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On the Upper Peninsula’s northern shoreline, Lake Superior’s powerful weather and water have carved 15 miles of giant, tree-topped arches, jagged promontories, and sea caves. The showstopper: a 200-foot, sheer sandstone cliff that resembles the chiseled mug of a Marine, with battle scars of manganese and iron streaked across his face, and a boreal forest crew cut. See the stone visage and other sights on this 13.8-mile weekend hike, tracing rocky trail and lakeside beaches from Miners Castle to Little Beaver Lake. Best season: Go in fall for fewer bugs, more solitude, and fiery foliage.
PERMIT: Backcountry permits required (available at the Grand Marais or Munising visitor centers). Check out the latest fees and more details at nps.gov/piro/planyourvisit/feesandreservations.htm.
MORE INFO: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, 906-387-2607; nps.gov/piro/
-Mapped by Steve Johnson
- Distance: 22.3
Location: 46.49522, -86.544397
Hike northeast on the Lakeshore Trail, ascending through dense maple forest to a plateau and the first of a string of postcard overlooks.
Location: 46.511241, -86.519501
The Lakeshore Trail shares this route with a 42-mile segment of the North Country Trail, and traces craggy shoreline ledges early in the hike.
Location: 46.525038, -86.493003
Pass a spur trail to Mosquito Falls (mile 3.8). It’s 3 miles round-trip to the diminutive, 8-foot waterfall, with great wildflower viewing in spring.
Location: 46.52642, -86.493033
Continue straight on Lakeshore Trail at the junction with the trail to Chapel Falls trailhead.
Location: 46.538267, -86.48239
Stunning views from here of the parks sandstone arches and promontories, looking southwest back along the shore.
Location: 46.551623, -86.468571
Arrive at Indian Head Point (mile 6.4) and outrageous views of the cliffs and Lake Superior’s enormity.
Location: 46.553084, -86.462467
At mile 6.8, walk out to a balcony view of the big lake at Grand Portal Point, the park’s most famous rock. The square-topped cliff gives way to a sweeping arch, sea caves, hourglass rock sculptures, and emerald waters below. Get the best view of the point a half-mile further along the trail.
Location: 46.551431, -86.458915
No less than 25 ships met their demise near the Pictured Rocks shoreline. The path’s high ground here shows off titanic views of the icy waters that claimed the wrecks. The sands of Twelvemile Beach also unfold way out to the east, as the trail gradually drops to Chapel Beach. Look for eagles, osprey, peregrine, and hawks soaring near the cliffs.
Location: 46.547247, -86.441631
Camp 1: Cross the Chapel Creek bridge and make camp at the backcountry site. Replenish your water stores and take in views of iconic Chapel Rock. The creekside path makes an optional, 4-mile round trip to 60-foot Chapel Falls.
Location: 46.557562, -86.410915
Day 2: Hike northeast on the gently-rising Lakeshore Trail to sweet views of Spray Falls. The 70-foot cascade nose-dives off the cliff into Lake Superior, near the 1856 wreck of the steamboat Superior. Less than 1 mile east of Spray Creek, the high cliffs slowly lose elevation, and the path descends to a low, lumpy dune paralleling Twelvemile Beach. Dip your toes or hunt for agates along the water.
Location: 46.569314, -86.370334
Turn right at the 3-way junction (mile 12.4). Head south for the 1.4-mile stretch to Little Beaver Lake Campground.
Location: 46.562303, -86.367004
Turn right at the T-junction.
Location: 46.558098, -86.368174
Turn left at 3-way junction.
Location: 46.558244, -86.362748
The route ends at Little Beaver Lake Campground (there’s water and 8 sites available here).