Legendary RV Destinations: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

 Legendary RV Destinations: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Whether seeking to escape the heat, check out amazing fall colors, or take a unique winter adventure, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has plenty to offer — especially Munising and the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the UP.

Something just happens when you drive across the five miles of the Mackinac Bridge and find yourself in the Upper Peninsula (UP), where big towns simply aren’t, and the scenery is jaw-dropping gorgeous with lots of forests, lakes and streams. Of course, there’s also the Big Lake, Superior, which some say is the coldest, deepest freshwater lake in the world.

Along a 50-mile stretch of Superior shoreline stretching from Munising on the west to Grand Marais on the east is the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, with wilderness views, waterfalls, and undeveloped beaches that are perfect RV destinations.

As an added bonus, it’s only about 90 minutes from Tahquamenon Falls State Park.

Take a look at this video I did of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore all the way back in 2012 when Jennifer and I first started our RVing adventures. This isn’t even on our YouTube channel! This video will give you a good look at what to expect up near Munising.

If you do plan to head to the area, be sure to check out ultimate RVing guide – our 7-Day Adventure Guide to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Munising and Pictured Rocks: What to Do

While you’re in Munising, be sure to eat a pasty from Muldoons, a fun little shop just west of downtown easily recognizable by the statue of Bigfoot out front.

Pasties are a U.P. tradition, a sort of meat and vegetable pie (beef or chicken), originally made as the preferred lunch of the immigrants who worked in the U.P.’s once-thriving iron and copper mines.

The Yoopers are divided about whether anything other than ketchup should be applied to them, though the “trolls,” the people who live “below the (Mackinac) bridge” seem to prefer thick gravy. Muldoons will “fix ‘em how you like ‘em” with no judging.

If you head to Muldoons you might wonder, what’s with the Bigfoot statue there? As well as the Bigfoot infatuation you’ll see throughout Munising? Well, it’s a long story and part if a video I did last year on UP Mysteries, Myths, and Monsters.

Click this link to watch our  video on Myths, Monsters and Mysteries in the Upper Peninsula

Head to Munising Falls and the Munising Falls Visitor Center. There are TONS of waterfalls in this area, especially near Munising. The Munising Falls are located within the city limits of Munising, a short paved trail leads you up the cool sandstone canyon along Munising Creek to two viewing platforms at the base of the falls. If you want to chase more waterfalls during your visit go to this link to find the major waterfalls in and around the national lakeshore: https://www.nps.gov/piro/planyourvisit/waterfalls.htm

The Visitors Center has exhibits on early iron smelting, geology, forest history, rare and endangered species, and logging which portray the diversity of our nation's first national lakeshore. (While the COVID-19 pandemic continues, please be sure to check if all such attractions have altered schedules.)

Munising and Pictured Rocks: Boat Tours

Take a glass-bottom boat tour and visit the amazing Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore by boat. All along the Pictured Rocks area are towering sandstone formations, you can explore the caves and rock formations up close from the water.

But why the glass-bottom, you might ask? Well this area is known for the large number of shipwrecks that have occurred  over the years. And in the crystal clear waters of Lake Superior you can see down up to 50 feet into these wrecks!

Here are your options for boat tours, they usually operate from Memorial Day weekend to mid-October.

Glass Bottom Shipwreck Tour: Two-hour tours are given out of Munising. Phone: 906-387-4477

Pictured Rocks Boat Cruises: Two and a half to three-hour cruises along the national lakeshore out of Munising. Phone: 906-387-2379

Munising Pirate Cruises: The pirate ship Good Fortune offers one-hour family cruises, with pirate training for kids, and a one and a half hour sunset cruises for adults. Phone: 920-940-8301

If kayaking is more your style than a boat tour, these two companies offer guided kayak tours of Pictured Rocks.

Northern Waters Adventures: Full day and morning/evening half day tours. Phone: 906-387-2323

Pictured Rocks Kayaking: Five hour morning and afternoon tours. Phone: 906-387-5500

Munising and Pictured Rocks: Hiking and the Falls

Inside the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore – trails, steps, and access roads abound leading to beaches and three National Park campgrounds (which we’ll talk about below).

There are many scenic places within the national lakeshore that have hiking trails including Sand Point and the Sand Point Marsh Trail, the Miners Falls and Miners Castle, the White Birch Forest and White Birth Nature Trail, and Chapel Rock and Chapel Beach.

The majority of these are accessible from the National Park campgrounds within the lakeshore.

Visit these links to see more information on all of these trails: https://www.nps.gov/piro/planyourvisit/scenicsites.htm https://www.nps.gov/piro/planyourvisit/ naturetrails.htm#CP_JUMP_3031280

This post also gives good directions to some of these trails: https://mynorth.com/2018/07/best-things-to-do-at-pictured- rocks-national-lakeshore/

An image of just one of many falls near Munising.
Falls can be found aplenty in and around Munising. (Thanks to Good Free Photos for sharing their work on Unsplash)

Munising and Pictured Rocks: Where to Camp

Munising Tourist Park Campground

Season: Open no later than May 23 and closed no sooner than October 28. Call for exact opening and closing dates which may vary depending on the weather.
Rates: $25 – $41 per site
Website: https://munisingtouristpark.com/
Address: E8518 W M-28 West, Munising, Michigan 49862
Phone: (906) 387-3145
Email: manager@munisingtouristpark.com

We’ve stayed at the Munising Tourist Park Campground on Superior several times. It’s a great location and you can’t beat staying right on the beach.

Bay Furnace Campground
Season: May 15th – October 7th
Rates: $20/night
Website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/hiawatha/ recarea/?recid=13284
Address: Bay Furnace Rd, Munising, MI 49862
Phone: (906)-387-1804
Booking: https://www.recreation.gov/camping/ campgrounds/233173

The Bay Furnace Campground is located in the Hiawatha National Forest on the south shores of Lake Superior.

Pictured Rocks RV Park
Season: May 1st – October 6th
Rates: $40/night
Website: https://www.picturedrocksrvpark.com/
Address: E7781 M-28, Munising, MI 49862
Phone: (906) 387-4700

The Pictured Rocks RV Park is located right next to the Bay Furnace Campground.

Munising/Pictured Rocks KOA
Season: May 19th – October 22nd
Rates: $45-60/night depending on hookup needs
Website: https://koa.com/campgrounds/pictured-rocks/
Address: E10102 State Hwy M28, Wetmore, MI 49895
Phone: Reserve: (800)-562-9503 Info: (906)-387-3315
Email: munising@koa.com

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Season: Open year-round. Fee only collected May 15th – October 31st.
Rates: $14/night
Website: https://www.nps.gov/piro/planyourvisit/ camping.htm

If you’re having trouble booking a campground local to Munising, this link has several good options to other nearby campgrounds: https://www.nps.gov/piro/planyourvisit/ nearby-camping.htm

Finally, the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore offers a multitude of campgrounds here.

Currently, for all of these camping is on a first-come, first-served basis (no reservations) so you have to get there early and be lucky to scoop up a spot.

They are rustic and do not have electric, water, or sewer hookups so if you’re coming here, you’re boondocking.

The National Park campgrounds are at Little Beaver Lake, Twelve Mile Beach (our favorite of the three), and Hurricane River.

Holders of the America The Beautiful Senior Pass (62 and older) or the America The Beautiful Access Pass (disabled) should receive a 50% discount as the lakeshore is part of the National Park Service

An image with quick tips to remember while visiting the Munising area.

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Check out our 7 Day Adventure Guide to the Upper Peninsula!

We’ve been visiting Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for more than three decades. We’ve hiked, photographed, camped, fished and explored every region and have picked up lots of experience that will save you time and help you maximize your 7-Day UP Adventure.

We provide a suggested route and itinerary, links to multiple campgrounds and boondocking spots, and the best spots to see along the way from one end of the UP to the other.

You can hit everything in seven days, do a whirlwind weekend tour, or you can take your time and explore the area over a 2+ week period.

All you need to do is point the RV north and follow our guide to experience the UP like a Yooper.

Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at RVLifestyle.com. He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.

4 Comments

  • The “ankle biters” are stable flies that breed in the organic matter that washes up on shore, and can be there off and on all year. They are the worst, and DEET and other repellants have not worked for me (one time backpacking I had my legs running with deet, to no avail. We RAN back to the car with our packs and went inland…..).
    “Black flies” are often thought by people to be “gnats”. They dribble saliva on your skin to numb it, and then use jaw/ mandibles to “saw” like an electric knife to get to a capillary, and then lap up the blood. That is why so often there is a telltale blood droplet. People new to the north would bring their babies in to the ER (my old profession) with their faces covered with welts, not knowing that the ‘gnats” were dining on their children. Some people don’t react, but others, like me, get big, long lasting welts. They are an early summer phenomenon, but somehow occasionally seem to show up at other times.

  • M&J,
    Great minds think alike! We’re making plans and heading to the UP soon as well. Already bought your digital RV guide, so that will give us some background. Our focus this trip is Pictured Rocks and all points west. Stay safe, and see you on the road! Jen & Reb

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  • Thanks for your great reporting. We love the UP and have been campground hosts twice at 12 Mile Beach at PRNL. The park has gone to reservations only camping from mid May to Sept, I believe. My dates may be off but no reservation, no stay. They are strict about it- even when people no show and there are empty sites.
    For kayaking there is aldo Uncle Ducky’s and they do a very nice safe guided tour. Our favorite place for fresh whitefish in all of the UP is The Fish Basket in Munising. It’s a good trailer down an alley in town. Sam, the owner and cook prepared caught that day whitefish and lake trout with homemade fries and coleslaw. You and Jennifer should try it next time. He opens around 12 and closes when he runs out of fish. He does not have a reliable schedule but it’s worth waiting for. Hope this info helps. Happy Trails.

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