Camping, Hiking & Kayaking Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
Cliffs and sand beaches, rock formations and waterfalls, quiet inland lakes and thick wooded trails, and a powerful lake as far as the eye can see, this diversity can be found all in one place in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast or a city dweller, Pictured Rocks is accessible for everyone.
My family and I spent a long weekend in this increasingly popular national park. We had spent time there back when the main road from the towns of Munising to Grand Maris wasn’t paved, which proved daunting in a two door Chevy Beretta, but limited the number of people we ran into. Now that road is paved, all of the park is that much more visited. There are several waterfalls and vistas you can drive up to and with a short walk you can enjoy them. Munising Falls, Miners Beach and Miners Castle are all less than a one mile loop. Other sights such as Miners Falls, Mosquito Falls, Chapel Rock and Beach, and the Au Sable Lighthouse are a bit more of a hike varying in length.
There are several options to see the colorful cliffs from the water. We joined a kayak tour to experience the clear green water and see the cliffs up close. Even though our whole family are experienced kayakers, we don’t own sea kayaks and wouldn’t even think of going on Lake Superior in anything else. There are afternoon and dinner cruises and glass bottom boat tours for shipwreck viewing as well. The kayak trip was fantastic and an amazing way to see Pictured Rocks from a different perspective. We kayaked into coves, got dripped on by the weeping sandstone, marveled at the various colors caused by minerals leaching through the stone walls, squeezed through rock formations, and even viewed a shipwreck from the 1800s.
There are numerous options of accommodations, including hotels and cabins for those who’d rather not sleep in the woods. Backcountry permits for sleeping in designated campsites along the North Woods Trail are snapped up pretty quickly in the warmer months. Our family prefers to car camp with our tent and there are three campgrounds in the national park that you can drive to your campsite, all closer to Grand Maris than to Munising. However, they are all first-come, first-serve so be prepared to have a backup plan. It was a good thing we had one since all three were full when we arrived. There are 5 state forest campgrounds in the nearby area that serve as a good backup but are also non-reservable. Our last resort was a good map and a pre-printed MDNR dispersed camping form to camp on state land. We had brought our own water and tp and were prepared to rough it, which we did the first night.
The rest of the weekend we camped on a calm inland lake near the national park in a state forest campground and enjoyed the loons call in the morning as the fog burned off the lake. This area of Michigan is not only diverse and beautiful but a bit magical too.