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3 Reasons to Hike Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

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I spent my morning glancing at homework assignments, and I will spend the rest of my day sitting in a basement classroom with fluorescent lighting and no windows. Yesterday, I spent 45 minutes outside exploring the wooded trails near my new apartment. It was the one time all day I felt mindful, present, and content.

It’s been several weeks since I sat down and reflected on my experiences this summer. With classes in full force, it’s easy to put aside passions and stress over mundane routines. Between 80-minute lectures, commutes onto campus, and hectic group projects, I’ve already found myself forgetting how it feels to be immersed in the natural world. Yet it’s the place I feel most alive.

So, as I sit here on a dull Wednesday afternoon, I find my mind wandering back to summer. I find my thoughts reigniting what really matters to me- those memories I created with friends exploring waterfalls or hiking underneath lush, deciduous canopies. Today, I find myself focused especially on a trip I took to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The following is my recap. Or, in a more honest sense, the following is all the reasons why I believe you should drop everything and hike the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.


We took off for the Upper Peninsula on a warm Thursday evening in July at about 6pm. I felt refreshed carrying my hiking backpack on my shoulders, my hiking boots stowed in the trunk with loads of our bug spray, snacks, and one giant tent. Despite growing up in Michigan, I never had the chance to explore as far North as this trip would take us. We drove for several hours, spent the night in St. Ignace just at the lower tip of the Upper Peninsula, and planned to drive early in the morning to our campsite for a day of hiking.

We settled on the ten mile chapel basin loop hike for our first full day. This was one I’d always hoped to experience, based on a kayaking trip I did several summers ago along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. I could probably go on for hours and hours about why this hike is one you absolutely need to plan in the future, but I compiled a list of my top three favorite highlights instead:

1. Lake Superior


Lake Superior is the largest, deepest, and purest Great Lake. Throughout the hike, the vast expanse of water appears large enough to be an ocean. I probably took roughly 34,000 photos of the water as we hiked. It was a gorgeous sunny day, with huge waves crashing against the base of the cliffs. The lake’s color ranges from stunning shades of deep blue, aqua, and even turquoise in some of the shallow areas. At some points, the water is clear enough to view rocks underneath the surface. Despite hiking for several hours, the views of the lake never grow old. The water is actually clean enough to drink. On our kayaking trip we filled up empty water bottles straight from the lake!


2. The Rock Formations


Along with the water, comes the beauty of the cliffs. Pictured Rocks encompasses 42 miles of shoreline from Munising to Grand Marais. The rock formations are made up of sandstone which form unique colors and shapes that give the lakeshore its name. As you hike along the trail, countless views of the pictured rock cliffs emerge from all different angles. All of the formations have a unique shape, and the shoreline is left almost completely untouched by human development.

3. Views Along the Hike


As I reflect on my time at Pictured Rocks, I’m grateful for the memory of fresh water, and breathing in the invigorating air atop the cliffs. I’m grateful for discovering a natural landscape in my home-state, removed from modernization. Pictured Rocks is simple, stunning, and pure to its core. It is filled with an organic vitality, from the daunting depth of Lake Superior to the ancient cliff formations. It gives me a reason to make it through more weeks of repetitive schoolwork, just knowing that similar adventure awaits me on the other end.

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