7 Things to do at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

My recent trip from NYC to Minnesota’s North Shore gave me the opportunity to see many new sights on the way, and one of them happened to be Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, a place I had been wanting to visit for many years.

The problems I encountered the day I went to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore:

When I went there, I only had half a day to check out as much as possible with my buddy and we certainly made a lot of out of those few hours we had. But we did run into problems ahead of time.

Going in, we had a few pictures and ideas of what we wanted to check out (kayak adventures, natural bridges, awesome hikes and waterfalls), but without any specific instructions on how to actually do any of that (or where to find it in the park), we had to rely on impromptu thinking and poor internet connection in the park certainly didn’t help either.

Unfortunately most of the trips I do involve this type of on site planning, because most instructions and pictures online are extremely vague. It’s one of the reasons why I wrote this article, and started this blog in the first place:

To show you awesome places to visit around the world and give you specific instructions on what to do see, and where you’ll find it, so you don’t have to do all the guess work we did.

And that’s exactly what I’m going to be doing in this post, so let’s start it up!

Here are the 7 things to do at Pictured Rocks National Seashore:

  1. Start by visiting Sable Falls.things to do pictured rocks national lakeshore
  2. Check out Spray Falls.
  3. Explore Chapel Rock.
  4. Do the trail to and around Pictured Rocks itself.
  5. Check out Miners Falls.
  6. Check out Miners Castle Point (upper and lower overlook).
  7. Kayak across Pictured Rocks National Seashore.

These are considered some of the most popular attractions and things to do there (I didn’t have time for all of them, but knowing where they are, you will be able to see all of them in one day if you start early).

In our case, we began in the east side of the park and worked our way west. Our trip began there around 2 p.m (We actually started in Traverse City, Michigan).

5 quick things to note before you visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore:

1) There are many camping spots across the park.

2) There is one main road across the park (H 58, aka Adams Trail). This is what you’ll drive across the park area. It’s actually a pretty boring road, but it is the main road of the park to visit the other main spots in it.

3) You can actually hike through the entire park. This is through what’s known as the “North County Trail”.

4) To kayak in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, you will need to reserve it first at one of the eastern or western ends of the park. There will be a boat that will take you to the main spot (Pictured Rocks), where you will be able to kayak by the most beautiful areas.

5) The popular Natural Bridge in this park actually had a major rock fall a few years back, so you can’t kayak underneath it anymore, but you can go around it.

Now with this said, let’s get into each activity you can (and should) do in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore:

1) Visit Sable Falls:

sable falls pictured rocks national lakeshore

We began our trip through this park at Grand Marais (eastern entrance of the park) and the first stop was Sable Falls.

It’s only about a 10 minute drive from that town and thanks to a local in Grand Marais who told us about it, we were able to find it easily.

It is a beautiful, but pretty small, cascading waterfall you can check out.It’s also an area that is pretty crowded so keep that in mind.

The nature areas there are very beautiful and when we went was around the initial beginning of fall bloom.

To get down there, you will have to walk down about a 100 steps.

But besides the waterfall itself, I do recommend checking out the nearby trails and areas, as the colors and scenery there deserves it’s own time spend on it.

For us, we didn’t have that much time, and so decided to move forward with our trip through Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

2) Check out Spray Falls:

spray falls pictured rocks national lakeshore

One of the things I really wanted to see in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore was Spray Falls, but every picture I had seen of it (on Instagram) had never mentioned it’s actual name. Only after I passed it did I realize what it was, where it was and now that you can learn from my mistake, you won’t miss it.

It is a beautiful waterfall on a beach you can check out. To reach it, you’ll have to take your GPS and plot the following coordinate: Chapel Falls trailhead.

You can get there by car, but once you do, you will have to hike to Chapel Beach first (which is by the coast), then turn right (east) and walk about another mile to reach Spray Falls.

Altogether, from the trailhead where you park the car, you will need to walk about 3 miles to reach Spray Falls (but it’s well worth it).

3) Explore Chapel Rock:

chapel rock pictured rocks national lakeshore

The great news is that from the moment you park at Chapel Falls trailhead, most of the beautiful things you’ll see in the entire park are around this region.

Chapel Rock is very close to Chapel Beach (a few hundred feet east of it). It’s an awesome sight that is similar to the kind of terrain you see in the Washington Olympic National Park area.

4) Do the Pictured Rocks trail itself (the main natural bridge attraction):

natural bridge at pictured rocks national lakeshore

To get there, once again, you can start at Chapel Falls trailhead, walk to Chapel Beach, and after seeing Chapel Rock and Spray Falls, make your way west. It’s located right by an area called “Lovers Leap”.

You can literally stand above the natural bridge itself and get some great photos and views! This is yet another thing I sadly missed because the main loop trail would be around 10 miles long, something neither I nor my buddy were ready to do. But again, read from my experiences so you don’t miss out on this!

After all, the main Pictured Rocks natural bridge is here.

5) Check out Miners Falls:

pictured rocks national lakeshore miners falls

Miners Falls is west of Chapel Falls trailhead and you will have to get back into your car, get back onto H58 road to get there.

The good news is that the sign to it is hard to miss and once you’re there, you’ll be able to check out the falls.

There is a parking area available, after which a 1/2 mile trail will take you to this waterfall.

Some people choose to go to the very bottom of it from the overlook, which will give you an awesome view of it too (like you see to the right).

There is a “cave” area located to the right of it, but I wouldn’t recommend going in there as it’s very slippery when you get closer to the water.

The waterfall itself is huge and beautiful to check out and I do recommend taking your time if you do go down there to just enjoy the views, scenery and sounds of the environment.

For us, when we finished here, we went back to the parking lot and continued to the next spot:

6) Visit Miners Castle Point (check out the upper and lower overlook):

pictured rocks national lakeshore Miners Castle Point

This is what I originally thought was going to be where I’d see Pictured Rocks and while I was disappointed in that it wasn’t, the views from this area were astounding and well worth checking out.

The parking area here is very close to Miners Falls and you can easily walk to either overlook and get some awesome views. One of the things that astounded me about this area was how blue and green the water was. The different colors of this area is one of the things that makes this park so amazing to view.

7) Kayak to Pictured Rocks Natural Bridge:

pictured rocks national lakeshore natural bridge kayak

This is one of the main attractions at the park and as I mentioned earlier, to do it, you will need to start at Grand Marais (east of the park) or in the west (one rental area is called Pontoon Kayak rentals). You will then able to go out with others to the natural bridge area and kayak there.

By the time we saw this opportunity, we just had no time left to do it ourselves. But we will the next time we go. Be sure to check the weather beforehand though, because as we learned in the Minnesota North Shore area, depending on the water conditions, kayaks may be (or not be) rented out.

And there you have it, the 7 top things to do at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore!

Again, plan ahead and with this article, you now know where each spot is. Make sure to get a map of the areas before you go, and then pin them on your GPS so you can also explore them.

Keep in mind, the top spots (numbers 2-4 in my opinion) require a lot of hiking, so if you really want to see those spots, which in my opinion are the main attractions of the park, get to the trailhead early and make sure you’re in pretty good shape to do the full loop.

Additionally, besides this region, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan holds many more beautiful (and less crowded) spots I highly recommend checking out. I’ve included a link there to a list of the places I’ve visited (and recommend checking out).

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