6 Best Things To Do At Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore stretched along the south shore of mighty Lake Superior in Michigan may not be your first choice to spend...

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore stretched along the south shore of mighty Lake Superior in Michigan may not be your first choice to spend a chilly weekend in May, but trust me - you can't go wrong with this place even if the weather is a bit cranky. Some people even come in the winter despite the bitter cold to see park's famous ice caves and climb frozen waterfalls, but that's a separate story. Put it this way: early spring is a perfect time to visit this park, because not only will you beat the crowds, but you'll also avoid nasty mosquitos and, most importantly, black flies. I hope that my article will inspire you to visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, but remember - leave no trace and take only pictures!

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore has three distinct zones: sandstone cliffs, a beach and sand dunes. My list of things to do should help you navigate the park and get most of your time.

1. Painted Cliffs and Turquoise Blue Water at Miner's Castle. 
Miner's Castle is the number one attraction at Pictured Rocks, and for a good reason. It's a place of  an unparalleled natural beauty thanks to the park's colourful sandstone cliffs towering above the turquoise blue waters of Lake Superior.
As the park's name - Pictured Rocks - suggests the cliffs are painted in all kinds of colours, shades and textures: yellow, orange, ochre, green, brown, beige, and so forth. 
Miner's Castle is a famous rock formation best viewed from the lower overlook (both high and low lookouts are a few hundred yards from the parking lot and easily accessible).
It goes without saying that you should never climb over the fence as a sandstone is very fragile and park's fines for this kind of offence are huge.

2. Waterfalls. 
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore has more than a half dozen beautiful waterfalls, some of them are only visible from the water. Needless to say that spring is the best time to view waterfalls. My favourite one is Miners Falls, accessible from a relatively short trail that bears its name.
The viewing platform at the end of the trail hides in a thick canopy of cedar trees. Very special place.
Munising Falls pouring into a sandstone bowl will definitely score the highest in accessibility. It sits right behind the visitors centre.
Bridalveil Falls is best viewed from Lake Superior (requires a boat tour), but you can still spot it from Miner's Castle or Miner's Beach with a good telephoto lens or binoculars. The falls is seasonal and pours straight into the lake.

3. Sand Point Marsh Boardwalk. 
Don't be discouraged when you hear that this place is a swamp. It's very special, because a large colony of beavers calls it home. Be quiet and patient, and there is a high chance you'll spot one of them.
Sand Point Marsh is also a very beautiful and secluded place.
Natural wetlands such as marshes or swamps are incredibly rich in flora and fauna. In areas where wetlands are drained, there is low precipitation, a much needed ingredient of a healthy ecosystem.

4. North Country Scenic Trail. 
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore offers backcountry opportunities along the North Country Scenic Trail that runs in parallel to Lake Superior. 
Whether you may decide to hike an entire 42-mile long trail or only a part of it, you're guaranteed to enjoy the best views the park is offering. 
The trail starts at the visitors centre in Munising and end in Grand Marais.
Old stumps left after the forest was all cut to re-build Chicago after the Great Fire of 1871.
Spring is the best time to view wildflowers.

5. Agate Beaches. 
Upper Peninsula east of Grand Marais, MI is famous among rock pickers for its great opportunities to find agate rocks on beaches along Lake Superior. 
You can also spot agate rocks at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, but you can't take them with you as it's a serious offence. 
Not exactly sure if I found agate rocks or something else, but I threw them back anyway.

6. Grand Sable Dunes. 
You can't miss the Log Slide Overlook, a jaw-dropping place that features Lake Superior and gigantic sand dunes. 
As the name suggests, lumberjacks used the dunes to slide pine logs down where they would be taken to saw mills in Munising or Grand Marais, and then shipped to cities such as Chicago, Cleveland and Milwaukee. 
The slide is very dangerous as it takes only a few seconds to go down, and can take an hour or more to climb back up.

When to go
Park is open year around, 24/7, but most roads are closed in winter months.

All major parks attractions are linked by Alger County Road H-58 and its spur roads between Munising, MI to Grand Marais, MI.

To get to Munising, MI, take Michigan state highways M-28 and M-94. To get to Grand Marais, MI, take Michigan state highway M-77. 

Additional Information
For additional information visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore's official website.

By the way, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is featured this year on the 25-cent coin as part of America the Beautiful Quarters series. We even got a roll of 40 brand-new coins!

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