Minnehaha Falls Ice Cave In Winter:
Location: Minnehaha Falls, Minneapolis
Cost: Free, Self-Guided (Parking is $1.25)
Getting Here: Using the Light Rail Metro it is 19 minutes from the Mall of America, 9 from the Airport, and 20 from Downtown Minneapolis. (Driving Directions).
Time Needed: 1 Hour to 90 Minutes.
Fun Scale: 10 out of 10
Best Time To Visit The Ice Caves:
During the early and late Winter you get the best multi-colored rainbow lighten from behind the ice. If the falls completely freeze over in the middle of Winter you can typically still access the cave, but you’ll miss out on the great ambiance from the sound of flowing water you have when it’s warmer.
Overview Of Minnehaha Falls In Winter:
Literally meaning Waterfall in the Dakota language, Minnehaha Falls needs to be on your must do list in the Twin Cities. Going behind Minnehaha Falls is tons of fun year round, but during the Winter it freezes into an ice cave that makes it is out of this world. The beautiful cave formed by the frozen 53 foot high urban waterfall is easily accessible by foot with just a short hike. The bright blue glowing ice feels grotto behind the waterfalls and quickly turns into a multi-colored sheet of rainbowed ice as the light shines through. If you live in or are visiting the Twin Cities you need to make sure to get behind Minnehaha Falls this Winter.
As the photo to the left shows, you really have no excuse not to make it behind the waterfalls as even women in full formal dress were doing it in the late 1800s. The woman in this photo was probably inspired to visit by the 1855 publication Longfellow’s epic poem The Song of Hiawatha that instantly turned Minnehaha Falls into a desired tourist destination. In the poem Minnehaha was used as the fictional name for the lover of Hiawatha, a legendary Native American leader and co-founder of the Iroquois Confederacy. Today a bronze statue of Hiatwata sits in the park not very far from Minneahaha Falls and it worth a visit. Other attractions at the park such as the John Stevens and Longfellow Houses close their doors for the Winter.
Going Behind The Frozen Waterfalls:
Getting to Minnehaha Falls is really easy as it is right in the middle of a large urban park near the Minneapolis Airport. From either the parking lot or Light Rail Metro stop, you are only a short walk to the main viewing area above the waterfalls. Before descending the steps to the bottom of the Falls, take in the historic plaques highlighting Minnehaha’s history. As the photos on the plaques show, numerous Presidents of the United States have visited Minnehaha Falls including Lyndon B Johnson in 1964.
You’ll get better and better views of the frozen waterfall as you head down the steps with maybe the best photo opportunity being at the very bottom while on the bridge crossing the river. On the right bank of the river you’ll see a rather worn path near the fence that is the most common route to go behind the falls. This isn’t an “official” park trail, but since there are a couple sections of wooden steps they obviously are okay with people using it. Just keep hiking up toward the far right side of the Minnehaha Falls and you’ll find an opening to the ice caves that almost never freezes shut.
After dodging the icicles at the entrance, it is time to free roam in the cave. The first section it flooded with bright blue light pretty much anytime of day and even turns green from time to time. As you get deeper into the cave the ice will turn from blue to very distinct stripes of rainbow colors. Make sure take a few minutes to relax and take in the sound of the flowing Falls. Consider bringing a lunch to eat behind the falls, just make sure to 100% clean up after yourself to keep the Ice Cave looking beautiful.
Safety Guidelines Around The Waterfalls:
We have found it to be safe to visit the Minnehaha Fall Ice Caves, but use common sense caution and obey warning signs to avoid potential injury. Like any body of water use common sense caution, watch your footing, and obey any warning signs the park has posted. In the dead of Winter when the water is completely frozen the parks sometimes lets you walk anywhere you want including all over the frozen pond.
Other Sights Near Minnehaha Falls:
With the park sitting right on the Light Rail Metro line, it makes it really easy to check out a ton of other nearby sights even if don’t have a car.
3. Fort Snelling: Built in 1819 at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers, the large fort was the US Governments first true stake in the region which was already occupied by local Native American groups. Today the Fort is a living museum highlighting what early life in the Twin Cities was like.