Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
About a week ago, my long-time friend Kate and I strapped on our daypacks and ventured to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to explore Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Tahquamenon Falls. We’d spent little time mapping out where exactly our hiking boots would take us. We simply showed up at the Lakeshore’s Munising Falls Visitors Center armed with a sense of adventure and open to the ranger’s hiking suggestions. Our ranger conversation led us to the Beaver Basin section of the Lakeshore. We planned to hike the 9 mile loop around the Beaver Lakes and then onto the shores of Lake Superior. Our we weren’t too exhausted we thought we’d hike another 8 miles out to Spray Falls.
Munising Falls is easily accessed via an 800 foot paved trail. The path to the falls follows Munising Creek, before the sandstone cliffs enveloping the river open to a cavern-like area and the 50 foot falls.
The Beaver Basin area of Pictured Rocks is less popular than other parts of the park, which offered us moments of solitude. There were moments the only sounds we heard were our boots on the trail. The 9 mile trek on the North Country Trail took us passed Little Beaver Lake, through dense forest and to what was supposed to be an active beaver colony. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any beavers. Not a single one. We did log quite a few miles, bathed in the forest air, and were awed by the beauty and peace that can be found when swallowed by Mother Nature.
With sore feet and rumbling bellies, we made our way to the shore of Lake Superior and were blown away by the vast, blue water that lapped at the colorful rocks and the surprisingly sandy beaches. It was a treat to be the only two people, sitting on the shore enjoying the sunshine and our sandwiches.
A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
At this point, our day was just half over and we dared to log another 8 miles round trip to see Spray Falls. The lakeshore trail to spray falls is rougher and has more elevation changes than the trails at Beaver Basin. Sadly, we were a little underwhelmed by Spray Falls. however, it was a unique hiking experience and the only time I’ve seen a waterfall plunging more than 70 feet directly into Lake Superior. After viewing the falls, we trudged our way back to the trailhead exhausted but smiling. The next day we were headed to Tahquamenon Falls.
The Coves Area of the trail was a highlight, with dramatic peeks of the sandstone outcroppings and brilliant waters. Lurking just beneath spray falls is the superior shipwreck of 1865.
Our last day in the Upper Peninsula (UP) was consumed by a 4 hour hike from the Lower to Upper Falls of Tahquamenon State Park. The Lower Falls consists of a series of five falls that cascade around an island. We meandered around the Lower Falls in the crisp morning air before stepping foot onto the River Trail.
The River Trail from the Lower to Upper Falls is about 4.8 miles one-way and follows the banks of the Tahquamenon River before it reaches the 200 foot wide Upper Falls. We’d hiked about 17 miles the day before Tahquamenon, so we were sluggish. Our motivation was the restaurant and brewery at the Upper Falls and it proved worth the hike. The brewery’s signature forest berry pie and a blueberry ale put a bit of pep in our step as we journeyed back to the Lower Falls area where our time in the Michigan would come to an end.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Tahquamenon Falls were a joy. We covered many miles and often speechless at the phenomenal beauty of our surroundings. The trip left our spirits renewed, our friendship strengthened and we did it all in some super stylish t-shirts designed by Kate. She’s a talented designer, who’s made my hiking wardrobe better with this adorable shirt. You can purchase yours here. They are sure to make your next outdoor adventure all the better.