If you have visited Lake Superior before, you may have heard the words Pictured Rocks. This stretch of nature preserve follows the shoreline of the lake, encompassing some of the most beautiful and varied landscapes in Michigan — from pine forests to sandstone cliffs, bluffs, wetlands, and more.
Unsurprisingly, Pictured Rocks hiking is a popular activity in this beautiful place. The many trails vary in difficulty, length, and scenery, so you can find something for everyone. If you’re looking for the best Pictured Rocks hiking trails, check out our top recommendations here.
Munising Falls offers a short, easy walk following Munising Creek. At the top of the trail, which climbs a sandstone canyon, you will find a viewing platform from which you can admire the 50-foot drop of Munising Falls.
The trail is paved, making it accessible for some wheelchair users depending on their unique needs. Like many of the Pictured Rocks hiking paths, leashed pets are welcome. Plus, the trail to Munising Falls is open throughout the winter, offering the chance to see the stunning frozen waterfall.
Sand Point Marsh Trail
Sand Point Marsh Trail is an easy trail following half a mile alongside Sand Point Beach. Featuring a smooth boardwalk, it follows the wetlands, giving you the chance to see unique plant and animal life. In the distance, you will also see the beach and lake.
Because of the presence of wildlife, pets are not allowed on Sand Point Marsh Trail. Depending on the time of the year, you may spot frogs, turtles, and beavers. The trail remains open in the winter too, though you may need snowshoes to navigate it.
Miners Castle Overlook
Miners Castle Overlook is one of the most popular trails in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The length of the trail varies depending on which of the three overlooks you walk to. The three viewing platforms offer stunning vistas of the park and lake.
The closest outlook is a mere 200 feet from the Miners Castle parking lot, while the farthest is about 1,300 feet away. Two of the three viewing platforms are also accessible by vehicle, making it easy for cyclists and wheelchair users to reach them. Pets are welcome provided that they remain leashed.
One of the most popular trails for hiking Pictured Rocks is the 2-mile, round-trip hike to Mosquito Falls from the Chapel Road parking lot. Open seasonally, the trail is ideal for hiking between April and November, during which you’re likely to encounter many other people.
The full loop combined with Chapel Beah can be a challenging route for some hikers because many of the trails here are muddy and uneven. That being said, it’s worth it for the sights of rock cliffs, sandy beaches, maple forests, and of course, the three cascades — the highest of which is just 8 feet.
Chapel Rock & Beach
The hike to Chapel Rock & Beach is a middling challenge for most hikers. Although it is much longer than many of the Pictured Rocks hiking trails, it is also one of the most popular. You’re likely to pass many other people on your journey.
The trail alone is just over 6 miles, though it stretches to 10.5 miles if you include the trek to nearby Mosquito Falls. Though the trail is open throughout the winter, it isn’t plowed, so you won’t find many people exploring at this time. The most popular months are between April and October.
Little Beaver Nature Trail
Little Beaver Nature Trail winds for the length of 1 mile alongside Little Beaver Lake Campground. This hidden gem of Pictured Rocks is the perfect spot for a summer walk.
The white pines and hemlocks that line the trail — many of which are between 200 and 300 years old — create a pleasantly brisk microclimate. You might find that it is a welcome change after the heat alongside the lake during the warm months.
This is a quiet, secluded trail that is perfect for families and young children (though pets are not allowed).
Beaver Basin Wilderness Loop
The Beaver Basin Wilderness Loop is part of the 11,000-acre Beaver Basin Wilderness, a nature preserve stretching between Spray Falls and Sevenmile Creek. It includes 13 miles of shoreline on Lake Superior, offering breathtaking views on either side.
There are several trails for Pictured Rocks hiking along the preserve, including the 3-mile trek up to Beaver Basin Overlook. This winds past three lakes and five streams where you might be lucky enough to spot beavers building their dams.
The surrounding wetlands shelter animals, such as martens, raptors, and much more. Though the nearby campgrounds are closed during winter, the trails remain open but unplowed.
White Birch Trail
White Birch Trail is a 2-mile course starting at Twelvemile Beach Campground. The trail follows the bluffs overlooking the lake, winding through a forest.
Here, you will encounter some of the most beautiful sights of Michigan’s nature, including white pines and birches, tall bracken ferns, the bluffs, and of course, Lake Superior on the horizon.
The forest here includes a mix of evergreens and deciduous trees, making it a beautiful sight in the autumn. White Birch Trail closes seasonally, so there’s no need to break out your snowshoes.
Lake Superior Overlook
This super-quick walking trail offers an easy-to-navigate course from Sullivan’s Creek to three viewing platforms overlooking Lake Superior. The length of the trek depends on how far you want to walk along the beach.
The three overlooks are easy to get to, and two of the three are wheelchair accessible. From here, you can enjoy unparalleled views over the lake and surrounding wetlands, forests, and hills.
Pets are permitted as long as they are leashed, so feel free to bring your furry friend along. Additionally, the overlooks are open throughout the winter, though they may be difficult to navigate.
Log Slide Overlook
Log Slide Overlook features an easy stroll of just over half a mile. It was once a place for loggers to slide wood down the huge dunes. Though the wooden chute is long gone, the dunes are still visible, providing a stunning view from the overlook.
The paved trail runs through a small wooded area before coming out over the beach. From Log Slide Overlook, you will catch glimpses of the Grand Sable Dunes and Au Sable Lighthouse. This trail is gentle and perfect for admiring the stunning Michigan scenery.
Au Sable Lighthouse Station
The trail at Au Sable Lighthouse Station is one of the most fascinating for hiking Pictured Rocks. This 3-mile course starts at Hurricane River Campground before joining the North Country National Scenic Trail.
Eventually, it leads to the beach, where, in addition to the beautiful natural vistas, you will get the opportunity to view the historic lighthouse. If you look closely, you might be able to make out the signs of wrecked ships along the coastline.
This easy hiking trail offers the chance to step back in time to learn about the importance of this lighthouse for Michigan sailors.
North Country National Scenic Trail
The North Country National Scenic Trail is reserved only for serious hikers because this impressive trek winds 42 miles throughout the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
Visitors often take the trail in smaller, easier-to-manage sections between other attractions and encompasses Sand Point, Au Sable Light Station, Miners Castle, and others. However, you will also find hiking enthusiasts spending several days completing the entire route!
The North Country National Scenic Trail might be a big challenge, but it gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in some of the most beautiful parts of Pictured Rocks.
Forests and trees, dunes and cliffs, chirping birds and chipmunks galore – welcome to hiking Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore!
The views are killer, the hiking trails are uncrowded, and the potential for outdoor adventures is unlimited. Michigan beauty is easily discovered here – I sure found loads of it.
A Picture Rocks Hiking Adventure
Thanks to Shalee Blackmer for sharing her personal experiences of hiking Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
Last weekend, I was lucky enough to hike some of the best trails including an 8-mile loop that runs through Mosquito Beach and Chapel Rock.
The trail runs in a giant circle, so at the end of the day, hikers end up directly in front of their cars, which is considered a luxury in the hiking world. This one is definitely for the books.
If you begin in the direction of Mosquito Beach, the trail will take you two miles through the woods before reaching the water. The path is dirty and muddy, so it is a wise decision to leave your new tennis shoes back in the car. However, it is not a wise decision to leave the bug spray behind!
The beach is rocky and includes a beautiful stream that slowly rushes into Lake Superior. If you are daring, when the beach ends to the east you can free climb around a sharp corner that will open up to large sea caves. If you fall on your attempt, it will only be a few feet into the chilled water below.
Hiking Pictured Rocks: Cliffs & More
When continuing east on the path, you’ll encounter dozens of lookouts over cliff edges. The trail section between Mosquito Beach and Chapel Rock is 4 miles.
Although it can be long, the views are beyond worth it. The further down the path, the higher and more supreme the cliffs become.
Slowly, the trail will peak over an escarpment that towers hundreds of feet over the water below. These cliffs were my favorite part of the hike.
I’m a bit of an adrenaline junky, so standing on the edge made my heart race in the best way possible. It really made me feel like I was on top of the world!
Hiking Pictured Rocks: Chapel Rock
When I arrived at Chapel Rock, I realized why it is an iconic landmark of the Pictured Rocks experience.
The rock pedestal juts out from the surrounding shoreline and houses a single tree which towers dozens of feet above. The roots dangle over the rock and stretch to the mainland making it a one-of-a-kind sight.
Heading inland, the last 3.2 miles consist of woods and waterfalls. Some hikers are lucky enough to see wildlife such as coyotes, bears, and wolves on this section. I, however, only saw approximately 567 chipmunks who I collectively named Jimmy.
Upon arriving back at the trailhead parking, you will feel tired, accomplished, sore, and blissful. That’s when you know it’s time to head out and grab dinner at Main Street Pizza in Munising. Then you’ll be able to head to bed with a full belly and with all those new memories playing in your mind.
Hiking Pictured Rocks: Trail Tips
- The trailhead and trail do not have water. Don’t make this mistake! Water is a crucial part of being safe on this hike.
- Beware of biting black flies. They only come for a short period in the summer, but when they are present they swarm in the hundreds.
- Give yourself enough time. The hike can take anywhere from 4-8 hours.
- Don’t bring your iPhone without a case. You’re going to drop it, just like I did. Oops!
Discover More Pictured Rocks Hiking Paths
Pictured Rocks is one of the most popular places for hiking near Lake Superior, and it is no wonder why. This location offers nature of all kinds, from sandstone cliffs to cool pine forests and sandy beaches.
Hiking enthusiasts visiting the area won’t want to miss hitting these famous trails, but these are only the most popular. We challenge you to experience some of the other hiking trails too, some of which lead to amazing Pictured Rocks waterfalls.
Have you ever hiked the Pictured Rocks? What were your favorite parts?