Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Four Days Backpacking Pictured Rocks
by bobbernumber3

Trip Type: Hiking
Entry Date: 05/18/2022
Entry Point: Other
Exit Point: Other  
Number of Days: 4
Group Size: 1
Trip Introduction:
A good time was had exploring some of the natural beauty of the Upper Peninsula.

4 Days Backpacking Pictured Rocks

Here is a summary of my hike along the Lakeshore Trail of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore from Munising to Grand Marais. Michigan’s upper peninsula is unending trees and National Forest. The UP is home to more than 200 waterfalls, 4,300 inland lakes, 12,000 miles of streams, and 1,700 miles of shoreline along three great lakes. Interestingly, Florida has only about 1350 miles of coastline.
Spray Falls plunges about 70 feet over the Pictured Rocks cliffs directly into Lake Superior.

About Pictured Rocks

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore runs from Munising to Grand Marais, Michigan along Lake Superior’s south shore. It is known for its colorful cliffs and sweeping scenic vistas. It encompasses more than 100 miles of trails, towering sand dunes, sandy and rocky beaches, expansive views of sandstone cliffs bordering indigo and turquoise waters, and deep-green and sun-dappled forests.

Eager to get started on a four-day, three-night backcountry adventure departing from Munising Falls Visitor’s Center.

About The Trip

Reservations for camping must be made in advance so you are never sure just what the weather will be for the days you have scheduled. I had completed this same hike six years ago on these same dates. That trip was only 2 overnights, and I realized I would need more time than that so I made reservations for 3 nights this year. That made my daily hiking requirement about 10 miles per day which seemed reasonable. Any future trip will probably be 4 nights of camping. Weather conditions were not ideal, but I did have nice temperatures for hiking and minimal bugs. There was some sunshine mixed in with the cool temperatures and a day of rain. Total miles hiked was 45.4 miles. This was 42.4 miles of the Lakeshore Trail and another 3 miles into Grand Marais… destination The Dunes Saloon Lake Superior Brewing Company. Each day seemed a different terrain—ranging from sandy beaches and rocky lakeside ridges to inland hardwood and old-growth hemlock forests. It was a largely flat hike with some rolling hills, but it packed punch especially early on. Waterfalls, beaches, sand dunes, old-growth forest, cliffs, rock formations, miles of beaches and wildflowers were all there to be enjoyed.

Colorful rocks on Lake Superior’s south shore.

The high colorful cliffs of Pictured Rocks give way to Twelve Mile Beach in the distance.

Preparing for the Trip

I reviewed my notes from the previous hikes and decided to avoid all cooking, cooking utensils and stove. That would lighten my load and eliminate meal prep. Who really wants to cook a meal after 8 hours of hiking? Living on snacks turned out just fine. I had a bag of cashews and a bag of pistachios, a package of string cheese, beef jerky, sliced hard sausage, some hot dogs (roasted on a campfire and ate bun-less), a couple oranges, a couple apples and a little bag of Crunch and Munch! And three Everything Bagels from Huron Mountain Bakery in Marquette.

I opted to use my broken-in hiking shoes which was a good choice. My feet would be sore enough at the end of the day. I already had a new pair of hiking pants and a light weight shirt. I packed a wool shirt and a down jacket which were both put to good use at the end of the day. Spare clothes were minimal, but should have been kept in watertight packs. Air mattress, down sleeping bag, inflatable pillow, water filter, miscellaneous gear and back pack and I was set to go.

The Itinerary

Day One: Munising to Mosquito River Campground (12.0 miles) 10000 steps. 10am start
View of Grand Island near Munising

Jill dropped me at Munising Falls Visitor Center. She took the short trail up to the falls and I headed out on the Lakeshore Trail eager to get started. The weather was ideal for hiking and sunny. Lots of good views of Grand Island. I shortened my hiking poles 2 or 3 times and adjusted my backpack back and forth looking for a better fit. I took lots of breaks to enjoy the scenery (and rest). I drank 4 bottles of water today… 2 new and 2 refills from a falls at the end of Miner Beach. I saw 12 hikers today, one pit bull and 2 large poodles (no dogs allowed). Camp is set up and I’ll use the bear locker for food stuff. This trail segment needs lots of downed trees removed! And it is more up and down then other trail segments. I took lots of pictures. It looks like a chance of rain in the next couple hours so I’ve put the rain fly on. I saw an American Redstart, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and a few other unknown birds today. Nice little campsite… could use a chair and picnic table. Glad I have my broken-in shoes. Feet are sore enough as is. Everything Bagel for dinner. Hiking poles are nice to have and I’m glad I thought to bring them. Lost a tip in a gap on a bridge but couldn’t find it. Sunglasses fell out of my pocket – lost. A change of shoes would be nice. The temperature is cooling off now and it will be good for sleeping tonight. I filtered and filled two water bottles from Mosquito River. Hope my sleeping pad is level, but it may not matter. Tired. Mileage seemed long today… need to check. Shorter day tomorrow. Few bugs, many wildflowers.

Day Two: Mosquito River Campground to Coves Campground (8.7 miles) 13000 steps. 8am start

I found the pit toilet on a walking tour of the campground, too late. Slept ok, but the tent site was not level. My pillow leaked air so I put the down blanket into the pillow case and that worked well. The bear bunker was full this morning and stuff fell out when I retrieved my food pack. Just one open campsite last night, I think. I used my down jacket this morning around camp and that was very nice to have. I just need to pack and load and I’ll be ready for the trail. I took several pictures of a deer in my campsite this morning as I was packing.
This curious and hungry deer visited my campsite at Mosquito River Campground

I saw 21 hikers today. I was the first camper to arrive at Coves campground and found some rope and hand sanitizer left in the bear vault. Tom’s beef jerky is way better than Aldi’s. There is no easy access to water at the beach so I’ll look for a river first thing tomorrow. I drank 2 bottles of water today. It’s fairly cool so I put on my down jacket when at camp. The campsites are poorly marked again and I don’t yet know where the toilet is. There is only a group fire ring so may just eat my hot dog cold. I took lots of pictures again today. A fog bank over the lake made for less views. Spray Falls was a good sight and I took a break at the overlook view spot. I saw 13 mergansers on the lake there and again near Coves a couple hours later. Saw one Redstart. Looks like I can get a more level tent spot tonight. I am concerned with the rain forecast for tomorrow and wonder if I have options to bug-out early. I haven’t checked if my cell phone works. Tent is set up. Nice little tent. I started a fire and will have hot dogs for dinner. No one else showed up at the campground tonight.

Chapel Rock (note the white pine’s roots reaching back to the main land)

Coves Campground is in the Beaver Basin Wilderness. The Beaver Basin Wilderness includes 13 miles of Lake Superior shoreline between Spray Falls and Sevenmile Creek. The wilderness is some 3.5 miles deep and provides permanent legal protection for this part of the lakeshore.

Day 3: Coves Campground to Benchmark Campground (10.5 miles) 9800 steps 7:30 start

Rain. I got packed and loaded before the rain and 20 minutes later down the trail I was in a thunderstorm. Lightning! It rained for about an hour and then 2 hours of pretty good weather. My pants, shoes, and shirt all still got wet from trees and bushes. I stopped at Sevenmile Creek to filter water and fill my bottles and seven hikers came by. I only saw 8 hikers all day. I met and chatted with two engineers from GM and saw them a couple times later on the trail.

I set up the tent in the rain and got inside. Then it rained even harder. I napped on the air mattress and the down quilt got damp from my clothes. Chilly. It rained on and off till early evening. I got up and put on my wool shirt which was slightly damp, but warm. I went out and walked the Twelve Mile Beach looking for agates. I found one small one to keep about the size of a kernel of corn. My shoes are wet with not much hope of drying by morning. I’ll put on dry socks and hope for the best. Seven or eight swans flew over while I was on the beach. Food and Gear Review: Aldi shelled pistachios, Aldi whole cashews = Great. Aldi/Simms sliced hard salami = Good (package too big). Aldi original beef jerky = not next time. 500ml Cabernet from Elmer’s = Camp Favorite! Wool shirt is a favorite as well and feels good. Eddie Bauer Down Jacket = Best of Trip Winner!

Day 4: Benchmark Campground to Dunes Saloon (14.2 miles of hiking) 11800 steps 7:30 start

The rain stopped in the night. Lots of stars were out when I got out of the tent at night for water. Most of today’s hiking was thru the woods and the wild flowers were all set to display. The Spring Beauty just needed a sunny day to show their colors. Trilliums were in bloom. The Trout Lily needed some sun as well. The trail improves each day toward Grand Marais. I saw three Redstarts, a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, a Ruffed Grouse, and a Loon on Grand Sable Lake. I was short of water most of the day with no good watering spots. When you are short of water, you are always thirsty. I finally filled up at the closed Grand Sable Visitor Center from an outside spigot that was on. Grand Sable Falls is worth the walk down the trail… even though it is on my route to Grand Marais.

43 miles under the belt at Sable Falls

Got to the Dunes Saloon Lake Superior Brewing Company… dehydrated!! A fellow next to me was showing his best two agates of the year and they were dandy. I showed my kernel of corn agate, and the fellow and bartender were appreciative… “sometimes, that’s what you find.” The bartender lives in Grand Marais for agates and ice-fishing.

Jill was right on time for my pickup and I gave her all the stories on the way home.

Sand blows up off the beach into the woods making for a unique woodland.

View of Pictured Rocks with Grand Portal Point in the distance

The trail often follows the top of the bluffs at Pictured Rocks

The Pictured Rock’s hike was a nice challenging distance with a lot of great views… and, darn, it looks like I coulda just drove this car!

Au Sable Light Station