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Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Guide — Camping, Waterfalls, and More

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Amar Hussain

Amar Hussain

Senior Content Contributor

Countries Visited: 63U.S. States Visited: 9

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications incl...
Edited by: Keri Stooksbury

Keri Stooksbury


Countries Visited: 41U.S. States Visited: 28

With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now Editor-in-Chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...

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Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a phenomenal place to visit in Michigan. This park features inland lakes, spectacular beaches, remarkable rock formations, and approximately 100 miles of hiking trails. There’s something for everyone to enjoy at this park, including camping, hiking, boating, and sightseeing at waterfalls, scenic views, and maritime sites.

Approximately a million visitors visit this incredible lakeshore each year and discover the beauty and wonder within its boundaries. 

How To Get to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Where Is Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore?

This park is located along the southern shore of Lake Superior, encompassing over 40 miles of Michigan’s shoreline. The park stretches over 73,000 acres of shoreline and waterfalls, rock formations, waterfalls, and sand dunes. 

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Opening Hours and Seasons

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is open 24 hours a day, year-round. Several roads may be closed due to winter weather conditions. It is essential to check the road conditions should you visit during the winter months.

Nearest Airports to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Several airports are near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, including Marquette Sawyer Regional Airport (MQT), Delta County Airport (ESC) in Escanaba, and Sault Ste. Marie Airport (YAM).

Marquette Sawyer Regional Airport is the closest airport to Pictured Rocks. This airport option is about 43 miles away in Gwinn, Michigan. This airport offers nonstop service to Chicago and Detroit. Airlines serviced by this airport include American and Delta. 

Driving to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Image Credit: Yi Liu via Unsplash

M-28 and M-94 are Michigan state highways leading to Munising, where this park is located. M-77 and Alger County Road H-58 are other roads that provide access through and around the lakeshore.

Taking the Train to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

There is no train service to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Taking the Bus to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

There are a couple of options for visitors who want to utilize bus service to this park. Alger County Transit (ALTRAN) offers service to Munising. Paddling Michigan Hiking Shuttle offers a shuttle service to the park as well. Taking a bus service is a great way to reduce environmental pollution and an affordable way to enjoy traveling. 

Getting Around Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

The best way to get around this park is by vehicle. A main road, Alger County Road, goes through and around the park. This road leads to scenic views, trailheads, and campgrounds, making exploring the park a breeze. The National Park Service provides a variety of printable and interactive maps to help you plan your park adventures. 

What To See and Do in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

From sandy beaches and wilderness adventures to mesmerizing waterfalls and unbelievable scenic sites, there’s so much to take in at this national lakeshore. Check out this Michigan park’s most popular activities and sites and see what you’d like to add to your must-experience list. 


Image Credit: NPS

This park has some of the most beautiful beaches on all of Lake Superior. These beaches are great places for relaxing and soaking in the sun’s rays. Don’t expect all sand beaches, as some of them are rocky.

Most beaches are accessed by a brief walk from the parking lot, but some require a hike and climbing staircases. The beaches at this park include Sand Point Beach, Miners Beach, Twelvemile Beach, Lake Superior Overview Beach, Hurricane River Beach, and Sable Falls Beach.

Sand Point Beach is most popular for families who want to spend the day swimming and picnicking. It has shallow, warm water with fewer waves, making it ideal for guests of all ages. There are also picnic tables on the sand for quick meals while enjoying the surf and the sand.

Bottom Line:

Spending a day on one of the many beaches at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is one of the best ways to enjoy the beauty and wonder within the park’s boundaries.

Beaver Basin Wilderness

Beaver Basin Wilderness is a beautiful place to explore within the park’s boundaries. There are 3 lakes with crystal-clear water and 5 cold-water streams.

Visitors can enjoy hunting, day hiking, fishing, overnight backpacking, kayaking, canoeing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing in this park area. Beaver Basin Wilderness is the perfect location for visitors seeking quiet, solitude with nature, and wilderness creation. 

Maritime Sites

There are several maritime sites within the boundaries of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. These sites tell the stories of the U.S. Lighthouse Service, U.S. Life Saving Service, and the U.S. Coast Guard, including the Munising, Sand Point, Au Sable Point, and Grand Marais sites.

The purpose of these sites is to preserve this era of history from 1874 to 1975. Each station has exhibits and authentic relics from the past for visitors to view and learn more about. Touring these historic landmarks and the shipwrecks tells about the fascinating past of Lake Superior and its role in history. 

Scenic Spots

Image Credit: Victoria Stauffenberg via NPS

Several areas within the park offer incredible views of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. These scenic sites include Grand Sable Banks and Dunes, Log Slide, Miners Beach and River, Miners Castle, Pictured Rocks Cliff, Sand Point, and Twelvemile Beach.

One of the most famous sites within the park boundaries is Miners Castle. This area is along the shoreline and is the only cliff area accessible by vehicle. Visitors enjoy taking in the views over Lake Superior and Grand Island.

Another popular site within the park is Pictured Rocks Cliffs. This area is filled with colorful, bold sandstone cliffs stretching 15 miles from Sand Point to Spray Falls. This area of the park was named because of the mineral stains that make a design on the face of the sandstone.

The colors occur when groundwater seeps from the cracks and trickles down the rock face. Iron makes the rock red and orange, copper appears blue and green, manganese creates a brown and black coloring, and limonite produces a white hue.

The best views of the cliffs are from the water, and there are nonstop boat tours in this area from the middle of May through the middle of October.

Visitor Centers

There are 3 visitor centers: the Munising Falls Visitor Center, the Munising Falls Visitor Contact Station, and the Grand Sable Visitor Center.

The visitor centers offer access to trailheads, informational exhibits, gift shops, and restrooms. Starting your park excursions at one of these visitor centers is the best way to prepare for the adventures ahead during your visit. 


Image Credit: NPS

Many of the waterfalls of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula are found at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. These waterfalls provide incredible opportunities to take in the beauty of the park and beautiful places for photo opportunities.

The main falls in the park include Bridalveil Falls, Chapel Falls, Elliot Falls, Miners Falls, Mosquito Falls, Munising Falls, Sable Falls, and Spray Falls. These falls are accessed by hike or boat tour. Be sure to stay on the trails if you plan to hike to the falls.

Hot Tip:

Pets are not welcome on most of the trails leading to the waterfalls. 

Best Times To Visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a phenomenal place to visit any time of year. However, if there are particular activities or events you’d like to participate in, there are better times than others to plan a trip.

Best Time To Visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore for Ideal Weather

If you want to plan a visit to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore for ideal weather, plan to come during August. High temperatures in August reach the mid-70s, and lows are in the low 50s. This month has the fewest days of precipitation, making it a perfect time to visit and enjoy outdoor recreation.

Best Time To Visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore To Avoid the Crowds

A vacation without crowds may sound like a dream come true, but it can be a reality with proper planning and a little research. The least crowded time to visit this park is in November. The temperature has dropped quite a bit at this time of year, so be sure to come prepared with plenty of cold-weather gear.

Best Time To Visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore for Fall Foliage

Image Credit: Reece via NPS

This park is absolutely stunning during the fall. With vibrant bursts of colors in the trees contrasting with the bright blue sky, it’s no wonder why so many travelers come to this park during the fall. The best fall month to visit is in early October. Pack your camera to capture some of the breathtaking views during your stay. 

Cheapest Time To Visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Expenses add up quickly when traveling, so planning ahead is ideal to get the best bang for your buck. The cheapest time to travel to this Michigan park is in November. Typically, flight and accommodation rates are much lower, as this is the least busy time during the year, so you can potentially save hundreds when visiting in November. 

Annual Events in and near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Countless events occur regularly at this park, including lighthouse tours, wilderness expeditions, evening programs, and guided hikes. Some events take place on an annual basis.

Michigan Ice Fest

Each year in February, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore hosts one of the largest ice festivals in the country called the Michigan Ice Fest. This event offers rock climbing enthusiasts once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to gather with fellow climbers, learn from some of the best climbers in the world, attend inspiring presentations, and take in the beauty of Pictured Rocks. This event typically takes place over a weekend and is looked forward to by climbers worldwide.

Pictured Rocks Day

Pictured Rocks Days takes place each year in July. This free 2-day event features live music, food trucks, arts and crafts vendors, and activities for the whole family. This event offers cruises to Pictured Rocks and is an excellent way for visitors and locals to celebrate the city of Munising.

Where To Stay in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

There are plenty of options for setting up a home away from home both in and near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Whether you want to stay within the park’s boundaries or in a town near the park, there are plenty of options to choose from when visiting this area.

Inside the Park

Image Credit: NPS

The only lodging option within this park’s boundaries is to set up camp under the stars. There are 3 rustic drive-in campgrounds with a variety of sites available. Little Beaver Lake offers 8 sites, Twelvemile Beach has 36 sites, and Hurricane River has 21 sites.

Each campground features a picnic table, fire ring, and a tent pad. There are vault toilets and well water available. These campsites require a reservation in advance and cost $25 per night.

The campgrounds are open from May 15 to October 15. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the camping rules and regulations before heading out for your camping trip. 

Towns Near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

If camping isn’t your cup of tea, don’t worry — there are plenty of places to make a home base nearby. Let’s explore some of the closest towns near this Michigan park. 

Grand Marais, Michigan

Grand Marais is just 5 minutes from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. This historic village is located on the south shore of Lake Superior and is considered the gateway to the park. This village town has plenty of lodging, dining, and recreation options.

Locally owned bed and breakfasts, budget-friendly motels, rustic cabins, resorts, and contemporary hotels are some of the lodging options in this town. Whether you are looking for a quiet nature retreat or a luxurious stay in a modern hotel, you can find exactly what you are looking for. 

There aren’t many dining options in this village, but what it does have is sure to satisfy you. From small-town diners and taverns to unique saloons and cafes, you can rest assured that you won’t go hungry when staying here.

For recreation and entertainment, this village offers incredible opportunities to explore beaches, lighthouses, museums, waterfalls, and forests. Visitors enjoy spending the days biking, boating, hiking, geocaching, and fishing.

Bottom Line:

With its proximity to the lakeshore and the many options for dining, lodging, and recreation, Grand Marais makes a wonderful option for a home away from home during your vacation.

Munising, Michigan

Munising is the same city where Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is located, so you couldn’t get any closer to the park. This town has incredible options for those who want to stay near the park. For accommodations, there are dozens of possibilities. Cabins, resorts, motels, and hotels are abundant in this community. 

There are nearly 30 restaurants in this town, which means you may have a hard time narrowing it down. From pizza parlors to gourmet burger joints to old-fashioned delis, there’s no shortage of delicious restaurants here.

This city has so much to offer visitors regarding outdoor adventure and entertainment. There are museums, shipwrecks, islands, and lighthouses to explore. Some recreation opportunities include mountain biking, snowmobiling, hiking, and ATV trails.

You can’t get any closer to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, so Munising is the ideal location for accommodations near the park. 

Where To Eat in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

There are no restaurants or dining options within this park’s boundaries, but several options are nearby. Most people dine in Munising since it is the closest town to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Check out some top restaurants and see if they make it to your itinerary. 

Pictured Rocks Pizza

Pictured Rocks Pizza is the top-rated restaurant near this Michigan park and is located in Munising, 4 minutes from the park. This restaurant is open for lunch and dinner every day but Monday and Wednesday. 

This restaurant features specialty pizzas, build-your-own pizzas, pasta dishes, and desserts. There are even options for those with dietary restrictions, making this an excellent place for everyone to dine. Customers rave about the customer service, garlic cheesy breadsticks, Moonshine BBQ Chicken Pizza, and Pictured Rocks Local Special Pizza.

Tracey’s at Roam Inn

Tracey’s at Roam Inn is a top-rated restaurant in Munising. This restaurant is about 2.5 miles from the park and is open daily for dinner and late-night meals. 

This relaxed, casual restaurant has a wide variety of eclectic dishes. The menu features signature dishes with high-quality meats, seafood, and poultry. Some of the most popular menu items include the grass-fed bison filet mignon, the jumbo shrimp scampi, and the gyoza pork dumplings. 

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Facts

Image Credit: Mike Setchell via Unsplash

1. A New Park Established

This national lakeshore was established on October 15, 1966.

2. The First National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore was the first of America’s 4 national lakeshores to be established. 

3. Original People of the Lakeshore

The original people of the lakeshore were the Ojibwe. This tribe worshipped the rocks and believed they were alive with unseen spirits. Today, the park has many landmarks representing the Ojibwe people and telling their story. 

4. What’s in a Name?

This park was named for the colorful stripes that climb the cliffs throughout the park. Groundwater seeps out of the cracks in the rock, and many different colors stain the walls of the cliffs, making them look as if they are painted. 

5. An Abundance of Animals

Many animals make their home in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. There are 58 fish species, 12 types of amphibians, 5 kinds of reptiles, 182 types of birds, and 42 species of mammals documented in the park. Some popular animals in this area include the white-tailed deer, grey wolves, black bear, skunk, and the American marten.

Final Thoughts

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a true sight to behold. Not only does this park feature stunning rock formations that can’t be seen at every park, but it also has unmatched opportunities for learning and recreation. From winter activities and bicycling to breathtaking waterfalls and crystal-clear lakes, this park has no shortage of incredible sights and adventure.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to enter Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore?

Every guest must purchase an entrance pass when visiting this park. Individuals arriving on foot or by bicycle will pay a $10 fee. In contrast, those entering by private vehicle will pay $20 per vehicle.

What is the weather like at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore?

The weather varies throughout the year at this Michigan park. Summers are cool, and winters are warmer than other regions due to Lake Superior. Summer high temperatures reach the 90s, and winters can dip into the mid-20s.

Are pets allowed at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore?

Pets are allowed in many areas of the lakeshore, but there are also several areas where they are prohibited. Pets are expected to be leashed and cleaned up after at all times. Pets are prohibited in the backcountry, some of the campgrounds, and on some of the beaches. Be sure to read the park’s rules and regulations regarding pets before setting out.

What is Pictured Rocks famous for?

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is famous for the colorful stripes that climb the cliffs throughout the park and its many waterfalls.

What is the best way to experience Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore?

The best way to experience this National Lakeshore is by participating in one of the boat tours. There is a narrated nonstop boat tour that takes visitors to different highlights of the Pictured Rocks cliffs. Kayak tours and hikes also showcase the beautiful sites within the park boundaries.

About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.


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