Updated: Jul 27
Taking in Pictured Rocks from the water definitely provides a unique perspective of the beautiful sandstone cliffs that make up the park. With about 60 miles of driving and 100 miles of trails encompassing Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore from Munising to Grand Marais, there is much to explore by land.
While most people say the best views of Pictured Rocks are from the water, that is not to discredit the amazing trails that lead to breathtaking waterfalls, historical landmarks, forest wilderness, and cliff-top views. In our opinion, with limited time, you should preference the land activities of Pictured Rocks as it will allow you to explore a variety of what Pictured Rocks has to offer in just one day.
If you are looking for a more relaxing trip at Pictured Rocks, you may also consider a Boat Cruise, taking you on a tour of 16 attractions from Munising to Grand Marais in just 2.5 hours. Given more time, you may also consider adding a guided kayak tour to witness the colorful sandstone of Pictured Rocks up close.
Pictured Rocks Kayaking Guide
Kayaking Safety & Conditions
If planning to Kayak on Lake Superior, NPS has recommendations & requirements for your safety
You must have a Sea Kayak on Lake Superior (long & slim for coastal paddling)
PFD (Personal Flotation Device)/Life Jacket
Required for each person in the boat and required to be worn at all times in the water
Whistle or Air Horn
Required to be attached to you for immediate use while in the water and must be audible for a half mile distance.
Inform a friend/family of your float plan & timing
If you do not return as planned, they can get a search started
Check the Marine Weather Forecast
Weather changes quickly and makes a difference if you are kayaking open water, a bay, or near the shore.
Also Read: Pictured Rocks Complete Guide
Group Kayaking Tours
Tandem Sea Kayaks ($168/Adult and $128/Youth 12 & Under)
Enjoy 2 hours (about 5 miles of kayaking) near the most picturesque parts of Pictured Rocks. The total trip is about 4-5 hours, with the remaining time being a tour by boat shuttle to the launch of your kayaks around the mouth of the Mosquito River. The boat follows nearby during your kayaking time to allow for emergency help and restrooms, making this tour accessible for various ages and skill levels.
Compared to other kayak tour companies based in Munising, we have found that Pictured Rocks Kayaking offers the best kayaking route and optimizes your time on the water by viewing the most picturesque stretch from Mosquito Beach to Chapel Rock (same stretch of lakeshore as the Chapel Basin Hike from our complete guide). The pricing is competitive for the area and offering, therefore, if you preference the amenities and guidance that a guided kayak tour offers, booking with Pictured Rocks Kayaking is your best bet.
Kayaks starting at $25 for the full day!
Enjoy a 3 hour kayak ride down the Au Train River, paddling 7.5 miles downstream through the Hiawatha National Forest from the Riverside Bridge to the Doucette Bridge. Northwoods Canoe & Kayak Rentals picks you up at their private parking lot located by Doucette Bridge, allowing your car to be waiting for you at the end of your journey, and shuttles you to the beginning of the tour at Riverside Bridge. Although the kayaking can be completed from bridge to bridge in roughly 2.5 hours, your rental price includes the full day up until they close at 5pm which allows for time to stop and admire nature along the river, take a swim, go fishing, or picnic along the riverbank.
The Au Train River kayaking tours are an awesome way to experience the waters of the Upper Peninsula. Northwoods Canoe & Kayak Rentals does a fabulous job of making sure your experience is fun and safe for the whole family.
Tickets: $25 for the full day!
Self-Guided Kayaking Tours
Launching at Miners Beach
Sea Kayak Required
First things first. If you are bringing your own Sea Kayak and plan on kayaking Lake Superior without a tour guide, be sure you know the proper safety precautions as Lake Superior can be very dangerous. We believe Miners Beach is the best spot to start a self-guided kayak tour of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. We would recommend using the guide from Pictured Rocks Kayaking as your map to a self-guided tour. The stretch from Miners Beach to Chapel Rock is 10 miles and would take an estimated 4 hours round-trip to complete.
Other places that NPS recommends you can launch your Kayak is at Twelvemile Beach or Hurricane River Campground on the northern side, or Sand Point Beach on the southern side. While these launch locations offer beautiful beaches, close proximity to parking, and gorgeous views of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore from the water, we believe launching at Miners Beach gets you closest to the most picturesque sandstone and natural wonders that make Pictured Rocks so incredibly unique. After all, that is why most guided tours have paying customers to bring them near this stretch of colorful cliffs.
Tip: know the proper safety precautions when kayaking without a group
Little Beaver Lake
If you do not own a Sea Kayak or are looking for a safer alternative to kayaking on Lake Superior, Beaver Lake is a great option for boating with a recreational kayak or canoe. There is a boat launch at Little Beaver Campground (which has 8 awesome campsites on Little Beaver Lake). From here, you can kayak around Little Beaver Lake and/or take the channel on the northeast corner of the lake to access Beaver Lake. We took the channel to Beaver Lake and saw a deer crossing the water right in front of us! With the only way to access Beaver Lake being the small channel from Little Beaver Lake, these waters were truly serene.
We felt as though we had the lake to ourselves as we paddled around and stopped as lake-side beaches near the perimeter. Kayaking on Beaver Lake is one of our Upper Peninsula highlights to this day. You cannot beat a peaceful lake surrounded by nature with crystal clear waters that provides a much more comfortable swimming experience than the frigid Lake Superior.
Tip: We got our Intex Explorer K2, Two-Person Inflatable Kayak from Walmart.com and love it! It comes with a pump, paddles, and bag for carrying. The inflation process takes about 5 minutes total and we enjoy how easy it is to throw this kayak in our trunk for on-the-go adventures.
Boat Cruises at Pictured Rocks
$40/Person; 2.5 Hours
The NPS recommended boat tour of Pictured Rocks is Pictured Rocks Cruises. With daytime tours and sunset tours, taking a boat tour is a nice and affordable way to add some views of Pictured Rocks from the water without eating away too much time from your trip. What this boat tour offers that hiking and kayaking does not, is the ability to see 16 miles of colored cliffs, sea caves, and beautiful beaches from the water while still having time and energy to explore more of Pictured Rocks by land. The Classic Cruise takes you to 16 highlights and is the most popular option at $40 for 2.5 hours of cruise time.
Tickets: $40/Person for a 2.5 Hour Boat Cruise
Enjoy our Pictured Rocks Kayaking tips? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below!