Hike to the Au Sable Lighthouse
The hiking trail to the light station is an old coast guard road. It skirts the beach the whole way.
The Au Sable Light Station is the standout lighthouse in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. From the Log Slide Overlook you can see the Au Sable Light Station rise from the tip of Au Sable point, often mystically blurred a bit by Lake Superior’s Haze.
That’s where I first caught a glimpse of this awesome outpost, and I knew I had to go check it out.
I visited in early spring before the light station was open for the season, so this post will focus mostly on the hike there than the actual lighthouse. For detailed information about the Au Sable Light Station, including tour schedules, fees, multi-media presentations about the area, and much more, visit this page.
The 1.5-mile (3 miles round trip) hike to the Au Sable Light Station begins at the Lower Hurricane River campground. It’s a mostly flat walk that leads you down a historic U.S. Coast Guard road to the light station.
Occasional “shipwrecks” signs point you toward the beach where you’re able to get up close and personal with the three ships that ran aground in that area.
The first shipwreck is the steam barge “Mary Jarecki,” which ran ashore on July 4th, 1882. The next is another steamer, named “Sitka” that hit the Au Sable shoal on October 4th, 1904, and the last is the steamer “Gale Staples,” which hit ground in that same area on October 1st, 1908. To see video presentations about each of these wrecks, click here.
Or, you could just walk on the beach…
Our hike to the lighthouse was nice, but the black flies happened to be horrible that particular day, and I was unprepared for the little buggers in my shorts and t-shirt. Had I been wearing my trusty North Face pants and a long sleeve shirt, the hike would have been much more enjoyable. So, learn from my mistake and bring pants and long sleeve shirts around (and heck, maybe even a head net), just in case. Especially if you’ll be here in May or June.
Okay, on with the hike.
My nine-year-old stepson had no trouble with the 1.5-mile hike, even though it was one of the longer hikes he’s done. It’s flat and scenic, and we had fun checking out the shipwrecks. I told him I’d give him $100 if he could pull one of the big steel spikes out of the sand. Little did he know all those protruding spikes are connected to a buried ship. Ha! (He got a good laugh out of it, too).
The flies were still bad when we reached the light station, but that didn’t stop of from hanging out there for a little while. Even though it hadn’t opened yet for the season, we enjoyed exploring the grounds and imagining what life would have been like for a lighthouse keeper back in the day. It’s quite the place.
On the way back, we decided to walk on the beach the whole way. In my opinion, this is the more scenic way to go. It was a beautiful day, the wind was low and Lake Superior was pretty calm so it was a really pleasant walk on the beach. We got an up-close look at all of the shipwrecks, and then ended our hike right back where we started, at our campsite at Lower Hurricane River.
I’d highly recommend the hike to the Au Sable Light Station. It’s an easy, family-friendly hike. It’s scenic, you’ll pass shipwrecks, and assuming you go in season (mid-June through mid-September as staffing permits), you’ll also have the chance to tour the light station.
Bottom line: The hike to the Au Sable Light Station is an easy 1.5-mile walk (3 miles round trip) either on a road or along the beach. You’ll pass three shipwrecks and get to visit one of the coolest lighthouses on Lake Superior.
How to get there? The trailhead starts at Lower Hurricane River campground, twelve miles west of Grand Marais on H-58. Park in the day-use parking area near the bridge.