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Although the region in Michigan that would become known as Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore was officially discovered by a French trader and trapper in 1658, local Native American tribes knew about this distinctive, colorful stretch of sandstone cliffs for centuries prior. The cliffs rise above the lake level for about 200 feet. Thousands of years of wind, rain, and waves have contoured the cliffs into vaguely familiar shapes, and gazing upon them is not unlike searching clouds for familiar shapes. These cliffs resemble an ancient medieval castle complete with turrets, some say. Others think they resemble the profile of a human or animal’s face. Established in 1966, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore gained its fifteen minutes of fame thanks to Kid Rock, who taped his song, “Born Free,” in 2010 here.
The closest large town is Munising, MI, MI, which, among many other businesses and shops, the closest hospital. About 22 miles to the southwest, Munising claims to be the town that inspired Henry Wadsworth Longfellow when he wrote the Song of Hiawatha. Embark on the perfect RV camping retreat when you search for an RV in Alger County, MI.
Over 73,000 acres of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore stretches alongside Lake Superior and spans along 42 miles. Around 100 miles of trails wind and weave alongside Lake Superior. Some lead to clifftops with breathtaking views of the Lake Superiors. Others, to beaches that rival Miami. A few trails veer away from the shores into the heart of Michigan woods that hide bucolic waterfalls, tiny meadows in clearings, and shy wildlife.
The water of Lake Superior is surprisingly clear, hued turquoise, alongside Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Venturing out on the lake in kayaks and canoes to gain a better view of the picturesque cliffs is a popular activity for many. All boaters are cautioned to hire a guide or be experienced. In addition to an occasional rockfall, the lake can be unpredictable, as evinced by several shipwrecks lurking below.
Go scuba diving to explore the shipwrecks that line the lakebed. Though most are from the turn of the century, there is a handful that dates back to the early 1800s. Could there be long-lost treasure or forgotten bottles of delicious rum waiting to be discovered?
When winter rolls around, the fun doesn’t stop. Thanks to the lake-effect snow, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore averages one of the highest snowfalls in the country. In addition to cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling, the region has some of the best ice-climbing crags in the country. There are around 50 named ice climbs, and they regularly draw climbers from around the world. Beginners can hire guides and rent equipment to test the water and discover whether they enjoy the daring activity.
All of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore RV campgrounds are fairly primitive, lacking any hookups for RVs or campers. However, the restroom facilities generally have running water during the summer months. All sites must be secured by online reservations; Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore no longer accepts walk-ins due to high demand (as of 2018).
RV camp near Munising, MI, at the Little Beaver Lake Campground. With only eight sites, this campground is a quieter one, with less activity. Close to the lake, there is a small boat launch available that can launch kayaks, canoes, skiffs, and other small boats. Due to the tight turns into the campground, vehicles longer than 36 feet are not recommended.
Alternatively, the Hurricane River Campground near Grand Marais looks out on the shores of Lake Superior. Several sites have waterfront views or are a short walk from the beach.
Twelvemile Beach Campground is located on a rise, which commands stellar views of the lake. All sites come with a fire ring. Book well in advance; this campground is in high demand during the summer months.
Hit the scenic byway in an Airstream rental. Lake Superior is notorious for its treacherous storms, and several lighthouses were constructed to guide sailors into safe harbors or away from brutal rocks. The closest, Au Du Sable Lighthouse, is not far from Sullivan’s Landing, MI. Open to tours, this lighthouse was constructed at the turn of the century and continued to operate until 1968. Nearby Grand Island North Lighthouse also is noteworthy. Atop a 175-foot cliff, the Grand Island North Lighthouse is the highest lighthouse above sea level in the United States.
Roll into Marquette, in style in a rental motorhome, and check out the local sights. The Lakenenland is a popular Michigan roadside attraction. The artist designed and created many of the quirky sculptures out of scrap metal found on-site. This attraction is open year-round, so spend a day exploring the wacky sculpture garden whenever you wish.