Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is more beautiful than words can describe. It’s also an excellent destination for the adventurer. With kayaking, backpacking, fishing, ice climbing, and backcountry skiing, the park will not leave you bored.
Lagena and I spent a week in the park in July and were amazed at everything the park has to offer. We hiked to waterfalls, stood on high cliffs overlooking Lake Superior, hiked along a 300-foot sand dune, kayaked below towering cliffs in some of the clearest water I have ever seen, and backpacked along the lakeshore. We also enjoyed local UP flavor in the quaint towns of Grand Marais and Munising.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is about 40 miles of pristine shoreline on Lake Superior. The park, which is part of the National Park System, is a jewel for The Great Lake State. You can find more information on the park from its website by clicking here.
Day hiking at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Lagena and I spent the first day and second half of the second day in the park exploring and taking in the sites. We found a campsite at Hurricane River campground and set up camp first because we read that car camping sites fill up by mid-morning. We had backcountry campsite reservation for our last three days in the park, but the car camping sites are not reservable.
The forest in Michigan is lovely with lush and green vegetation. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore has white birch trees, which I had never seen in person before. White birch has beautiful thick bark, and the trees were all around our campsite.
Au Sable Light Station
From Hurricane River campground, we hiked to Au Sable Light Station. The lighthouse is about a mile walk from the campground. The trail between the two points is part of the North Country Trail, and is extremely easy.
You also have the option to walk along the beach and see some of the many shipwrecks that dot the coast. A sign will direct you toward the beach for the shipwreck walk. Lagena and I walked along the beach for a ways. We found the loose sand and rocks to be hard to walk on. So we took the next set of stairs back up to the trail at the lighthouse.
On the return trip, we stayed on the trail for a change of scenery.
Log Slide Overlook
After hiking back from the lighthouse, we got in the car to explore the east side of the park. The next point of interest after the lighthouse is the Log Slide area, which sits atop the dunes. We walked to the Log Slide Overlook and then hiked up a small portion of the dune to the Log Slide. From the overlook, we could see far east toward Grand Marais and the long stretch of dunes that make up that part of the lakeshore.
Some people were hiking down the dunes to the lake. A sign cautioned it takes only a few minutes to get down but can take up to an hour to get back up. So Lagena and I decided we did not have the effort to climb back up and stayed up top.
The dunes are a massive pile of sand and were a little scary to walk across. But we hiked a little ways along the narrow path on the side the dunes.
From the Log Slide area, we drove east to Sable Falls, the first waterfall we saw at the park. The trek down to Sable Falls isn’t really a hike, but a long wooden staircase that snakes all the way down to the beach.
Sable Falls is a long series of cascades that fall into a narrow creek.
The next day Lagena and I hiked to Miners Falls, which was my favorite of the waterfalls we visited in the park. The hike is short and easy. It’s only a little more than a mile out and back. And it is wide and flat for walking. At the end there are some steps down to an overlook for the falls.
The falls are about 50 feet high, and the river makes a 90 degree turn at the bottom, which I found neat.
Mosquito Falls sounds awful, but we did not encounter too many of the blood suckers, and the hike is so beautiful. It’s a little longer than the other waterfall trails, and the trail is more narrow, rocky, and steep in some place.
We hiked between 8 and 9 p.m., and were amazed at how long it stays light in the north in the summer. The hike was peaceful and the falls were serene.
Kayaking Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Sea kayaking was one of the main draws for me to visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The water is so clear and so blue, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to float it.
At the suggestions of park personnel, we chose to kayak with a group and guide. Lagena and I kayak often on lakes and rivers around Arkansas, but neither of us had been sea kayaking. Even though Lake Superior is not a sea, you need a long, more stable boat on it. They also said the waves can push you into the rocky cliffs, and it’s best to go with someone experienced.
We used Uncle Ducky’s Outdoors and loved them. For one thing, we were late and missed the caravan. Even so they were extremely helpful in giving us directions where to meet the shuttle.
Our trip began at Miners Beach, and we kayaked along the shoreline to a large arch just past Mosquito Beach.
Our guide, Max, was extremely knowledgeable of the area, giving us tidbits of history or geology or something else.
I loved kayaking beneath the massive cliffs that are so iconic of the park. The water was so clear and blue that it reminded me of jewels. Max informed us that the water’s clarity is because it never gets warm enough for algae to grow.
We also got to kayak through narrow and wide arches the waves have carved through the cliffs.
Our trip was about six hours including a break for lunch. The following day we backpacked on top of the same cliffs. I loved seeing both perspectives of the park.
Backpacking Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
The last three days and nights of our trip, we backpacked from Miners Castle to Twelvemile Beach. For more details on this check out my Backpacking Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore post here.
The park has an extensive backcountry, and it’s a great way to take in the park. We saw so many beautiful sights.
Whether you are hiking in the backcountry, kayaking in the lake, or day hiking, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a wonderful park.