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Wordless Wednesday: Lovers Leap Arch

Lovers Leap Arch

Wordless Wednesday: Paddling Pictured Rocks

Paddling toward Indian Head

Kayaking Pictured Rocks

Kayaking towards Lover's Leap Arch

This past summer I got to do something that has been a dream of mine for over ten years, kayak Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. I have hiked the Lakeshore Trail and seen the rocks from the water on the boat cruise, but I have wanted to get up close and personal with the rocks since my first visit. So, when we were able to score a campsite at the lakeshore, I started doing my research for kayak tours.

Before I get into the tour, I want to talk a bit about Lake Superior and boating safety. Lake Superior is notoriously rough and can be dangerous if you are not in the proper boat. It is not recommended that you take a recreational kayak to see the rock formations. A sea kayak with a spray skirt is the recommended boat for this trip. If you are not a seasoned sea kayaker, it is best to see the rocks on a guided tour.

Pictured Rocks Kayaking Boat

There are many companies that offer tours of Pictured Rocks, but we decided to go with Pictured Rocks Kayaking (paddlepicturedrocks.com) for one main reason: they launch from a boat (left). Most of the tour operators launch from a beach in the park and you paddle from the beach out to the rocks and back. With the boat, Pictured Rocks Kayaking is able to take their guests out farther and allow them to paddle the most impressive rock features. The boat follows the tour and if someone needs to go to the bathroom or gets too tired, they are able to go back to the boat.  Also, if a storm blows in fast, they are able to get everyone back on the boat to safety.

As of 2022, Pictured Rocks Kayaking offers two tours, the shorter (2-3 hour) Miners Castle Tour which gets paddlers up close to the famous Miners Castle rock formation, and the 4-5 hour Ultimate Kayak tour. Being a bucket list experience, of course we chose the Ultimate Kayak Tour.

Paddling through a cave

Our tour started in Munising where we had a quick kayak basics and safety demonstration before getting on the boat for a 40-ish minute ride to the spot where you get in the water right from the boat. The water was unbelievably calm on the day we did the tour. You can see in the pictures, the water was like glass and it was a very easy paddle.

It was amazing how close we were able to get to the rocks. We paddle into caves and felt the water dripping from the rock above (above). We got to paddle under the iconic Lovers Leap arch (top). The tour ends at Chapel Rock where we headed back to the boat to eat our picnic lunch while the boat took us back to town.

Kayaking Pictured Rocks

My only complaint about the tour was the speed it went. As pretty avid kayakers (and experienced tandem kayakers at that) we had a hard time going as slow as the tour dictated. I understand that it is a long time on the water and we didn’t want to tire anyone out, but my back go sore sitting in the seat before my arms were tired.

If you are visiting Pictured Rocks and want to get out on the water, I highly recommend Pictured Rocks Kayaking.  You get to see more than other tours with the comfort and security of knowing the boat is there if you need it. Our guide was friendly and knowledgeable and gave great restaurant recommendations! I would absolutely take the tour again if I was in the area.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip check out my Planes, Buses, and Boats Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Wordless Wednesday: Miners Castle

Miners Castle

Camping Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Runaway Camper at Hurricane River Campground

With campgrounds in Michigan taking reservations six months in advance, it is about time to start thinking about where you want to camp next summer. So, I figured now would be the perfect time to recap some of my favorite campgrounds from last summer!

In 2022, the campgrounds at Pictured Rocks National Lakesure were able to be booked in advance for the first time ever. In the past, I never attempted to camp in the park because the stress of first-come, first-serve campgrounds is too much for me. But, about 5 months out, I looked to see what was still available and I grabbed the last open spot for the weekend in question. All of the campgrounds within the National Lakeshore are rustic meaning there is no electric, water, or sewer hookup and there are vault toilets. There is very minimal cell signal at the campground so do not plan to camp here if you need to be connected.

When I booked the site, it was very unclear to me if I was supposed to go somewhere to check in for our campsite or if I was supposed to print the confirmation email. On our second day, a range stopped by and asked for proof of our reservation. Now, as I’m looking at Recreation.gov, it says to print the confirmation page and hang it from the post at the site.

Au Sable Lighthouse

The site we managed to get was in Hurricane River campground which has 21 sites and is the location of the trail to the Au Sable lighthouse. The trail to the lighthouse starts at the campground and is 1.5 miles each way. It is a flat, easy trail and is a good way to get away from the crowds that can be seen in other areas of the park. In the summer, you can climb to the top of the lighthouse for a view. Check out the National Park Service website for information about times and cost.

2022 was also the first year that Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore charged an entrance fee. Personally, I think this was a long time coming. When we visited the Chapel trailhead in 2020 it was an ordeal to get a parking spot. While I’m not expecting this fee to reduce the visitation at the park, at least it will give the park some money to do upkeep and improve the facilities around the park.

Overall, we enjoyed our weekend camping at Pictured Rocks. We had a wonderful time kayaking in Lake Superior (more on that next week). I’m sure we will be back to this beautiful area in the future. If you are looking to camp at Pictured Rocks, the reservations fill up fast so plan to try to get your spot 6 months in advance at Recreation.gov.

Thanks for stopping by!To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Wordless Wednesday: Waves and Waterfall

Chapel Beach Falls

Hiking Pictured Rocks: Chapel Rock

Chapel Rock

While camping at Tahquamenon Falls, we decided to take a day trip to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The lakeshore has blown up in popularity the last few years after being featured on Good Morning America. We used to refer to Munising as a food desert because if you didn’t bring it with you, you weren’t eating it there. With increased visitation, new restaurants and shops have popped up outside of the park. This was the first time we had been back to this area since our UP Road trip in 2015 and it was really good to see some life in this area!

Chapel FallsThe downside of the increased visitation is that the trails and parking lots were jam-packed with people. We decided to hike to Chapel Falls and there were so many cars on the side of the road to the Chapel Falls parking lot, it took us an hour to drive 3 1/2 miles to the lot. Being a holiday weekend, we were expecting crowds, but we weren’t expecting this level of crowds.

The hike to Chapel Falls (left) is about three miles round trip. The trail is on an old rail bed so it is relatively flat and a pretty easy hike. Somehow, when we got to the falls, Chris convinced me to double the length of our hike and continue on to Chapel Rock and Lake Superior (top). The rest of the trail was just as easy as before and the added mileage meant the crowds dropped off significantly. Overall, I’m glad we did the whole hike, but my legs were jelly by the time we got back to the car.

 

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A post shared by Ashleigh Mowers (@goseedophotography)

If you plan to visit Pictured Rocks, definitely take some time to check out the revitalized downtown Munising. There are now many highly rated places to eat on TripAdvisor. If you plan to do this hike, arrive early, or pack your patience. We arrived after lunch and were able to get a spot in the lot, but as I mentioned above, it took a long time to get all the way there.

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

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Chapel Rock Pinterest Graphic

 

Best Campgrounds in Michigan for Tent Camping

Sunset at McLain State Park

Camping is more popular than ever and I thought now would be a good time to share my favorite places to get into nature in Michigan. It is important to note that many of these campgrounds fill up on summer weekends, so definitely try to make reservations early! Unless otherwise noted, campgrounds in Michigan take reservations 6 months in advance and the popular, waterfront sites are very competitive!

When looking for campgrounds for tent camping, I’m looking for:

  • Privacy: without a big RV to retreat to, I prefer to have some trees separating me from my neighbors
  • View: my favorite campsites in Michigan are usually near a body of water and being able to see it from your site is unbeatable
  • Location: we are not the kind of campers that hang around the campground all day. We like campgrounds with activities nearby, whether it be hiking, boating or a town to explore
  • Cleanliness: while I haven’t had an issue with any campground in Michigan being unhygienic, the ones that made this list are clean.
  • Rustic vs. modern: I don’t need electric service while camping. I have learned that everything I need to power (mainly charging phones and camera batteries) can be powered through the AC adapter in my car or from a battery pack. Modern bathhouses and showers are a plus but I am not opposed to an outhouse. I haven’t been brave enough to try dispersed camping without an outhouse yet.

With those parameters in place, here are my favorite campgrounds in Michigan, in no particular order:

D.H. Day Campground

D.H. Day is located in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This campground started taking reservations a few years ago, before that people literally lined up early in the morning to get a site here and after camping here, I understand why. It is a rustic campground but campers do have access to the showers at Platte River (the modern campground in the park). The sites are big and very private and there is a nice beach located within the campground. When I booked, the only sites available were in the generator loop. With the rules about when generators can be run, it was pretty peaceful. Reservations are accepted from May to October. The rest of the year it is still first come, first served. With online reservations, D.H. Day books up early. You can book 6 months out at Recreation.gov.

Fisherman’s Island

Fisherman’s Island State Park is located near Charlevoix. The waterfront sites here are AMAZING and can fit a tent or small trailer. You basically have a small beach on Lake Michigan to yourself. This is a completely rustic campground but the setting is totally worth it! It is very quiet and it’s not too hard to get a site in peak season although the waterfront sites book up early. To book, visit midnrreservations.com.


Tahquamenon Falls – Rivermouth Pines

Like many Michigan State Parks, Tahquamenon Falls in the U.P. is a large park with many campgrounds throughout. My favorite has to be Rivermouth Pines. Located away from the falls where the Tahquamenon River meets Lake Superior, this area is off the beaten path and quiet. The sites are well spaced out and some of them are right on the water. The sites in this area are rustic but it is within walking distance to the Rivermouth campground where there is a modern bathhouse. To book visit, midnrreservations.com.

Hoeft State Park

Hoeft State Park, located near Rogers City, is really a hidden gem of the Michigan State Park system. It has a gorgeous Lake Huron beach and is near the Huron-Sunrise trail which is a popular biking destination. The sites are large and spread out with electric service and a modern bathhouse. One of the best things about this park is that is typically pretty easy to get a site and only really fills up on holiday weekends. It is still a good idea to reserve a site ahead of time at midrnreservations.com.

Straits State Park

Straits State Park in St. Ignace is the only campground that we routinely return to. It is very close to downtown St. Ignace so it’s very convenient if you are planning on visiting Mackinac Island. But what keeps me coming back to this park are the waterfront, bridge view sites. Even if you can’t get right on the water, both lower campgrounds have great views of the bridge and there is a little bench on the water where you can sit if you didn’t score a bridge-view site. The sites right on the water do not have electric service but Straits has the best showers in all of the state park system. The waterfront sites tend to fill up quickly but are easier to get during the week. To book, visit Midnrreservations.com.

Update 2023: Over the last few years the bridge view sites have opened up for the bigger rigs. What this means is that unless you can score one of those sites, you can’t really see the bridge from your site. Also, this makes the campground feel much more crowded than in the past. The waterfront bridge view sites are still some of my favorites in the Michigan State Park system, but they are harder to get. The sites farther back are the typical Michigan State Park open-field campground and are not my favorites for tent camping.

Leelanau State Park

Located on the tip of Leelanau Peninsula (Michigan’s Pinky Finger), Leelanau State Park is a beautifully wooded, rustic campground jutting into Lake Michigan. Half of the sites are on the water and the other half are tucked back in the woods. The Grand Traverse Lighthouse is walkable from the campground and it is a great base for exploring all that Leelanau Peninsula has to offer. Being that the park is at the tip of the peninsula, it is far from Sleeping Bear Dunes. D.H. Day is probably a better option if you are looking to spend your time in the National Lakeshore. Reservations can be made at midnrreservations.com.

McLain State Park

On the Keweenaw peninsula near Hancock, McLain wins the award for best campground view ever. Perched on a cliff overlooking Lake Superior, this campground offers a stunning view of both the sunrise and sunset over Lake Superior! The sites are kind of close and don’t offer a lot of privacy, but they do have electric service. Since I’ve been there, they did a major refurbishment of the campground since some of the cliffs had eroded and they lost some of the sites. With the renovation came a new bathhouse which was sorely needed. It’s not a bad idea to book a site in advance at midnrreservations.com

Wilderness State Park

Wilderness State Park, located near Mackinaw City, is one of the biggest state parks in the lower peninsula and has several typical state park campgrounds. A few years ago they added these amazing waterfront tent sites (double letter sites AA, BB, etc). These sites are very private and quiet, except for the road noise you get because they are right at the entrance to the park. What is amazing about these sites is that they sit right on the water so each site essentially has its own private beach. These sites are rustic but there is a modern bathroom at the nearby entrance station. These sites are set slightly off from where the parking is so they are not accessible for any kind of trailer. There are only a handful of these sites so it is best to reserve them early on midnrreservations.com.

Bay Furnace Campground

Located in Christmas, Michigan not far from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Bay Furnace is a National Forest Service campground. It is completely rustic with outhouses but the sites are very private and the campground is very quiet. Of course, the park also has a beautiful, rocky beach on Lake Superior which is a great place to watch the sunset at the end of the day. While the campgrounds at Pictured Rocks do now take reservations, they are pretty small and fill up quickly so Bay Furnace is a great alternative. Reservations can be made at recreation.gov.

Cheboygan State Park

Located on the shores of Lake Huron, not far from Mackinaw City, Cheboygan State Park is home to a small campground with outdated electrical service that keeps a lot of the big rigs away. Some of the sites in the park are the tightly packed open fields that Michigan State Parks are known for, but the waterfront sites are very private and wooded with private paths to the water. The park is scheduled for an upgrade to the water and electric system which will probably make it more popular, but hopefully, the waterfront sites will be untouched! Reservations can be made in advance at midrnreservations.com.

Big Sable Sunset

Jack Pine Campground

Jack Pine campground at Ludington State Park is a hike-in campground and one of my absolute favorite campgrounds in the state. Located only about a mile from the parking area along the gravel path to the lighthouse, Jack Pine is one of the most accessible backcountry campgrounds in Michigan. We carried our gear in a wagon but a lot of people get to the campground by bike. Ludington State Park is one of the most popular places to camp in Michigan and most of the campgrounds in the park have cramped, small sites without much privacy. Jack Pine takes a little more effort to get to, but it rewards with quiet and privacy. Reservations can be made in advance at midnrreservations.com.

Thanks for stopping by! What is your favorite campground in Michigan? Let me know in the comments! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

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Flashback Friday: Empire Bluff Trail

Wordless Wednesday: Alligator Hill

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