Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore: Michigan’s Magnificent Coastline

Lake Superior is the largest and deepest of North America’s Great Lakes. The earliest indigenous tribes to settle on the shores of Lake Superior referred to the lake as a great and powerful sea. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore—which is located on the coast of Lake Superior in Michigan’s rugged Upper Peninsula—features colorful rock formations, cascading waterfalls, and miles of sandy beaches. Visitors can explore nearby forests, examine the remains of sunken ships, and admire some of the most beautiful coastal scenery in North America.

Pictured Rocks

Photo by rvtn/Flickr

Naturally, the Pictured Rocks Cliffs are one of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore’s most celebrated attractions. The Pictured Rocks Cliffs feature vibrant splashes of color which are the result of mineral deposits. Over time, wind and water have sculpted the Pictured Rocks Cliffs. Visitors routinely kayak underneath towering sandstone arches which reveal compact sea caves. The National Park Service offers boat tours which provide a stunning view of the Pictured Rocks Cliffs.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is home to several waterfalls. Chapel Falls—a 60-foot waterfall located in a verdant forest—never fails to wow visitors. A short hike offers onlookers several vantage points to view the cascading waterfall. Certain waterfalls—such as Spray Falls—are best viewed on the water aboard a kayak or boat. The waterfalls of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore tend to be much more vibrant in the spring, when they have recently been refreshed by newly melted snow.

The remains of one of the deadliest shipwrecks to ever occur on the waters of Lake Superior is located approximately 20 feet below Spray Falls. In 1856, an ill-fated cargo and passenger ship known as the Superior capsized due to high winds. Historians are not sure exactly how many people died as the Superior sank, but some speculate as many as 50 people may have drowned. A handful of survivors did manage to swim ashore. On a clear day, the remnants of the Superior are visible underwater. In recent years, countless teams of divers have explored the site of the Superior’s unfortunate demise.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore features gorgeous sandy beaches that are ideal for sunbathing, walking, or simply relaxing and enjoying the beautiful scenery. Since Lake Superior is so far north, the water is a bit on the chilly side. For those who can tolerate glacial lake water without flinching, Sand Point Beach tends to be the most popular spot for swimmers and visitors who wish to frolic in the water. Sand Point Beach is often hailed as one of the best places in North America to enjoy a spectacular sunset.

The historic Au Sable Light Station offers one of the most stunning vantage points in all of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The Au Sable Lighthouse was built in the late 1800s to help ships navigate Lake Superior. The grounds also feature a few other buildings, including a lighthouse keeper’s residence, which was built in the early 1900s. Visitors can climb to the top of the Au Sable Lighthouse for a magnificent view of Lake Superior’s deep blue waters. The grounds of the Au Sable Light Station are especially lovely in the fall, when the trees surrounding the lighthouse sport red, orange, and gold leaves.

If ice fishing, giant icicles, and frozen waterfalls are your cup of tea—Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is the ideal winter destination. Much like the sandstone rock which is visible during the warmer months, many of the enormous icicles that line Pictured Rocks Cliffs are multicolored due to mineral deposits. Natural blue ice sculptures feature azure undertones that are similar to the soft blue colors often associated with ice sheets in Antarctica.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore features sandstone rock formations that rival some of the most iconic arches of the West, pristine beaches, and waterfalls that transform into ornate ice sculptures during the winter. Explorers who delight in kayaking long distances and sightseers who are searching for a quiet, relaxing day in nature will equally enjoy the splendor of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Visitors who spend the afternoon basking in the beauty of one of the most enchanting corners of Lake Superior will understand why the region’s earliest occupants considered the cold, clear waters of Lake Superior to be a vast, mysterious sea with untold powers.

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