Perhaps one of the most iconic shorelines of the Great Lakes resides within Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, which stretches about forty miles along the southern coast of Lake Superior. Located in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Pictured Rocks is home to sapphire-blue lakes, cascading waterfalls, and extraordinary sandstone cliffs, making this park an absolute must during your travels.
Its diverse scenery lends itself to a plethora of activities - especially since it's also open during the winter time. When you visit, you'll be able to hike through forests and along the shores of Lake Superior, go scuba diving, and kayak along the sandstone cliffs. If you visit during the winter, you'll still have plenty of things to do, whether it's visiting the ice formations, ice climbing, or snowshoeing. And the colder weather means you may have the place all to yourself- or at least feel as though you do.
Driving into Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a breeze no matter which direction you're coming from. From Munising, driving about five minutes east along H-58 will take you straight to the park. From Grand Marais, drive a few minutes west along H-58, and you'll hit the eastern entrance to the park.
The main roads in the park and to the campsites are well maintained and paved, but some of the interior roads into the park are dirt. They are also maintained, so most cars should be able to drive in carefully. Some of the roads leading into the campsites have many twists and turns, so the park has limited RV length to 36 feet, and cars and trailer combined length to 42 feet.
Twelvemile Beach Campground is a 15 mile drive west of Grand Marais. There are 36 sites along the sandy plateau, and there are a few sites that have a lake view. There are two accessible campsites, and generators are prohibited in the west loop of the campground.
Pets must be leashed, and there are no power, water or sewer hookups. There are vault toilets, fire pits, picnic tables, and tent pads at each campsite.
From the campground, you'll have ready access to the beach, as well as a day use picnic and parking area. You'll also be able to get to the 2-mile White Birch Trail and the North Country Trail.
Hurricane River Campground has 21 sites and is about 12 miles west of Grand Marais. Both the upper and lower campground loops have a wheelchair accessible site, and there are a few generator-free sites scattered around the campground, so keep an eye out in case you're planning on using your generator.
The campground has vault toilets, a fire ring, picnic table and tent pads. A maximum of two tents and eight people may stay at each site. Pets are allowed only if they're leashed.
The Hurricane River flows right next to the campground into Lake Superior. There's easy access to the North Country Trail that follows the edge of Lake Superior, and if you head east for 1.5 miles you'll pass some shipwreck remnants and get to the historic Au Sable Light Station.
Little Beaver Lake Campground has eight sites and is about 20 miles northeast of Munising along Little Beaver Lake. The access road is small and winding, so a maximum RV length of 36 feet is required, and if you're towing a trailer, the maximum combined length with your car is 42 feet.
Pets are allowed but must be on a leash no longer than six feet. The campground has vault toilets, a fire ring, picnic table and tent pads. A maximum of two tents and eight people may stay at each site. You may use a generator at Little Beaver Lake Campground, but the quiet hours are from 8 pm to 8 am.
From Little Beaver Lake Campground, you'll have access to White Pine Trail, a short one-mile loop, and there's a 1.5 mile trail that will lead you straight to Lake Superior.
During the wintertime, the waterfalls freeze to form columns, and water slowly seeps through the porous sandstone cliffs to create colorful sheets of ice throughout the park. Many roads in the park are closed during the winter, so call ahead before visiting. However, you'll most likely be able to access some of the more popular parking lots and roads. The easiest place to see these ice caves is along Sand Point Road, between Sand Point and Munising Falls. You'll have to park and hike further in through the snow, but the jagged ice formations will absolutely be worth it.
If you want to do more than just look at those ice columns, guess what? You can climb them, too! Ice climbing is very popular in this area, and conditions usually allow for this sport between the end of December to early April. The most accessible site to ice climb is at Sand Point, where you'll find curtains of ice ranging from 20 feet to 50 feet high. Miners Falls also has an incredible 40 foot column to climb, but you'll have to snowshoe or ski 3 miles to reach it.
Snowshoeing at Pictured Rocks will give you the opportunity for some solitude within the park. You can snowshoe anywhere in the park, apart from the roads and groomed cross-country ski trails, so the whole park is yours to explore! The easiest access points and parking are at Munising Falls and the Sand Point Marsh Trail, but once you park your vehicle, you can head anywhere you'd like. Make sure to check weather conditions and let someone know where you're headed, but the great part about snowshoeing is that when you get tired, just turn around and follow your tracks back to your vehicle!
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is one of the best spots for scuba diving in the midwest. The Alger Underwater Preserve runs from Au Sable Light Station all the way west past Munising, so the majority of the shoreline is open to divers and snorkelers! If you're a beginner, there are plenty of businesses in the area that offer lessons and tours, so anyone could have the chance to see the well-preserved shipwrecks along the coast of Lake Superior.
Perhaps one of the most iconic photos you'll see of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a kayaker paddling through the emerald waters with stunning sandstone cliffs in the backdrop. Pictured Rocks boasts plenty of opportunities to get out on the water, from Lake Superior to inland lakes and streams.
The inland lakes easily accessible by vehicle are Grand Sable Lake, Little Beaver Lake, and Beaver Lake. If you're looking to escape the crowds and don't mind carrying your canoe or kayak, you can also head to Miners Lake, Chapel Lake, and Legion Lake.
If you're planning on going out on the water, make sure you have all the right equipment and are knowledgeable of proper safety procedures. The conditions out on the water can change rapidly, and rescue attempts could take hours if anything happens. Recreational canoes and kayaks can be used on the inland lakes, but only sea kayaks are allowed on Lake Superior. You'll also need to keep an eye out and steer clear of any boat tours that might also be out on the water.
If you want to explore on land, Pictured Rocks also has over a hundred miles of trails. From lakeshore trails, cliff viewpoints, and waterfalls, you'll have plenty of options to choose from. Some of the popular short hikes are Miners Falls Trail, Mosquito Falls, and Au Sable Light Station. If you really want to see the best views of the park, you'll have to hike in a little deeper to get to Chapel Rock, one of the best viewpoints in the park, or finish the whole 10 mile (16 km) Chapel Loop trail to see some of the park's most stunning vistas.