Nestled along the rugged shores of Lake Superior lies Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, a breathtaking landscape of sandstone cliffs, crystal-clear lakes, and cascading waterfalls. From Munising Falls to Chapel Beach, this area is full of stunning places to explore and admire.
Discover what awaits you in this spectacular national park site with our guide to the most beautiful spots in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore!
But First What Is Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore?
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a picturesque destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Located on Lake Superior’s south shore in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, it spans more than 40 miles of rocky, yet absolutely stunning, coastline.
Exploring Pictured Rocks will take your breath away with its incredible beauty. Whether you’re planning a stop along an adventurous Upper Peninsula road trip or looking for a peaceful getaway, this national park site has some spots that are easily accessible while others definitely require some work to reach.
No matter what type of experience you’re after, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore will leave you feeling refreshed and inspired by its natural beauty!
Must-See Spots in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
If you’re looking for some of the most breathtaking views in Michigan, then Pictured Rocks is a must-see! The park offers stunning sandstone cliffs, crystal-clear lake views, and cascading waterfalls that are simply awe-inspiring.
These are 10 places you need to see when you explore Pictured Rocks so you can skip the research and planning and go!
Munising Falls is one of the most beautiful and easily accessible natural spots in Pictured Rocks. The parking area is located just a short two-mile drive from downtown Munising, and the falls are easily accessible by walking 800 feet on a paved path to the first viewing platform.
Even though there is an uphill slope to the path going toward the falls, it is possible for wheelchairs to navigate the shade-covered route.
The falls plunge 50 feet into a deep gorge filled with lush vegetation. There are other viewing platforms to see the falls from different angles if you are able to climb stairs.
Located just four miles east of Munising, Sand Point is the Pictured Rocks beach closest to town.
It’s also the beach with typically the smallest waves and warmest water. The waters are shallow compared to other Pictured Rocks beaches, so Sand Point is great for swimming during the heat of summer.
Break up your beach day with a stroll along Sand Point Marsh Trail, a short half-mile elevated boardwalk trail that winds through lush wetlands. There are multiple viewing platforms along the way where you might spot wildlife. Explore this trail early in the morning or later in the evening for the best chance to see animal activity.
Miners Castle is one of the most iconic sites in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Access the viewpoints via the trailhead about 15 minutes east of Munising by car. The walk from the trailhead to the platforms is short, at most covering about a half-mile roundtrip.
This spectacular rock formation stands tall at over 60 feet and offers stunning views of Lake Superior.
The castle’s unique shape is the result of years of erosion caused by wind and waves. There are three viewing platforms where you can gain different perspectives of this natural beauty.
No visit to the lakeshore would be complete without visiting Miners Castle – it’s a must-see! Being so easy to enjoy the views, this is a spot suitable for nearly everyone while visiting Pictured Rocks
Located just over nine miles east of Munising, this stunning waterfall stands around 50 feet tall and is one of the most picturesque spots in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
After hiking 0.6 miles on a very clear, wide trail, you’ll come to a wooden staircase. The best views of the falls can be found at the bottom of this staircase, but there are 2 viewing platforms to see them.
There are a few gentle hills on the trail, but nothing is steep or difficult. With the easy classification comes plenty of visitors! Don’t expect to be the only people on this trail when you visit.
Miners Falls is the most powerful in the area by water flow, making it quite impressive. After viewing the falls, you’ll return on the same trail you came, making the whole hike 1.2 miles roundtrip.
The Sandstone Cliffs
The Sandstone Cliffs are what people come to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore to see. These cliffs are made up of ancient sandstone that has been stained with multiple minerals, creating a vast array of colors.
When you visit Pictured Rocks, enjoy views from different perspectives, including an up-close look at these majestic formations. From the top of the cliffs, you can take in views of the vast Lake Superior waters and the surrounding forest.
If you’d like to explore further, there are plenty of hiking trails that will allow you to get a look at these incredible works of nature from different angles. You can also go kayaking or take a Pictured Rocks boat cruise to experience the beauty of the cliffs from the water. The cruise is especially fun because you’ll see all the formations and learn about the history and geology of the area at the same time.
Chapel Falls, Chapel Rock, and Chapel Beach
Chapel Rock and Chapel Beach are two of the most stunning places to visit in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and maybe even the state. The trailhead is nearly 20 miles east of Munising, but these two locations, along with others, are along the same Chapel Loop Trail. This trail offers some of the best views in Michigan.
The parking area for the Chapel Loop trailhead is only moderately sized, and it does become quite busy in the summer. Begin this hike earlier in the day so you have plenty of time to enjoy the trail and the beach.
Once at Chapel Beach, take a few moments to relax and take in the stunning scenery that surrounds you. Here, you can sunbathe on the white sand beach or go for a refreshing dip in Lake Superior’s cool waters. Enjoy the views of Chapel Rock with its lone tree atop the stone pillar.
The entire loop hike is over 10 miles long, but there are other trails cutting through the middle of the loop to keep the hike under 5-6 miles. If you’re short on time or not physically up to the long hike, you can still see these iconic Pictured Rocks scenes.
The Hurricane River is a 6.4-mile-long stretch of waterway that winds through the Pictured Rocks and empties into Lake Superior. It’s also one of the best spots for camping on the lakeshore lands!
You may be able to catch glimpses of wildlife or enjoy the sounds of the water rushing through. When the water levels are lower, you can sometimes find evidence of shipwrecks on the beach near where the Hurricane River empties into Lake Superior.
The Hurricane River outlet is also a popular spot for visitors who want to see some of the best sunsets on Lake Superior. Grab a spot on the beach, sit back, and enjoy the show in the sky.
Au Sable Light
The Au Sable Light Station is a must-see for anyone visiting Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. This historic lighthouse has been guiding ships through Lake Superior since it was first constructed in the 1870s.
Today, to reach the light station, you’ll have to walk from the Hurricane River Campground, which is about 1.5 miles. Once you reach the station, climb up the spiral staircase to the top of Au Sable Light and take in the incredible views of Lake Superior.
If you’re lucky enough to stay for a sunset, you’ll be treated to an amazing display of colors that will light up the evening sky!
You don’t have to be a history buff or lighthouse enthusiast to appreciate Au Sable Light. Enjoy the three-mile roundtrip adventure walking along the beach, keeping your eyes peeled for shipwreck remains. Just come prepared for the elements, including wind and insects.
Near the eastern side of the lakeshore, about eight miles west of Grand Marais, the Log Slide Overlook provides one of the most breathtaking Lake Superior views. From the top of the Log Slide, you can look out over Lake Superior and visualize all of the work that has been done here in the past.
Historically, the slide was used to get logs down the steep 300-foot drop to Lake Superior where they were transported to mills for processing. The slide is no longer here, but you will pass by a shed with some old logging equipment on your way to the view.
Be prepared to walk up loose sand to get to the view. Once you reach the top of the ridge, use caution! Traveling down the steep, sand to the lake might look like fun, but climbing back up the loose sand could take hours, and rescues are extremely expensive. Just enjoy the views from the top!
Sable Falls is one of the most majestic waterfalls in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore featuring gentle cascades with multiple drops surrounded by densely wooded areas. Just 1.5 miles from Grand Marais, this stunning cascade is easy to reach from the eastern side of the lakeshore.
Visitors to Sable Falls will follow a short trail to enjoy the views, but it’s not the easiest adventure. You’ll have to descend over 150 steps to get to the viewing platform, and the only way to get back to your vehicle is to climb back up them!
From Sable Falls, you can enjoy a short hike along a wooded trail to reach the beach where Sable Creek flows into Lake Superior. This would be a great spot for a lunchtime picnic or also to enjoy a Lake Superior sunset.
Plan a Trip Today!
Visiting Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore to experience its grandeur is a must. From towering cliffs and rocky shores to crystal-clear waters and sandy beaches there really is something new to see at every turn.
Whether you’re chasing waterfalls, traveling from a beautiful nearby state park like Tahquamonen Falls to Pictured Rocks, or enjoying Lake Superior, you won’t be disappointed. Not only will you be getting plenty of fresh air and amazing views, but your inner explorer will also be rewarded with its natural beauty and rich cultural history.
So go ahead and jump on a plane or in the car, because when it comes to stunning nature destinations Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore should definitely be on your list!