72 Hours at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Over this past weekend, I, alongside my BF Bart, had the awesome opportunity to explore Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. It was a 7-hour drive from the south side of Chicago through Wisconsin up to Munising, Michigan. While in PRNL, we only explored a portion of the park including Chapel Beach and Beaver Creek.

Sign on trail

Day 1

We began our three-day hike in the middle of the park at the Chapel Bison parking lot. We left our car here for two nights while we made our three-day loop. We continued to Chapel Beach on the (longer) 2.7-mile trail, which runs on the west side of Chapel Lake. Two hours later, we arrived at Chapel Beach Campgrounds and were immediately awestruck by the views of the beautiful beach and rock faces. This hike was it for now, as we had just driven 7 hours and were ready to set up camp and relax for the remainder of the day.

Campground 4 at Chapel Beach also offers a small creek in the “backyard”

After setting up camp, we made our way down to the beachfront, which was a minute walk through some trees and ferns onto the lakeshore.

Chapel Beach
Chapel Beachfront on a cloudy afternoon

Here, we relaxed, had Kabanosy Francuskie, bread, and whiskey as we basked in the vastness of what is Lake Superior.

Ultimately, we returned to camp, had dinner, and called it an early night.

Used Snow Peak stoves with Gigapower gas and Stanley and MSR cooking kits to make our food 

Day 2

After Chapel Beach, we hiked 5.6-miles to Beaver Creek Campground, which is close to Beaver Lake. This took us about four hours to complete, but because this trail was so picturesque, we made plenty of stops to enjoy the views and take some photos.

Personally, I had no idea this trail was on the literal cliffside of Pictured Rocks, so I give you a bit of what I experienced: the breeze from the lake, the sound of the waves crashing along the rocks, and the fresh forest air mixing together to provide that surreal and inspired feeling of wonder.

For the remainder of day 2, we lounged on the beach, meditated, practiced yoga, and watched the sunset.

Cliffside photo of Lake Superior in between Chapel Beach and Beaver Lake
Cliffside photo of Lake Superior in between Chapel Beach and Beaver Lake
Cliffside trees and their exposed roots
Cooking dinner at camp
Beaver Creek Campground beachfront
Beaver Creek Campground beachfront

Day 3

Our last day consisted of combining both trails and reverse hiking to return to our car at Chapel Bison parking lot. A combined total of about 8 miles. There is a shuttle service available, but we preferred to hike back and get our practice in for an upcoming Glacier backpacking trip in September (AHH!!!).

The only difference here began once we reached Chapel Beach. Earlier I mentioned a longer 2.7-mile trail that runs on the west side of Chapel Lake, well this time around we hiked back to the parking lot on the east side of Chapel Lake cutting that trail down to 2.3-miles.

Map of our loop

General Camping Tips

This was my first time camping, but not Bart’s, and together we provide some solid camping tips for beginners.

  1. For backcountry camping, you MUST have a camping permit. This ensures enough spots for those who wish to camp. Basically, you submit an application for your desired campground (provide as much info as possible), pay a fee, and wait to hear for their approval, and you’re on your way to camping!
  2. Make sure your tent is equipped with a rain cover and a footstep, which goes under your tent to protect from water seeping in. Ours came with both and were essential in keeping us dry when it rained overnight. Hallelujah!
  3. Because you won’t be showering, you won’t need as many changes of clothes as you think you do. This was a three-day trip and, in my head, that warranted three different outfits. I was wrong. I could’ve made do with one outfit and wore that all weekend. Ditch most of your clothes, pack only what you really need, and give your pack more space for food!
  4. Invest in a sleeping pad. For me, this was crucial for a good night’s rest. A sleeping pad offers support under your sleeping bag and protects you from the rocks, sticks, and twigs that are on the ground underneath your tent. Sleeping is life!
  5. Your headlight doubles as a tent nightlight. I purchased a headlamp to use in the night in case I needed to step out of my tent, but I found that it was very useful inside too. Instead of buying a heavy electric lantern just hang your headlamp from the top-center of your tent. Let there be light!

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Resources

Want to see PRNL with your own eyes? Plan your visit! We used the links below to get everything situated.

  1. Plan your visit: The National Park Service homepage for everything you need to know about PRNL.
  2. Backcountry map: Demonstrates campgrounds, trails, and mileage at PRNL.
  3. Permit application: Application to backcountry camp at PRNL.
  4. Shuttle service: Information to coordinate shuttle drop-off and/or pick-up.

There you have it. This was an all-around learning and beautiful experience for the both of us. So much so, that I’m already looking for our next adventure.

I’m happy to answer any questions that may have popped into your head, so ask away! I’m quite active on Instagram and can be easily messaged there. Also, what are other camping destinations that are a must?

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