15 Best Things to Do in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
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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
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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
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‌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
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Spot the Chapel Rock

Waves crashing on the Chapel Rock
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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
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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
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Paddle along the Cliffs with Pictured Rocks Kayaking

People kayaking in Pictured Rocks during snow
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‌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
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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
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Take in the Sun at Miners Beach

Kayaks on the shores of Miners Beach
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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
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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
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Take Photos with the Historic Au Sable Light Station

Tall white Au Sable Light Station
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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
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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
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‌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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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 / Shutterstock.com‌

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 / Shutterstock.com

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 / Shutterstock.com

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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