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Pictured Rocks: Lakeshore Trail
In one of the most spectacular regions of the state, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, you have one of the most spectacular paths to hike, the Lakeshore Trail. The 42.4-mile trail, part of the North Country National Scenic Trail, is unquestionably one of Michigan’s classic hikes.
This is a trek is a walk between two towns, Grand Marais and Munising, past lighthouses and shipwrecks, giant sand dunes and towering standstone cliffs, beaches on Lake Superior and beaches 200 feet above it. Most backpackers utilize public transportation to be dropped off at the Grand Sable Visitor Center and then hike from east to west, ending back at their vehicle at the Munising Falls parking area. Once past the Log Slide on the first day, the scenery improves dramatically with every step west.
For many the Lakeshore Trail is laid out as a four-day walk with nights spent at backcountry campgrounds such as Benchmark, Beaver Creek, Chapel Beach and Mosquito River. These are some of the most scenic backcountry campgrounds along the trail but it does require you to hike between 9 and 12 miles a day. If that is too much mileage, then you can cover the route in five days with nights spent at Au Sable Point East, Trappers Lake, Chapel, and Potato Patch, a hike in which the longest day is 10.9 miles and the rest are 8-mile days.
Pictured Rocks also maintains three drive-in campgrounds within the park with the Lakeshore Trail passing through two of them; Hurricane River and Twelvemile Beach, and within 2 miles of Little Beaver Lake. Reservations are not accepted for the drive-in campgrounds with sites available on a first-come-first-serve basis.
During the peak summer season in July and August it is wise to reserve your backcountry campsites in advance (see Hours & Fees). Always pack along a water filter as most walk-in sites do do provide sources of drinkable water.
For a complete description of the Lakeshore Trail click here to order a copy of Backpacking in Michigan by Jim DuFresne. Click here to order a detailed map of the Lakeshore Trail, part of MichiganTrailMaps.com's Classic Trails of Michigan series.
The park’s 13 backcountry campgrounds are scattered along the trail at 2 to 5-mile intervals. These 84 sites are the only places backcountry camping is permitted. There are also eight group campgrounds for parties of 7 to 20 people.
A backcountry permit is required for camping and available at the Interagency Visitor Center (906-387-3700) in Munising and from Memorial Day to Labor Day at the Grand Sable Visitor Center (906-494-2660) near Grand Marais. Permits must be obtained in person and are available the day of your trip or one day prior. If arriving after business hours, you must wait until the next day to pick up your permit and then begin your hike. There is a nightly, per-person fee for the permit.
Reservations for backcountry campsites are accepted beginning Jan. 1 for that year and a random drawing is held on the third Thursday in January. Reservation requests received after that are filled on a first-come-first-serve basis. There are no phone or internet reservations.
A Backcountry Reservation Form can be obtained by calling a visitor center or from the park website. Either mail (Backcountry Reservations, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, P.O. Box 40, Munising, MI 49862-0040) or fax in (906-387-4457) the form. There is a $15 fee for each reservation request; pay by credit card (Visa or Mastercard), check or money order. All reservations must be postmarked or faxed at least 14 days prior to the first day listed on the backcountry itinerary.
A user fee of $5 per person, per night is also required and paid when you pick up your permit.
The east trailhead of the Lakeshore Trail is the Grand Sable Visitor Center (906-494-2660) on County Road H-58 a mile west of Grand Marais. The west trailhead is the Munising Falls Visitor Center at 1505 Sand Point Road in Munising.
Transportation from Munising Falls to Grand Sable Visitor Center and various points along the trail is available for hikers through Pictured Rocks Shuttle Service (386-227-7768; trailspotters.net/about/picturedrocks) and Alger County Transit-ALTRAN (906-387-4845; www.altranbus.com/backpack.html). Shuttle service should be reserved during the peak months of July and August and hikers should plan on finishing at their vehicle at Munising Falls.
The best source of information while planning a trip is the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore website (www.nps.gov/piro) or the Interagency Visitor Center (906-387-3700) in Munising. From Memorial Day to Labor Day the Grand Sable Visitor Center (906-494-2660) near Grand Marais is open.
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