Michigan’s Best Kept Secret

Pictured Rocks Lakeshore - Photo Credit - Jacqlyn Ucinski

These bright deposits on the side of the bluffs are from copper.

Guest Blogger Jacqlyn Ucinski and her boyfriend weren’t just on a road trip to the Pictured Rocks Lakeshore, they were on a mission. Enjoy this story of a special road trip to Michigan’s Best Kept Secret. 

I couldn’t believe it. There I was staring at a rock face dusted in vibrant colors from copper deposits with a waterfall careening down into serene turquoise waters. Is this real life? Heck, you could have told me I was in the Caribbean and I probably would have believed you. But I wasn’t in the Caribbean; I was looking at the Pictured Rocks in Munising, Michigan. A little town tucked away in the coves of the great Lake Superior. Their motto, Michigan’s best kept secret, waves proudly on the flags throughout their cozy town and all I can wonder is why did it take me this long to discover it?

It started as a request, this road trip, about a year ago to be exact, from my boyfriend’s grandfather. He told Ben he had to experience the Pictured Rocks just before losing his battle with cancer. Jumping into the two-door Colorado pickup, we weren’t just on a road trip, we were on a mission.

After stopping for a picnic along the Mackinac Island coastline we tromped to the Upper Peninsula across the grand Mackinac Bridge. Dense forest lined the highway, along with signs for pasties and smoked fish. I’m a born and raised Michigander and am embarrassed to say this word, pasty, confused me. I had to get a taste of this treat being broadcasted on every street corner. What a glorious thing! Meat, potatoes, and carrots wrapped up in a neat little mound of dough.

Oh, but the pasty was just the beginning.

Photo Credit - Jacqlyn Ucinski

The beautiful Pictured Rocks shoreline, a birds eye view.

Driving along the northern coastline, cars were parked along the road to have an encounter with Lake Superior. The biggest, deepest great lake is not to be tampered with. It has a tendency to swallow ships and spit them back to shore. But don’t worry, that’s only on a bad day.

We finally reached Munising, a place of humble and hard working people. After thrifting at a local shop (or as it said on the door “good junk”) we headed to the Pictured Rocks Cruises. We cruised along the coastline on a two and a half hour voyage with picturesque rock formations encroached with sandy beaches that were being discovered by kayakers. In the past, people would imagine faces in the side of the rock, and so the name Pictured Rocks was born. Indians would put their captives in the caves along the shoreline, so when the monster waves came crashing in to shore the captives would… well, you know, the outcome wasn’t good.

Pictured Rocks Waterfall - Photo Credit - Jacqlyn Ucinski

A waterfall on our cruise around the Pictured Rocks.

The history was just as rich as the view. A true natural and untouched beauty, the land hasn’t changed much in the past century. People come from all over the world to see this sight unique to the Michigan landscape. Take for instance, the couple sitting next to us, from Switzerland. Switzerland! (We secretly think they were on their honeymoon)

No, this wasn’t just a road trip, it was a mission. On our way back, looking in my rearview mirror, seeing the sun setting with the outline of our bicycles in the truck bed, I can truly say, mission accomplished.

Jacqlyn UcinskiJacqlyn Ucinski of Leonard wrote about her Pictured Rocks experience for Pure Michigan Connect. You can reach her on Twitter, @jucinski, or by email.

27 thoughts on “Michigan’s Best Kept Secret

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  2. Went back to my hometown (Munising) with daughter and her family – enjoyed every wonderful moment – including a Pictured Rocks cruise which hadn’t I hadn’t enjoyed for many years… Glorious day, glorious, colorful, scenic wonders …. I love the UP, miss it every day I’m not there. (and loved the story!).

  3. Great Story! A short trip west on M28 is Au Train…one of the greatest summer swimming spots anywhere. Warm river flowing into cold superior offers the perfect temp for any swimmer. And I wholeheartedly agree with everyone here on the road trip from Munising to Grand Marais (I did not know the road was paved!). BTW, The weekend of August 12th is the Grand Marais Music Fest which is an absolute blast in a beautiful area.

  4. Hi Jaclyn, I read your Blog on Michigan, out standing, very well written. I have a piece of copper ore on my bookcase to remind me of that beautiful part of Michigan and your mission helped.
    Love you, a very proud Grandpa.

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  7. Thanks for the “back road” update @ josh and @ Molly. Heading up there in the upcoming month. Looking foward to driving the new road…

  8. WOW…I have lived here for so long and I never knew about the Pictured Rocks. Great Pictures. The pasties are the best up there I hear. I think I need a road trip this fall, I am sure the colors are outstanding with all that beauty. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Great Pictures! There is so much to do and experience at Pictured Rocks.
    The Great Waters offers many fun trips to many unique places such as this one, check them out online at thegreatwaters.com or on facebook!

  10. Thanks for the nice story and your compliments. I haved lived in Munising all my life and sometimes forget to appreciate the beauty. Thank you for reminding me how very fortunate we are to see it on a whim. Sad thing is Miner’s Castle is just about in my backyard and I haven’t been there in a year or so. I think I know what I’m going to do this weekend. Time to be a tourist in my own hometown.

  11. We used to go to Lake Superior every year until my daughter was in her teens. I love that area and Lake Superior and can’t get enough of it. I have driven up to Grand Marais, Mi., a 7 hour trip, just to stand and look at Superior, sounds crazy, but just can’t help it; storming or calm, it is wonderful. Surrounded by lakes, Michigan is unique and staying just a bit overlooked hasn’t hurt the area’s beautiful scenery.

  12. Rob, it’s not dirt anymore. In Oct. ’10 a multimillion dollar road was completed from Melstrand to Grand Marias. It’s beautiful, and a dream to drive, I do it at least once a week for work. I have been fortunate enough to have migrated to the area 7 yrs ago, it’s truly heaven on earth. I can’t imagine ever leaving.

  13. Be sure to take the glass-bottom boat tour to see shipwrecks and cap it all with the new Riptide Ride around the Bay. It’s a blast!

  14. Oh how u make me miss my hometown that much more. Definately is the best and most beautiful secret of Michigan. So glad you enjoyed your trip to the grand ole U.P. Hoping someday soon I can return home to experience this gem again with my boyfriend in tow.

  15. My husband and I did this trip last year, and it was AWESOME ! We’ve talked recently about going back and taking a couple friends with us this next time……….we want to share and absolute beauty of this place !

  16. @ Rob–good news! That back road is beautifully paved now!! You’re right though, it’s a “must-do”!!’

  17. @ Rob. The “back way” isn’t dirt any more! H-58, which is the road between Grand Marais and Munising is now PAVED all the way to Grand Marais! Great story. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Thank you so much for sharing. Lived in Michigan my whole life and I don’t ever remember being in the U.P. I MOST go there!!!

  19. I’m coming home from San Diego this September just to tour around the UP and other places in MI. I miss my beautiful home. :)

  20. If you ever do the Pictured Rock/Munising trip again I would recommend going the back way from Grand Marais to Munising. It’s all dirt but some nice views of Superior and a waterfall or two. Nice story…

  21. I was there in June, on a “Girlfriend ” vacation. Although my husband and I had taken many trips to the UP, and Munising, we always missed the “Pictured Rocks Boat Tour. It was a MUST for my Girlfriends and me in June!! LOVED every minute tour and the breath-taking beauty of the Pictured Rocks. It was a beautiful day, and the Captain/Narrator passed along many facts and legends to the passengers. What a work of art, not to be missed!!


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