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North Country Trail, Pictured Rocks Section


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I was a little slow in getting this posted but wanted to share our experiences on the Pictured Rocks Section of the North Country Trail.  We hiked from Munising Falls to the Grand Sable Visitor Center over 5 days and 4 nights.  We drove up and camped our first night at 12 Mile Campground.  We were very lucky to get a campsite as the campground was full, even on a Monday night in September.  No surprise, it's a beautiful place and the weather was perfect!  We got there just as the time was available to camp in one of the two handicap accessible sites.  We were told we had to be out as early as possible in the morning but that was fine since we were meeting our shuttle for our hike anyway.  We set up our tents and then hiked down to the beach to eat dinner and watch the sun set.


The next morning we headed to the Grand Sable Visitor Center to pick up our permit and meet our shuttle.  I had secured our permit way back in March but we had to pick it up in person either the day before or the day of the hike.  We took care of that and waited for our shuttle which didn't arrive until 10:30 am.  We found out later we could have paid a little more and set our own time which would have been nice to get an earlier start.  The shuttle ride took about an hour, which meant we actually hit the trail a little before noon.  We had a 12-mile day, so that was a really late start!  The hike was mostly level with some boardwalks.  We passed through Miner's Castle area which has modern bathrooms and water available.  There are actually a number of places along the way with potable water and, with proper planning, one could probably get away without filtering.  We made sure to camp near available water each night, so we did a combination of filtering and using the water spigots when available, We camped the first night at Mosquito Falls and ended up coming into camp about a half-hour after dark.


Day 2 took us from Mosquito Falls to Coves, which was an 8.7-mile day.  This was a very scenic hike with places like Mosquito Beach, Chapel Falls, Grand Portal and Spray Falls to see and explore!  We stopped for lunch on top of Grand Portal where we met up with a group of school kids from Holland, Michigan out on a wilderness adventure.  They had two groups that had each started from opposite ends and they happened to meet at Grand Portal.  There was a lot of hooting and hollering as they met but it was great seeing kids out enjoying the great outdoors.  We saw some kayakers out in the lake who we had talked with at camp earlier in the day.  We made it to camp before dark this time and had a chance to cook dinner and relax.  We sat around the fire chatting with others out enjoying the great fall weather.  It was interesting to meet different people and hear their stories.


Day 3 took us from Coves to 7 Mile Campground, a 7.3-mile day.  The trail through here followed a ridge high above 12 Mile Beach.  While we did hit some tougher trail sections, the shorter miles still made for an easier day.  We had a "what the heck?" moment when he came across an antique car long ago abandoned in the woods.  Seven mile was my personal favorite place to camp.  We set up alongside 7 Mile Creek and spent the afternoon hanging out at the communal campfire ring.  We were first there so we got the fire going in anticipation of an evening chat with other hikers. 


Day 4 was another fun day, as we hiked 7.3 miles from 7 Mile to Au Sable East.  We took a side trip to the beach near the lighthouse to see remains of old shipwrecks washed up on the beach.  Shortly before reaching camp, we came to Au Sable lighthouse where we took a tour and climbed to the top.  Very, very worthwhile if you get the opportunity.  The views from the top were fantastic!  Once in camp, we spent another evening sitting around the fire and swapping stories with other hikers.  It was there we learned about "pasties" and decided that would be our after hike meal.  One hiker kindly offered to share his scotch which was a treat!  All in all, a great day!


Day 5 was our final hiking day, taking us 7.1 miles from Au Sable East back to our starting point at Grand Sable Visitor Center.  Shortly after leaving camp, we started climbing to the top of Grand Sable Dunes.  Much of our hike was along the dunes, with a stop at Log Slide for rest and snack.  We did not hike down to the lake at Log Slide because none of us wanted to hike back up!  As we neared the end of the trail, we paralleled Grand Sable Lake.  The trail here was quite marshy, a big change from the sandy trail we'd been following.  We made one last lunch stop at the overlook on Grand Sable Lake before making the final push to the end.  This was a fantastic hike and our weather could not have been better!  I highly, highly recommend this hike (or a short version on Chapel Loop trail) even if you have to travel a ways to do it.  It's a beautiful area and the campsites are very nice!  If it weren't for the fact that there are so many great places to hike, I'd certainly do this one again!


I wrote up a much longer, day by day blog of this hike with more information and lot more pictures.  Here is the link if you're interested.

NCT Pictured Rocks




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