The city of Munising, Michigan is not glitzy. If anything, this small tourist town appears an ordinary remote Great Lakes community- even if it boasts quite a few lodging accommodations and gift shops. In its early years, the area was reliant on fur traders, iron blast furnaces, loggers and fishermen to keep the economy afloat. But beyond the small town and its modest industrial beginnings, when you venture into the wilderness and waters that surrounds, one can’t help but be blown away. Outdoor excursions abound anywhere you turn, and they can suit the fittest adventurer to the most casual sightseer. Remote and accessible cream colored beaches, cascading waterfalls large and small, colorful sandstone cliffs rising from turquoise waters, hiking and biking trails adhering to some harrowing terrain plus the clear waters of Munising Bay and Lake Superior will satisfy any outdoor enthusiast.
I’ll start off by saying, I’m finally trashing a post. And it just occurred to me, as I read my first Munising entry, that there is a lot more to be said about the town. I’m not an expert, but have a better handle on the area at this point. In total now, I’ve spent about six or seven days in the area. And every time I visit, I find something else I would like to tackle. So, I’m going to revise my initial take, or better said, I’m just going to scrap that first view and write a better piece on a damn awesome town.
So here’s my latest Munising visit highlights…
Usually, I write a few introductory paragraphs and then recount my experience. I usually recap my adventures as if they’re taking place while writing. I’m not doing that this time. If I did, I’d probably develop carpal tunnel and you’d be bored out of your mind half way through. Instead, I’ll try to give you a sufficient overview and provide a couple of suggestions.
Excursion #1 Munising Mountain Bike Park
The Munising Mountain Bike Park trails are absolutely awesome- and they’re free! My only regret is that I didn’t stop to take photos. If your attempting to mountain bike for the first time, I wouldn’t suggest this place. While some of the trails are marked on the easier side of intermediate, there’s some pretty pulse pounding ridge riding that takes place on these paths. With 370′ worth of ascents and descents, two jump segments and a technical riding obstacle course known as Da Play Zone, there is enough here to satisfy the average mountain biker. The only downside is that there is under four miles of Trails. Yet, I’m not complaining. I was gassed after my first run.
Excursion #2 Pictured Rocks Cruises
In my intro, I left out the fact that Munising sits at the western edge of Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore. The rugged shoreline is managed by the National Parks Service and runs for about forty-five miles. Of all things, a boat tour service inspired this scenic coastline to become federally protected. As a matter of fact, the owner of the Pictured Rocks Cruises petitioned congress to make these lands a national park.
The classic tour costs $38 and highlights the inspiring rock formations and cliffs along the lake and bay. Also of interest are the colorations caused by minerals in the groundwater seeping through the sandstone cliff’s surface. Our tour was livened, as it was two and a half hours long, by our captain’s cheesy humor and daredevil boat maneuvering. Fortunately, there were no Titanic jokes, except those made by my girlfriend.
Excursion #3 The Shipwreck Tours
Speaking of sunken ships, we rode a glass bottom boat to witness actual shipwrecks! While Pictured Rocks Cruises hugged the mainland along Munising Bay and Lake Superior, the Shipwreck Tours took us along Grand Island and the East Channel. And that was a relief, considering that the scenery, besides the East Channel Light House, was fresh and new. The prices of Pictured Rocks Cruises and the Shipwreck Tours are comparable.
Of course, the highlights on this glass bottom voyage were the two shipwrecks that lied in shallow water. While the tales of their final journeys had all the mystique of a true Great Lakes tragedy, the reasons as to their current state, and why they lie where they do, kind of fell short of mythic maritime lore. Yet, seeing these nineteenth century vessels in their final resting place is unbelievably cool.
Excurision #4 Local Cuisine
Ok, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is not Italy. But, as I’ve discovered, almost every place in the U.S. has a regional dish that defines their character. Here, the Yooper’s entree is something called a pastie(pass-tee). While there are variations, the traditional pastie tastes like soupy meatloaf enveloped in a super large dinner roll. It’s kind of a circular hot pocket with a mega thick shell. It’s heavy as hell but tastes pretty delicious, costing only $6.25.
Besides pasties, there’s plenty of establishments boasting American staples. You know, pizzerias, taco joints, burger joints, deli’s and a couple of craft breweries flourish because of a steady stream of hungry tourists. And keeping the fishermen employed, local whitefish is a specialty at many establishments.
Excursion #5 Chapel Falls and Chapel Rock Hiking Trail.
The final chapter of my trip was a 6.4 mile hike. Points of interest included an eighty-foot water fall, a stately rock formation topped with a white pine, a tiered mini falls and a giant sandy beach.
After a rough five mile drive on a gravel road, we reached the trail head. Drivers beware: the trailhead parking lot is not huge and many vehicles park along the narrow road.
As for the trail, The terrain towards the first point of interest is smooth, as the trail is wide. However, once we passed the tiered eighty foot drop of Chapel Falls, the path narrowed and footing was a lot trickier as we trekked towards the Lake Superior shoreline. When happening upon the coast, we meandered the lulling currents of a small water fall, ogled Chapel Rock and sauntered the cream colored Chapel Beach.
In closing, I’d just like to sum up by saying this: Munising is Ideal for a week long vacation for a family, couple or group of friends seeking fantastic natural wonder. I’ve only given you a sample of what is available. There is plenty more hiking, biking, boating, waterfall hunting and sightseeing to be had. Among others, kayaking the Pictured Rocks cliffs, Scuba diving the shipwrecks, pontoon boat rentals and speed boat rides are all available. I haven’t even mentioned the wilderness of Grand Island. In short, Munising has so much to offer that it begs return visits.