Kayaking Pictured Rocks

I had the opportunity of kayaking along the stunning Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan. The intimidating waters of Lake Superior, the towering sandstone cliffs, and the colorful rock formations make for an unforgettable experience.

Pictured Rocks kayaking is a popular activity for both locals and tourists alike. With miles of unique shoreline to explore, there are endless opportunities to discover hidden coves, secluded beaches, and breathtaking vistas. For many experienced paddlers, pictured rocks gets a spot on either the bucket list or on the regular rotation of places to frequent.

Exploring Pictured Rocks by Kayak

Kayaking at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is definitely a must-do activity if you are a paddler and find yourself on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Here are a few things you should know about getting the kayak out:

Best Time to Kayak

The best time to kayak at Pictured Rocks is during the summer months when the weather is warm and the water is calm. The peak season for kayaking runs from June through September, andkayaking pictured rocks while the water never really warms up, it still be particularly chilly in June and September. October and even November can be great, quieter times to get out if the weather is warm and the weather is calm. However, many of the outfitter might have closed shop for the year so factor that in.

Perhaps the better way of looking at it is to kayak on a calm day. Don’t force it in bad, windy weather. This lake can quickly go from do-able to dangerous.

Tour and Outfitting Options

There are several tour companies in the area that offer kayak rental or guided kayaking trips. These tours are a great option for beginners or even experienced kayakers who want a more structured experience.

If you’re an experienced kayaker and prefer to go at your own pace, you can rent kayaks from several outfitters in the area. Some of the most popular outfitters include Uncle Ducky’s Paddling Michigan, Paddling Michigan, and Northern Waters Adventures.

Doing a tour increases the likelihood that someone will be looking out for your safety and watching the weather forecast, so I think it is a good option.

Safety Tips

Kayaking at Pictured Rocks can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it’s important to take safety seriously. Lake Superior is a serious lake. “Big water” as I often say.

Always wear a life jacket and make sure it fits properly. Check the weather forecast before heading out and avoid kayaking in winds or stormy weather. Be aware of your surroundings and watch out for other boaters and kayakers. Finally, make sure you have a plan in case of an emergency.

Type of Kayak To Use

The type of kayak you use will depend on your skill level and the type of kayaking you plan to do. You will want your kayak to be stable as the water can be rougher than you would assume. A sea kayak can work really well too, and you will see couples in tandems. If you’re an experienced kayaker and plan to do some longer trips, a touring kayak may be a better choice. Whatever type of kayak you choose, make sure it’s the right size for you and fits comfortably.

What to Expect

If you’re planning to go kayaking at Pictured Rocks, there are a few things you can expect to do and see:michigan kayaking

Landmarks and Scenery

As you paddle along the shoreline, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of towering sandstone cliffs, crystal-clear water, and secluded beaches. You’ll also have the opportunity to explore some of the park’s most iconic landmarks, such as Chapel Rock and Miner’s Castle.

You can explore a lot and take the better part of a day – 6 to 8 hours. Or you can go for a shorter excursion. 2 hours is probably the minimum. If you can handle a little more, I suggest trying to spend half a day on and around the water to get a good feel for the topography.

Wildlife Encounters

In addition to the stunning scenery, Pictured Rocks is home to a variety of wildlife. While kayaking, you may have the chance to see bald eagles soaring overhead, otters playing in the water, and even the occasional black bear or moose. It’s important to remember to keep a safe distance from any wildlife you encounter and to respect their natural habitat.

This can be a fun birding area, because you have such good sightlines and can scan the entire shore. However, when you are kayaking it can be hard to also manage binoculars and a birding guide, so don’t set your expectations too high.

Hiking Pictured Rocks

As much as I love kayaking in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, I also enjoy exploring the area on foot. The park claims over 100 miles of hiking trails that lead to waterfalls, beaches, foresthiking pictured rocks wilderness, cultural sites, and breathtaking cliff-top views of Lake Superior.

One of my favorite easy and short hikes is the Munising Falls trail. This 800-foot paved trail takes you up a cool, shaded sandstone canyon along Munising Creek to the main viewing platform to see the 50-foot waterfall. The trail is easy to navigate and offers stunning views of the waterfall. I highly recommend visiting this trail in winter when the waterfall is frozen and other trails might be less passable, creating a magical winter wonderland.

Another great short and easy hike is the Grand Sable Dunes trail. This 0.6-mile roundtrip trail is the main access point into the Grand Sable Dunes. The trail starts at the Sable Falls parking area near the top of the falls, continues past an old field, and crosses a bridge over Sable Creek. It then winds through a jack pine forest gradually uphill into an open dune environment. The hike requires some uphill climbing in sand, but the views of Lake Superior and the Grand Sable Dunes are worth the effort.

If you are looking for a longer hike, I recommend Mosquito Falls and Chapel Falls via Chapel Loop in Munising, Michigan. The trail, stretching a satisfying 10.6 miles, unveils a serene atmosphere, cocooned within the cool, damp embrace of Pictured Rocks National Park. While the hike promises unparalleled scenic vistas, you need to be careful because there are quite a few sizeable cliffs and drops. Early season can be a good time to go as it is pre-bugs, but the terrain might still be a little muddy. Overall, this is probably the best longer hike in the area, in my opinion.

Where to Stay

There are a few options on where to stay in the Munising or Pictured Rocks area, but if you are going in July or August, you probably will want to have arrangements made before you go.

If you prefer the comfort of a hotel, the AmericInn Lodge & Suites of Munising is a great choice. Located just 3 miles east of Munising, this lodge offers a variety of comfortable guest rooms, including family suites, whirlpool and fireplace suites, and standard rooms with one king or two queen beds. The lodge also features an indoor pool mini water park that the family will enjoy — and makes a great rainy day plan.

For those who want to be closer to nature, the Buckhorn Resort is a great option. Located just south of Munising, the resort offers great lodging in a Northwoods setting. The resort features a full-service restaurant and lounge, which is known for its broasted chicken and pork chops, as well as its sandwich menu.

If you’re looking for something more secluded, the Timber Ridge Inn is a great choice. Located ten miles from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, the inn is surrounded by the Hiawatha National Forest and local trail systems. The setting is secluded, wooded, and has some nice waterfront views.

For those who prefer camping, there are several campgrounds in the area, including the Munising Tourist Park Campground and the Bay Furnace Campground. Both of these campgrounds offer tent and RV camping, as well as access to hiking trails and other outdoor activities.


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