2020 Was a Record Year for Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
For the first time in its history, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore saw more than one million visitors during 2020. The large jump in visits is being attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the need for people to get out and enjoy the outdoors but to also do so safely. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore stretches from Munising to Grand Marais on the Lake Superior shoreline of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is know for its stunning sandstone cliffs and natural formations, waterfalls, wildlife, hiking trails, camping, and winter recreation opportunities. In a year that saw many national parks decline in visits, Pictured Rocks had a record-breaking summer and fall. In this post we will take a look at some of the numbers provided by the National Park Service, and highlight some of our favorite things to do when visiting Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore has seen an increase in visitor traffic each year since 2014. Its previous high was 858,715 visitors in 2019, and it far exceeded that with 1.2 million visitors in 2020. While most parks saw a decline in visitors, Michigan had three national park sites that saw increases: Pictured Rocks, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and River Raisin National Battlefield Park. These three were among the 15 sites nationally that had record years thanks to their abundance of open space.
Now, let’s take a look at things month by month. January and February were either slightly down or flat (17,800 and 20,000 visitors), while March was the slowest month of the year (8,000 visits) due to the stay-at-home order in Michigan. Things started picking back up in April and May with increases of 3,000 and 5,000 more visitors than 2019. As people began looking for a way to still enjoy a vacation while being mindful of the pandemic, summer visits skyrocketed as June, July, and August traffic accounted for more than 740,000 of the park’s total visits. August and September each saw an increase of more than 50% in visits, while October visits smashed all previous years with an increase of more than 120% in visits. Helped along by a later start to winter, November numbers were also the highest they have been since records have been kept. A five-month span of 2020 (July-November) saw new record visitors numbers, which is a pretty impressive feat!
Now, we’ve already mentioned a few reasons why we think Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore was so popular last year but we’ll provide a quick guide here on safe ways to get out and explore. You can also find links to all of our previous Pictured Rocks coverage at the bottom of the page.
Waterfalls – easy hikes take visitors to Munising Falls, Miners Falls, Sable Falls, and Elliot Falls. It takes longer hikes to get Chapel Falls and Mosquito Falls. Spray Falls and Bridal Veil Falls are best seen from the water.
Trails – Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a hiking paradise! It has more than 40 miles of North Country Trail that parallels the shoreline of Lake Superior. Popular day hikes include the Chapel Loop, Sand Point Marsh Trail, exploring the Beaver Basin Wilderness, and the hike to Au Sable Point Light Station.
Natural Formations – Miners Castle is one of the park’s most-visited overlooks and is easy to visit, and other landmarks like Grand Portal Point and Chapel Rock require miles of hiking or a boat trip to view.
Beaches – there’s plenty of space to socially distance at Miners Beach, Sand Point, and Grand Sable Dunes. Some of the best Lake Superior beaches in Michigan are located within the park boundaries.
Kayaking – There’s truly nothing like seeing the Pictured Rocks cliffs or waterfalls from water level in a kayak. There are now several options for guided tours, including Pictured Rocks Kayaking, Paddling Michigan/Uncle Ducky Outdoors, Pictured Rocks Adventures, and Northern Waters. Kayaking saw a big surge in popularity in 2020 as it is one of the best socially distant recreation options.
Our love for Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore dates back to the 1990s when we first visited. Over the years we’ve enjoyed visiting waterfalls, taking a kayak tour, seeing the cliffs from three different (Riptide Ride, Glass Bottom Shipwreck Tours, Pictured Rocks Cruises) boat tours, hiking many miles of trails, and seeing lots of wildlife. It’s no surprise that this beautiful place continues to be more popular each year, and we look forward to our next visit and to seeing if the upward trend continues in 2021! We hope you find the links below helpful in planning your trip:
Photo Gallery Friday: Kayaking Pictured Rocks
Trail Tuesday: Sand Point Marsh
50 Things to Do at Pictured Rocks for its 50th Anniversary (2016)