World Class Hiking in Pictured Rocks

I guess I’m easily impressed with nature.  I’ve visited some rather mundane spots, places like State and County parks, and blogged as if the real estate was a premier vacation stop.  Some are, don’t get me wrong.  However, people may not be sold on views of lakes and bays from limestone bluffs or treking through rolling woodlands.  For others, especially those living in drier climates, the overwhelming green that abounds in Wisconsin is enough.  Yet, if you’re from the area, and this is understandable, you may crave more.

Even if I honestly feel invigorated sauntering through forests in the Badger State,  there are some places I’ve visited that eclipse my favorite Wisconsin parks.  Places like British Columbia and Denali National Park come to mind, having visited both when I was a young adult.  I’ve found another to add to that short and elite list of exotic wildernesses.  It’s one of those places that can captivate the senses, destroying every stress filled thought and worry, as it elicits a sense of oneness with the natural surroundings.

Right now you’re thinking, “OK, a rather campy intro to what is probably a run of the mill park or forest or whatever.”  To that I say, it’s not an oversell-the place is quite fantastic, located in Upper Michigan, and its only a three-hour drive from Green Bay.  This Place is Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Pictured Rocks has plenty of interest points.  There’s cream colored beaches,  hikes along energetic waterfalls and rivers, shipwrecks accompanied by a lighthouse and daydream inducing rock formations .  It’s namesake was spawned from nature’s murals on the faces of sandstone cliffs, withstanding the punishment of Lake Superior.  It has been managed by the National Park System since 1966 and covers approximately 114 square miles.

My journeys through the area were few and limited, as there are tons of hiking to accomplish.  My main pursuits were treks to waterfalls, with the falls sometimes finishing a close second to the other sights along the trail.

So, let me begin.

I’ve searched Munising, a small town located on the western border of Pictured Rocks, for waterfalls with success, and am using the city’s visitor’s guide for reference.  I discover that, if I care to drive about ten miles from town, I’ll find natural tourist lures known as Miners Falls and Miners Castle.  Actually, Heidi’s my copilot and she has the guide in her hand.  We make the trek and find a road, rather narrow, and follow the signs to Miners Falls.

With the trailhead map declaring a 0.6 mile hike to the focal point, this is an easy beginning to an activity that will become addicting.  The scenery is pleasant and I could use the same adjective to describe our stroll.

At the end of the path, we come across a platform and an obstructed view of the falls. However, There’s a descent down a wood staircase to another observation platform.  After the climb down, gazing across a gorge, we’re awed as the falls roars and spills a full river from it’s cliff.

After the trail, we hop back in the car, following the winding side road to its end.  Standing inviting in a very modern fashion, an elaborate platform, complete with vending machines and restrooms, greets us.  As the wind is unbelievably wicked today, I use care while clutching my iPhone over the structure’s ledges.  The result are these photos of the Pictured Rocks shoreline and a sandstone rock formation, known as Miners Castle.

This sightseeing endeavor is the last of the day, as we spent most our time searching for Waterfalls in Munising.  Heidi studies the guide a bit further and has already chosen tomorrow’s adventure.  We’re in for a hike but, trust me, it’s worth it.

It’s the next day and we’re driving further from Munising, about 19 miles east on H58.  We come to a narrow winding road, which isn’t paved and warns of logging Trucks.  Despite this rather backwoods feel, down this road lies a popular cache of wilderness interests.  We’ll break this up into two days of hiking.  Some serious hikers, if you’re into 7-8 hours of straight hiking, will travel the entire 9.7 mile loop in one day.

Today, it’s on to Mosquito falls.  The Trail is rather difficult but the scenery rivals, and sometimes exceeds, any other trail I’ve roamed. The Highlight of the Trail really isn’t the falls itself.  I’m more enthralled with the entire river, as there are smaller falls and rapids to explore.  Mosquito Falls is a around a 10 foot drop, and you can stand above it from a dirt ledge that daring trees cling to.

This is my Favorite hike, even if it doesn’t have the accents of towering falls or thought provoking rock formations.  The river scenery and difficulty make it a rewarding adventure. Its early fall and the air is free from insects and mosquitos. I’ve read that the Mosquito river sometimes lives up to its name, and blackflies also can create a nuisance.

It’s a Mixture of natures roars to a journey under a canopy of green in utter silence.  For me, I’m struck by a not so obvious contradiction.  I live in a small city and stressful noises seemingly clutter the air.  From shrieks of children in stores to highway noise and sirens, those shrill and bothersome sounds can wear on the nervous system.  However, seemingly no matter how loud nature becomes, its soothing and peaceful.  The rushing water of the rapids, the sound of the waves rolling towards the beach, even the thunderstorm I experienced a few nights ago seem to sooth my being and create a harmony with my surroundings.  Never once has that contradiction be so apparent.  I’ve never felt so whole.

We’re done with the trek in about four hours.  I’m so high from the hike, enjoying the rather difficult stretch near the river, that I’m raring to get to the next journey.  The next day will include Chapel Falls and Chapel Rock.  The round trip will be around six miles.

We arrive at the same trailhead early the next morning.  The walk along the trail is easier, with less climbs and fewer rocks and roots protruding through the forest floor.  The two features of this hike make it worth while.  While I may not find the journey as invigorating as the Mosquito Falls Trail, this one is as beautiful.  Chapel Falls is the best waterfall I’ve ever seen, even if my experience is limited and my view is obstructed by trees.  Chapel rock is a sight that leaves you pondering its formation, bringing to mind plenty of questions only a geologist would be able to answer.

Between the highlights, I’m walking in the quiet under a canopy of green, with undergrowth creating an ultra peaceful scene.  I can almost Imagine being an Objibwa(Chippewa Indian) years before the white man reached the territory.  A land of peace and natural beauty, fitting any person with a soul, played home to those indigenous people.

Unfortunately this marks our last day in Munising.  We have to leave Pictured Rocks behind in the morning.  For one last memory, we will stop at Munising falls when we leave, being close to our exit from town anyways.  I can’t say enough good things about this place.  As the days grow on after I leave, a great nights rest will include a dream or two of this pristine wilderness.

One response to “World Class Hiking in Pictured Rocks”

  1. Another great place to put on the list, Chris! I love that picture of the sandstone rock formation with the lake in the background! I can see that a lot of our trips next year will be based on your recommendations.


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