Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore – Munising, Michigan
Website –NPS Site
Distance – 1 1/2 miles (one way out-and-back) on North Country Trail to Au Sable Lighthouse
Short walks to other viewpoints.
The under construction North Country Trail also snakes 42 miles through the park, which offers backpacking options.
Open – Sunrise to Sunset, or hours posted (depending on which part of the park)
Terrain – Woods, beach, lake, dunes, and forest
Parking – Small lot at the trailhead
Standouts – Lake Superior, lighthouse, dunes, waterfall, and amazing cliffs.
Camping – Three campgrounds in the park. All are first-come, first-served (no reservations) and fill up early. We snagged one at 8 AM, and proceeded to watch 100 cars come through looking for a site the rest of the day. Seriously.
Description – We’ll start with the hike…
North Country Trail to Au Sable Light Station (3 miles round trip)
After snagging a campsite and checking out the nearby ranger station (not much there), we set off from the campground down the trail to the Au Sable Light Station on Lake Superior. The trail follows a not-much-used service road along the shore of Lake Superior a mile and half to the lighthouse. You walk along the road, but can take steps down to the beach to see what’s down there (more on that later). On the way out, we were in a rush to try to make the lighthouse tour…
… which we made! Actually, even better, they let folks wander through on their own if they are in a rush or, you know, have a toddler who is more interested in steps than learning. So we did a quick walk through…
then climbed the tower to the top for some great views of Lake Superior. Going through on our own meant less learning, but gave us the advantage of being up the tower without other hikers!
After lunch, it was time to head back the mile and a half to our car. We took our time, walking down to the beach, which features rocks, sand, water, nature, and SHIPWRECKS!!!! That’s right, shipwrecks. It was awesome.
Next up was Miner’s Castle, a very short walk from the parking lot. There’s a nice overlook to the far left side, a better view slightly more to the right, then a short trail down to a viewing platform on the castle itself. The hike is short (maybe a 1/4 mile one way), but does require a good amount of stairs down and up. Best views are from the top near the main overlook.
A beautiful 50 foot falls, a short 1/4 mile hike (one way) from the parking lot.
Hurricane River Campground
Finally, it was back to the Hurricane River Campground (Upper loop) for bed. And by bed, I mean, sunset on Lake Superior. The light stays late really late, so sunset was just before 9 PM, even in mid-August. Still, gorgeous. We watched from the beach just next to the campground, where the Hurricane River enters Lake Superior. Tree Rider decided to go swimming, like five times, despite all non-babies agreeing that this was a terrible idea. He had a blast.
And finally, bed!
Recommendation – This park was AMAZING!!! Beautiful views, a lighthouse, tons of hiking opportunities. My biggest disappointment was that we didn’t spend more time here! This would be an amazing place to go backpacking (42 miles of the North Country Trail available for that pursuit), or even better to go sea kayaking and check out the cliffs from the water. There were also shipwreck tours offered in the area, which sounded pretty great.
Next on our journey…
We travel across the breadth of the Upper Peninsula, stopping to explore one of the world’s most productive copper mines and checking out an old Native-American fur trade era fort at the highest reaches of the Upper Penninsula!