Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

  • Published 2023/02/16

Enjoy Michigan’s jaw-dropping sights as you explore the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, more commonly known as Pictured Rocks.

The crown jewel of Michigan is home to one of the state’s most beautiful waterfronts, skirting Lake Superior’s south side.

The town took its name from the multicolored sandstone cliffs northeast of Munising.

Some of the park’s most distinctive features include Miners Castle and Chapel Rock, made of sandstone.

The beach near Au Sable Point’s lighthouse teems with the remnants of shipwrecks from the 19th century.

Pictures Rocks became the United States’ first national lakeshore in 1966.

If you want a nature retreat, this perfectly-stunning area offers diverse activities that you can’t fit within a day.

Get ready to visit the best things to do in Pictured Rocks!

See the Stunning Miners Castle

Miners Castle surrounded by green plants

Kris Wiktor /

Avi Loren Fox /

The unique rock formation caused by centuries of erosion gives this region its name.

Anishnabe and Ojibwe people, who have lived in this area for a long time, place enormous spiritual value in the Pictured Rocks.

Imagine viewing the cliffs for the first time from a 16-foot birch bark canoe as you paddle into this location.

Workers of Englishman Alexander Henry who were searching for minerals dubbed the region Miners Castle in 1771.

Red kayak in front of the intricate rock formation at Miners Castle

Craig Sterken /

‌Even though they discovered no minerals, the moniker “Miners” remained.

As the only cliff region in the park accessible by automobile, it has become a popular destination for Pictured Rocks National Park visitors.

You can bring your leashed pet along.

A wheelchair-accessible paved route goes from the parking lot to a spot with stunning views of Lake Superior and Grand Island, which you may reach after passing by educational installations.

Nature trail at Miners Castle

melissamn /

Spot the Chapel Rock

Waves crashing on the Chapel Rock

Craig Sterken /

European travelers in the early 1500s discovered La Chappelle.

High tide from Lake Nipissing carved out Chapel Rock around 3800 years ago.

It is a relic of sandstone from the Cambrian Age.

Closeup of the Chapel Rock

Kris Wiktor /

The rock was connected to the rest of the land by an archway that fell almost 40 years ago.

A 250-year-old white pine stands alone on Chapel Rock.

You can reach Chapel Rock and Beach after a three-mile climb starting at the trailhead, with stunning Chapel Lake and Chapel Falls views.

Top view of Chapel Rock

Andrew S /

Paddle along the Cliffs with Pictured Rocks Kayaking

People kayaking in Pictured Rocks during snow

Craig Sterken /

‌You can get close and personal with the rocky shoreline with a kayak or canoe.

Visit this natural marvel while paddling around arches amid the waves with the help of a knowledgeable guide.

As one gets closer, the more vibrant its hues become.

Paddle visitors to Pictured Rocks can take boat excursions led by the resort’s guides.

Paddlers paddling under a cave at Pictured Rocks

Bo Shen /

One tour along the lakeshore can show you the finest of Pictured Rocks.

Paddle out of the harbor in a 56-foot passenger vessel and take in some of the area’s most breathtaking views.

Safe and handy for people of all ages and abilities, the boat follows you around the water.

Thanks to the launch boat accompanying you as you paddle, emergency assistance and bathrooms are never far away.

Kayaking in Pictured Rocks during sunset

Jim_Brown_Photography /

Take in the Sun at Miners Beach

Kayaks on the shores of Miners Beach

Wildnerdpix /‌

Nearly a mile of sand and some boulders make up Miners Beach, with a large parking lot on the west end (from where you may reach the Miners River) and a smaller one on the eastern end.

Miners Beach is the best place to start to reach the multicolored rocks.

You’ll see natural arches and huge waves without putting in much effort.

A walkway extends from the west end of the beach to a small platform that overlooks the beach.

Water flowing into Miners Beach

Dean Pennala /

This vantage point clearly shows Bridalveil Falls and the towering cliffs to the east.

Steps lead to the sand on the beachfront.

This beach gets crowded on summer weekends since it’s a popular commercial kayaking destination.

Feel free to bring your four-legged family members.

Waves touching the shores of Miners Beach

Paul Massie Photography /

Take Photos with the Historic Au Sable Light Station

Tall white Au Sable Light Station

Sanbao /‌

Au Sable has a 16-foot base diameter and stands at 86 feet.

The tower dates from 1873 to 1874.

The 23-foot-tall structure is firmly rooted in the bedrock underneath the city.

The 1890s saw the construction of a brick oil building and a fog signal structure.

Au Sable Light Station surrounded by tall trees with autumn leaves

Kenneth Keifer /

It has complete on-site facilities and the light station’s tower and keepers’ quarters.

A smaller, solar-powered light currently hangs on the catwalk railing of the lighthouse and beams over Lake Superior every evening.

Light station grounds and access roads are pet-friendly areas.

Ready your picture-perfect smiles as you pose with the lighthouse!

Hike to Miners Falls

Scenic view of Miners Falls

Steve Lagreca /

‌Hiking towards Miners Falls allows you to get active while enjoying the charm of Pictured Rocks.

Start your hike at the parking lot about four miles north of H-58, off Miners Castle Road.

The 1.2-mile round-trip hike from the parking lot to the waterfall is easy.

You may reach two viewpoints through gently undulating gravel and dirt trails through the north woods.

Water falling in Miners Falls

Craig Sterken /

You’ll have the opportunity to see the Miners Basin as you go by.

The Miners River plunges nearly 50 feet over an outcropping of sandstone through a majestic waterfall.

Reaching the bottom observation deck at the falls takes 64 steps.

The route has a carpet of wildflowers in the spring.

Pets on a leash are welcome on the route.

Closeup of water falling in Miners Falls

Simply Julie /

Go Ice Climbing during the Winter

Ice climbing is a typical winter pastime at Pictured Rocks.

The lake effect snow, many waterfalls, and cliffs that allow water to penetrate the rock strata form spectacular crystalline ice curtains and columns.

Expect snow and ice around December, which linger through April.

Glazing occurs regularly on the Pictured Rocks, which rise above Lake Superior.

Climbing these areas is not recommended due to the risk of falling into the lake.

You may reach the Pictured Rocks escarpment’s most accessible ice columns through Sand Point Road, which links Sand Point and Munising Falls.

Enjoy the Breeze and Serenity at Log Slide Overlook

Variety of plant in Log Slide Overlook

ehrlif /‌

Do not miss the Log Slide Overlook in Grand Marais if you have limited time in the area and are near Pictured Rocks.

There is an overlook that you can walk to in about ten minutes.

The sand dunes of the Pictured Rocks are visible from Grand Marais.

Even though it’s a simple walk, the trip usually takes 11 minutes to complete.

Scenic view of Log Slide Overlook

Andy Wilcock /

You may still enjoy peace at quieter periods of the day on this popular hiking, birding, and walking track.

The months of May through October are ideal for hiking this trek.

Log Slide Road ends at the end of Alger County Road H-58, where the path begins.

You may see some of the old logging machinery that once whirred here.

A local tale says that a chute placed on the hill would convey logs down, and the friction would cause it to catch fire.

View of the ocean from Log Slide Overlook

RonaldL /

Go on a Cruise with Riptide Ride

You may always take a boat tour if you’re worried about getting your whole body wet in one of the world’s coldest freshwater lakes.

Discover Grand Island’s rich history by taking your camera along for the ride.

The 25-mile trip of Pictured Rocks, complete with waterfalls and bald eagles with Riptide Ride, takes over 11 and a half hours.

Likewise, the East Channel and North Light, the world’s tallest lighthouse above sea level, are on the itinerary.

As you traverse the area’s highest Pictured Rocks cliffs, pause for photographs and explanations.

The jet boat will capture stunning close-up vistas.

See the Grand Island East Channel Lighthouse

Front view of the Grand Island East Channel Lighthouse

VirtualV /

Initially, the East Channel Light on Grand Island, located about north of Munising, was built entirely of wood in 1868 until it was renovated.

It stands on a private island across from the Pictured Rocks, so you’ll have to take a boat trip or kayak.

East Channel Lighthouse is on the Grand Island’s southeast shore.

Even though Grand Island is now a National Recreation Area (NRA), the lighthouse is still privately owned.

A cruise shipping sailing towards the Grand Island East Channel Lighthouse

Ashwin Karanth /

While aboard a cruise ship from Munising Harbor to the national lakeshore region, you may see it from the decks of a Pictured Rocks or Alger undersea preserve cruise boat or a private yacht.

There are a variety of ways to observe the lighthouse.

Grand Island East Channel Lighthouse surrounded by autumn leaves

Lonnie Paulson /

Go to Sand Point, a part of the Pictured Rocks, where you can see this lighthouse.

You may also see it from the sea on local boat cruises.

Spend a Few Days with Nature at Hurricane River Campground

Stairs at Hurricane River Campground

ehrlif /‌

The campsite is directly next to the Hurricane River, which feeds into Lake Superior.

Campers can choose between a lower and higher area of the Hurricane River campsite.

It will take you a few minutes to stroll to Lake Superior from the lower campgrounds.

Au Sable Point and the Log Slide Overlook are accessible by trekking from this location.

The hiking route leads to Au Sable Point Lighthouse and farther along Lake Superior.

The North Country TrA trail connects the lower campgrounds and Lake Superior trail from the higher campsites, about 0.2 miles distant.

Among the facilities at a campground are water, restrooms, picnic tables, and fire rings.

View Fallen Ships at Graveyard Coast

Vibrabt sunset in Graveyard Coast

Craig Sterken /‌

You may find shipwrecked vessels from various ages on Lake Superior’s “Graveyard Coast.”

Despite the growing human population and industry in the area, the coast has remained largely undisturbed.

You need to join scuba divers or board glass-bottom boats to view most shipwrecks in the region.

However, you may find some wrecks on the beach between Hurricane River Campground and Au Sable Light Station.

Don’t disturb the wreckage by stripping the boats of wood and metal items.

The Alger Underwater Preserve protects most of Pictured Rocks’ coastline, ensuring long-term preservation.

Go Scuba Diving at Alger Underwater Preserve

Shipwreck found in Alger Underwater Preserve

Focused Adventures /‌

One of Michigan’s most prominent scuba diving spots, the Alger Underwater Diving Preserve near Munising, was Michigan’s first preserve.

Sea caves, complete shipwrecks, and underwater interpretive paths are a few unique diving attractions open at this Underwater Preserve.

Waves have eroded sandstone cliffs beneath the ocean’s surface, forming the sea caves we see today.

Broken wood planks and logs in Alger Underwater Preserve

Focused Adventures /‌

Diving in shallow water may be a great experience, even if the caverns are just 20 feet deep.

The Alger Preserve lies not far from the diver-friendly city of Munising.

In addition to the Pictured Rocks, Lake Superior’s shoreline has several picturesque attractions for divers.

Visitors may enjoy breathtaking waterfalls, dunes, and hiking paths near the town.

Damaged tyre at Alger Underwater Preserve

Focused Adventures /

Go Cross-Country Skiing

Cross-country skiing is available in Pictured Rocks.

There’s a ski spot near Munising on the park’s west end and one near Grand Marais on its east end.

An excellent environment of different species and terrain, such as beech, hemlock, conifer, maple woods, ancient gently sloping agricultural fields, and rocky hills built in the park’s glacial past, may be found.

This area receives an average of 140+ inches of snow each year, making skiing a popular winter activity in the park.

You may enjoy a relaxing day on the slopes or get a fast workout before heading home.

The difficulty of the trail loops ranges from simple to more demanding options.

Skating is not permitted on any lakefront pathways because of their design.

Bring enough clothes to keep you warm.

Take food and water with you if you’re going to be out all day.

Pick the trails according to your skiing ability.

Admire the Ice Curtains

Ice Curtains covering a cave

Craig Sterken /‌

Visitors to the Pictured Rocks and the surrounding region may enjoy the spectacular ice curtains.

As water seeps through the sandstone, it freezes, creating ice curtains in various colors, depending on how much water is available.

The ice usually starts building up through December and lasts until the beginning of April.

Ice curtains viewed from inside the cave

Craig Sterken /

The closest ice columns are along Sand Point Road.

You may see up to 20 to 50-foot-high ice curtains.

Even though there aren’t any marked paths, you may see the ice and cliffs through the forested area.

Beautiful view of sun shinning through the Ice Curtains

Craig Sterken /

See the Cascading Waters of Munising Falls

Daytime view of Munising Falls

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Due to its plowed parking lot and road during the winter season, Munising Falls is the only waterfall in Michigan that can be easily accessed year-round.

There’s an 800-foot trail to traverse along the creek to get to the base of the falls.

For a better view of the 50-foot waterfalls, take the stairs up.

The base of Munising Falls

Danita Delimont /

When in season, you’ll see beautiful wildflowers in bloom, ferns, and some wildlife.

Stay on the paved trail for safety measures as walking behind or into the waterfalls isn’t allowed.

Munising Falls is located in the westernmost part of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Catch the Sunset at Sand Point Beach

Sunny day at Sand Point Beach

Alexey Stiop /

When the day goes off and things start to go slow, it’s always nice to relax at the beach and wait for the sun to sink over the horizon.

This, you can enjoy at Sand Point Beach, which is named “Top Five Summer Beaches in America” by The Weather Channel in 2007.

Lay a beach blanket, take in the smell of nature, and watch the skies as they turn orange and pink in between.

And if you’re on socials, it would be nice to take some snaps of the sunset for Instagram-worthy photos!

You can also bring a picnic to Sand Point Beach to share with your loved ones, or by yourself; it doesn’t matter!

People at Sand Point Beach

Kenneth Sponsler /

Take Nature Walks along the Pictured Rocks Shoreline

When the summer season ends, the Upper Peninsula gets a little crisp, but Pictured Rocks is even prettier in the fall.

Enjoy taking nature walks along the Pictured Rocks shoreline and see the off-season beauty of the lakeshore.

The colorful cliffs become more vibrant with the hues of hardwood trees in reds, yellows, and oranges, which makes breathtaking vistas.

As you traverse the Pictured Rocks shoreline, don’t forget to take a few photos to document this trip filled with gorgeous fall foliage.

It’s just another reason to fall in love with this beauty!

Cast Your Fishing Line on Grand Sable Lake

The waters of Grand Sable Lake

Footsore Fotography /

For anglers, Pictured Rocks offers great fishing opportunities with its native and non-native fish to catch.

The dock at Grand Sable Lake has great access to fishing, where you can catch steelhead, smallmouth bass, walleyed, yellow perch, and more.

There are about 60 species of fish in the lakes and streams of Pictured Rocks—something that anglers enjoy doing in the summer.

You must have a valid Michigan fishing license and must follow the regulations set at the park.

Grand Sable Lake is also wheelchair accessible with a walkway mat installed during the season.

Aerial view of Grand Sable Lake

NMMIMAJ, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Enjoy Hunting within Pictured Rocks

Assuming that you’re a licensed, experienced, and responsible hunter, you can do this at Pictured Rocks during the hunting season.

In September, you can start your hunting game for bear, grouse, white-tailed deer, woodcock, and snowshoe hare.

The best spots in the park are on the backcountry cedar swamps and farm fields.

Stay away from the areas that are closed to hunting, especially since there are many visitors around.

Pictured Rocks allows firearms, archery, and muzzle-loading hunting.

Final Thoughts

Picturesque beaches, more than 100 miles of trails, sandstone cliffs rising out of the lake, and the peace of the north woods are just some of the attractions of Pictured Rocks.

This park is a destination unto itself on Lake Superior’s west coast.

As a year-round destination for kayakers, boat cruisers, and those searching for miles of beautiful hiking and bike trails, Pictured Rocks in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has something to offer everyone.

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