Exploring Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Twelvemile beach on Lake Superior

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore located along Lake Superior is a National Park of colored sandstone cliffs, forests, beaches, waterfalls and sand dunes. It was authorized as the first national lakeshore in 1966 to preserve all these natural features. An interesting fact from the National Park Service is that Lake Superior is the world’s largest freshwater lake if measured by surface area. It is 350 miles long, 160 miles across and over 1,300 feet at its deepest point. The lake acts like an inland sea, creating powerful storms and exerting a great influence on the surrounding land causing the erosion of sandstone cliffs. Because of the variety of things to see here, this was an enjoyable and fun park to explore. Follow along as I show some of the places we visited during our stay.

Miners Castle

Viewing the scenic cliffs from land can be difficult as there are not many viewpoints, especially ones that don’t require a long hike. Miners Castle is one of the most well known landmarks in the Park and also one of the most popular as it can be seen after a short walk from the parking lot. A longer walk down some stairs takes visitors to an even closer viewpoint of the Castle. Erosion of the sandstone created the formation that gives the cliff its name. On a sunny day, the water here is usually a deep green color. Unfortunately, the day we visited it was overcast and sprinkling, so the water was not quite as colorful.

Miners Castle
Pictured Rocks Cruise boat near Miners Castle

I wanted to post some photos with views of Miners Castle when I took the Pictured Rocks Cruise. The formation is more dramatic when viewed from the water.

Miners Falls

There are about 17 waterfalls located in the vicinity of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Miners Falls was my favorite of the ones I visited. A delightful walk in the woods led to this dramatic waterfall which drops 50 feet.

Trail to overlook of Munising Falls

Munising Falls was the closest waterfall to the National Park Visitor Center in the town of Munising. It was just a short walk to the viewing area. There were three different spots to see the falls with the upper viewpoint my favorite. A set of stairs and a trail next to large sandstone cliffs led to the top. Dropping 50 feet, the falls were wispy and delicate looking.

Wagner Falls was the most peaceful of the falls I visited. I was able to sit on a nearby bench and just enjoy their beauty and the quiet of the forest. The day I came, not many people were visiting these falls.

Wagner Falls

One day we took a trip to the eastern side of the Park, away from the Munising area and closer to the town of Grand Marais. We did a hike to the Au Sable Light Station which can only be visited after a 1-1/2 mile trail. The hike starts at the Hurricane River Campground and hugs the Lake Superior shoreline the entire route.

Hurricane River flowing into Lake Superior
We had many Lake Superior views on our walk to Au Sable Light Station

It was fun to hike to a lighthouse rather than drive. This made it seem more remote and authentic. Plus, this lighthouse is in one of the most scenic areas of the lighthouses I have visited. It was completed in 1874 and has an 87 foot high tower. There is also a light keepers house that I toured. The light became fully automated in 1958 and still shines today, although it is powered by sunlight instead of kerosene. I really enjoyed our visit to Au Sable.

Lots of wildflowers surrounded the light station.

After our visit to Au Sable, we drove to the Log Slide scenic overlook which is located on large sand dunes. It reminded me some of the Sleeping Bear Dune in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Located 175 feet above Lake Superior, there used to be a viewing platform but it was destroyed one winter a few years ago. People can still walk around the top of the dunes and more adventurous ones head down to the shore, although it is not advised as it is a tough climb back up. Trying to catch some views, I walked rather gingerly on top of the dunes due to all the poison ivy. But a few people near me had no worries and were walking right through it. The area was named for a wooden chute that early logging companies used to slide logs 300 feet down the sand dunes to the lake.

Log Slide

Many waterfalls I have visited during our RV travels have required descending and ascending multiple steps to view them close up. Sable Falls was no exception and a sign warned that it was 168 stair steps down. The falls are a 75 foot cascade in a lovely setting and I enjoyed the walk to see them.

An added bonus was that you could follow the creek from the falls a short distance to where it emptied into the Lake next to tall dunes. Families were enjoying playing in the creek and along the beach.

I hope you enjoyed a look at what the Pictured Rocks Lakeshore has to offer. In the next post, a visit to Michigan’s largest freshwater spring.

4 thoughts on “Exploring Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore”

  1. I am embarrassed to say that even though I have lived much of my life in the midwest, I have never been there. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks for your comment Ilona! I hope you can get to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore area at some point as it is well worth a visit. We appreciate you reading the blog and following us on our journey!

    1. Well, I didn’t see all the waterfalls possible, but it was nice to see several in one locale. I am always up for seeing waterfalls and there can never be too many!

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