The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore boasts an incredible stretch of 42 miles along the glistening Lake Superior, between Munising and Grand Marais in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This natural wonderland is adorned with a plethora of attractions, including waterfalls, sandstone cliffs, sea caves, dunes, as well as peaceful trails and forests.
Rising anywhere from 50 to 200 feet tall above Lake Superior, the cliffs of the Pictured Rocks park are stained by minerals such as iron and manganese. The park’s name, Pictured Rocks, speaks only to the vibrancy of the lakeshore’s mineral hues, and doesn’t refer to any rock art like petroglyphs or pictographs.
The Pictured Rocks park was officially recognized as the first national lakeshore in the United States on October 15, 1966. Its remote location had been home to Native American tribes, explorers and early fur traders for centuries prior to its designation.
The Best Way to View the Sandstone Cliffs and Sea Caves
The park’s cliffs offer the most stunning views when observed from the water. Pictured Rocks Cruises, a long-time authorized concessionaire of the National Park Service, has been providing tours for more than five decades.
Operating between mid-May and mid-October near the Munising City Dock, boat tours are offered daily from 10 a.m. until the last cruise returns to the dock.
For an equally scenic adventure, schedule an excursion with Pictured Rocks Kayaking – Munising’s sole outfitter that launches paddlers into the water by boat.
For maximum safety and convenience, the accompanying cruise boat conveniently caters to varying ages and abilities. Whether a seasoned kayaker or a beginner, you’ll find comfort in the fact that their team is always nearby, ready to assist.
Significant portions of the cliffs may be reached via hiking, particularly the 10-mile Chapel-Mosquito loop trail. You may also drive directly to Miners Castle, which offers views of this famous sandstone landmark (including a wheelchair-accessible viewing platform).
As the western gateway to the Pictured Rocks, Munising boasts a staggering 14 waterfalls, many of which can be found within the park. From the deafening roar of cascading waters plummeting into gorges to the gentle trickle of roadside falls stemming from nearby creeks, each one offers a unique and awe-inspiring sight that is well worth exploring.
At the easternmost edge of the park lie the 300-foot-tall Grand Sable Dunes. To see the dunes, take a 1/3 mile trail from the Sable Falls parking area, located one mile west of Grand Marais along Alger County Road H-58 – or check out the famous Log Slide Overlook for a great view of the dunes, Au Sable Light Station, and neat artifacts along the short trail.
The Au Sable Light Station, constructed in the 1800s, is a stunning sight. Nestled 12 miles west of Grand Marais, the path leading to the towering 86-foot lighthouse is flanked by majestic pines and birches. Though tours are subject to staff availability, visitors can experience the magic of the lighthouse from mid-summer through fall by a 3-mile round trip walk.