Falling for Fall Foliage at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore extends for 42 miles along Lake Superior’s rugged coastline in Michigan. Daniel and I arrived just as the trees were beginning to change color. We were treated to a riot of brilliant reds, oranges and yellows lining the roadways as we drove to the park.

We planned to spend three days exploring dramatic cliffs, photographing scenic waterfalls and meandering along wooded trails. Well, mother nature had other plans for us. Since there was heavy rain forecast for most of our trip, we packed as much as we possibly could into our first day there.

Lucky for us, the weather held out on that day and we were treated to fabulous autumn weather as we drove all over the park.

Fall foliage on full display along the road to Miners Falls in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Welcome to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore!

Miners Castle

Pictured Rocks gets its name from the 15 miles of colorful sandstone cliffs along its shoreline. We’ve heard that the best way to see the cliffs is by boat. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of getting trapped on a boat with a bunch of other people during a pandemic. So, we conducted our tour by car.

We started our adventure at Miner’s Castle, which is the most popular cliff at Pictured Rocks. Miners Castle is an easy drive from the city of Munising along paved roads. Two scenic overlooks provide excellent views of the sandstone formation.

View of Miners Castle from the upper overlook
View of Miners Castle from the lower overlook
Selfie time! The area was a bit crowded so we kept our masks on.
Sandstone rock formation along the trail to the lower overlook
Hiking down to the lower overlook

Miners Castle Beach

Daniel and I didn’t stay long at Miners Castle due to the crowds. It was almost lunchtime so we headed to Miners Castle Beach which was just down the road. The beach has a nice picnic area and we planned to eat lunch there.

The beach was lovely and there were a lot fewer people there than were at Miners Castle. We hadn’t realized that the road wasn’t fully paved, however. After all the money we just spent on motorhome repairs, we have resolved to keep Appa on paved roads as much as possible. Luckily the unpaved portion only lasted about one mile and it was in fairly good condition.

Miners Castle Beach
Lake Superior! I’ve already put my feet in this Great Lake when we visited Duluth but I figured I may as well go for it again.
I got a little wetter than planned. Oops! Photo by Daniel.
Trail to Miners Beach from the parking area. There are nice picnic spots long this pathway in the trees.

Miners Falls Trail

We finished up our tour of the Miners Castle area with a quick visit to Miners Falls. The trail to the falls is a pleasant .6 mile jaunt through the woods. At the end of the trail, stairs lead to two different viewing platforms. It was pretty crowded during our visit however. I recommend going on a weekday to avoid the crowds.

Miners Falls
Miners Falls Trail
At the Trailhead

Superior Overlook

Daniel and I spent the majority of the day driving from one end of the park to the other along Highway 58. It’s about an hour’s drive and at this time of year the drive is incredible. This is where we saw the best fall foliage. I didn’t get any photos of this section of road as I was driving and there weren’t many places to safely pull over.

Eventually, we stopped at the Superior Overlook to stretch our legs. This overlook also provides beach access and is much more remote than Miners Beach.

Daniel contemplates life at the Superior Overlook beach
Your Appa photo of the day! She is parked at the Superior Overlook
Another view of the Superior Overlook beach

Log Slide

We ended our day at the Log Slide Overlook at the eastern end of the park. The Log Slide is a sandy dropoff from a ridge 300′ above Lake Superior down the side of a cliff. Lumberjacks used the log slide in the late 1800s and early 1900s to slide whole tree trunks to barges waiting down below.

These days, adventurous visitors can attempt to descend the slide themselves. Its not for the faint of heart, however. The slide is 500′ long (300′ vertical feet) and apparently people have to get rescued from time to time. It only takes minutes to reach the bottom but can take 1-2 hours to climb back up again.

Daniel and I had no interest in injuring ourselves on the log slide. We ambled along the cliffs above the slide instead. The views were incredible.

View of the Log Slide from near the dropoff
Daniel contemplates the Log Slide. Um, no thank you!
View of Au Sable Light Station from the Log Slide Overlook
View of the Grand Sable Dunes from the Log Slide Overlook
Time for another selfie!

Where are we now?

We are at Miners Beach in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore!

Date: September 27, 2020
Great American Road Trip Status: Day 84
Location: Munising / Pictured Rocks KOA
Miles Traveled: 98.3
Total Trip Mileage: 5451.2

For more details on our Great America (Socially Distanced) Road Trip, see my previous posts:

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