Top 7 Highlights of a Pictured Rocks Kayaking Tour

Paddling through one of the sea caves in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. PC: Instagrammer @kaylanreidPaddling through one of the sea caves in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. PC: Instagrammer @kaylanreid

One of the many wonders of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Although formal boat tours of the sandstone cliffs and formations have taken place since the early 1900s, kayaking the gorgeous lakeshore has become a popular activity in recent years.

What are the Pictured Rocks?

The vibrant colors of the Pictured Rocks. PC: Instagram @Boldie24The vibrant colors of the Pictured Rocks. PC: Instagram @Boldie24

Located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula between Munising and Grand Marais, massive sandstone cliffs, caves and unique formations along Lake Superior shoreline, sand dunes, miles of incredible hiking trails, beaches, waterfalls, inland lakes, and wild forests make up the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Minerals from Lake Superior stain the rock face with magnificent hues of white, red, blue and greens as water seeps into cracks and crevices in the sandstone.

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The Kayak Express, which Pictured Rocks Kayaking acquired in 2019, was made specifically for launching kayaks into the water.The Kayak Express, which Pictured Rocks Kayaking acquired in 2019, was made specifically for launching kayaks into the water.

Pictured Rocks Kayaking is the only company in Munising that launches kayakers from a boat. “This is the BEST way to see the rocks. What great views! Best crew. Felt safe the entire time” is one of the many raves about the outfitter on TripAdvisor.

Tours begin aboard a vessel heading out of Munising Bay with amazing views of Grand Island, the Historic East Channel Lighthouse, and Miners Castle. The boat anchors near the Painted Coves where staff helps launch paddlers into the water for five miles (approximately 2 hours) of kayaking along the lakeshore.

Why You Need to Kayak Pictured Rocks

The Towering Cliffs

To ensure the safety of all passengers, the vessel stays with the kayaking groups throughout their entire adventure. Once done with the paddle portion of the trip, kayakers board the boat and head back to the mainland.

While phenomenal views are enjoyed from the boat, the true adventure begins once paddlers are launched into Lake Superior.

Everything You Need to Know About Pictured Rocks Kayaking

Here are the top highlights of a Pictured Rocks Kayaking tour:

1. The Towering Cliffs

Grand Portal Point in the distance. PC: Pictured Rocks Kayaking.Grand Portal Point in the distance. PC: Pictured Rocks Kayaking.

Some of the cliffs in the Pictured Rocks are 300 feet tall! Though the structures can appear daunting at first, they’re rich in color and history. The rock walls captivate your eye and make you realize the scope of this great land.

2. Exploring Sea Caves, Coves, and Beaches

PC: Instagram @tylergentry8PC: Instagram @tylergentry8

Perhaps one of the most exciting parts of the tour is paddling through majestic sea caves, exploring old coves, and finding pebbly beaches along the shoreline. Pictured Rocks is home to many magical sights and kayaking allows you to get to them without hiking long distances.

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3. Paddling through A Gigantic Archway

Lovers Leap. PC: Pictured Rocks Kayaking.Lovers Leap. PC: Pictured Rocks Kayaking.

In case you needed another reason to paddle Pictured Rocks, near the end of the tour, you’ll reach Lover’s Leap. The popular 250-feet-tall archway is one of the most iconic and photographed formations in the Pictured Rocks park – going through it is certainly a magical memory you won’t forget.

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4. Gliding over the Big Lake

If it wasn’t for the cool clear water of Lake Superior, the turquoise color of the water might trick visitors into thinking it’s the Caribbean. PC: Pictured Rocks Kayaking.If it wasn’t for the cool clear water of Lake Superior, the turquoise color of the water might trick visitors into thinking it’s the Caribbean. PC: Pictured Rocks Kayaking.

The Pictured Rocks can attribute most of its unique geological features to the big lake. Not only is Lake Superior the largest of the Great Lakes, it’s also the world’s biggest freshwater lake by surface area. And it’s clean! So much in fact that people can see an average of 30 feet below its magical turquoise waters.

5. Eagles and falcons, oh my!

An eagle nest. PC: National Park Service.An eagle nest. PC: National Park Service.

Bald eagles and peregrine falcons are common birds found along the lakeshore, with one Pictured Rocks Kayaking guide even claiming they saw 6 falcons on one trip!

“We lucked out with amazing weather and not only saw a bald eagle but saw baby peregrine falcons learning to fly! Pictured Rocks were gorgeous. Seeing it from the kayaks was better than any other way in my opinion,” another TripAdvisor review raves.

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6. Uncover the Lore of the Pictured Rocks

Chapel Rock, a unique sandstone formation that has a living white pine on top of it, is pictured in the 1900s. PC: National Park Service.Chapel Rock, a unique sandstone formation that has a living white pine on top of it, is pictured in the 1900s. PC: National Park Service.

The Pictured Rocks was established in 1966 as the first designated national lakeshore in the United States. Prior to that, the remote area had been cherished and worshiped by the Ojibwe tribe for hundreds of years.

As paddlers glide along the cliffs and caves, tour guides will share fascinating stories and beliefs passed down from Native Americans.

The History of Pictured Rocks in Photos

7. Gorgeous Views from the Boat

Miners Castle. PC: Craig Blacklock.Miners Castle. PC: Craig Blacklock.

While most of the landmarks are enjoyed when kayaking near them, don’t forget about the others you get to see on a boat! Miners Castle, quite possibly the most popular formation in the Pictured Rocks park, is accessible by land but the view from the water is unmatched. Enjoy this beauty aboard the vessel and prepare to be launched from the boat shortly after.

Learn more about Pictured Rocks today! Book your Pictured Rocks Kayaking tour now.

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