Munising’s rugged coastline draws you north, where outdoor enthusiasts find adventure
MUNISING, MI – When people start planning a trip to the Munising area, their minds often wander along the dramatic coastline and dramatic cliffs of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. With its forested expanse stretching 42 miles from Lake Superior’s shoreline—and offering 12 miles of beach—it’s no wonder many visitors put this spot at the top of their must-visit list. It is indeed the jewel in the crown of the region.
But for those who hike here and leave having only explored the park’s attractions, they’re missing out on a plethora of other wild and wonderful adventures.
“Pictured Rocks is our biggest attraction,” said Cori-Ann Cearley, president of the Munising Visitors Bureau. “But I like to think things here are so much more than Pictured Rocks.”
Like many UP spots, Munising has earned its reputation as an outdoor adventure destination with great hiking trails and stunning views of Lake Superior. But it’s also carved its own four-season niche in the Mitten’s hand by packing so many possibilities into one place. From the 17 local waterfalls to explore, to the extensive network of mountain bike trails, to the local restaurants now joined by a craft brewery scene, Munising is a buffet of options for outdoor enthusiasts.
We’ll guide you through some of the highlights so you can start planning your own adventure on the shores of Superior, Michigan’s largest “inland sea.”
Picture Rocks National Lakeshore
Let’s be honest, you could spend more than a week exploring the deep forests, sandy beaches and unique rock formations of this 70,000 acre gem without seeing all the rugged beauty it has to offer. And the options are staggering. This park can be the starting point for a multi-day backcountry camping trip or a day trip to the beach where the sand is colored pink by sparkles of garnets swirling in. So if you’re only going for a day or two, pick a handful of things you know you want to experience. Here are some favourites:
· See the real rocks pictured. These colorful cliffs, some of which rise up to 200 feet above Lake Superior, give the park its name. The hues actually come from groundwater minerals that seep through cracks in the sandstone and along the cliffs. There are several places to enjoy great views, but the best place to see them is from the water. You can bring your own kayak or rent one for solo or small group trips. You can also sit on Illustrated Rock Cruises for a boat trip that lets you marvel at the expanse of spectacular scenery the park is known for. Three-hour trips depart from Munising and include historical and fun facts about the area. There is also cruise options that include a sunset cruise and a trip to the scenic Spray Falls.
· Chapel Rock. This sentinel sandstone rock formation along Lake Superior is topped by a solitary white pine estimated to be 250 years old. This place is so iconic, he landed like the picture on the michigan neighborhood released by the US Treasury in 2018.
· Miners’ Castle. This is another place that people often recognize by sight because it is such a popular landmark. It’s also the only cliff in the park that you can reach by vehicle, so if hiking isn’t your thing – or you’re pressed for time – it’s a great place to take photos and marvel at the force of the water and the waves that created it.
For more details on Pictured Rocks, its attractions, trails, beaches and camping guidelines, visit the park website and our more in-depth coverage.
17 waterfalls to discover
There is no shortage of cascading waters and dramatic scenery when you arrive in Munising. For waterfall enthusiasts, there are 17 to explore in Algiers County. You can do a little research on this interactive guide with maps and choose your favorites. Some are located in Pictured Rocks, and others are closer to town. A few require a hike to get to and some just a few steps. Here are some suggestions:
· Wagner Falls: Short and sweet is the descriptor of this one, both geographically and visually. With a height of only 20 feet, this waterfall is easy to reach and fun to photograph. It is located a short drive south of Munising. Once you park it’s just an easy walk to the falls. It is also close to the Algiers Falls, in case you want to make an extra stop on your trip.
· Laughing Whitefish Falls: This waterfall is more of a destination drive. Located nearly 30 miles west of Munising, it is one of Michigan’s tallest falls, standing about 100 feet high. The area around it includes observation decks overlooking the falls, a picnic area, and about a mile of walking trails that allow you to stretch your legs. As with many UP falls, the water volume is highest here in the spring.
MTB: the secret is out
For those who find their best days are spent on two wheels with a rugged route twisting in front of them, Munising has worked hard to become a place mountain bike enthusiasts want to come and play – and stay. “We have some amazing mountain bike trails that have just been built over the last few years,” Cearley said. There are four distinct areas that cater to this crowd, and one even requires you to take a ferry to reach the island’s trails. Here is a quick overview, but check here for details.
· Munising Mountain Bike Park: This trail network near downtown includes three jumping trails, a wooden skill park, and a cross-country ski trail for those looking for more of a quick jaunt.
· Valley Spur Recreation Area: 12 miles of fast-paced singletrack. This one is more family friendly with fewer obstacles to worry about, especially for younger or more inexperienced riders. But for those with a thirst for speed, there are some nice berms and rollers.
· Bruno’s Race: Want an old-school single track? This 10 mile loop takes you past small lakes and deep into sections of ancient white pine for a get back to nature.
· Big Island: You and your bike will need to take a ferry to this one. This island located 800 m off Munising is part of the Hiawatha National Forest. It has an outdoor bike loop that will take you between two and four hours, depending on your pedaling speed and how many times you stop to gaze at the cliffs and quiet beaches you encounter along the way.
Wild Side Hike
When you visit Munising, don’t forget to pack your hiking books, or at least a good pair of sports shoes. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore has 100 miles of trails criss-crossing its vastness. They can accommodate your easy afternoon hike on a weekend or become the starting point for your multi-day adventure trip. “We’re in the Hiawatha National Forest,” Cearley said. “We are surrounded by forest land. In the fall, we’re just a blaze of color everywhere you look. Check here for more details on the hike.
Craft beer and local dishes
After a day of flying a single runway, hiking to a secluded beach, or simply admiring the natural beauty of the water’s edge cliffs, Munising’s local food scene will have a place ready for you. While there is lots of restaurants and bars to choose fromHere are some suggestions:
· East Channel Brewing Company: This pub has been open since 2016, long enough to bring together a strong mix of rotating microbrews, from IPAs to stouts. They have a patio for those who like the breeze with their beer and often host live music. Check out their Facebook page for updates.
· From George Brewing Company: This brewery is the new kid on the block, and its flavor profile leans towards creativity. Those who prefer a lighter beer can try their Maize-N-Grace, a “Yooper twist on a German Kolsch,” or get contemplative with their Belgian Trappist beer known as The Philosopher. Check out their Facebook page for news of their latest castings.
· Tracey at the Roam Inn: Located in one of the only boutique hotels in the area, at Tracey’s offers a chef-inspired menu, but feels like a casual dining spot. Expect a small menu filled with delicious dishes to try, from appetizers to a handful of starters.