Located in the rural Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the Pictured Rocks is a perfect trip for those looking for a relaxing vacation in the great outdoors.
Its name derives from the vibrant red, blue, white and green colors of lake minerals that stain the rock face of the cliffs, which reflect off Superior’s turquoise waters. Towering 50-200 feet high, the cliffs have been carved out by the lake and erosion for thousands of years, giving the Pictured Rocks its unique features.
Since the cliffs run along Lake Superior’s shoreline, it’s no surprise the park is best seen by water. Pictured Rocks Cruises – an authorized concessionaire of the National Park Service, which manages the national lakeshore, has provided tours for over 50 years.
Tours depart in front of the Pictured Rocks Cruises’ office and gift shop – 100 City Park Dr. – near the city dock in downtown Munising. Open daily from 8 a.m. until the last boat returns to the dock from mid-May through mid-October.
Each cruise follows the same path along the shoreline, giving passengers up-close views of the East Channel Lighthouse on Grand Island, Miners Castle, Lovers Leap, and other park landmarks.
However, the Spray Falls Cruise – for an extra charge – takes passengers farther along the lakeshore to see an additional waterfall.
Cruises vary from 2 to 3 hours long, each traveling approximately 40 miles round-trip. The high-speed catamaran used for Spray Falls Cruise offers the easiest indoor accommodations for wheelchairs. All tours are great for kids, as well, as tickets for children ages 6-12 are $10 and those 5 and under are just $1. For other pricing, click here.
No matter when you’re planning your trip, it’s highly recommended to book your tickets for a Pictured Rocks Cruises tour at least three weeks ahead of time as they sell out regularly.
Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the Cruises’ office at (906) 387-2379.
What Should I Bring?
Since the weather in the U.P. can be spontaneous, it’s always a good idea to bring extra layers and prepare for rainy weather. The Cruises have enclosed cabins and open seating on each boat and run rain or shine unless the lake is too dangerous to navigate.
Planning on bringing your four-legged companion? No problem. Pictured Rocks Cruises offers complimentary kennels that are clean and air conditioned.
Of course, you’ll also want to make sure to bring your camera! Mid-afternoon to late evening is the best time of day to take photos of Pictured Rocks. During the later day, the sun is low and shines directly on the most colorful portions of the Pictured Rocks cliffs.
If you’re looking for an activity that’s more physically demanding but offers similar sights, book a trip with Pictured Rocks Kayaking, the only kayaking outfitter in Munising that provides offshore launching.
With the popular outfitter, passengers travel along the lakeshore aboard a kayak-launching boat and get to paddle the best parts of the park! Tickets can be purchased online or by calling (906) 387-5500.
Where Should I Stay?
Before traveling to the U.P., make sure you have a place to stay. The Munising area offers a wonderful selection of lakeside hotels, cabins and cottages in the woods, and rustic or modern campgrounds.
If you need help finding the perfect spot for you and your family, visit the Alger County Chamber of Commerce’s website or call them at (906) 387-2138.
What Resources are Available?
When you get to town, be sure to stop by the Chamber’s office – also called the Fuzzy Boyak Welcome Center – at 129 E. Munising Ave., Munising. There you’ll find free maps, waterfall and hiking guides, brochures, and other business and area information.