Seeking Solitude and Scenery at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
One of America's most spectacular coastlines is hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean. Way up in Michigan's rugged Upper Peninsula, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is home to beautiful beaches, tumbling waterfalls, pristine forests, and incredible rock formations along the Lake Superior shoreline.
The first of its kind
Congress made Pictured Rocks the first national lakeshore in the United States in 1966, recognizing the scenic beauty and importance of its unique landscape. The lakeshore extends for 42 miles, getting its name from a 15-mile stretch of colorful sandstone cliffs that tower up to 200 feet above the lake level. The cliffs have been sculpted by wind and waves into shallow caves, arches, spectacular turret-like formations, and shapes that resemble human profiles.
While the scenic beauty of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore has long been recognized, it remains a relatively unknown entry into the National Park System. The lakeshore often receives fewer than 500,000 annual visitors — compared to the 9 million that annually visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park, for example — making it a great destination for anyone in search of solitude.
Experience and explore
At Pictured Rocks, you'll find countless opportunities to explore the shoreline of the largest and deepest of the Great Lakes. Whether you're camping overnight or just visiting for an afternoon, you'll never be bored.
- Boating: Lake Superior provides endless boating opportunities, from guided tours to private trips in your own craft. Launch sites in and around the national lakeshore, including ramps in Munising and Grand Marais Harbor, offer ideal starting points.
- Kayaking: For experienced kayakers, a trip along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore's stunning coastline is an unforgettable adventure. Just be sure to take the necessary safety precautions and always watch the weather. Lake Superior's waters can change from peaceful and quiet to dangerously rough very quickly.
- Camping: Several front country campgrounds offer tent camping with basic amenities, including tent pads, picnic tables, campfire rings, and vault toilets. RVs are permitted as well, but the rustic sites are best suited to tenting. Dispersed backcountry camping, which offers no man-made comforts of any kind, is also available in certain parts of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
- Swimming: You can swim and wade in many areas along the lakeshore, although the chilly waters are bracing for all but the hardiest swimmers. Lifeguards are not posted anywhere in the park, so use caution and beware of rip currents.
- Hiking and biking: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is home to a wealth of hiking trails that traverse dense forests and open shorelines. Mountain bikes are permitted on the park's roads, but not on the trails.
- Fishing: Few places on earth offer better fishing than the Great Lakes. Smallmouth bass, walleye, perch, and countless other species abound in Lake Michigan's waters, and several inland lakes and streams also offer outstanding fishing opportunities.
- Sightseeing: From viewing the many waterfalls that tumble over the cliffs into Lake Michigan to touring some of the Great Lakes' oldest lighthouses – including the Au Sable Light Station – visiting Pictured Rocks gives you ample opportunity to experience uniqueness.
Exploring the Upper Peninsula of Michigan also offers a chance to visit several other national park sites. Keweenaw National Historical Park preserves some of Michigan's unique Native American history, while the North Country National Scenic Trail — which passes directly through Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore — provides an unparalleled hiking route through seven states from New York to North Dakota.
Since 1966, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore has preserved one of America's most unique and often-overlooked landscapes. Experiencing this one-of-a-kind destination should absolutely be on your national park bucket list.