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Munising, Michigan and Grand Marais MI

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore - 2012 Camping Information

Kayaking the Bear RiverKayaking the Bear River
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by Dylan

Pictured Rocks Survival Guide

One of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring places in Michigan is the legendary Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. This 42-mile stretch of Lake Superior coastline is known around the world for its colorful cliffs, rock formations, waterfalls, and immense sand dunes.

Located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, east of Marquette, Pictured Rocks stretches from Munising to Grand Marais. Both of these small cities serve as gateways to Pictured Rocks, and each offers a unique vantage point for exploration of the area.

Grand Marais, MI - East National Park Entrance

Positioned at the East end of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, the town of Grand Marais offers closest access to Sable Falls, Grand Sable Lake, Grand Sable Dunes, and the historic Au Sable Light Station. The Grand Sable Dunes, perched high atop the 300-foot tall Grand Sable Banks, are a 5-square mile, glacially formed spectacle of pristine, barren sand, punctuated by a forest of Jack Pines. The Banks themselves slope drastically toward Lake Superior at a steep 35 degrees.

Stretching Westward, the Grand Sable Banks give way to the site of the old Log Slide, a scenic favorite of Pictured Rocks visitors. Here, where loggers once used a chute to move timber down to the shoreline, visitors have an excellent view of Grand Sable Dunes to the East, and the Au Sable Light Station to the west. Accessible just a few short miles outside of Grand Marais, this entire area can be explored by way of several well-marked trails, including the North Country Trail, that wind their way through this scenic area.

Munising MI - West Park Entrance

From the West end, Munising offers the best access to the cliffs and formations that give Pictured Rocks its name. The town is also home to the Pictured Rocks Visitor Center.

From Munising, explorers can enjoy a boat tour of some of the most famous formations, including the Indian Head, Miners Castle, and the Grand Portal. The Munising area is also home to Munising Falls, Miners Falls, and the Sand Point Marsh Trail, among others. As with attractions near Grand Marais, the entire area can be accessed by wooded trails, hiking paths, dedicated scenic drives, and specially constructed boardwalks and lookout points.

Pictured Rocks National Park Geology

The cliffs of Pictured Rocks, many of as tall as 200 feet above lake level, are composed of three definable formations, each from different historical periods. The oldest of the three, the reddish Jacobsville Formation, is made or Precambrian sandstone. Along much of the Pictured Rocks Shoreline, only the top few feet of the formation is visible above lake level.
Above the Jacobsville Formation sits the Munising Formation, light gray to white in color. The Munising Formation is similar in age to the Jacobsville sandstone, forming over the Mid to Late Cambrian period between 500 and 800 million years ago. The Munising can be classified into three distinct categories: a basal conglomerate, the hard sandstone of ChapelRock, and the sweeping, crumbly beds of sandstone that compose Miners Castle.

Acting as a cap on the Munising Formation for most of the Western half of Pictured Rocks is the Au Train Formation, a light brown dolomitic sandstone that functions as a protective barrier for the easily eroded layers below.

The colors featured in the cliffs and rock formations are both the result of the sandstone types themselves, and mineral deposits left behind by evaporating water. Some of the most common minerals/colors are: manganese (black and white), and limonite (yellow and brown), iron (red), and copper (pink and green).

Pictured Rocks Kayaking in Munising

One of the most popular ways to experience Pictured Rocks is by kayak. A variety of put-in points, including Sand Point, Twelvemile Beach, and Grand Island Landing are great places to start your Lake Superior kayaking adventure. Kayaking can be dangerous, however, and there are several safety points that should be considered:

  • Most sea kayaks sit low in the water and can be difficult to see from other watercraft – use a brightly colored kayak and be well aware of other boat traffic
  • Pictured Rock’s cliffs extend for 15 miles with no harbor from the wind or water – be sure you are prepared before embarking.
  • Lake Superior is notoriously cold, barely rising above 50 degrees during the summer months – consider wearing a wet/dry suit to protect yourself from the cold.

Guided kayak tours (and rentals) are available in Munising. Most guided tours do not require any previous experience.

Pictured Rocks Camping and Backpacking Information

Because of the natural beauty and generally "outdoorsy" feel of the Pictured Rock experience, many visitors choose to spend their nights camping at one of the multiple campgrounds in the area. The most popular campgrounds include Twelvemile Beach Campground, Huricane River Campground, and Little Beaver Campground. Of course, there are dozens of private campgrounds near Munising, Grand Marais, and the surrounding Hiawatha and Lake Superior National Forests. Most campgrounds range from $10 to $20 per night. Private camping destinations will sometimes take reservations, though the federally affiliated sites listed above are first come, first serve.


When planning your visit to Pictured Rocks, be prepared for some of the potential hazards of the area. When hiking the trails, stay away from cliff edges. Loose sand and gravel are common – be prepared for a variety of terrain and hiking conditions. For kayakers and canoers, rock falls can happen at any time. Be aware of your proximity to cliff walls.

The temperatures/weather in Upper Michigan can be unpredictable. While the summer months are usually warm, cold, rainy weather is not entirely uncommon. Make sure you are prepared for a range of conditions, from cold and rainy to warm and dry.

In the spring time, black flies and mosquitos can be a serious nuisance (and a potential health hazard). Come prepared to protect yourself for these airborne biters with netting and insect repellent – please, however, be considerate of the environment when making your repellent choices.

Destinations & Access Points

Below, you will find a list of notable destinations along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Beginning with Munising and moving East to Grand Marais, these are the most popular, and the most breathtaking examples of the natural beauty of Pictured Rocks:

  1. Munising Falls – Just East of Munising on Alger County Road H-58, turn left on Sand Point Rd. Follow signage to the easily accessible Munising Falls. There is a parking area and restrooms, with the falls only a short walk away.
  2. Sand Point – Sand Point beach can be accessed at the end of Sand Point Rd. The area also features the Sand Point Marsh Trail, accessible directly across from Sand Point beach.
  3. Miners Falls – To reach Miners Falls, take H-58 West from Munising, followed by H-13 3.5 miles North. Look for a sign-marked dirt road on the right. The short dirt road will lead to a parking area. A roughly 20-minute walk through a wooded trail will lead to the falls. The walk to the viewing platform includes 77 steps.
  4. Miners Castle - About 6 miles East of Munising on H-58, and another 5 miles north on Miners Castle Rd., visitors can access this famous Pictured Rocks formation. From a picnic area, visitors can explore paved foot trails, leading to scenic overlooks of Lake Superior, and take stairs and a steeper trail leading to an overlook of Miners Castle.
  5. Grand Portal Point – The cliff and archway of Grand Portal are best viewed from the water, whether as part of a cruise tour or in a kayak. For hikers, the North Country Trail passes Grand Portal Point as part of the 9.6 mile Chapel loop.
  6. Chapel Falls – 15 miles East down H-58 and 5 miles North down Chapel Rd., visitors can access Chapel Falls viewing platforms after a short 1.5 mile trip down an old roadbed trail.
  7. Chapel Rock/Chapel Beach – Following the same directions to Chapel Falls, hikers can continue down the trail to Chapel Rock and Beach.
  8. Twelvemile Beach – This scenic beach is accessible from H-58, about 16 miles west of Grand Marais
  9. Au Sable Point/Au Sable Light Station – To visit Au Sable Point, travel to the Hurricane River Campground off of H-58. Follow the trail on the Historic U.S. Coastguard road to the light station.
  10. Log Slide – Log Slide Rd. can be accessed from H-58, about 7 miles west of Grand Marais. This is a great place to view the Au Sable Light Station from a distance.
  11. Sable Falls – Sable falls are accessible directly from H-58, about a mile west of Grand Marais
  12. Grand Sable Dunes – Accessible from both the North Country Trail (a quarter mile East of the Log Slide) and a trail from the Sable Falls parking area, the dunes are about 1 mile West of Grand Marais.

Be aware that each of these locations may have different restrictions for bicycles and pets. These restrictions may also include the trails leading to each destination. Plan ahead for you trip to Pictured Rocks – trail maps are readily available both online and on-site at visitor’s centers in Munising and Grand Marais. Explore and enjoy!.

View Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore - 2012 Camping Information on Google Maps

What Do You Think about Munising, Michigan and Grand Marais MI?

Adventure Rating: A-

Kayaking the cliffs of Lake Superior is an adventure!  Frigid water, no ladders and jagged rock faces make this a top Michigan thing to do.

Locals Tip

Mosquitos can be ferocious at Pictured Rocks.  Meghann and I were literally chased out of the woods because we were unprepared.  Bring misquoto head nets with full pants and long sleeves even on summer hikes.  The bugs are not always ravenous but you do not want to be underprepared at Pictured Rocks!

up north michigan poster

"I will never forget those mosquitoes!  Bring head nets" Meghann "Try not to drop your camera off the lookouts because you'll never be able to retrieve it from Lake Superiors chilly depths." Dylan

Geocache Winner

Learn a bit about geocaching over at Wikipedia

The first person to post a photo yourself at Pictured Rocks National Park to our Facebook page wins a lake poster of their choice from We Are Up North! 

Our newsletter subscribers receive the geocache or photo hunt location a full day before we post it on the site. Sign up today so you can be an insider on the weekly treasure hunt!

Every week we add a photo hunt or new geocache (pronounced "geo cash") somewhere in the northern wilderness with the hope that we'll give other Up North explorers a reason to leave their couch and enjoy the inspiring beauty, history and excitement Michigan has to offer.