Can You Visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Winter?

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What is visiting Pictured Rocks like in winter?

Visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Winter? Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a great place to visit in winter. You’ll fall in love with the incredible ice caves and formations that appear during the colder months. Why not rent a cabin close by and warm up after a long day of snowshoeing and skiing at Pictured Rocks. If you’re brave enough you can even camp at a designated campsite and experience the true Upper Michigan winter. Make sure to add events like the Michigan Ice Fest and the Midnight Run Sled Dog Races to your calendar when visiting Michigan in February. Don’t forget to pack warm and weather-proof clothes and your camera to take the most amazing photos of the snowy landscape.

Can You Visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Winter article cover image

Can You Visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Winter?

Winter activities at Pictured Rocks

There is plenty to see and do at Pictured Rocks in winter. If you enjoy snowy landscapes and winter sports this is the ideal vacation spot for you during the colder months. You’ll love activities like snowshoeing, ice climbing, cross-country skiing, ice fishing, and winter camping, all of which are very popular at Pictured Rocks. Why not go on a winter hike and see the ice caves and ice formations that Pictured Rocks is known for? You could even go winter camping if you don’t mind the cold.

Visiting Pictured Rocks in December

Winter hits Pictures Rocks National Lakeshore hard so expect lots of snow and ice during December. The average high temperature in the area is around 29° Fahrenheit while the average low can drop to around 17° Fahrenheit. You can expect around 41 inches of snowfall which makes it the second snowiest month of the year.

Pictured Rocks is open 24 hours even in winter. Almost none of the roads are plowed though so many tend to be inaccessible in December when snowfall is high. The Grand Sable Visitor Center is closed during the winter months from Mid October to Mid May. The Munising Falls Visitor Center has reduced winter opening hours from Wednesday to Saturday 9:00 am to 4:30 pm.

The first Saturday of December usually marks the beginning of snowmobiling season when trails open. 

Visiting Pictured Rocks in January

January is the coldest month at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. You can expect average low temperatures of 11° Fahrenheit and highs of around 24°. This is also the month with the highest average snowfall with an average of 43 inches. Definitely pack warm clothes and appropriate gear when visiting Pictured Rocks during this time, especially if you plan on going camping in the winter.

You can visit the park in January but only the Munising Falls Visitor Center is open during this time from Wednesday to Saturday. Some roads may be closed due to heavy snowfall.

Visiting Pictured Rocks in February

February tends to have similar temperatures to January although with far less snow. Temperatures vary between 12° and 27° Fahrenheit with an average snowfall of around 27 inches. The Michigan Ice Fest, an ice climbing festival usually takes place in mid-February just like the Midnight Run Sled Dog Races. Later in the month, the Annual Munising Moose Lodge Fishing Derby takes place nearby Munising which is a great event to put on your calendar if you enjoy fishing. Just turn in your fish by 3:00 pm and see if you win!

Seeing the ice caves at Pictured Rocks

From December until early April unique ice formations and caves form at Pictured Rocks. If you’re visiting Pictured Rocks in winter make sure to keep an eye out for these fascinating structures. Some of the many waterfalls in the area also freeze over creating incredible ice climbing locations ideal for those interested in extreme winter sports.

The most accessible ice caves are located between Munising Falls and Sand Point with ice curtains between 20 and 50 feet in height. While there are no official trails hikers usually create their own over winter which will be easy to spot in the snow.

Ice can be unpredictable and visitors should always take care when viewing or even climbing on ice structures. Wearing snowshoes may be advisable for the hike. Always put your own safety first.

Pictured Rocks Winter Camping – is it possible?

You can camp at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore even during winter, however, campsites require a reservation and a permit. Roads are not plowed so you will most likely require a snowmobile to access the campgrounds. You could also come by ski or snowshoe if you are up for the trek. The price for camping is 15$ per night.

You need to camp at a designated campground at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Wild and dispersed camping is prohibited. Campfires are also not allowed during the winter months except when done in metal fire rings.

Winter camping can be dangerous due to low temperatures and unpredictable weather. Always make sure you have the appropriate gear and inform someone of your route and itinerary. Staff numbers are reduced during the winter months at Pictures Rocks so expect longer response times in case of an emergency.

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