Plan your perfect day-hike or camping trip and explore the same beautiful north woods trails we enjoyed this week.
For easy planning, each trail is formatted to include a route map, a trail map, and contact information - all on one page. With a quick glance, you are on your way to the great outdoors.
Download the printable PDF to your mobile device for offline viewing and print a backup. Remember, batteries lose charge.
This post contains affiliate links for products we value and believe you will find helpful. See full disclosure here.
in Michigan - Week Five
SEP 13 BAY FURNACE CAMPGROUNDS
Surprisingly, the monsoon quit sometime in the middle of the night. Surprising because a bright and shiny sun poked out by mid-morning and stayed brilliant for the rest of the day. We broke camp and hit the road by 9:00 am. As seasoned full-timers, we are getting good at breaking camp. Well, maybe not seasoned yet, but we are starting to get a bit cocky.
However, we returned to our amateur roots when we made what was supposed-to-be-a-brief-stop at the black hole, aka Walmart. We needed to exchange our Blue Rhino LP gas tank. Walmart carries Blue Rhino LP, and their price for an exchange is the cheapest anywhere. One hour and 100 dollars later, we rolled our grocery cart to the van. When trying to cram our latest unnecessary Walmart purchases into any tiny open spot available, I realized I forgot the Blue Rhino. Jeez, that place is pure VooDoo.
Pictured Rocks has several large campgrounds, but all campsites were reserved through October when I checked availability before leaving for this trip. The closest national campground to Pictured Rocks is the Bay Furnace campground just before Munising, Michigan, a cute town that calls itself The-Gateway-to-Pictured Rocks.
I was doubly worried as we approached Bay Furnace to test my Sunday-move-day theory. If the campgrounds in Pictured Rocks are so popular and already full, I figured the campgrounds just outside of Pictured Rocks would also be darn popular.
We rolled into Bay Furnace campground around 1 pm and discovered five open sites. We immediately grabbed the best one of those five. By the time Babs and Tom showed up an hour later, only one site was available. Ironically, it was right next door. We plunked down $10 per night for seven nights. Like Black River Harbor Campground, we had a beautiful wooded site with loads of green space - but no electricity. Unlike Black River Harbor, we did have water and a dump station. Setting up camp went smoothly. The day was still rather young, and the weather was superb. Other than taking advantage of the sunshine for a bit of laundry (Lavario washer, Ninja dryer, Honda Generator) , we just plain got lazy and did nothing for the rest of day.
The glass bottom shipwreck boat tour (more attractions in Munising) looked interesting - that's a maybe. The ferry to Grand Island, at $20/person for a short mile and a half trip, seemed pricey. Grand Island is enormous, but bikes or hiking was the only transportation allowed except for an equally costly tour bus. Again, maybe.
The boat tour along Pictured Rocks on a brand new 30 mph catamaran - yeah, baby. Now we're talkin'. With COVID, they are running at half-full capacity and on an open upper deck. Only a limited number of tickets were available during the time we were going to be in the area. There were four slots available for the 3 pm tour this afternoon. That changed our entire plans - so we wanted to talk it over first. By the time Tom and I conferred with the Wanda and Babs, maybe 6 minutes, customers bought those four slots online. DRATZ! In the time it took for the lady to tell us that tomorrow's 3 pm trip had four openings, the four tickets got sold online faster than we could pull out our charge cards. We did manage to seize the last seats on the 11 am trip for tomorrow.
The second half of the day was spent checking out the western portion of Pictured Rocks. Pictured Rocks National Shoreline and Park, established in 1966, is only one of three National Shorelines. The shoreline stretches for some 20 miles. It features mile-after-mile of incredible painted cliffs and tall sand walls. Various leeching minerals are responsible for the rainbow of colors etched into the cliffs. Iron leaves 50-shades of reds, oranges, and deep maroons. Dolomite and calcium leak white. Copper leaves bands of greens and blues. Manganese sheds ribbons of black.
Our first stop was at Miners Falls, a remote spot four miles inland from the Lake. The three-quarter-mile trail to reach the falls was almost more spectacular than the falls. The wide, gently rolling path through the tall canopy of mature trees sucked what little anxiety any of us might have had right out.
Miners Castle, an impressive rock tower on the coast at the end of the road, marks the park's western edge. Boardwalks, stairs, and wooden decks all served to give us nearly every angle to view the natural tower. Of course, tomorrow we will view the Castle from the water.
Lastly, Wanda and I drove on to the Chapel Lake (17 Waterfalls) area to scope out a highly recommended 10-mile loop of the trail. Getting to the trailhead was insane. It included a 5-mile stretch of bouncing down an ungraded pot-holed muddy road since the dawn of time. Top speed was 15 mph, with many sections forcing us down to 5 mph. Occasionally, we'd see a camper coming from the opposite direction, swaying and jumping from one hole to the next. I don't care how well their cupboards close; they will be finding pots, pans, glasses, and silverware for months in the various hidden crags of their RV rigs.
Ah, but all will be worth it because the highly touted trail will be our reward. We decided to sample a bit of the trail by hiking a 2-mile section to the dubiously named Mosquito Falls. The woods were spectacular despite the trail conditions - pure muck much of the way. We gutted it out, checked out the lovely Mosquito Falls, and headed back. Somewhere along the return trip to the trailhead, we both concluded that the drive and hike were not worth a return trip.
SEP 15 AU TRAIN
Oops! I think I said that we bought tickets for the boat trip to Pictured Rocks for today - it is for tomorrow. In retired life, the days melt together. Date-accuracy is not an exact science for the elderly.
So, what about today? The Au Train area was begging for exploration. There is the town of Au Train, the Au Train Lake, an Au Train River, and the Au Train National Campground. With the temperature soaring up to 75 degrees, it was time to bring out the electric kayaks.
The wind whipped up good-sized waves on the large Au Train Lake. With some scouting, we convinced ourselves that the Au Train River was deep enough for the kayak motors. Babs and Tom helped us set up a van shuttle so we didn’t have to walk back to our van at the end of the river trip.
The river was perfect for electric kayaks. We did the section through the National Forest. It was uniformly 2-1/2 feet deep, and the local outfitters had all the snags of brush and fallen trees cleared out. The current was swift without any shallow rapids. We just flew down the river, passing a dozen surprised kayakers, who cried out, “cheaters!” It was glorious.
The river was the centerpiece of the day, but we also checked out a few more places on our way back to camp.
The Au Train National Campground, is set in a typical, heavily-wooded, and beautiful setting with lots of green space between sites. There were only three sites available - and this was going to be our backup campground if Bay Furnace was full.
The Au Train River's landscape intersecting Lake Superior revealed a stunning landscape of white dunes and tall wispy grasses.
The tiny town of Au Train has a population of less than 1200. We did buy two thick, moist pasties with rutabaga and a wonderfully thin crust at the local convenience store. This time we took the pasties back to camp, where all the proper condiments were available.
It was another great day on the road.
SEP 16 PICTURED ROCKS
Ok, today is the boat ride along 16 miles of the tall colored cliffs jutting straight up from Lake Superior. Yesterday’s warm winds gave way to today’s brisk stiff breeze. Yikes! Not a good day for big-lake boating. Add another 30 mph boat speed, and it will be a test for the theory of layered clothing. The drab grey lighting will also test the beauty of the rocks.
The views of the cliffs, however, were enough to warm our hearts. The incessant crashing waves carved impressive caves and arches. They were spectacular with striped sandstone layers dripped and oozed with reds, oranges, greens, tans, whites, and blacks. The boat slowed to a crawl and nudged up close to the cliffs whenever an incredibly unique rock sculpture presented itself, and there were many. We all thought that the sunset cruise, all sold out, of course, must be insanely delicious.
After the 2 hour cruise, we headed for the Lakenenland Sculpture Park, a place that Babs and Tom had heard about through a friend. These sculptures were human-made. A local resident, Tom Lakenenland (say that three times fast - that extra “en” really throws you), bought a good chunk of land and started welding a bunch of scrap metal into a junkyard art-in-a-park. There were scores of large and small scenes along a road that you could drive along or walkthrough.
It was far better to walk the road. Most sculptures had a story or a theme, some with very subtle humor and some with a political bent. You needed time to ferret out the details of each piece. Naturally, while we were at Lakenenland, the skies cleared, and the temperature rose. Where was this when we were bobbing along in the tour boat?