Pictured Rocks

The Upper Peninsula’s Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore showcases a stunning stretch of coastline along the forested southern shore of Lake Superior, a natural marvel of sculpted sandstone cliffs, rocky coves, and 200-foot high hanks of sand. One road traverses the 40-mile-long park, leading to trail-heads, waterfalls, Lake Superior overlooks, lighthouses, and other historic sites. Get your first view at Miners Castle overlook, where eons of wind and waves have transformed the cliffs into turrets and arches like dissolving sandcastles. Near the park’s east end, the Log Slide Overlook is where loggers once jettisoned fresh-cut lumber 300 feet down into the lake. Today, you can enjoy the panorama, with the immense Grand Sable banks and dunes to the east and the 1874 Au Sable lighthouse 3 miles west.

Lace up your hiking boots and explore some of the park’s 90 miles of trails. At Chapel Basin, footpaths loop past 60-foot Chapel Falls, then skim along the edge of precipitous sandstone cliffs several stories above Lake Michigan, like beaches in the sky.

To experience the park’s most impressive panoramas, though, you need to get out on the water. The pretty little waterfront town of Munising, located on the park’s west end, is the source for park information and a variety of boat excursions. Oldest and most popular is Pictured Rocks Cruises; its three-hour sightseeing trips sidle right up to the sculpted sandstone formations. Go in the late afternoon, when the sinking sun casts the multicolored cliffs in their most dramatic light.

Even more intimate is a sea kayak excursion. Paddling up to the rust-colored cliff face looming several stories above is like rafting up alongside an ore carrier.