Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore — Your Recreation Paradise in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
Quick Facts | Things to Do | Service Animal and Pet-friendly | Where to Stay | Directions | Plan your Visit
If you love being outdoors, put the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore at the top of your list to visit in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This ancient, geological masterpiece stretches 42 miles along the pristine, southern coast of Lake Superior between Munising and Grand Marais. There is so much to see and do, plan to spend a few hours, even days here. You will excitedly return as often as you can to take in more.
Quick facts about Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Be awed by the historic grandeur of Pictured Rocks.
Pictured Rocks is the first designated national lakeshore in the United States (established in 1966). It is one of only three national lakeshores in the country.
The mineral-stained sandstone cliffs that give the park its name, stretch for 15 miles along the Lake Superior shoreline. When groundwater from the cliffs’ cracks drizzles down the rocks, stunning colors appear.
The rock layers represent two widely separated intervals of geologic time, the Late Precambrian, Cambrian, and Early Ordovician Periods (500-800 million years before present), and the Late Quaternary Period (two million years before present to the present). Learn more here.
The rocks’ beauty was so impressive to some that sandstone from the cliffs was quarried from nearby Grand Island for buildings in the late 1800s.
In addition to the rocky cliffs, there are miles of beaches, woodlands and 100 miles of trails to get you up close to the park’s immense beauty by foot or bicycle and in winter, cross-country skis or snowshoes.
Other historic sites include an 1874 Au Sable lighthouse, the Munising and Grand Marais U.S. Coast Guard buildings and artifacts, the logging chute area and the Civil War-era Schoolcraft iron blast furnace site.
These minerals create the multi-colored streaks on the Pictured Rocks cliffs.
The streaks on the sandstone layers highlight the various colors as the minerals react to seeping water. Red identifies iron, black and white mean manganese, yellow and brown show limonite and pink and green show copper. The best way to see these colorful cliffs is from the water; late afternoon and early evening sunlight is the picture-perfect time to go.
The best time to visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
The national lakeshore is open all year round, 24 hours a day. The busiest time at the park is late spring to mid-autumn, but every season is gorgeous here. From the wildflowers of spring to the warm weather and sunshine of summer to the color burst of leaves in autumn to the blankets of snow and ice formations in the winter, your heart will soar as you explore. Lake Superior, however, does churn up some heavy snowfalls in winter, so many roads are closed. It’s a good excuse to use your snowshoes, cross-country skis and snowmobile!
Park entrance passes are now required at Pictured Rocks.
All visitors 16 years or older must have a Park Entrance Pass, whether coming into the park on foot, bicycle, motorcycle or other private, non-commercial vehicle. For a day or annual pass fees, plus a list of this year’s FREE entrance dates, read more here.
You can get Wi-Fi service at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
One of Pictured Rocks’ attractions is getting unplugged and immersing in the wilderness. However, cellular service is available from Munising to Sand Point and Munising Falls area (west end) and Grand Sable Lake east to Grand Marais (east end). For the best mobile connections, go to the Munising Falls Visitor Center year-round and Grand Sable Visitor Center during the summer only. Visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore’s website for more information.
Things to do at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Enjoy your outdoor passions at Pictured Rocks.
Come outside and play in this outdoor paradise! You can:
Hike 100 miles of trails — take day hikes or backpack and backcountry camp for several days. Stop by the visitor centers for trail maps and updates on conditions. Some popular trails:
- Chapel Falls Trail offers a 2.5-mile round trip hike along an old roadbed, through an upland maple forest (a definite fall color hike from September to early October) to the breathtaking 60-foot high waterfall. No pets are allowed on this trail.
- Miners Castle is the most popular spot in the park. A short walk from the parking lot will take you to three different viewing platforms ranging in length from 200 to 1300 feet one way. The two upper platforms are ADA-accessible and leashed pets are welcome on the paved pathways. You can extend your hike and take the trail from Miners Castle downhill to the black-speckled sand of Miners Beach, a two-mile round trip. Pets are not allowed on the trail but you can drive your pet down and enjoy the beach together.
- Munising Falls Trail lets you walk 800 feet one way on a paved, ADA-accessible walkway that takes you to an observation deck to see the falls. No pets are allowed on the trail.
- North Country Scenic Trail traverses up to 42 miles through the park. No pets are allowed on this trail except for these two segments, Miners Castle to Sand Point or Log Slide to Au Sable Light Station.
Boat and kayak on some of America’s most beautiful waters. Cruise in your boat or sea kayak along the rugged Lake Superior shoreline for some of the best cliff viewing. Lake Superior is a huge and wild inland freshwater sea so check the weather before you go (it changes suddenly), make sure your watercraft is built for these waters and is equipped with proper flotation devices and safety equipment, and your skills are up to this adventure. We highly recommend if you do not have advanced skills, to paddle with an experienced guide.
There are peaceful inland lakes to explore in the park with your watercraft, too.
Bicycle and E-bike on visitor-use roads only. No biking or mountain biking is allowed on any of the trails.
Swim, wade or dive deep. Lake Superior offers sandy beaches and dunes along the Pictured Rocks shoreline. The waters are cold, typically 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. Sometimes by mid-August, the water temperatures climb up to 70 degrees. The warmest waters are found at Sand Point Beach.
Some of the scuba diving and snorkeling in the Midwest United States can be enjoyed along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Both are permitted throughout the park.
Please note that it is illegal (and dangerous) to jump off rocks and cliffs along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. And please be cautious any time you enter Lake Superior. Rip currents can and do occur.
Fish in Lake Superior, inland lakes and multiple streams. Anglers reel in smallmouth bass, northern pike, walleye, yellow perch, whitefish and smelt. Trout species include brook trout, rainbow trout, lake trout, and coho salmon. A valid Michigan fishing license is required in the park. Learn more here.
Hunting is permitted from after Labor Day to March 31. You will find a variety of wild game in the grown-over farm fields, hardwood forests and cedar swamps along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Most hunters use bows, muzzleloaders or other firearms to bag white-tailed deer, grouse, woodcock, bear and snowshoe hare. Learn more about Michigan regulations, licenses and bag limits.
Winter activities abound! Lake Superior is a natural snow machine and there is no shortage of glistening white stuff to get you off the couch and burn calories in the winter. You will find plenty of picturesque places to snowshoe, cross-country ski, snowmobile and ice fish.
One of the top picks of outdoor winter fun is viewing the ice curtains that tower up to 50 feet high between Munising Falls and Sand Point. To put your brawn and grit to the test, ice climbing is also available along the escarpment between Munising Falls and Sand Point. You cannot climb on the frozen Munising Falls, but you can face some of the toughest challenges in the Midwest at Miners Falls, Miners Basin Falls and Sand Point. Not into kicking crampons into the ice? It’s a fun sport to watch, too.
Make memories with your children and teens at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
Children enjoy playing on beaches, seeing waterfalls and hiking (or strollering) on trails.
Parents’ top picks for children are soaking up the sun, building castles and chasing the waves at Sand Point Beach, Miners Beach and Twelvemile Beach. A favorite waterfall to visit is Munising Falls. You can reach it by foot in 15 minutes and let them feel the spray, listen to the tumbling water and drop fallen leaves from the bridge over Munising Creek and see which one appears first on the other side of the bridge. Take a hike on one of the many trails. Two of the shortest are Sand Point Marsh Trail which lets you see a cattail marsh, cedar and black spruce swamp and small ponds up close. Go early in the morning or late afternoon for the best chances to see wildlife. The other is Munising Falls Trail, mentioned above. During the summer, there are ranger programs that cover a range of topics for the entire family.
Teens enjoy challenging outdoor adventures
Whether it’s their first time or their must-do-again passion, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a place to backcountry camp and hike, sea kayak through eye-popping sandstone arches, take a glass bottom boat tour over shipwrecks, scuba dive into Lake Superior’s mysterious waters or, in winter, take the ultimate challenge and scale ice columns. It’s a memory-making place to just be together, share laughs and dreams, and see more stars than you can count, too.
Enrich your Pictured Rocks visit with these guided boat and paddle tours.
Pictured Rocks Cruises: Hit several historic spots in one trip on a Pictured Rocks Cruise! Tours highlight East Channel Lighthouse, Grand Island, Miners Castle, the Painted Coves, Caves of All Colors, Lovers’ Leap, Rainbow Cave, Indian Head, Gull Rookery, Grand Portal, Battleship Rocks, Flower Vase, Indian Drum, Chapel Cove, Chapel Rock and Spray Falls.
Paddle Pictured Rocks: Get up close and personal with the sandstone cliffs while kayaking Lake Superior. Steer through some of the sandstone caves, touch the mineral layers and peer into the crystal clear waters below. Your tour begins with a boat ride which will take you to your launch point. The boat remains present throughout the tour in case you need a break from the water.
Glass Bottom Shipwreck Tours: These tours happen daily from Memorial weekend until the second week of October and reservations are encouraged. Your two-hour trip will include a visit to two different shipwreck sites as you journey near rock cliffs and through caves. You’ll also see a historic lighthouse, Grand Island and Munising Bay. One of the shipwrecks is a wooden sailing ship pre-dating the Civil War. It’s still fully intact and just a few feet below Lake Superior’s surface. It’s not uncommon to see North American Bald Eagles throughout the trip as they nest along the shoreline.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is service animal and pet-friendly.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore welcomes service animals that are specifically trained to help their disabled owners with certain tasks throughout the park. You may bring your other pet or emotional support animal to designated areas in the park. They must always be on a leash, no longer than 6 feet, including when swimming at the beaches.
You may bring your pet to these locations:
All Roads, Parking Lots, and Picnic Areas
Sand Point Beaches
Munising Falls Trail
Miners Falls Trail
Miners Castle - paved trail to Overlooks
Au Sable Access Road to the Light Station
Lake Superior Overlook and Beach
Sable Falls Trail and Beach
All three drive-in campgrounds: Little Beaver Lake, Twelvemile Beach, and Hurricane River Campgrounds
Lake Superior beaches directly in front of the campground and day-use areas
Where to stay near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Campgrounds near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
There are three drive-in campgrounds at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and several nearby campgrounds in Alger County. The three drive-in campgrounds are Little Beaver Lake Campground, Hurricane River Campground and Twelvemile Beach. You can camp at the park from May 15 to October 15. Reservations are required; there is no drop-in camping allowed. Learn more about each campground, how to reserve a site and fees.
Hotels near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
You can find motels, rental cabins and other lodgings in Munising, Grand Marais and other communities an hour or less away. Summer and fall are our busiest tourist seasons, so try to make your reservations two to six months in advance. Find your lodgings here.
Directions to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is on the southern shore of Lake Superior between Munising (to the west) and Grand Marais (to the east).
There are two visitor centers
Munising Falls Visitor Center | 1505 Sand Point Road, Munising | Daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. | Year-round | (906) 387-3700
Grand Sable Visitor Center | E21090 County Road H-58 (One mile west of Grand Marais, Michigan) | Wednesday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. | Summer only | (906) 494-2660
Arrive by a passenger vehicle or motorcycle
Michigan state highways M-28 and M-94 take you to Munising. State highway M-77 takes you to Grand Marais.
Arrive by plane
There are grass airfields in Munising and Grand Marais. Commercial flights are available from Marquette, Escanaba and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Learn more.
Arrive in Escanaba or Marquette by bus
Regional bus lines service Marquette and Escanaba. Rental vehicles are available in both locations.
Start planning your trip to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore today!
Use our Plan Your Trip page to find trip tips, ideas, transportation information, travel guides and more. Then, book your visit soon!