Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is a wonderful place to visit any time of year and, at times, really seems like a whole world unto itself. There is so much natural beauty and many great tourist attractions in the U.P., but Castle Rock Michigan, near St. Ignace, towers above the rest.
If you love taking in scenic views on your Michigan adventures, Castle Rock is one of the best in the U.P. From almost 200 feet up, you can get a scenic view for almost 20 miles as you look out over St. Ignace, Lake Huron, Mackinac Island, and much more.
It’s considered to be one of the oldest lookout spots in the state, so when you take in the views here, you’re looking from a vantage point that has a place in Michigan’s history.
Take the climb and get ready to enjoy beautiful views that you can’t find anywhere else in the Great Lakes State.
Getting to Know Castle Rock
Castle Rock, an unexpected geological jetty, rises nearly 200 feet above water level, offering a panoramic view of up to twenty miles worth of Lake Huron, Mackinac Island, and beautiful Upper Peninsula nature, untouched by Paul Bunyan’s hasty axe.
Castle Rock, which towers out of the Lake Huron waters was created after years of erosion. The rock formation here is a geological limestone stack, also known as a sea stack. If it looks familiar, that’s because its makeup is similar to the Arch Rock and Sugar Loaf formations on Mackinac Island.
It’s considered to be one of the oldest lookout points near St. Ignace and was once known as Pontiac’s Lookout by the local Ojibwa Tribe. This tourist attraction was originally advertised as Ojibway’s Lookout until the early 1920s. In 1928, Clarence (C.C.) Eby bought the rock formation and the nearby tourist stand and reopened it as Castle Rock in 1929.
The attraction is open seven days a week, May through October from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (and later on summer nights), and comes heartily recommended at all times of the year, but particularly during fall color season.
It’s still going strong almost a century later and is still run by the Eby family. It celebrated its 90th year in business in 2019.
Exploring All the Wonders of Castle Rock
Get Your Picture With Paul Bunyan and Babe
We have all heard of the legendary giant American logger, Paul Bunyan. If you haven’t, you should have someone fill you in, since Paul is the one who dug Lake Michigan as a drinking hole for his giant ox, Babe.
If you feel particularly inclined to pay Paul and Babe homage, as gratitude for such a beautiful body of fresh water, I would recommend you take a pilgrimage to the lovely St. Ignace, journey three miles north, and exit off of I-75, prepared to be wowed.
You can’t travel very far these days without stopping to take a picture. At the base of Castle Rock, you can stop and snap a family photo or selfie with Paul Bunyan, and Babe, his blue ox.
Several states claim to be the home of the legendary giant and Michigan is one of them. There are statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe all over the state, including in Ossineke, Oscoda, Manistique, West Branch, Alpena, and St. Ignace.
The St. Ignace Paul Bunyan statue, in contrast to many of the others, is sitting, ax in hand, with Babe next to him. So snap a picture, post it to your social media, and let your friends and family know you visited this wonderful place.
Climb to the Top
At first glance, Paul Bunyan and his trusty sidekick appear larger than life. And then you look up and see Castle Rock.
To truly make the most of your Castle Rock experience, it’s well worth it to climb to the top. There are 171 steps from the bottom to the top, so take your time and go at your own pace.
Uphill climbs can be tricky, so make sure to wear comfortable shoes, and hang on to the railing if necessary. Some of the stairs are steeper than others, and if there’s a crowd of people going up, you don’t want to fall and hurt yourself.
Castle Rock is not handicap accessible and visitors are advised to think carefully about their ability to climb stairs before attempting the trek.
Your legs may burn a little from the workout, but you’ll be thankful once you’ve reached the top. Not only are the views incredible, but you’ll feel accomplished too.
Take in the View
Now that you’ve climbed more than 100 steps and made it to the top, take time to take in the view. After all, that’s the entire reason you made the climb right?
The view from the top is unparalleled and, on a clear day, you can see for up to 20 miles. Keep your eyes peeled and your camera ready as you look out over Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Mackinac Island, downtown St. Ignace and more.
The platform at the top has viewing binoculars, but if you’ve got your own pair, bring them along. They can make an already scenic view even better.
There are some amazing views from Castle Rock. The climb up the stairs is so worth the views though. Even the the views as you climb up are amazing. There are handrails, and also resting points with benches, and a covered shelter. The walk up the stairs is fine for all ages from what I witnessed.– Scott H. via TripAdvisor
If, for some reason, you’re unimpressed by the view, at least you can get a picture with Paul and Babe, just so you can tell people you know the man who made Lake Michigan.
But if you, like the generations before you, fall in love with the scenery, then pass it on, so that people from all over can enjoy Northern Michigan’s Castle Rock.
Visit the Gift Shop
Of course, any trip to a tourist attraction like Castle Rock, wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the gift shop. So when you’re done taking in the view and you’ve made the climb back down, stop into the gift shop before you leave.
As you step inside, you’ll notice the birch bark walls and ceiling, which were hand-crafted in the 1950s by local Native Americans. It’s another reminder that this attraction has been around for a long time.
If you’re looking for a souvenir (especially affordable ones), you’ll find plenty to choose from, including toys, jewelry, books, glassware, and clothing.
Exploring St. Ignace and the Surrounding Area
Castle Rock is undoubtedly one of the most unique attractions in all of Michigan, but there’s plenty more to do in and around St. Ignace if you’re visiting for the day.
Stop For a View of the Mackinac Bridge
Since you’ve already crossed the Mackinac Bridge to get to the U.P., stop and take in a view of the Mighty Mac. The first few exits once you pay your bridge fare have access points to the beach where you can get some great photos and see the majesty of the bridge.
Try Your Luck at the Casino
Less than three miles from Castle Rock is Kewadin Casino. You can stop in and try your luck at table games or slots. Or, if you’re not a gambler, you can sit and relax with a drink if you’re looking to take a break.
Stop For a Bite to Eat
After a climb up Castle Rock, you’re probably going to be hungry, so why not stop at a local place for a bite to eat?
The Galley Restaurant & Bar offers fresh fish, including perch and whitefish meals and mouthwatering prime rib.
Taste of the Upper Peninsula offers homemade pasties, a must-have if you’re visiting the U.P., as well as homemade goodies like fudge and taffy.
Dusty’s Dogz offers an impressive selection of gourmet hot dogs with unique toppings. They also serve Michigan products like Faygo and Great Lakes Potato Chips.
Walk Around Downtown St. Ignace
If you’ve still got some energy to burn after your climb, take a leisurely stroll around downtown St. Ignace.
On one side, you’ve got the lake for incredible views. On the other side, you’ve got a variety of shops to explore that sell everything from jewelry to ice cream to fudge to souvenirs and so much more.
Keep Driving in the U.P.
If you don’t want your Upper Peninsula adventure to end after your Castle Rock climb, hop in the car and keep driving.
You can stay on I-75 and drive up to Sault Ste. Marie, right on the edge of Lake Superior to see the Soo Locks. You can head west on US-2 to Escanaba or you can set your GPS for Munising to see Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
No matter which way you go, there will be something fun to see or do when you reach your next destination.
Castle Rock Michigan FAQs
Q: Where is Castle Rock Michigan?
A: It’s about three miles north of St. Ignace, located at N2690 Castle Rock Rd, right off of I-75. Cross the Mackinac Bridge and take exit 348 to get there.
Q: When is it open?
A: Castle Rock typically opens from early May through mid-October daily at 9 a.m., so it’s perfect for visiting in the spring, summer, or fall.
Q: How high is Castle Rock?
A: It rises about 195 feet above water level.
Q: How much does Castle Rock cost?
A: A dollar will gain you admission to walk to the top.
Q: How many steps are there at Castle Rock?
A: There are 171 steps from the bottom to the top. Take your time getting to the top and consider your ability before deciding to make the climb.
Start Planning Your Trip to Castle Rock
Some of the best adventures you can have in Michigan are the ones that make you work for your experience. The best experiences are also unforgettable.
By climbing Castle Rock you’ll accomplish both of those goals. Climbing dozens of steps can be a challenge, but the reward is well worth it. Once you’ve reached the top, you’ll see panoramic views you’ve never seen before and that you won’t soon forget.
The hike up is a guaranteed way to make your restless children pass out in the car or just stretch your own legs while taking in unreal beauty. Even though the trail isn’t handicap accessible, the gift shop is, and leashed pets are welcomed to stretch their legs too!
There’s so much to see and do in St. Ignace, but if you’re headed to the U.P., make sure to pull off the exit for Castle Rock and make the climb. You’ll really be glad you did!
Thank you to Lyndsay Israel for her contributions to this article.