Painted Rocks National Lakeshore

Location: Munising, Michigan

Webpage: National Park

General Description: “Sandstone cliffs, beaches, sand dunes, waterfalls, inland lakes, deep forest, and wild shoreline beckon you to visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.”  Pictured Rocks extends for 42 miles along the shore of Lake Superior and covers 73,236 acres of forests, beaches, waterfalls, sand dunes, and sheer sandstone cliffs, some over 200 feet tall.  Most of the exposed sandstone along the lake date from shallow seas during the Cambrian Period, 500 million years ago, known as the Munising Formation.  This easily eroded sandstone is capped by a harder, much younger Au Train Formation from the Early Ordovician Period leading to the many waterfalls in the park.  Water seeping through the sandstone will leach out and dry leaving streaks or iron (red), manganese (black-white), limonite(yellow-brown), copper (pink-green), and other minerals leading to the name of the park.  More recent history records the reverence of the native Indians for the rock formations, the many shipwrecks along the shore, and the logging industry through the late 1800s.  Throughout the park you can find evidence of all of these historic events.  In 1966, the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore was created and today it is one of the most popular National Parks with nearly 500,000 visitors annually.



1) When you visit Pictured Rocks there should be two requirements.  First, your visit should be for multiple days and second, you must take a cruise as the only way to truly see the “Pictured Rocks” is from Lake Superior.  There are two Visitor Centers at either end of the park.  On the west end is the Munising Falls Visitor Center and the Grand Sable Visitor Center on the east end.


2) We took advantage of many of the shorter hikes available in the park.  There are longer hikes including the 42 mile segment of the North Country Trail that runs all along the shoreline.  Most of the trails range from less than 0.5 miles to 3 miles round trip.  Our first trail was the 800 foot paved trail up to Munising Falls as it was at the Visitor Center.  This is a 50 foot waterfall with viewing areas at the base and near the top of the falls.

3) The Sand Point Marsh Trail is a 0.5 mile interpretive loop boardwalk though a beautiful wetland.  Features include old beach ridges, active beaver colony, and white cedar/black spruce/tamarack swamp communities.

4) Miners Castle is a rock formation in Lake Superior that can be viewed from three platforms creating a 1300 foot trail one way.


5) The Miners Falls Trail is a 1.2 mile easy round trip hike through the forest to a 50 foot cascade of Miners Falls.  There is an upper platform and 77 step down to a lower viewing platform.  This trail is wide with many benches along the way.


6) Chapel Falls is a 3 mile round trip hike along an old roadbed that winds through the forest to one of the more beautiful falls in the park.  There is no access of the base of the falls, but there are viewing platforms on both sides of this 60 foot waterfall.

7) The White Pine Interpretive Trail is a 0.7 mile loop from the Little Beaver Lake Campground that includes a few 250-300 year old White Pine in this mature old growth forest.  While short, this trail is moderate in difficulty with a steep climb up from the creek bed.

8) The Au Sable Light Station Trail is a 3 mile round trip on a flat road bed running along the shore of Lake Superior.  The quiet light station gives a feeling of history with exhibits about life at the lighthouse and nearby shipwrecks.  From Wednesday-Sunday there are tours of the lighthouse including climbing to the top for a spectacular view of Lake Superior.

9) The Log Slide Overlook Trail is a 0.4 mile round trip to the top of Grand Sable Dune where there is the remnants of the an old log slide landing.  Interpretive exhibits relate the logging history of the area and how the dunes are built through wind action over thousands of years.