Exploring Pictured Rocks in One Day

Pictured Rocks in one dayPictured Rocks National Lakeshore, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, is amazing. You could easily spend a week or two in this outdoor wonderland and still not see it all. From the fantastic hiking trails, scenic waterfalls to Lake Superior, it is just a must go to site, but it can be hard to experience the park if you have kids who are tired, travel chores that need to get done, a dog that prevents you from hiking most of the trails, stormy weather, and only one day. Can you see much of anything at Pictured Rocks in One Day? But that is what we were working with during our drive thru visit following our hike in the Porcupine Mountains, and we still had a fabulous time. We started our day at the pet and budget friendly Econo Lodge Lakeside in Marquette, about 45 minutes from the Pictured Rocks Visitor Center.  While rooms here are basic, the showers and beds felt luxurious as this was the first bed we slept in after more than a week of camping in Minnesota and Michigan. The continental breakfast was convenient too. They even had a little goodie bag for our pup, Luna, with a treat for her.

Pictured Rocks in One Day:

Heading out early, our first stop in Munising was mundane- washing clothes at the Mill Street Laundry. Even on vacation, chores need to get done! While the clothes were in the washers, we headed to the nearby Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore/Hiawatha National Forest Visitor’s Center for maps and brochures.  Since this was our second visit to Pictured Rocks (read about our first visit here), we did not pick up Junior Ranger packets since the kids had already earned their badges- but definitely do this if you are here for the first time.  As in many National Parks, there are restrictions for which trails can be hiked with dogs at Pictured Rocks. These are all noted in the Park Map.  The Park Rangers also let us know which ones Luna could hike with us, and there are plenty including Grand Island and the numerous trails in Hiawatha National Forest which is adjacent to the park. Since the skies were stormy and rain had already started falling, we decided that we would spend our day in the park driving to the major sites and see as much as we could.  This is actually a nice way to visit this park as you can see a great deal in only a short time. After the Visitor Center, we switched our clothes to the dryer, and headed to Bob’s Family Market IGA to buy groceries.  A well stocked small town grocery, it had everything we needed for the next leg of our trip.

Now that the chores were done, we were hungry for lunch and there is no better place to eat while visiting Pictured Rocks than Muldoon’s Pasties.  An upper peninsula specialty, pasties are hearty pastries filled with veggies and meats and are the ultimate comfort food. We picked up several varieties- chicken, beef and veggie as well as a side of chicken gravy, and shared them under the covered patio.  These are filling, so sharing three between the six of us was plenty!pictured rocks in one day

During our previous visit, (read about it here) we had hit a few of the major Pictured Rocks sites, Sand Point, Munising Falls, and Miner’s Castle, so we decided to skip these spots due to our limited time and headed to two of the several waterfalls that can be visited with just a short walk off Route 28- Wagner Falls and Alger Falls before driving Highway 58 to explore Pictured Rocks.  Since the highway crosses the length of the park, this is an easy way to see many of the major sites in a short time.  Click here to view the park map. By now it was raining steadily, and we didn’t want to drive the longish dirt road to Beaver Lake in bad weather, so our first stop was Twelvemile Beach.  With a beautiful campground with numerous Lake Superior shoreline sites, this would be an ideal basecamp for an extended trip. We loved watching the storms rolling in over the water, and since dogs on leash are allowed on the beach here, Luna was happy to get out and stretch her legs. The beach is made of gorgeous colorful rocks and we loved searching for the most unusual ones, but left them there of course for others to enjoy. Pictured rocks in one dayPictured rocks in one dayPictured rocks in one dayPictured rocks in one dayPictured rocks in one dayPictured rocks in one dayPictured rocks in one dayPictured rocks in one day

Our next stop off Highway 58 was Hurricane River and by now it was pouring so we ran from the parking lot down the short trail to the beach to see where the Hurricane River flows into Lake Superior.  Such an unusual site, I wish the weather had been more cooperative so we could have spent more time here.  There were several groups of section hikers off the 4,600 mile North Country National Scenic Trail hanging out as well.  This would be an absolutely gorgeous section to hike, and one I plan to do in the future as it passes so many beautiful views along Lake Superior.  However, dogs are not allowed on the trail within park boundaries so we did not get to hike there this time. Several kids were sliding down the river rocks into Lake Superior, which looked like it would be a blast in better weather. Another fun activity for next time! From Hurricane River, it is a short walk to Au Sable Lighthouse, but the heavy rain prevented us from making the trip.Pictured rocks in one dayPictured rocks in one dayPictured rocks in one day

Back on Highway 58, we quickly arrived at the Log Slide.  Trailside markers explained how the area was used historically by loggers to push downed trees over the steep sand ledge to waiting cargo ships in Lake Superior.  Pictures can’t accurately portray how large and steep the log slide is and it was impressive to see. It is just a short walk to a side view overlook, and you can also hike (slide) down the sand, but the rain helped us decide not to hike down.  Even in good weather, make sure you are aware how far you are traveling down hill, it obviously will be a lot harder coming back up and several rescues have to happen here each year to assist overzealous hikers who can’t get back to the top. Pictured rocks in one dayPictured rocks in one dayPictured rocks in one dayPictured rocks in one dayBy now the rain was REALLY coming down, so we just caught a glance of Grand Sable Lake from the car and literally ran the trail to see the impressive Sable Falls before heading out of the park.  Even with limited time, bad weather and chores, we really enjoyed our visit!

Pictured Rocks in One Day:

If you go:

There is no entrance fee to visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, so you can explore for free!

If you are planning to visit during the summer, bring the strongest bug spray you can tolerate.  We found that Repel 100 Insect Repellent Pump Spray with DEET worked well. Even in the rain the mosquitoes and biting flies were relentless. 

There are several restrictions for dogs in the park which are detailed in the park map at the visitors center in Munising.  Those who violate the restrictions are subject to a $75 fine, but we did see several people with dogs on the trails to the various falls. 

You can still see so much at Pictured Rocks in One Day.  So even if you only have a short time to visit, definitely spend some time exploring! 

Happy Travels!

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I love to plan family travel adventures with our four kids. Encouraging time in nature, National Parks travel, backpacking and hiking are my passions and I love to write about them.

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