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Michigan’s Unofficial National Park That’s Picture-Perfect

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan mirrors the unspoiled natural beauty out west.

Image of Grand Portal Point in Pictured Rock National Lakeshore, Michigan, USA.Photo courtesy Getty

IMAGINE SEDONA’S SANDSTONE cliffs rising out of a crystal-blue lake, rock arches like those in Utah, and cascading waterfalls that look like Yosemite’s famous veils. Now envision all that within a day’s drive. With its namesake cliffs and incredible natural beauty, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Munising, nps.gov/piro) on Lake Superior boasts better scenery than several official national parks, but far fewer crowds—and only a few souvenir shops and eateries dot Munising, the largest town within the park’s boundaries.

The best way to see Pictured Rocks is from a kayak. While most tour companies run out-and-back trips from a beach, Pictured Rocks Kayaking (906-387-5500, paddlepicturedrocks.com) launches from its own ship, allowing visitors to reach more of the shore’s dramatic territory, like Chapel Rock and Miners Castle. 

One of the arches along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

If just the thought of paddling Lake Superior’s choppy waters makes you seasick, stay dry on a short hike to Log Slide Overlook. At just under a half-mile roundtrip from the parking lot, it’s barely long enough to get your heart rate up until you see the stunning shoreline. You can even make your way down to the beach from the trail, but beware—the descent takes about 10 minutes, but the return up the steep, sandy dune takes more than two hours.

Some 20 waterfalls are scattered throughout and near the park, and you can reach most with a short walk. Even the popular 10-mile loop hike is doable for the average hiker. The drive to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula may be a trek, but considering that the first layers of the park’s sandstone formed more than 500 million years ago, spending nine hours to see the majestic shoreline doesn’t seem so daunting. Once you arrive, the trip is relatively smooth sailing.

IF YOU GO

Eat: Handheld ground-beef potpies called pasties (pronounced past-ees and pictured above) are as ubiquitous in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula as tenderloins are in Indiana. Locals swear by the ones at Miners. One makes a meal.

Stay: Pitch a tent or park an RV a few yards away from Lake Superior and let the lapping waves lull you to sleep at night (munisingtouristpark.com)

Info: munising.org

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