» fall in the upper peninsula
Despite living in Michigan for almost 30 years, I had never ventured to the Upper Peninsula during the fall. Whoops. With lots of trees and rolling hills, there is a plethora of places to enjoy the fall color. However, due to time restrictions our options were limited so I chose the one place I knew could not disappoint: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. I hope to return again next fall and make it to the Porcupine Mountains.

Miners Castle at sunrise.

Miners River winding along Miners Beach before flowing into Lake Superior.

Sand Point at sunrise.

Left: Miners Beach at sunrise. Right: Miners River (Photo by Michael).

Left: Munising Falls (50 feet). Right: Wagner Falls (30 feet).

» chapel loop & spray falls
This is probably the most scenic hike in the park but it does include a fair amount of hiking through the forest which can get tedious. The additional 4 miles to Spray Falls is also somewhat tedious but well worth it. The section from Chapel Beach to Mosquito Beach is the most interesting with lots of great views of the lakeshore cliffs.

» times
Started at 9:20am and finished at 3:05pm (6 hours total). We made many small excursions but jogged periodically because we wanted to have time to check out the Grand Sable Dunes later.

» distances/elevations
14 miles total, the Chapel Loop is about 10 miles and hiking to Spray Falls adds an additional 4 miles. The elevation gain is neglible.

» other details
It got up to about 65 degrees with clear skies and a strong south to north wind that was well blocked by the trees. We hiked on a Saturday and ran into one huge group of backpackers and a few smaller groups of day hikers. I drank 1 liter of water total.

Spray Falls dropping 70 feet into Lake Superior. Look closely and you can see Michael standing above the falls off to the right, at the edge of the cliff.

Chapel Falls and fallen leaves.

Indian Head.

Left: Michael under Chapel Rock. Right: Chapel Falls, and red maple leaves

Fallen leaves in the emerald green shallows of Lake Superior.

Left: Chapel Falls. Right: Michael climbing back up the cliff from Chapel Falls.

Michael hiking along the cliffs.

Left: Me along the cliffs (Photo by Michael). Right: The forest.

Chapel Rock and Lower Chapel Falls from Chapel Beach.

The back side of Grand Portal Point.

Michael hiking through the fall foilage.

Cliffs southwest of Chapel Beach.

Spray Falls, me hiking, trees on the edge, and Michael on Grand Portal Point.

Cliffs southwest of Indian Head.

The trail through the forest (Photo by Michael).

Michael on the edge. We stopped at a spot like this to have a snack and take a rest, quite a nice place to hang out.

The road to the Chapel trailhead.

Michael under the cliff that leads to Chapel Falls.

» grand sable dunes
Grand Sable Dunes are at the far east end of the park, about an hour drive from Munising via some of the flattest and straightest roads you can imagine. So, they are kinda out of the way but well worth a visit.

Grand Sable Dunes from the Log Slide viewpoint, just before sunset. The odd patterns on the water surface were due to wind (very cool to see in motion).

Grand Sable Dunes from the beach.

Au Sable Point from the Log Slide viewpoint.

Grand Sable Dunes.

» tahquamenon falls & whitefish point
These two places weren't particularly photogenic when we were there so I am just including these pictures for personal historical record. The fall color along M-123 on the way was very nice, but you'll just have to take my word on that. It was really windy at Whitefish Point and the waves colliding from opposing directions at the point was pretty cool.

Left: Tahquamenon Falls. Right: Whitefish Point.

Translucent leaves on the way to Tahquamenon Falls.


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» all photo reports from michigan's upper peninsula

Thinking about traveling to Pictured Rocks yourself? You might want to read my guide to Pictured Rocks.

Ice Climbing, Michigan
March 4 - 5, 2011
Ice Climbing at Pictured Rocks with a side trip to Miners Castle.
Ice Climbing, Michigan
March 4 - 5, 2010
Ice climbing in the Sand Point area of Pictured Rocks.
The Upper Peninsula, Michigan
October 2 - 11, 2009
Enjoying fall in the Upper Peninsula from Pictured Rocks to the Porcupine Mountains to the Keweenaw Peninsula.
Mackinac Island, Michigan
October 3, 2009
Spending a short day on the island and enjoying the views, even without the influence of fudge.
Pictured Rocks, Michigan
March 7 - 9, 2008
Skiing & snowshoeing in the Miners Castle & Grand Sable Dunes areas. We also checked out the ice in Grand Marais & Mackinac Straits.
Pictured Rocks, Michigan
March 17, 2007
Hiking along the ice shelf from Twelvemile Beach to Spray Falls.
Pictured Rocks, Michigan
January 27, 2007
Skiing & hiking the Chapel Loop in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on a stormy day.
Pictured Rocks, Michigan
March 2 - 4, 2006
Ice climbing and skiing in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
Pictured Rocks, Michigan
January 7, 2006
A backcountry ski trip to the remote lakeshore cliffs of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
Pictured Rocks, Michigan
July 3 - 4, 2005
Hiking in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and checking out some of the other sights in the area.
Pictured Rocks, Michigan
February 25 - 26, 2011
Backpacking the Chapel Loop in winter, with a side trip to Spray Falls.
Bare Bluff, Michigan
October 8, 2009
A fall hike to Bare Bluff, one of the more scenic areas of the Keweenaw Peninsula.
Pictured Rocks, Michigan
October 4 - 11, 2009
Some stormy fall weather along the Pictured Rocks lakeshore.
Ice Climbing, Michigan
February 25 - 27, 2009
Ice climbing in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
Pictured Rocks, Michigan
August 30 - September 2, 2007
Back to the Great Lakes with a rare summer visit to Pictured Rocks to see what it all looks like when it's green.
Mackinac Straits & Pictured Rocks, Michigan
March 16 - 18, 2007
Skiing to Miners Castle, lingering in the Straits of Mackinac, and some other stuff.
Pictured Rocks in Fall, Michigan
October 7, 2006
Hiking the Chapel Loop & checking out other sights like Spray Falls, Miners Castle, Miners Beach, Munising Falls, Grand Sable Dunes, etc.
Pictured Rocks, Michigan
February 19 - 20, 2006
Skiing & snowshoeing the Pictured Rocks backcountry. Areas visited include: Miners Castle, Miners Beach, Twelvemile Beach, and Spray Falls.
The Upper Peninsula, Michigan
December 26 - 28, 2005
Winter pictures from Tahquamenon Falls State Park and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.