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Kayaking the Pictured Rocks: The Gem of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Miners Castle, a sandstone formation in the Pictured Rocks National LakeshoreMiners Castle, a sandstone formation in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. PC: Tim Trombley

Hundreds of waterfalls, serene forests and trails, unique attractions, and gorgeous beaches are among the many wonders encompassing Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Rated a top vacation spot in the United States, the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore near the city of Munising has it all, including 200-foot cliffs, sea caves, sand dunes and a historical lighthouse. It’s a true gem of the rustic peninsula — and the entire United States. While the park can be explored by trail, all who visit agree that it’s best viewed by water.


Why is it Called Pictured Rocks?

The colors of the cliffsThe colors of the cliffs. PC: Craig Blacklock

Pictured Rocks got its namesake from the minerals that stain the rock face of the 50 to 200 feet sandstone cliffs along miles of pristine Lake Superior shoreline. Vibrant hues of red, blue, white and green color the cliffs from minerals like iron, copper, manganese, and limonite, and reflect off the turquoise water that surrounds them.

10 Breathtaking Photos of Pictured Rocks


Waterfalls Galore

Munising FallsMunising Falls. PC: Munising Visitors Bureau

You don’t have to travel far in the U.P. to find stunning waterfalls … the area is home to hundreds of them! With its proximity to the Great Lakes and countless streams and creeks, it’s no wonder the rural area is overflowing with these gorgeous sights.

The Best Waterfalls of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula



Several of the falls can even be found within the Pictured Rocks.

The Top 7 Waterfalls of the Pictured Rocks


Beautiful Sandy Beaches

Sunset over Lake Superior at Hurricane RiverSunset over Lake Superior at Hurricane River. NPS photo.

Surrounded by Lake Superior, there are countless pristine beaches for you, your family, and friends to enjoy in the Munising area, with more than five in the Pictured Rocks!


Kayaking Through Sea Caves

Kayaking Through Sea Caves

While hiking or touring the Pictured Rocks by boat certainly gives explorers an intimate experience, kayaking brings paddlers so close to the cliffs that they can touch them while gliding through magical sea caves and coves.

Why You Need to Take a Kayak Tour of Pictured Rocks


About the Ultimate Kayak Tour

About the Pictured Rocks Kayaking TourKayakers who choose Pictured Rocks Kayaking get to see Rainbow Cave.

Pictured Rocks Kayaking provides safe and convenient trips for varied ages and abilities. The company is the only outfitter in the area that has a kayaking-launching boat that follows guests as they paddle. Because of this, paddlers will always be within a reasonable distance of restrooms and emergency help if needed. Tours are approximately 4 to 5 hours long with around 2 hours – or 5 miles – of kayaking time.
Video Preview of a Kayak Tour

Pictured Rocks Kayaking's Off-Shore LaunchAn off-shore launch means you get to paddle the most iconic stretch of the national lakeshore.

Tours begin upon a vessel at the East Channel of Munising Bay and head into Lake Superior, where kayakers are launched just past Painted Coves. Once finished with the paddling portion of the trip, kayakers board the boat for a ride back to shore.


An Island so “Grand”

Kayakers checking out Grand IslandKayakers checking out Grand Island. PC: Munising Visitors Bureau

Take a 5-minute ferry ride from Munising to historic Grand Island! It’s the perfect place to spend a day or even a few hours hiking, biking, fishing, and exploring. The island provides a combination of rugged dirt trails and gravel roads that will accommodate any level of adventurer.

When the waters are too rough to paddle Pictured Rocks, Pictured Rocks Kayaking offers a Grand Island trip as that area also oozes with natural beauty and towering cliffs.


Hundreds of Miles of Trails

Hiking the Pictured RocksHiking the Pictured Rocks. PC: Instragrammer @milesjhunt

Whether you’re looking for a short walk, a day-long excursion, or a backpacking experience, Pictured Rocks has some of the best trails in the world.

How to Experience the Beauty of Pictured Rocks by Trail



Nearby Hiawatha National Forest also has a slew of hiking and biking options for adventure seekers.


Cruising the Cliffs

Cruising by the cliffs on a Pictured Rocks Cruises tourCruising by the cliffs on a Pictured Rocks Cruises tour. PC: Tim Trombley

Delighting passengers along the gorgeous shoreline as the oldest tour company in Munising, Pictured Rocks Cruises operates every day from early May to mid-October. View the brilliantly colored cliffs, sea caves, waterfalls and see famous landmarks like Lovers Leap, Miners Castle, Chapel Rock, and Grand Island’s East Channel Lighthouse aboard one of their 2 to 2 1/2-hour-long tours.

Everything You Need to Know About Pictured Rocks Cruises


How Do I Get There?

The Munising Range LightThe Munising Range Light. PC: Munising Visitors Bureau

Fly into Sawyer International Airport, which is conveniently located in the central U.P. and a 45-minute drive to Munising, where your Pictured Rocks adventure awaits!


What Are You Waiting For? Visit the Gem of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Getting in tandem kayaks on the Pictured Rocks Express with Pictured Rocks KayakingGetting in tandem kayaks on the Pictured Rocks Express with Pictured Rocks Kayaking

This summer, it’s your turn to be captivated by the enchanting beauty of Pictured Rocks, a national gem that holds a world of wonders within its embrace. Pictured Rocks Kayaking, the premier outfitter with the unique advantage of off-shore launch, offers you the chance to explore this pristine landscape in an extraordinary way. Traverse crystal-clear waters, marvel at the vibrant rock formations, and bask in the tranquility of secluded beaches.

Take the leap and secure your spot with Pictured Rocks Kayaking for an unforgettable expedition into the heart of this natural masterpiece!

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