After packing up at Sleeping Bear Dunes we made the five hour journey to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The drive was really beautiful. The road pretty much followed the edge of Lake Michigan the entire way, providing us with incredible lake views the whole trip.
Pictured Rocks is a National Lakeshore so it is a long, narrow park. It runs along the shore of Lake Huron from Munising, MI to Grand Marias, MI. Our first stop was the visitor center in Munising to get some maps of the park and see if there were any campsite’s available.
There weren’t. So we were once again faced with finding a campground last minute. After some Googling we found one called Otter Lake Campground, which is part of the Hiawatha National Forest. The campground was about twenty minutes from the park, so we decided to book it over the phone and then get right to some sightseeing.
Our first stop was at Miners Falls. The hike was short and simple at about one mile roundtrip. There are a decent amount of stairs on this trail, but it leads to a very nice 50 foot tall water fall.
We continued down the road a little bit to go check out Miners Castle. We were a little bit confused at first because we walked to the viewpoint and saw no castle. Turns out it isn’t a real castle, but a rock formation that is named Miners castle. It doesn’t look much like a castle, but I suppose it used to before erosion got to it.
The last stop along this road is Miners Beach. It was overcast and drizzling the day that we were there so we didn’t do any sunbathing, but it was still a really pretty beach.
Our last stop for the day was Munising Falls, which is right in the city of Munising. It’s a very short trail out to an overlook to a waterfall that’s about 50 feet high. It was a really nice waterfall and was an easy hike.
After that we called it a day and headed to Otter Lake Campground. It was about twenty minutes from the park, legit in the middle of nowhere. The kid working at the desk was very rude and was not at all helpful. The campground was really rundown and dirty, but it was pretty cheap. I would not recommend this campground though. Definitely try to find a campsite in Pictured Rocks if you can.
We survived our first night camping in the rain and headed back to pictured rock the next morning. We decided to hike out to Chapel Beach. This is one of the more popular hikes in the par because it passes Chapel Falls and Chapel Rock on the way down to the beach.
The road out to the trailhead is terrible. It as a gravel road and it is incredibly bumpy. There were a few times the gravel started to take my car off the side of the road, so definitely drive carefully on this road. Also, it is an incredibly narrow road, especially when the parking lot fills up and people start parking on the side of it. I would recommend going early to try to avoid the mess. When we got there, there were hardly any other people on the road, but by the time we left the place was a zoo and driving back out was a challenge.
Chapel Falls is the first stop along the way. It’s about a mile and a half down the trail and is 60 feet tall. The trail is fairly crowded up until the falls, but a lot of people turn around and go back at that point, so the rest of the trail is a lot less busy.
About a mile past Chapel Falls is Chapel Rock. This is a really cool rock formation that has a tree growing out of the top of it. The way it has eroded away from the shore is pretty cool.
Just a little further down the trail you can access Chapel Beach. It was another dreary day, so again, no sunbathing. The views were incredible though. The waves crashing against the shore were so powerful. The water has eroded the cliffs and created sea caves, which are awesome. We sat for a while and enjoyed the water before making the trek back to the car.
The trail is 3 miles one way, making it a 6 mile journey total. It’s mostly flat though, except for some steps that lead down to Chapel Rock and the beach. My friend was pretty beat after the hike, so I did the next one by myself, which was kind of a bummer. I wanted to see as much as possible though, so I sucked it up and went by myself.
The trail I did alone lead out to the Au Sable Lighthouse. I love lighthouse and I’m so glad I decided to do this trail. It’s one and a half miles one way and is completely flat. The trail is right along the edge of Lake Huron and passes by a few shipwreck sites that you can see if the water is low.
The lighthouse is adorable. They offer tours of the inside during the day, but I arrived too late to catch one. Exploring the outside was interesting too. It definitely made me want to be a light keeper.
Our last stop for the day was to Sable Falls. This waterfall has a very big set of stairs that leads down to an overlook. It’s a 75 foot waterfall with pretty impressive power, so if the stairs don’t bother you definitely check it out.
Overall I enjoyed our stay at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. It stunk that it was rainy, and I didn’t like that some of the roads were in really bad shape, but the waterfalls were beautiful so it was worth it. If you are thinking of going I would recommend bringing or renting kayaks. A lot of the really cool stuff can only be seen from the water, so I kind of felt like I was missing out a little bit by staying on the shore. The sea caves would be really cool to kayak around in. Maybe I’ll go back someday and give it a try.
Have you been to Pictured Rocks? What were your favorite sites to see?