Backpack Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Munising Parking Area

Amazing scenery, unbeatable backcountry camping, Multiple cliff jumping opportunities, The clearest water around. Duration: 3-5 days

The time of the year is one of the most important factors of this trip. DO NOT under any circumstances plan this trip for a time during mid June - mid August. The black flies at this time of the year are more than a nuisance. They are seemingly resistant to even 100% DEET, and can bite through clothing. They WILL ruin your mood during the trip. There are also plenty of mosquitos at this time, but they seem like nothing compared to the flies. The best time to go is early summer or any time from late August - late October.

Lake Superior will generally be the warmest (about 60°F) around Labor Day weekend.

In order to backpack the entire 43 mile section of the North Country Trail that runs through the whole Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, most people choose to leave their car in Munising, take the $20 shuttle over to Grand Marais and hike back to their car in 3-5 days.

Permits are required for backcountry camping, and can be obtained at the Visitor Center right in Munising. The cost is $5 per person, per night.

A backcountry map can be found at:

We were picked up from the Munising Falls parking lot on a Saturday Morning, dropped off in Grand Marais about an hour later, then began our trip. We planned to complete the adventure in 3 days and two nights. Night 1 was spent at Sevenmile Campground, night 2 was at Chapel Beach, and we finished up the last 17 miles back to Munising Falls on day 3.

On the first day, we chose to leave the trail around Grand Sable Lake, where we hiked north towards Lake Superior, climbed down the huge dunes and walked along the beach until we headed back up the dunes to meet up with the trail around Au Sable Light Station.

The prettiest part of the whole trail will be the 9 mile section from Coves to Mosquito. There are plenty of overlooks off of the trail to stop and enjoy the fantastic scenery.

The first opportunity to cliff jump will be at Coves, where a rock outcropping to the west side of the Coves inlet will allow you about a 10 foot drop into the water. There is a similar opportunity on the rocks to the far west of Miner's beach.

The cliff jumping for the more adventurous type will be found at Chapel Beach. Hike up to the first cliff that juts out into the lake right next to the beach. Walk out to the very tip of this limestone outcropping, and the best spot to jump is right at the tip next to the tree that has grown out over the edge. This is a 65-70ft drop, so do this at your own risk. The water is plenty deep enough for you to not even come close to the bottom. The tour boats full of people passing by will cheer wildly for those brave enough to make the jump, and if you get lucky (like I did) there will be nice people in a pontoon down below willing to pick you up, give you a beer, and drop you back off at the beach if you jump.

Pack List

  • GOOD SHOES - some sort of hiking or trail shoe will be a necessity. Good wool hiking socks are also well worth the $15-$20 investment.
  • A solid backpack, purposely made for backpacking trips (no day packs, these will probably be too small.)
  • Sleeping bag
  • Hammock/Tent
  • Clothes appropriate for time of year (don't overpack, you will change outfits less than you anticipate).
  • Proper sun protection
  • Towel
  • Food and snacks to last you the whole trip. Use pouch meats like tuna and chicken instead of buying cans, this saves space and weight. Instant rice, oatmeal, and pasta are also good choices.
  • Some sort of water vessel, like a big Nalgene bottle or a Camelbak bladder
  • Mini water filter - there will be plenty of access to fresh water, but this will need to be filtered before it is safe for drinking
  • Camp stove and utensils - a good titanium spork will serve you well while eating your hot meals cooked over your portable camp stove
  • A portable Bluetooth speaker. With your phone on airplane mode, playing some music will keep morale high during your many hours of hiking each day.
Show More
RT Distance 43 Miles
Elevation Gain 500 Feet
Activities Camping, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Spring, Autumn
Trail Type Loop
Cliff Jumping


Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

Amazing place

I went here last summer with my Boy Scout troop and we hiked from Au Sable to Munising in a week. Overall the we hiked about 54 miles and saw lots of amazing sights. A must see spot is the Au Sable dunes where we spent one night. Another is 12 mile beach, just watch out for the black flies and you will have a great experience. The cliffs that overlook Lake Superior are closer on the Munising side.

Hard To Beat

We backpacked around 30 miles of this beautiful park and it was incredible. Camp grounds were good, people were friendly, the back country permit wasn't very expensive. All around it was phenomenal and if you have the opportunity definitely check it out.

No Problems With Bugs

Hiked this mid-July 2015, bugs were minimal, scenery was phenomenal.

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