Hiking the Pictured Rocks – really hiking – is amazing. It is one of the trips that will stick with me forever. Two hundred foot cliffs, numerous waterfalls, lake shore as far as the eye can see and mountainous dunes.
We started on Wednesday at the Grand Sable Visitor Center, picking up the permit and parking the car. ALTRAN shuttle transportation picked us up and took us to Munising Falls. The drive took about an hour but it varies depending on how many stops the bus has to make, dropping off and picking up others. Reservations and payment are required in advance.
From there, we hiked 8.9 miles to Potato Patch Campground, passing by Tannery Falls, MNA Memorial Falls, Sand Point Beach, Jasper Falls, Miner’s Castle, Miner’s Beach and a handful of other creeks.
Day two we hiked 11.8 miles from Potato Patch Campground to The Coves campground. This area was concentrated with the Pictured Rocks cliffs and rock formations. We stopped at Indian Head, Lover’s Leap, Grand Portal Point, Chapel Beach, and Chapel Rock.
Day three we left The Coves and hiked 7.3 miles to Sevenmile Creek Campground. There was a lot of sand along this portion of the trail (Twelvemile Beach) and some beautiful views of Lake Superior.
Day four we hiked 10.3 miles to Masse Homestead. This section was mostly a mixture of old and new growth forest. The hardest portion, in my opinion, was after Au Sable Lighthouse. Lots of steep hills to climb. The rest of the trail was pretty easy going. We hiked past Twelve Mile Beach Campground, Hurricane River Campground, Au Sable Lighthouse and the Log Slide.
Our final day we hiked 4.1 miles from Masse Homestead to Grand Sable Visitor Center. This was our least favorite section of the trail, lacking in views. Lots of fields to hike through, mixed in with some forest and even along the road.
Masse Homestead was our least favourite campground. However, because of it’s location it had some of the best views in the park. After a steep climb up the back side of the Grand Sable Dunes, followed by another somewhat steep climb, we were provided with stunning views, a gorgeous sunset, and the best night sky I have ever seen.
Seeing all the rock formations up close was a major highlight of the trip. We’ve taken the boat before but being able to stand on land and look up the coast to see all the formations was spectacular.
Sunset from Sevenmile Creek. I love photographing rivers and creeks. A place with a good sunset and a river (or creek) entering Lake Superior is a place that I could fall in love with. Sevenmile Creek was one such place. We even had the surprise of Dragonflies flying everywhere. It felt magical.
What We Learned
We learned a lot.
One of our best investments was the hydration kit for our MSR Dromedary bladders. These kits allowed us to have a “hands free” system for our water, which ended up being more valuable than we thought. We didn’t have to deal with bottles. I think it also encouraged us to drink more water because it was so easy to access.
Speaking of water, we used the chemical tablets to purify our water. They worked great and were a very light-weight addition to our packs.
“Just add water” foods are great. The ease of making them after a long hike was incredibly nice. Our pancakes, on the other hand, didn’t work out too well. They took a lot more time to cook. We also took too many snacks to eat during the hike.
Quilts for hammocks is a must. We took thermal blankets with us, even though it wasn’t expected to get cold. The thermal blankets did nothing to protect us against the wind blowing, which cut right through our hammocks.
Divide and conquer. Next time instead of carrying two cameras and two tripods, we’re going to share equipment. It will reduce our weight by around 15 pounds each. This goes true for any gear you’re carrying if you’re in a group. Don’t double up.
Invest in a good pair of shoes (that’s from Steve). My feet didn’t blister, his did. And it wasn’t pleasant.
My Columbia Silver Ridge shirt didn’t help keep me cool but my SmartWool socks did for my feet. The plus side for the silver ridge shirt was it was easy to soak in Lake Superior and helped keep me cool that way. It also dried quickly so it wasn’t damp the next morning.
The Mission Enduracool Microfiber Towels are a must. Light-weight, helped keep us cool, and worked well for drying off our feet before putting socks back on. We had ours out and wet every day. Steve wore his around his head, I wore mine around my neck. It made a huge difference.
This was an amazing trip. The views aside, getting out and hiking 42.2 miles was a great experience and I can’t wait for our next major hike.