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Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is one of the most beautiful places in Upper Michigan and all of Lake Superior. This incredible stretch of coastline boasts multi-colored sandstone cliffs, crystal clear waters, and stunning beaches. You won’t want to miss this incredible park that was named the first National Lakeshore in the United States.
Pictured Rocks is the perfect nature escape with great hiking trails, campsites, water sports, and some of the most unique natural photo opportunities in the area. Make Pictured Rocks your next favorite getaway and use this handy guide to plan your trip.
What is Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore?
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore sits on the Southern shore of Lake Superior in Upper Michigan. It stretches for 42 miles and covers over 73,000 acres.
Where is Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore?
The closest larger town to Pictured Rocks is Munising which is located right next to the National Lakeshore. It takes around 2 hours to drive to Pictured Rocks from Mackinaw City which marks the crossing to lower Michigan and another 2 hours to reach the Wisconsin border.
Have a look at the map below to see details of where exactly Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore lies in Upper Michigan.
A brief history of the Pictured Rocks area
The first documentation of Pictured Rocks goes back all the way to 1659 when the French fur trader Pierre Esprit Radisson visited the area. He described it as especially beautiful and noted that Native American tribes would bring offerings to the rock formations to honor them.
During the iron boom in the mid 19th century, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore became the location of one of 29 iron furnaces in the Upper Peninsula. Today the Schoolcraft Blast Furnace as it was called no longer exists and the Munising Falls flow in its place.
In the early 1900s Pictured Rocks finally began to gain popularity as a tourist location. Steamboat tours let visitors see the stunning rock formations although it was mainly locals from the Upper Peninsula that visited the lakeshore. After the Second World War, more and more visitors came to admire the natural beauty of the area. In 1966 Pictured Rocks became the first National Lakeshore of the United States.
Things to know before visiting Pictured Rocks
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a beautiful place to visit but tourists should know a few things before going. The weather in this area can be unreliable and change quickly. Bring weather-proof clothing even during summer to make sure you are prepared for all conditions.
Lake Superior has dangerous riptides so always take care when swimming. Avoid hiking by yourself and always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return. If you are unsure whether you are experienced enough to see the park by yourself consider joining a group or guided tour.
How to get to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
The best way to get to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is by car. Highway M-28 leads directly to Munising which is a great starting point to see the lakeshore. There are unpaved roads available that let you drive to locations within the park by car.
Both Munising and Grand Marais have small airfields with regular flights to local towns such as Marquette, Sault Saint Marie, and Escanaba.
When should you visit Pictured Rocks to get the best weather?
Upper Michigan’s main tourist season is in summer with June to August being the most popular time to visit. Pictured Rocks is known for its incredible sandstone cliffs and pristine beaches which are best visited when the weather is warm and dry.
While visiting in summer will give you the best chance of good weather you also have to consider that the park will be significantly more crowded during this time. Make sure to pre-book your accommodation in advance even if you’re planning on camping.
Fall and Spring can be beautiful times to visit Pictured Rocks. Temperatures will be cool and ideal for hiking. During months like April, May, September, and October you’ll most likely be able to enjoy lower accommodation prices and fewer tourists. Click here for more information on visiting Pictured Rocks in fall.
You can visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in winter although some roads may be closed due to snow. In the winter months, the visitor centers located within the park usually have reduced opening hours and may be closed during public holidays. You’ll still be able to enjoy the beauty of Pictured Rocks and its incredible scenery. Find out more about visiting Pictured Rocks in winter here.
How long should you plan to stay in the Pictured Rocks area?
Pictured Rocks is the perfect nature getaway whether you’re planning a family vacation or a romantic weekend trip. If you enjoy hiking and the great outdoors you definitely won’t be bored when you visit this beautiful place. We’d recommend staying near Pictured Rocks for at least 4-5 days to see the main sites and explore the surrounding area.
If you’re short on time you could also consider coming to Pictured Rocks for just a weekend. That will give you some time to reconnect with nature and will make you want to come back for more soon.
Where to stay to see Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
To really get the most out of your visit to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore you should stay either in the park or close by. There are many great accommodation options in and around Munising as well as Grand Marais which is a smaller town. To find out more about hotels near Pictured Rocks check out our complete accommodation guide for the area.
To truly appreciate the beauty of Pictured Rocks you should consider camping in or close to the park. You’ll find a great selection of local campsites, some right on the shore of the lake. Find out more about camping near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore here.
Must-do activities in the Pictured Rocks area
Pictured Rocks is all about Lake Superior and its incredible shoreline. Water sports are an absolute must-do when you’re visiting the area around Pictured Rocks. A very popular activity is to explore the colorful sandstone cliffs by kayak which gives you a unique perspective. Of course, you can also choose to explore the area by land and go hiking on one of the many trails. Don’t forget to take a map with you when hiking at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The park is large and it can be easy to get lost.