How to Visit Pictured Rocks in One Weekend
Upon moving to Ann Arbor and becoming an adopted Michigander, there were many destinations in Pure Michigan Zak Suhar wanted to explore. Between the rolling hills, quiet countryside and unspoiled beauty, he began curating a list of the places he wanted to visit most and settled on the Upper Peninsula. Read his story below on a weekend adventure to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Tahquamenon Falls.
For any hiker, traveler, outdoor enthusiast, camper, and road tripper, here is how to fit in the best of Pictured Rocks in just a weekend.
Twelvemile campsite is a wonderful place to camp alongside Lake Superior, not only for its wonderful location, but also because it's a first-come first-serve campsite. This is essential for Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore since it’s a very popular area, but you’ll still have to ensure you get there early for a beachfront campsite (ours that sat atop a small bluff). Nothing beats sitting in your hammock atop a bluff, Lake Superior waves crashing, glowing sun setting, and campfire roaring in the background.
Kayaking along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is something worth the experience, especially to see Bridalveil Falls. Seen best from the water, the falls can be seen from a hiking trail as well, but the 140-foot tall cascade won’t do it justice from above.
At the end of a kayak or boat tour, the highlight of the lakeshore, in my opinion, is Lover’s Leap, one of the staple natural landscapes the U.P. offers. On a still day, you can get great reflective photos of the rock formation, the wonderful colors of the lake, and the sandstone cliffs of beautiful reddish and orange hues.
Mosquito Beach is a wonderful place to relax after a long hike or paddle. This is a great place to stop for lunch and walk along the waterfront littered by rocks and unique formations. It’s the end of the Mosquito Beach trail, which forks with one branch heading directly to the beach, and the other somewhat longer trail passing Mosquito falls on the way to the beach. The trail passes along the lower falls, rapids, and then the upper falls which are some of the smallest in the U.P. but still worth seeing if you have time.
Miners Castle Overlook
Driving to the Miners Castle overlooks is something you will not want to miss when visiting Pictured Rocks, and by far the most famous formation of the area. Erosion over long periods of time has created the interesting rock formations that give this place its name. Several foot trails lead to breathtaking overlooks of Lake Superior and Grand Island from different vantage points - I recommend the top overlook to get the best combination of foliage and water. No matter the season (except maybe winter) you can expect this overlook to be saturated in color and contrasts.
One of the top waterfalls in the U.P. is Miners Falls, just a 1.2 mile hike into the woods (round trip). There are two overlooks at the end of the trail, the first offering an overhead view of the drop over sandstone outcrop. The Miners Falls Nature Trail also has wonderful views of the Miners Basin along the way. If you’re up for it, take the steps down to the lower viewing platform at the falls.
Chapel Falls is another wonderful landscape in the Pictured Rocks area. Just under a two mile hike through the woods stands the falls cascading towards Chapel Lake. The first outlook gives an incredible vantage point, the second trail winds around where you can literally stand on top of the falls, and a third spot shows the falls barely peaking through the forest above Chapel Basin. Definitely explore all three spots and vantage points for a variety of photographs.
Finally, Tahquamenon Falls State Park is definitely my favorite. One of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi, the Upper Falls has a drop of 48 feet and stretches more than 200 feet wide. The Lower Falls, a series of five smaller falls cascading around an island, can be found downstream. This is a definite must see, and be sure to visit their local microbrewery for some delicious craft beer. A flight of true Michigan beer is a great way to stay refreshed after this hike.
About the Author: Zak is a Midwest born and raised explorer and adventure photographer. He was born a Hoosier, grew up a Cheesehead, studied in Ohio and currently resides in Ann Arbor as an adopted Michigander. Zak works in advertising but his ideal weekend involves disconnecting and getting outside. All of the photography is courtesy of Zak, check out more of his work here.