I’ve seen photos of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore before and I can honestly say, none of them will likely ever do this place total justice. The colors and shades change depending on the time of day, the direction of the sun, and the reflections from the water itself. I’m glad that people keep trying though, because we can all live vicariously through each other. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan holds a magic that is all its own, but this place feels like another world entirely.

And the only way to fully experience it is to get out on the water. You can see some of it from land, and there is plenty to explore within the park itself, but the views from the water are awe-inspiring.

This is a view from the top of a lookout point.

Looking down from a high viewpoint to the waters of Lake Superior below. Part of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore shoreline runs along the right side of the water, with beach at the bottom and trees all over the hill.
A great way to see the colors of the water better.

And this is the same place from the water.

A view of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore from the perspective of a boat out on the water.
If you look really closely, you can see that observation deck just to the right of center.

You can take a kayak, or rent a boat, but I think the best way to see everything is by taking a tour with Pictured Rocks Cruises – 100 City Park Dr, Munising, MI.

You don’t have to paddle, and you don’t have to drive yourself, so you can spend the whole time oohing and aahing over the colorful lakeshore.  And taking a million and one pictures and videos like we did. Ha!

(If you want to see three of the videos I took, hop over to my YouTube.)

One of the rock formations at the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Blue sky is at the top of the picture, green trees with the sun peeking through line the top of the rock. Then below the rock, Lake Superior.
A section of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan. Blue sky, then green trees, the gorgeous rock formation with black and white colors dripping down the side of it like paint dripping off of a canvas, and Lake Superior at the bottom.
A rock formation that juts out from the land at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan, with Lake Superior around the other three sides.
Spray Falls at the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. A waterfall that runs over the rock wall that makes up the lakeshore. Blue sky and a thick layer of trees are at the top of the picture, and Lake Superior lines the bottom of the picture.
Spray Falls
A rock formation at the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The picture is layered like this: blue sky at the top, a thick layer of all different types of trees is next, then the rock wall, and Lake Superior lining the bottom.
A rock formation at the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore that creates a cave. Blue sky and trees are at the top of the picture. The rock wall and cave are across the middle, with black and white "painted" rocks. Lake Superior lines the bottom, with a few kayakers in brightly colored kayaks floating in the water.

To give you an idea of how big the rocks are, those tiny little colored dots just to the left of the arch are kayakers.

The famous arched rocked formation at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Blue sky and a few trees line the top of the picture, and Lake Superior lines the bottom.

And here’s a boat that’s about 15-20 feet in length.

A boat going by the rock wall that is Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The boat is in Lake Superior, and there is blue sky with a few clouds at the top of the picture.

My favorite part of the lakeshore was Chapel Rock.

Chapel Rock at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. A famous rock formation that juts out from the trees and rock wall. On the rock, there is a tree growing, with its roots stretching back towards the land across the way. Lake Superior lines the bottom of the picture.

There’s a tree growing on top of the rock. To get the nutrients it needs to survive and grow, the tree’s roots are stretching back over to the land behind it.

A close up of Chapel Rock at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. A tree grows on the rock formation that juts out from the rest. The trees roots reach back towards the land because there's no dirt on the rock to support it.
Nature never ceases to amaze me in its resilience.

Taking a tour like this is also really the only way to see the Grand Island East Channel Lighthouse.

The Grand Island East Channel Lighthouse in Michigan. Blue sky and a few clouds line the top of the picture. A small dark colored wooden lighthouse sits among all different types of trees in the center. Along the bottom of the picture is Lake Superior.

The colors at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore are created by different elements mixing with the ground water runoff.

“As groundwater seeps out of cracks in the rock, several elements and minerals are transported within the groundwater and are deposited as colorful stains.” It’s the same thing that happens when people have too much iron in their tap water and they get a rusty colored stain in their sink. But much prettier. =)

“Red and orange stains are caused by iron, blue and green by copper, brown and black by manganese, and white by limonite.” (from usgs .gov)

It was interesting to see places where the top layer of the hill had slipped off into the water below. You can see the color that the rocks start out, before the elements seep through and “paint” them.

A view of the rock wall at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Blue sky above and Lake Superior all around.

The left side of Miner’s Castle collapsed in April 2006. Captain Zach said that slides like this aren’t uncommon in the spring, when the ground is going through the freeze/thaw cycle. (It generally freezes at night, or on a colder day, and then thaws during the day when the sun is hitting it. Then repeats throughout the springtime.)

A view of a rock formation at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, from the perspective of someone on a boat in Lake Superior.
The collapse happened where the “V” is at the top of the rocks. You can also see a good before and after picture on the USGS website.

A tip if you do go on a Pictured Rocks Cruise with this company: We sat on the bottom deck of the boat, on the left side, at the window.

We were shaded from the sun, weren’t crowded in like people were on the upper decks, and we still got to see everything perfectly. You can choose the right or left side (depending on the time of the day the sun hits the shore a little differently), but both sides see everything. On our tour the right side saw everything first, then we turned around at Spray Falls and the left side of the boat saw everything. The captain even got a little closer on the way back. So if you need to sit on the bottom deck, or if you choose to like we did (to avoid getting sunburned)…no worries, you’re still going to have an amazing view.

Because we were inside, it was also easier to hear the captain telling us facts and stories along the way. He gave us a ton of information about the Pictured Rocks, but also about Lake Superior and the surrounding area as well.

Here are a few fun facts that we learned about Lake Superior:

1. It is the world’s largest freshwater lake by area.

2. It’s as big as the entire state of Maine.

3. It’s 1333 feet at its deepest point.

4. It’s generally extremely clear…so much so that you can see 40-50 feet below you.

5. In the storm season in October-November, the waves can reach up to 25-30 feet high. On a lake.

6. If you poured all of the other Great Lakes into one, you would still need three more Lake Eries to match the volume of Lake Superior.  

To me, going to Lake Superior, versus the lakes that we have around where we live, is like going to Colorado from Roan Mountain. “The tallest peak in the Rockies is 7,749 feet taller than the highest peak in the Appalachian Mountains.” (newlifeacademyga .com) Roan Mountain is exceedingly beautiful and I adore our mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina, don’t get me wrong, but after seeing the mountains in Colorado, it’s a little harder to call them mountains. Similarly, after learning about Lake Superior, some of the lakes around here feel like puddles. Haha. 

Before and after visiting the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, we found two really great restaurants:

The first was Muldoons Pasties – 1246 M-28, Munising, MI.

A wooden sign that reads "Muldoons Pasties fresh daily Souvenirs and Maple Syrup". A sign just below it says "Shipwreck Tours", and one below that says "Homemade Fudge".

Muldoon’s is a locally owned restaurant that sells traditional pasties. According to their website, the pasty was originally created as a filling, but easy to transport meal to send with workers into the mines.

“In approximately 1864, Finnish immigrants, along with Cornish miners, came to find work in the “Copper Country” of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Pasties were the perfect, hardy meal for the miners. Their wives were able to use the potatoes and meat from leftovers, and envelope them in a crust which could be placed in the miners’ pockets in the morning, and they would still be warm at lunchtime. Pasties came to be known as a “one-handed meal.” The miners, with their dirty hands, could hold on with one hand and eat their way through the pasty, leaving only a small crust left over. To this day, pasties remain a staple food and tradition for many Upper Peninsula families.”

They have a couple of different kinds, and they are all homemade. The beef was my favorite. Be forewarned…they are larger than I realized…so you may want to get a few different kinds and plan to share them. Or, if you have the ability to take them home I think they would reheat perfectly. (This coming from someone who is not a huge fan of leftovers. =))

The second place was The Cooking Carberry’s Wood Fired Pizza – 209 Maple St, Munising, MI.

A picture of an outdoor space with a pergola type roof with a blue covering. People are sitting in that space. The sign reads "The Cooking Carberry's Wood Fired Pizza". From the perspective of someone standing across the street.

The pizza they make at Carberry’s is delicious and they have a lot of unique flavor combinations for you to try. We actually ended up getting three different pizzas and they were all so good! 

At this point I’d love to find another term for places like this, rather than calling it a hole in the wall, but for now, it fits. And it’s another hole in the wall that is worth seeking out.

If you visit the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, I’d love to see some of the photos you took while you were there. Find me on Instagram – @thenovelturtle