North Country Trail Association

Trail Town: Grand Marais

Grand Marais is a beautiful, quaint village located on the south shore of Lake Superior at the eastern end of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

An early Native American settlement and trading post led to commercial fishermen and small lumber operators settling Grand Marais in the late 1800’s. The white pine boom of the 1890’s saw the town’s population skyrocket to over 2000, and a host of shops, saloons, and other businesses lined the main streets. When the lumbermen pulled out in 1910, the town’s population dropped to about 200. The construction of a state road into town and the return of commercial fishing brought some people back to town in the 1930’s. Now the full-time population varies from around 300 in the winter to over 1500 during the summer months.

Over the years, Grand Marais has become a four-season destination for hikers, campers, fishermen, winter sports enthusiasts and those who are looking for an outdoor adventure in a peaceful setting. Grand Marais Bay is protected from the fury of Lake Superior by dual piers and a breakwall, and the sandy beach along the western bay is a popular place to enjoy the sun and water. Visitors enjoy the beauty of Sable Falls west of town and the local Lake Superior beaches, which are pristine and uncrowded whether one wishes to sit, walk or hunt for agates. Sunset Boardwalk, right on Lake Superior, offers unparalleled viewing of sunrises and sunsets throughout the year. Grand Marais has four museums, a local walking tour, two public gardens, and numerous gift shops. One of the unique landmarks of the town is the Pickle Barrel House Museum, a 16-foot-tall barrel that was once a summer home for a well-known illustrator, William Donahey. Those interested in the maritime history of the area can visit the Lightkeeper’s House, a restored residence of the former Grand Marais lightkeepers.

Woodland Park Campground, appropriately named with its canopy of trees, stretches for a half-mile along the lakeshore, providing an ideal spot for campers and hikers to rest. The town has several restaurants, a number of motels and other lodging accommodations, and a variety of businesses to serve the camping, vacationing and hiking community. Hikers coming into Grand Marais often comment on the friendliness of the people they meet.  “I’m pretty far away from my home, but I feel right at home here,” is how one hiker put it. The warm greetings from the residents round out the unique aspects of this community.

The Superior Shoreline Chapter is responsible for the North Country Trail through Grand Marais.



Additional Resources

Header photo by Kenny Wawsczyk