Big Water, Big Woods, Big Sky: Explore Munising on Your Summer Vacation

Big Water, Big Woods, Big Sky: Explore Munising on Your Summer Vacation

Adventure comes in many forms, for some it’s a fast-paced thrill-ride, but for others it’s a quiet moment in nature’s beauty.

For some, it’s on or in the water in the midday sun, and for others it’s when surrounded by lush forests or stargazing in the dark of night.

When a summer vacation destination can check all of those boxes, that’s when you start planning your trip.

And that’s how you end up in Munising, where Lake Superior’s shores greet visitors, the stunning Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore serves as the backdrop for memorable photos, the massive Hiawatha National Forest provides vast recreational land and the evenings are ideal for a look at the dark skies.

Here’s how to get the most out of a summer vacation in Michigan’s U.P.:

Go off the beaten path

Munising has hundreds of miles of trails for off-road and all-terrain vehicle outings. This all-ages activity can take you through the forest, valleys and vistas of the national forest and other public property. It’s important to ride with respect and safety in mind, veteran off-roaders say, reminding people it’s not a race and that some of the best sights are taken in slowly.

Tips for your ride, whether you’re brining your own machine or renting one:

  • Be aware of the weather and dress accordingly.
  • Download the onX app and review legal trails.
  • Tell others your riding plan. Cell phone service can be spotty in the woods.
  • Wear a helmet and bring a dusk mask in dry conditions.
  • Respect private property and treat public grounds as your own.
  • Share the trails with other users, including hikers, bikers and horse riders.
  • Bring a snack and non-alcoholic beverage on the ride.

Hit the water for a wonder of the world

The locals and those who have been to Munising before tell first-time visitors that there is no better way to see the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore than from the water, whether on a kayak trip or a boat tour.

Only from Lake Superior can you fully engage with the sandstone cliffs that vary in stunning shades of red, orange, green and blue while stretching roughly 40 miles along the lakeshore.

Here are some water adventures to consider during your visit to Pictured Rocks and Munising:

  • Pictured Rocks Cruises: As the official concessionaire of the National Park Service, Pictured Rocks Cruises is the only vendor that can show off all that the lakeshore has to offer. There are three cruise options on tour boats that range from 65 to 78 feet long and accommodate between 129 and 250 passengers. Guests get to view the brilliance of the cliffs, sea caves and beaches on 2 ½-to 3-hour long voyages that travel between 32 and 40 miles along Lake Superior’s coast.
  • Shipwreck Tours: Glass-bottom boats give passengers a one-of-a-kind look at two shipwrecks – the Bermuda and the Herman H. Hettler – that are peacefully preserved by Lake Superior’s waters. Munising and the Alger Underwater Preserve are the only place in the U.S. where wrecks are witnessed from a glass-bottom boat. The wrecks are visible through the clear water and provide an up-close look at history that is only exceeded by diving on the ships. The excursions also allow views of the cliffs, Grand Island and its caves, and the East Channel Lighthouse.
  • Riptide Ride: This thrill ride, which takes place on a decommissioned Navy Seal jetboat, is unlike any other in Munising, making it an outdoor adventure all on its own. Passengers will travel around Grand Island, stopping for scenic views of its cliffs and falls. Between the sights is when the action happens as the ride rips through the water at high-speeds, blasts into sharp turns and even pulls 360-degree spins to the delight of howling riders.
  • Kayak Tours: There are multiple Pictured Rocks kayak tours available in Munising, and all feature the stillness and beauty that will be a highlight of your trip. Guides lead groups along the shoreline cliffs and place visitors as close to the base and caves as you can get. There is a degree of risk as the weather can turn quickly and the rocks, which make the landscape so impressive, offer no relief or safety valve.

More water, this time by foot

Munising’s waterfalls are an underappreciated, and sometimes surprise, highlights of a summer trip. The crashing water from various falls is a sensory experience for the ears and then the eyes. Multiple falls are easily accessible, while others involve a longer hike, matching the desires of the masses.

Here are three waterfall hikes of varying difficulty that to check out:

  • Munising Falls: In the city of Munising, this 50-foot waterfall is only ¼ mile into the woods and is accessed via a paved trail and a viewing platform. Interesting rock formations are highlighted in the winter.
  • Wagner Falls: A short walk on a gravel path takes you to a peaceful spot where you can take in the 20-foot drop of the Wagner Falls, which is fed by Wagner Creek. This is one of the most photographed falls as it features stepped areas with multiple rock ledges.
  • Chapel Falls: A more challenging hike, this also provides one of the larger straight plunges. The 60-foot falls are at the end of the Chapel Road Drive and about a 2 1/2-mile hike to Lake Superior, where the famous tree and rock formation is found.

Spectacular sunsets, then brilliant dark skies

Head to Munising’s beaches to capture the sunset views that are a hallmark of summer, when colors collide with the onset of night.

Head to Sand Point Beach, Miners Beach or Twelvemile Beach for the twilight hours and then stick around those clear spaces for the time when stars take over as the attraction. Depending on the atmospheric forces at play, the vibrant blues and greens of the Northern Lights could be the next “a-ha” moment of your summer break.

Related Articles

Scroll to Top