2022 Was Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore’s Third Busiest Year Ever
In 2020 and 2021 we watched as Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore set attendance records, with more than a million visitors coming to the park in each of those years. The COVID-19 pandemic saw travelers look for wide-open spaces where social distancing could be practiced while still enjoying the outdoors, and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore served as an ideal location. While 2022 visitor numbers weren’t quite as strong as the previous two years, it was the third busiest year ever at the park, further highlighting why the implementation of entrance fees was necessary to keep up with infrastructure and upgrades. Today we will take a look at some of the specifics from last year’s numbers (available at irma.nps.gov) while showcasing the things we love about this Upper Peninsula paradise: trails, waterfalls, shipwrecks, lighthouses, lakes, rivers, wildlife, and scenic rock formations.
A slow January saw an almost 50 percent drop in visitor traffic compared to the prior year, but things rebounded in February with numbers that compared favorably to the pre-pandemic years of 2017 and 2019. March saw a slight dip down from February numbers, but with the variable conditions presented by upper Peninsula winters that can be expected. After an incredibly soft April (second-lowest attendance since 2014), things perked right back up in May. The reported attendance of 55,256 made for the second-best May in park history, trailing only 2021 (72,000 visitors). This was a great sign for the park heading into the summer!
Both of Michigan’s national lakeshores see their heaviest traffic in the summer months. The slower start to summer in the Upper Peninsula usually means that Pictured Rocks is at its busiest in July, August, and September instead of the traditional June, July, and August spike that takes place in the Lower Peninsula at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore had its second-best June attendance ever in 2022 (134,938) but it was still a drop of more than 60,000 visits compared to 2021. July’s 218,186 visitors was good enough to be the third highest ever for that month, but was a huge drop off from the record 363,157 visits in 2021. August attendance was strong (236,198 – third best) but marked a second consecutive year with a drop of 40,000 visits for that month.
September was the third-busiest month of the year with 145,638 visits (third best September of all time), while October (down to 58,518 from 92,057) and November (down to 8,869 from 10,055) further showed the trend of having lower attendance than the previous two years but similar attendance to pre-pandemic years. December is always a gamble due to weather, and while it was one of only two months that saw a boost from 2021 numbers it still saw the second-lowest mark for the month in the last seven years.
So what can we take away from this look at 2022 visitor numbers at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore? First off, it will be interesting to see if any year in the future can come close to the record attendance numbers during the pandemic. Second, it is definitely an encouraging sign to see that entrance fees seemed to have no impact on visits as last year’s numbers were still higher than any year prior to 2020. Finally, as improvements continue to be made and access expanded we expect to see these kinds of numbers every year for one of our favorite spots in Michigan! As a reminder, the entrance fees increased for 2023 and are currently $20 for a seven-day vehicle pass, $30 for an annual pass, $15 for a motorcycle seven-day pass, and $10 per person for a weekly walk-in, bicycle, or boating pass.