. Today when people visit the caves they’ve said they’ve seen the gangsters and even heard bands playing.
Today you can take a tour of the caves and find out more about it history.
Stillwater Boom Site Cave
The Stillwater Boom Site Cave is naturally formed from the waters of the St Croix River carving out a channel in the natural limestone cliffs.
During the 1850s when the loggers were using the area to organize their logs floating down the river, the impinging company took advantage of the natural structure to store their goods. They soon decided to carve out more of the cliffside to meet their needs.
Today it is one of the most easily accessible caves in Minnesota. To visit, take highway 95 just north of Stillwater’s downtown. Take the first right run past the St Croix Overlook Marker to one of the two parking areas.
Take the stairway down to the river bend and swing a right. Along the Rockwall, you’ll see the cave.
Wolf Brewery Cave in Stillwater
With a town full of loggers, the only next evolution was for Stillwater to get its first brewery. It presented another problem, how to keep the beer cool? In 1868 the Joseph Wolf Brewery was built into the bluffs of Stillwater.
The brewery was connected to a series of caves, which were used to store beer and source spring water, thus harnessing nature’s resources.
Over the years the property has seen a few different owners. At one time you could do wine tastings inside the cave. Today the Lora hotel owns the property and they have gone to great lengths to preserve its past.
The walls and ceilings of ancient warehouses have been preserved, as have cave entrances that lead nowhere. Make sure to stop in the next time you are in Stillwater. This is the old entrance to the Wolf Brewery Cave. It is currently owned and operated by the Lora Hotel now.
It’s the largest cave under downtown Minneapolis. It was first documented in 1904. Since then, many have gone underground to visit it, including the writer of Subterranean Twin Cities. He was able to gain access to it through the sewer system.
This naturally forming cave is a city block in length. It is said to be shaped like an inverted bowl.
The most visited cave in Minneapolis is Minnehaha Falls Ice Cave. It is also illegal to visit but that hasn’t stopped people.
This ice cave is carved out every season as water flows down the cliff. As the water freezes, it makes the appearance of an enclosed cave.
Each year there is always a section not enclosed in the ice where people find their way in. From inside the cave, light shines through creating amazing blue colors.
It’s this allure that brings visitors in and risks their lives to do it. But the danger is also why you find no trespassing signs.
Every Year people get injured at the falls, by ice falling. If you’d like to see the frozen waterfall safely, click here to find out more.
Chute’s Cave and the Pillsbury Tunnels
The Chute’s Cave was a naturally formed cave with a unique history. It first gained notoriety in 1866 when the New York Herald published a tall tale about secret passageways with hieroglyphics, sarcophagi, and sacrificial alters. This was debunked.
For ten cents, you can ride in a boat lit by a torch under Main Street, through the sandstone limestone archway. It was a fun gimmick that made it the first show cave in Minnesota. But with urban development plans, it made the cave unstable.
Eventually, the tunnel was acquired by Pillsbury and used to help power the plant. While the show cave is no longer accessible you can still get close to the entrance. We did so at Mill Ruins Park.
Niagara Cave is located on the Minnesota-Iowa border. It was first discovered in 1924 when three boys were chasing after their pig. It has fallen into a sinkhole leading to the cave.
The cave was purchased by three investors, and they established tours inside you can still visit today.
Inside this natural cave, you’ll see things like a sixty-foot underground waterfall, a wedding Chapple, and stalactites and stalagmites. All of the best cave formations. There are also 450-million-year-old fossils inside the walls.
The main passageway of the cave is 1,750 feet. One of the coolest features is the 150 feet high ceilings that creep through the cave. There 275 steps to get into and out of the cave and a one-mile walk.
If you are claustrophobic, I do not recommend this adventure. There are also tight spaces between the rocks.
Minneapolis Salt Cave
Like Alternative treatments? You want to check out the Salt Cave in Minneapolis. It’s known to support relaxation and general wellness.
This man-made cave is lined with Himalayan crystal salt and the cave is treated with a halo generator that infuses the area with a dry aerosol containing pharmaceutical-grade salt.
Mystery Cave State park
The cave was first discovered in February 1937 by Joe Petty. On a cold winter day, Joe saw vapor coming out of the hillside and decided to investigate.
What he found was the longest-known natural limestone cave in Minnesota and was the first to show a pattern of phases of human discovery.
The cave has twelve miles of passageways. Inside there are classic geological features like Cathedral Domes, beautiful underground pools, Stalagmites, and Stalactites. You’ll also see the breathtaking turquoise lake inside. The cave is also home to bats.
Mystery cave is part of Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park. The best part is they offer scenic tours. Tours are only available during the warmer months.
While I haven’t been to the cave, I did have the pleasure of exploring the rest of the State Park. Since my trip, they have opened the tours back up. Make sure to check out the rest of the park’s great features while you are there: 8 Fun Things to Do at Forestville Mystery Cave State Park
Whitewater State Park
Whitewater State Park has over 9 different caves spread out over the entire park. The caves sit high up on the limestone layer of the cliffs.
There are two you can get to, the one at Chimney Rock and on the Trail up to Coyote Point. Due to their size and location, I don’t recommend entering them.
During winter one of their caves turns into a stunning ice cave. It is only visible during April and early May. You can see it off the Dakota Trail, just before it the trail splits.
Due to its location on a cliff, visitor do not have access to it. The ice cave is not marked on any trail maps. For directions to the Ice Cave, check out my full Whitewater State Park Post.
Spring Valley Caverns
The Spring Valley Caverns are part of the Minnesota Cave Preserve and the second largest cave in Minnesota with 9.09 km of mapped passages.
Most of the caves passages ways were discovered when sinkholes opened up. After cleaning out the sinkhole, they discovered passageways underneath.
For two years, it was briefly a show cave in 1968 and 1969. Since then preservation and protection was the focus
Robinson’s Ice Caves in Banning State Park
The Robinson Ice cave also goes by the name the Bat Cave. It is the largest sandstone karst in Pine County. During winter, the cave creates an impressive array of icy stalagmites. They create all different types of ice. Due to the winter’s strong air current, stalactites don’t form.
The cave also hosts a year-round bat colony. Several hundred bats hibernate in the cave during winter. To help protect the bats they have added a bat gate at the entrance of the cave, preventing visitors from disturbing them.
Near Robinson Quarry, the town hosts an ice climbing competition called the Sandstone Ice Festival. This is where they create a man-made ice cave by flooding the cliffside. If you ever get a chance, this is a good alternative to visiting the Bat Cave.
Sorin’s Bluff has not one but two caves, but are a little dangerous to get to. Located in Memorial Park, the most popular cave is Overlook Cave or also known as Cool Cave. It’s 70 below the scenic overlook.
It’s 185 feet and varies from 3 to 18 feet wide and 2.5 to 13 feet high. This cave has plenty of graffiti inside and also a few species of bats.
On the opposite side of the bluff is Horseshoe cave. It used to house two kilns, that are still visible today. It is approximately 100 feet by 85 feet 50 feet high.
To get to the horseshoe cave, you’ll need to go through the limestone quarries. The main entrance is lined with a brick arch acting as structural support. It leads into the first of two kiln rooms.
Soudan Underground Mine
The Soudan Underground Mine is a man-made cave system used for mining Iron Ore. When Native Americans first utilize rich materials in 4,000 B.S. They quarried rock outcrops.
In 1884 the Minnesota Iron Company bought the land to do a commercial mining operation.
The underground mining created 54 miles of tunnels and reaches 2,341 feet below the surface. The mine closed in 1962, leaving behind an impressive set of tunnels and passageways underground.
Soudan Underground Mine is part of the State Park. Visitors can walk the grounds and see entrances to old shafts, open pit mines that hold snow and ice year-round, and even take a tour inside the mine.
Which Minnesota Cave Will You Go to First?
Visiting caves in Minnesota is a unique experience that’s full of surprises. There are so many caves to explore, and each one is different and unique.
Whether you’re looking for a quiet place to relax or a challenging adventure, there’s a cave for you. And if you’re ever in the area, don’t forget to check out the Twin Caves!