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

Gear Shakedown #3…Tent and Food!

You would not believe it, but we have acquired another, lighter tent! Plus, I have prepared the food I will be taking on trail and explaining how it pertains to my anxiety. Finally, here is my Gear Shakedown #3…Tent and Food.

I know what you might be thinking, wasn’t there already a Gear Shakedown about what tent we are carrying? Why yes, Gear Shakedown…#1? However, while our Coleman 2 person sundome is a great tent, it is heavy and bulky. My sister, Rachel (you met here in her point of view backpacking Pictured Rocks for the first time), sent us her new backpacking tent and it is a darn game changer!

I have sought out advice when deciding to carry our 7lb Coleman tent and decided to go with the people telling me “hike your own hike” and “pack what you have.” And what we had was a heavy, bulky tent. However, in an amazing sale, Rachel got her hands on a Nemo Hornet Elite. Rachel and I are always hyping each other up when it comes to our outdoor adventures and are not shy about sharing our gear. Rachel was even the person that introduced me to the idea of hammock camping! When discussing my tent dilemma, Rachel offered too send me her brand-spanking-new tent!

Rachel’s backpacking tent
Our first practice setting up Rachel’s tent

The Nemo Hornet Elite Ultralight Backpacking tent is 3lbs and packs smaller than our sleeping bags! On top of being so much liter, Charlie agreed that he will carry the tent body and rain fly, while I will carry the poles and stakes. SO CONVEINENT. We have practiced setting up the tent and it is a darn dream. If you can get your hands on this tent I really encourage it!

On top of acquiring an amazing backspacing tent, we are to the point where we have packed our food bags!…a few different times! This is a big deal from me because backpackers are known to “pack their fears” and my fear is being hungry. Originally this meant that I had 2-3 days of extra food including too many snacks.

Backpacking food
Before

This might look like not a lot of food to some people, but I was definitely overcompensating for a four day trip. While a day before our hike I removed food, I did buy one backpacking meal while in Marquette at Downwind Sports that made a huge difference in how I cooked all my dinners.

Revised food packed for backpacking
After

In my after picture you can see that I added the Good to Go – kale and white bean stew and removed the mushroom Marsala meals. This made a huge difference for weight and cooking/cleaning. The mushroom Marsala meals were the heaviest things in my food bag, removing these and one ramen meal made my bag lighter. The addition of the backpacking meal gave me a vessel to hot soak my ramen meals that was lite and compact – plus, no dishes since I was just boiling water in our one pot!

In the end this is what I packed in my food bag:

  • 4 ramen meals
  • 4 packets of dinosaur oatmeal
  • 4 packets of single-serve instant coffee
  • 1 resealable snack bag of powdered milk
  • 5 packs of gushers (never enough gushers)
  • 5 cliff bars
  • 5 little Debbie oatmeal cream pies (another item i wished I had more of)
  • Pack of 10 tortillas
  • 1 reusable squeeze pouch of peanut butter (should have also packed jelly!)
  • 8 single-serve bags of Jerquee
  • 1 Good to Go – Kale and White Bean Stew

Thank you for sharing my excitement as we plan our 2021 Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore backpacking trip. We are getting down to the wire and next I will sharing our 2021 Pictured Rocks Backpacking trip!

Love,

Sara

Gear Shakedown #2 and My Gear Checklist

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There are two things in backpacking that can make your trip miserable; forgetting something or packing too much! A great way to make sure you avoid either of those scenarios is to have a Backpacking Gear Checklist! This is my personal gear checklist I have created for backpacking the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. You can write down your gear checklist, create an online sheet like I did, or even use specific sites to track your gear and base weight. Furthermore, as I have checked items off my list, I have also recently changed my water-system and thought I would share with you what I am doing to filter my water!

Checklist of backpacking items and their weight
Sample of my Backpacking Gear Checklist, click the link above to see everything I am packing!

Last year Charlie and I used the Sawyer One Gallon Gravity System, but have decided that the bag that comes with it is difficult to catch water from the waves of Lake Superior and that the tubing was just annoying and took up space. THIS YEAR we are using the filter and hookup from the gravity set up and collecting water with the CNOC 3 liter water bag.

With this system we will collect water with the CNOC bag, filter through the Sawyer Mini, and into the Platypus 3 liter bladder that we drink our water from. This is still a gravity process of filtering, but just will a better collection bag and no extra tubing. Below is a picture of what the filtering process will look like!

Gravity-fed water filtration
Our gravity-fed, water filtration system!

We are still “perfecting” our gear checklist, but I am very happy with how far along we have come. Thank you for taking part in our journey as we get ready for our backpacking adventure! Make sure to check back every Saturday for seeing how we prepare for and backpack Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Love,

Sara

Top 3 Things to See and Do at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

I am going to be frank with you, while these are very popular things I will be listing, I am definitely listing my favorites at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. While these are things that are popular all around, these are my Top3 3 Things to See and Do at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore based on my hiking experiences.

  1. Au Sable Lighthouse
Took this picture on a girls trip in fall 2020

I LOVE lighthouses and this one is gorgeous! You can reach this beauty from the Hurricane River campground along a short 1.5 mile hike. Just make sure to park in a day-use spot and not in a campsite!

This is an amazing landmark, but what makes it so special for me is that I have not seen it on my Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore hiking trips yet. I have hiked from Hurricane River campground to see it, but since last year we had to start our hike at Chapel Beach parking we missed this beauty (see my Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore hiking experience in Part 1 and Part 2). I am so excited that this year we will be starting our trip at Au Sable Visitor center and will be marveling at this light station on day 2!

  1. Chapel Beach
Lake Superior beach
How we were welcomed to Chapel beach

I had never seen true beauty until I had seen the beautiful Chapel beach waters and cliff views. The water is so blue and clear.

We celebrated our first break at Chapel beach and it quickly became our favorite spot after a sweaty hike. If you can only hike one area of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore make sure it is the Chapel Loop!…just make sure to get to the parking area before 8am to get a good spot! This is a popular loop since the sights and beach are so worth it!

  1. Miner’s Castle

Miner’s Castle is just cool! The Miner’s Castle Rock is awesome and one of the only things on the lakeshore that are accessible from the parking lot. Not to mention there are bathrooms and educational materials for curious families and sea kayakers!

While you will appreciate the majesty of this rock formation, you know I have a selfish and personal reason for liking Miner’s Castle best. It’s the end for me. Minor’s Castle is where we park the car and celebrate completing the trail. While I look forward to being on trail, ending the trail is a great feeling of accomplishment and I love that feeling just as much as the journey to get there!

I hope you enjoyed my Top 3 Things to See and Do at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Let me know which one location you want to visit the most and please check out the links below as I prepare for my second Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore hiking trip!

Love,

Sara