The Best Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Backcountry Campsites

Finally, Charlie and I are ready to share our route and campsites from our 2021 Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore hike. Charlie and I hiked Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in June 2021 and it was one of my favorite experiences to date. We hiked part of the trail a year before (see Part 1/Day 1 and Part 2/Day 2). Now that we have completed our 2021 hike, in my opinion, these are the best Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Backcountry Campsites.

Campsite water view
View of Lake Superior from the Au Sable East Campsite entrance

Night 1: Au Sable East

For our first leg of the trip we hiked from the Grand Marias Visitor Center to the Au Sable East backcountry campground. Our permits assigned us the site furthest from the trailhead. As you enter the camp there is a fork in the trail, the right side leading to the group sites and the toilet, and the left to the other sites.

What we loved about this site:

  • easy water access from trail (see above picture)!
  • easy walk to Au Sable Lighthouse (great site, but also potable water and a porta-potty)!

Things we got over:

  • Two sites were very close to fire pit and one of them you had to walk through to get back onto the trail. Fortunately, no one in those sites seemed to mind.

Night 2: Seven Mile Creek

A creek dark in tannins rolls over rocks and logs. This is Seven Mile Creek!
A bridge over Seven Mile Creek welcomes you into the Seven Mile Creek Campground

Our second night was spent with great company at Seven Mile Creek backcountry campground! If you are going westbound like we were, a lovely bridge leads you over Seven Mile Creek and into the campground. The individual campsites are spaced out and allow a minuet amount of privacy with the communal fire pit bringing everyone together.

What we loved about this site:

  • Easy access to water! You can take a swim in Lake Superior or roll out of bed and walk around Seven Mile Creek. Water collecting was easiest at this site!
  • Each site was plenty spaced out from others

Things we got over:

  • No vault toilet. As a backpacker you have to be prepared to do your business in the woods and know best practice for leave-no-trace. However, having a vault toilet at a site is a little luxury.

Night 3: Coves

If I could only camp at one of these backcountry sites again, it would be Coves. I had a hard time finding our assigned site due to the original site marker not being there, but once we checked the map at the bear box and identified the trails leading to the site, we were settled in! We had to climb down some sandy cliffs to get to Lake Superior, but it was so worth it. Coves basically has its own private beach and we took advantage with a swim and laying out on warm sand.

What we loved about the site:

  • Private beach feel
  • Amble bench seating around fire pit (at least when we were there)

Things we got over:

  • Descending sandy trails to access water (but honestly we were fine and had the best time with our beach time)!

Night 4: Mosquito River

Backpack laying on at tree at Mosquito River Backcountry Campsite
Our heavy backpacks leaning on a tree at Mosquito River Backcountry Campground.

If you know about our 2020 Pictured Rocks adventure, you know that we have the most experience with Mosquito River. We were warned by other hikers of bear sitings around this area, but we never saw any bears. We were cautious as always and locking up food and trash. Unfortunately, the day we got to Mosquito River we also noticed a lot of annoyance from black flies. Those things aside, access to the campsite is right off the trail and beautiful views of lake superior allow for easy water access. However, the popular Chapel Basin/Mosquito Loop goes through this site leading to a lot of traffic before the sun sets.

What we love about this site:

  • Beautiful views of Lake Superior and the ability to wave to kayakers and other boat tours (we love that kind of thing)

Things we got over:

  • Directing day-hikers to how to continue on their loop trip in between setting up camp and dinner.
  • Bugs. Who would have thought we’d have a bug problem at Mosquito River!?

Charlie and I agree that these are the best Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore backcountry campsites and we look forward to being able to explore more campsites on the NCT and Pictured Rocks in the future. Do you have a favorite backcountry campsite? Please comment below!

Love,

Sara