Hiking at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

This remarkable natural attraction in Munising, Michigan, promises incredible views of the vivid waters of Lake Superior. 

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Munising, Michigan (photo by Kaitlyn O’Brien)

We can’t blame you for mistaking the waters off the coast of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, for a tropical locale. The vivid blue and green hues of Lake Superior rival those of the Caribbean at times. Towering above the water are 200-foot-tall cliffs (the “pictured rocks” of the name), streaked with colorful ribbons of orange, white and blue from mineral deposits seeping out of the ground. 

While many visitors prefer to see the cliffs by water, don’t overlook the chance to explore the park on foot, too. The best way is by hiking the North Country National Scenic Trail, which traces the edge of the park’s 42 miles of coastline. Intersecting with a variety of trails that extend from parking areas, the North Country Trail takes you right up to the park’s popular sights. 

It’s hard to avoid crowds at Chapel Rock, but the trail takes you mere feet from the Cambrian Age sandstone carved into a sculptural shape by time. The rock juts out above the water on top of a cliff and is topped with a single pine tree said to be 250 years old. An inviting beach that makes for a perfect lunch spot is a short walk away. 

Another landmark to seek out is Grand Portal Point. From below, the cliff forms a picturesque archway above the water. But hike to it from above and thrill seekers get a heart-pounding view of the water below.

The North Country Trail also takes you to the park’s backcountry campsites (reservations required). Perched on sandy bluffs above the water, they offer access to pristine sand beaches below. Try the quiet Beaver Creek Campground, where hikers are rewarded with a view of the sunset over Lake Superior. You might even have its beach to yourself. The water is cold, but a dip in the lake is just what’s needed after a long day of hiking. 1505 Sand Point Rd., Munising, Michigan 49862, 906/387-3700, nps.gov/piro