In our Michigan Upper Peninsula travels, we've been able to explore both the western and eastern ends of Pictured Rocks. The western end is anchored by Munising and the eastern end by Grand Marais. The most easily visited Pictured Rocks attractions are Munising Falls, Miners Castle, Miners Falls, the Grand Sable Dunes, the Log Slide Overlook and Sable Falls. County Road H58 runs along the southern edge of the National Park but is paved only at either end near the two bookend towns. Jo isn't a fan of driving sand roads, particularly during dry weather, so our exploration of the interior of the National Park was correspondingly limited. Yet what is more easily accessible is definitely worth visiting. (Note: In 2011 expect to see H58 fully paved)
While in Munising, we like staying at the Bay Furnance National Forest campground (actually in the little town of Christmas), a very nicely laid out campground on Lake Superior, with semi-modern facilities suitable for tent camping or RVs. At Grand Marais, we stayed at the Woodland Park municipal campground, also on the lake. The Grand Marais facility is fully modern with showers, electrical hookups, and dump station.
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Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore - Munising Area
Pictured Rocks is backpacker and backcountry hiking paradise. In addition to back country camping, there are 3 drive in campgrounds. While these have picnic tables and tent pads, amenities are minimal (no showers or flush toilets). Yet the beauty of the area makes these minimalist campgrounds quite popular. No reservations, first come, first served. So plan to arrive early in the morning.
For the casual visitor who wants to "see" some of the Pictured Rocks beauty without a lot of effort, visit the Miners Castle and the Miners Beach. The road to the Castle is paved and there are handicap accessable trails to various overlooks. The trail to the beach is short and there is a road that goes down there also.
Here's the Miner's Castle and the trail to and views from Miner's Castle Overlook. Was an overcast day when we were there, but the view was still impressive.
There are also a few more accessible day hiking trails at the western (Munising) portion of the park. And some of them can be reached by paved roads and allow pets on leashes.
The Sand Point Marsh Trail is handicap accessible and located a few miles out of town along the lakeshore east of Munising.
The Munising Falls Interpretative Center and the trail to Munising Falls is at the entrance to the park along H58 from Munising.
On the way to Miner's Castle is the trailhead for the trail to Miner's Falls, an easy 1+ mile hike to an impressive 60 foot falls.
The Munising Falls Interpretative Center, features "displays on the rich natural and cultural history of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Exhibits on early iron smelting, geology, forest history, rare and endangered species, logging, and recreation portray the diversity of our nation's first national lakeshore."
Because the park is stretched out along the lakeshore with minimal road accessibility, it takes several days to really get an appreciation of it. But this may change in 2011 when the complete paving of H58 is completed which will join Munising and Grand Marais.
Pictured Rocks Camping and Campgrounds - 3 drive-in campgrounds exist within the park providing water, tables, grills and toilets. There are no showers nor electric hookups so RV campers will have to dry camp. Also know that the access is via unpaved sand roads. Just south of the park are several more campgrounds located in Lake Superior State Forest, but are also limited in terms of services like electricity and showers.
In addition there are 13 backcountry campsites sprinkled along the Lakeshore Trail and 7 group sites. These are very rustic - wilderness style camp sites: no potable water and only a few have toilets. Camping is allowed only at designated sites and pets are not allowed on backcountry trails or in backcountry campgrounds.
Munising is a four season tourist destination area. Lots of lodging, restaurants, and services. There are 5 waterfalls around Munising and another 4 within 20 miles. If you have more time to spend in the Munising area, you might want to take the ferry to Grand Island National Recreation Area. Hiking, mountain biking, and beach combing are favorite island past-times.