All You Need to Know to Kayak Pictured Rocks

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is one of the most popular national parks for kayaking in the United States. Most of the rock formations, waterfalls, and sandstone cliffs are best seen from the water. If you’re a fan of outdoor sports and want to experience nature up close then a kayaking trip might be the best choice for you.

Should you see Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore by kayak?

While you cannot rent a kayak at Pictured Rocks there are plenty of tour packages to choose from. If you have your own kayak you can explore Lake Superior without a tour, however, make sure you have the appropriate gear and experience. The weather in this area can change quickly and can make kayaking dangerous.

All You Need to Know About Kayaking at Pictured Rocks

When can you kayak at Pictured Rocks?

Guided kayak tours at Pictured Rocks National lakeshore usually run from May 15th to late September. During this time the weather tends to be warm with favorable conditions for kayaking. Even still the weather at Lake Superior can be unpredictable with sudden unexpected changes.

Only go kayaking by yourself if you are highly experienced. Beginners should book a guided tour to ensure their own safety. Always check the weather report before you go out on Lake Superior and bring appropriate gear.

In general, it tends to be colder in May and early June so if you’re planning a kayaking tour during this time make sure to dress warm. It usually gets windier in August and September which means tours are frequently cancelled due to the weather. Tour companies claim that the best time of the year for kayaking is from June 15th to August 20th when you’ll be most likely to have good weather.

You can still participate in a guided kayaking tour even when it rains as long as there is no thunderstorm. Wind and high waves are far more dangerous to kayakers.

Kayaking outside of the main season (May to September) is usually not recommended. Always check the website of the National Weather Service before planning a kayaking excursion.

What’s the best time of day to kayak Pictured Rocks?

Kayak tours are available at different times of the day usually starting at around 9:00 am until 3:00 pm. The mornings tend to be quieter with fewer boats and other kayakers on the water. It is also usually a bit colder at this time of day so keep that in mind when selecting a kayaking tour to see Pictured Rocks.

The afternoon is very popular for tours as the sun stands at an angle that highlights the cliffs and makes them especially beautiful. This is the better tour option if you plan to take lots of pictures. That being said, the afternoons usually have more flies which can be annoying. There will also be more boats on Lake Superior which can make the experience less relaxing.

Can you rent a kayak at Pictured Rocks?

In the past, some tour companies offered kayak rentals without a guided tour. However, due to the dangers of Lake Superior and the many instances of kayakers having to be rescued by either boat or helicopter, this is no longer possible. As mentioned before Lake Superior can be incredibly dangerous even when the weather is seemingly calm.

You can still rent kayaks at Grand Island although you need to stay within a certain area and never more than 100 feet from the shore.

If you want to see Pictured Rocks by kayak you either need to bring your own kayak or join a guided tour.

<<This part was a bit tricky to research, the majority of the sources I could find state that kayak rental is no longer possible but I did find some other pages that indicated otherwise. The NPS website claims it is not possible so that’s what I decided to follow>>

kayak Pictured Rocks

Kayak tours you can join at Pictured Rocks

There is a good selection of kayaking tour companies at Pictured Rocks. Some of the most popular are Paddling Michigan, Paddle Pictured Rocks, or Pictured Rocks Kayak. All of them offer similar services so it is up to your personal preference which one you choose. Tours usually range from 2-8 hours and start at around 110$ per person.

Some companies like Paddle Pictured Rocks offer tours where kayakers are accompanied by a boat which can be a great option for beginners who are unsure whether they are up for the challenge. All of the tour options provide professional kayaks and gear as well as trained guides. You will receive a short training session before you start your tour. In most cases, you will be seeing Pictured Rocks in a tandem kayak with a partner. If you are traveling alone you will be assigned one.

Kayak tours depart from Munising or Miners Beach and take you along the coast of Lake Superior to see the most beautiful parts of Pictured Rocks.

Do I need a guide to Kayak at Pictured Rocks?

If you are an experienced kayaker you can bring your own kayak and explore Lake Superior that way. Always make sure you have the appropriate gear like a wetsuit, weather radio, and personal floatation device. Check the National Park Service Website for more details. Only take a sea kayak out on Lake Superior. Do not attempt to see Pictured Rocks in a recreational kayak or canoe.

If you do not have your own kayak or if you are not experienced in kayaking it is highly recommended to join a guided kayak tour to see Pictured Rocks. The professional guides will be able to tell you interesting things about the area and help you truly appreciate its beauty. With the help of a guide, you can explore Lake Superior safely and discover hidden spots that you wouldn’t find by yourself.

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The Ultimate Guide to Camping at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Camping is a great way to see Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. You can camp right in the park which means you’ll be close to all the attractions like waterfalls, rock formations, and the lake.

Should you camp when you visit Pictured Rocks?

Being close to nature lets you experience Pictured Rocks in a completely different way and will make you fall in love with the area. But there are a few things you should know before you go. We created this ultimate guide to camping at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore to help you plan your trip.

Decide whether you’ll be choosing to camp at one of the many RV parks near Pictured Rocks or if you should give backcountry camping a try. Or should you camp right in the park? This post will help you answer all these questions.

The Ultimate Guide to Camping at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore article cover image

The Ultimate Guide to Camping at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Important things you should know when camping at Pictured Rocks

As of 2019, all campsites within Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore require pre-booking. During the summer months, spaces sell fast so make sure you plan ahead and reserve your spot as soon as possible. Click here to book your stay. In October the water in the Park is usually shut off so remember to bring your own. Click here to find out more about visiting Pictured Rocks in fall.

You can still find yourself camping at Pictured Rocks during winter. Some campsites remain open year-round. Do not attempt this if you do not have the appropriate gear and experience. Find out more about visiting Pictured Rocks in winter here.

Most campsites at Pictured Rocks do not have cellphone reception. There is drinking water available during the peak season as well as toilets. Pets are allowed on campsites but must be kept on a leash.

Bears can be a dangerous threat in this area so always lock away any food items and make sure to dispose of trash in designated trash cans. There is no electricity, showers or hot water at campsites. Prices per night vary from $15 to $20 according to the season.

Permits are required for backcountry camping at Pictured Rocks.. Find out more information here.

Campgrounds at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Chapel Beach Campground

Chapel Beach Campground sits very close to Chapel Beach and the lakeshore. This is a backcountry campsite so make sure to obtain a permit before you go. Individual sites are spread out so there is lots of privacy. There is a pit toilet available.

Hurricane River Campground

The Hurricane River Campground lies just 12 miles west of Grand Marais. It is accessible by car although parking space is limited. There are eleven campsites available including some that are wheelchair accessible. The historic Au Sable Lightstation is only a short walk from the campsite.

Coves Campground

Coves Campground is another great backcountry campsite at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. There are five sites scattered throughout the forest. A pit toilet and water supply from Lake Superior are available as well as two fire rings. The beach is not far away.

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Twelve mile Beach Campground

Twelve Mile Beach Campground is a very popular camp spot at Pictured Rocks. With 36 sites this is a larger campsite with direct beach access. The beautiful Twelve Mile beach is only a few steps away, a few sites even have a lake view. This is a drive-in campsite with parking available.

Little Beaver Lake

This is a small campsite with only 8 spaces, one of which is wheelchair-accessible. The access road is very narrow so larger vehicles are prohibited. There is even a small boat ramp to help you access Little Beaver Lake and Beaver Lake.

The Ultimate Guide to Camping at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore article image about what you should know

Backcountry Camping in and around Pictured Rocks

The majority of campsites at Pictured Rocks are backcountry which means they are only accessible on foot or via the lake. You need a permit to camp at backcountry campsites. There are usually no pets or motorized vehicles allowed.

Many backcountry campsites do not have toilet facilities although some have pit toilets. The majority of sites have a water supply from a nearby lake or stream although there are some that do not. Cell service is very unreliable in these areas so be prepared to be cut off for a while.

Backcountry campsites operate under the leave-no-trace-principle so campers need to take everything including trash and waste with them when they leave.

Camping near Pictured Rocks

A great place to camp near Pictured Rocks is Paddlers Village. This little campsite is located a short drive from the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and offers tent or cabin rentals. It sits right on the lake so its location is a great place to stay when you want to explore the area.

Another great option is Catchin’ Crickets Campground which lies just outside of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. They offer both vacation rentals as well as camping options with water and bathroom facilities. 

RV Parks Near Pictured Rocks

If you’re coming by RV you need to make sure you’re camping at one of the designated RV parks near Pictured Rocks. There are no campsites for RVs available within Pictured Rocks although there are some great options close by. We listed some of our favorites below.

Pictured Rocks RV Park

The Pictured Rocks RV Park is a great option for campers wanting to be close to town and the lake at the same time. This campsite offers electricity hookups, sewer systems and a water supply.

Munising Tourist Park Campground

The Munising Tourist Park Campground is not too far from the Pictured Rocks RV Park. It’s a large campsite located directly on the shore of Lake Superior. There is electricity, water, free wifi as well as sewage disposal available. Pets are permitted but need to be on a leash at all times.

Woodland Park

Woodland Park Campsite is located close to Grand Marais and is a great choice if you’re planning to see Pictured Rocks. Its location is very central and within walking distance from the marina, beaches, and great swimming spots.

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