Pictured Rocks to Tahquamenon Falls backpack hike

Why go there? This hike offers some of the finest scenic landmarks to be found along the entire North Country Trail, including Miner’s Castle, Twelvemile Beach, Au Sable Lighthouse, and the Upper Falls at Tahquamenon Falls State Park.

Hike highlights:

  • Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
  • Munising Falls
  • Upper and Lower Falls of Tahquamemon Falls State Park

Flora / fauna of the area: Lying in a transition zone between boreal and eastern hardwood forest, the Lakeshore’s scientifically recognized collection of flora and fauna is found nowhere else with the Lake Superior Basin.  Plant life within and adjacent to the Lakeshore is varied. Upland forests of beech, hemlock, and maple are found on well drained sandy soils. Wetland soils that have developed since the retreat of the most recent glacial recession give rise to spruce, tamarack, alder, and white cedar communities. Streams and lakes are ringed with alder and striped maple. The Grand Sable Dunes are a rare collection of habitats with jack pine pockets, willow, the federally threatened Pitcher’s thistle (Cirsium pitcheri), Lake Huron tansy (Tanacetum huronense), and several species of grape ferns, including four state threatened species of Botrychium.  Animal life in this varied habitat of wetland, sand dune, cliff, and northern hardwood forests includes white-tailed deer, black bear, wolves, and an occasional moose. Smaller animals include a variety of migratory and nesting perching birds as well as bald eagle, osprey, raven, and barred owl and broad-winged hawks. Fisher, mink, marten, beaver, skunk, red squirrel, and numerous species of small mammals such as shrews and mice inhabit various Lakeshore habitats.

Geology of the area: Unmatched in their scenic value, the 200-foot high sedimentary rock cliffs rise perpendicular from Lake Superior creating a mosaic of rock form, color and texture, enhanced by cascading waterfalls.  Five square miles of pristine sand dunes and their unique plant communities, perched atop 300-foot sand banks, rise abruptly at the shore of Lake Superior.  Twelve miles of unspoiled and undeveloped Lake Superior beach contrast the Pictured Rocks cliffs and Grand Sable Dunes. Bedrock geology and glacial landforms create a tapestry of topography marked by streams, inland lakes and a diversity of associated vegetation.

Land ownership: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Muskallonge Lake State Park, Lake Superior State Forest, and Tahquamenon State Park

Directions to and GPS Coordinates for trailheads:

  • Munising, MI Interagency Visitors Center trailhead: The Interagency Visitors Center is located at the corner of Munising Ave. (M-28) and Cedar St.  GPS Coordinates:  N  46°24’32.28″ & W 86°38’57.59″
  • Tahquamenon Falls State Park’s Lower Falls trailhead: The Lower Falls trailhead is located off of M-123 about 21 miles east of Newberry, MI.  GPS Coordinates N 46°36′12″ & W 85°12′25″

General route description: From the Visitors Center, follow the NCT out of town and past Munising Falls and into Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  Here, the NCT follows the aptly named Lakeshore Trail past Sand Point, Miner’s Castle, Mosquito and Chapel Beaches, Spray falls, Twelvemile Beach, and the Au Sable Light Station.  Past the lighthourse, the trail swings inland passing above the Grand Sable Dunes, along Grand Sable Lake, and past Sable Falls before reaching the community of Grand Marais.  From here, the NCT follows connector route along H-58 before entering the Lake Superior State Forest and passing through Muskallonge State Park and finally Tahquamenon State Park, home of the one of the largest waterfalls in the eastern U.S.

Trail maps & guide: Map MI-09, Map MI-10, NPS’ Pictured Rocks park map, and Olive Anderson’s Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, A Guide

Camping information: Camping and lodging is available in Munising and Grand Marais.  Backcountry tent camping is also available on the NCT and at designated campgrounds within the State Parks, State Forest, and within Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore where special regulations apply.  Camping rules and regulations may be found online.

For more info:

{ 1 comment }

glor tiglas April 6, 2014 at 9:08 am

What is the mileage on the trail Pictured Rocks to Tahquamenon Falls backpacking? Days to hike it? Is there water on this part of the trail?