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Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore: Chapel Loop Trail
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore: Chapel Loop Trail
Original photo by Sonya Koenig
Life > Experiences

A Guide to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore 

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at MSU chapter.

The stately multicolored sandstone cliffs, miles of stunning hiking trails encapsulated in ecological variation, dashing waterfalls, picturesque beaches, and a scenic cruise along the shores of Lake Superior. Welcome to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  

This summer, I had the pleasure of visiting the famous Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Munising, Michigan. While only there for a weekend, my trip confirmed the park deserves all its attention. Whether you are an avid hiker or just looking to get outside and enjoy nature, Pictured Rocks will certainly fulfill your desires. Thus, as you start to plan your future trip to Pictured Rocks, here are my top five recommendations to make your experience one for the books!

Top five things to do in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore 

1.Chapel Loop Trail

If you love to hike and only have a small window to explore the wonders of Pictured Rocks, then the 10-mile Chapel Loop Trail is for you. This famous loop leads you through a beautiful forest and displays the best land views of the sandstone cliffs. While hiking, you will encounter diverse flora and fauna, rivers, beaches, and the popular Chapel Rock, all while walking along the breathtaking cliffs of Pictured Rocks.  

I hiked the 10-mile Chapel Loop Trail while on my weekend getaway, and I cannot recommend it enough. I started my journey at the Mosquito Falls trailhead and walked along the Mosquito River among a deep green forest for 1.9-miles.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore: Mosquito River
Original photo by Sonya Koenig

At the end of the trailhead, I stopped at Mosquito Beach to enjoy a relaxing lunch among the rushing Mosquito River and the surrounding cliffs. 

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore: Mosquito Beach
Original photo by Sonya Koenig

After lunch, I started the beautiful 4.4-mile trek along the cliffs of Pictured Rocks. This was the highlight of the hike! I found myself stopping frequently at the various lookouts along the path to take in the breathtaking scenery. 

Chapel Loop Trail
Original photo by Sonya Koenig
Chapel Loop Trail
Original photo by Sonya Koenig

This stretch of the loop ends at the stunning Chapel Beach. Here, I dipped my toes in the water and conversed with various backpackers from around the world. After saying my goodbyes, I made the final 3-mile hike back to the parking lot. While I was very tired, this part of the journey was quite pleasant. Surrounded by a dense forest, I had much time to self-reflect and relax among the beauty of nature.  

2. Munising Falls

This 0.3-mile round-trip hike is an essential stop on your Pictured Rocks adventures. The trail takes you inside a shaded canyon and leads you along the rushing Munising River to a viewing platform of the 50-foot Munising Falls. Once you arrive at the basin of the waterfall, you will find yourself in a state of amazement at the elegance of the crashing waterfall.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore: Munising Falls
Original photo by Sonya Koenig

3. Miners Castle Overlook

The Miners Castle Overlook was one of my favorite destinations at Pictured Rocks. From the parking lot, there is a short, paved trail leading to a spectacular view of Lake Superior, Grand Island, and the cliffs. Among the breathtaking views is a variety of wildlife located in the surrounding forests. 

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore: Miners Castle Overlook
Original photo by Sonya Koenig

4. Miners Falls

Due to weather conditions, I did not get to see the famous Miners Falls. However, this is one of the park’s most visited sites. The waterfall’s immense power and surrounding beauty make this a must-see stop on your visit. 

5. Boat Tours

While I did not personally experience a boat tour, this is a wonderful way to take in the beauty of the famous cliffs at Pictured Rocks. Several companies in the Munising, Michigan, area offer boat and kayaking tours. These tours take you along the shore of Lake Superior and give you a personal, up-close exposure to the stunning cliffs of Pictured Rocks. 


Bring bug spray

Bug spray is an essential packing item for your Pictured Rocks adventures! Much of the park is enclosed in rich forests and rivers, creating a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Also, sand flies love to appear on many of the hiking trails and beaches. To make your trip more comfortable, packing bug spray is an absolute must.  

Wear hiking boots

I wore my Brooks running shoes on the 10-mile Chapel Loop Trail, and I regret that decision. Much of the Mosquito Trailhead area is a basin of mud. While I completed the hike the day after a storm, I highly recommend wearing heavy-duty shoes through this portion of the hike. 

Download trail maps

Service is very spotty throughout the park. To keep safe, download and screenshot trail maps before embarking on any hike! While most of the Park’s hiking trails are well marked, it is important to bring a printed-out map of the trailhead in case anything happens to your telephone.

Hike early in the morning

The parking lots fill up fast! If you do not want an extra mile-long hike to the start of a trailhead, arriving early to any hike is essential! 

Lastly, let loose and enjoy the beautiful nature that Pictured Rocks has to offer!  

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a must-see destination in Michigan. I hope my recommendations and experience inspire you to take an adventure to the Park. No matter your background, Pictured Rocks has something for everyone!

Sonya Koenig is a writer for Her Campus MSU. Koenig is a second-year student at Michigan State University studying Social Relations and Policy and Journalism. With a passion for community development and humanitarian work, Koenig is excited to dive into various communities and share their unique experiences and stories. Additionally, she looks forward to expanding her writing skills and informing her peers about her interests. In her free time, Koenig enjoys spending time with friends and family, reading, traveling, hiking and playing with her dog Blu.