Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula might just be the prettiest place on the trip. We arrived crossing our fingers for a campsite at the Little Beaver Lake Campground. There are only 8 sites here, but from what I had seen online the other campgrounds couldn’t compete with these views. After almost an hour from the visitor center and 3 miles down a windy little one-way road, we found there were still a few spaces available. I definitely think we got the best one with this lake view!
Once we got set up we had a quick bite and made a little more coffee. It was supposed to rain the next day so we wanted to make sure to do what was supposed to be the “best” hike. In my research I had pretty much only heard about Chapel Beach, Chapel Beach, Chapel Beach. So we set out on the 10 mile hike! The first three miles, I was getting kind of disappointed. I felt like there was no way we were going to get to see the real Insta-worthy views, except for in the water. They really push the cruise tours here and kayaking is very popular. Since I’ve never kayaked, it didn’t seem like Lake Superior would be a good starting point and we weren’t super interested in taking a crowded boat ride that cost far more than our few nights of camping. I’m hiking through the woods and getting a little bummed out. We come to Chapel Falls, which is pretty, but difficult to get a view of from the trail. Then we come to Chapel Beach, and it’s pretty, but there’s not much of a view of the rocks and it’s pretty crowded with boats pulling up and kiddos playing in the water (which felt like ice btw – these northern kids are bad). But since I had read THIS was IT, we laid our towel out and hung out at the beach for awhile. We decided to finish the trail so we could get back to our campsite with a little daylight left – and that’s when we found – THE VIEWS.
Ohmygoodness, each clearing we came to seemed to just be even better than the last. The rocks, the water, the coves, it all completely caught us off guard and blew us away. After seeing pictures, a friend of mine said he thought we were somewhere exotic, not Michigan! It seems like this place might just be Michigan’s best kept secret. The trail we took to the beach initially was pretty crowded and it seems most people hike in and out on that same shorter path. We only passed a couple groups (one jamming to Sweet Home Alabama) on this section of the hike and unexpectedly came about 30 feet from a couple deer on the trail. If we could’ve had another nice day or if we get to go back, I would just do this trail again and be sure I had the whole day to really enjoy it.
That night I actually got some sleep because we were next to some kids talking all night. Yep, you read that right; now, I sleep better with noise because I’m not listening for every brush of a leaf that’s CLEARLY a bear. I did get up about 3am to go to the bathroom (yes, this oversharing moment has a purpose), and saw the absolute best stars I’ve ever seen. It was just so dark the sky almost looked fake. I tried to wake Max up to get him to look, which he obviously shrugged off – I would hate to know what I would’ve done had he woken me up for this. We’ll see if he eternally regrets this, since this has still been the best night sky.
The next day I woke up laughing after a man pushing off a kayak exclaimed, “BACK TO THE BEAV!” I thought my feet could fall off so we just did some short hikes and little overlooks. We did come to this beautiful dune where a woman was saying some not so nice things to her man that had apparently talked her into going a liiiitle further out on the sandy ledge of the cliff than she cared for (ladies, you do you). Luckily, the rain stayed away long enough for us to get a fire going, enjoy some dinner, and call it a day. I don’t know if we’ll ever get to, but getting “back to the beav” is going on the bucket list along with kayaking in Lake Superior.