The Best Way to Kayak Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a place I’ve always wanted to visit. I’ve seen so many Instagram posts and gotten jealous over other people’s trips here, and now I can finally cross it off my bucket list!

While there are many ways to visit Pictured Rocks (i.e. hiking, cruises) the best way to experience this lakeshore is with a kayak tour. You get up close and personal with natural arches and caves, and you have an awesome guide to tell you about each of the rock formations you paddle past!

This was my experience with Pictured Rocks Kayaking tours.

Disclaimer: My sister, Hannah, is going to appear is many of my photos from this trip! She’s very excited to be featured on the blog.

There are a few different companies that offer kayaking tours at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, but I went with Pictured Rocks Kayaking because they had the best trip itinerary, in my opinion.

The lakeshore is actually over 40 miles long, but there are distinctive sections with the unique landforms people want to visit. This company actually departs from a dock in Munising, Michigan on a large cruise boat. The kayaks are strapped to the top and – you guess it – you launch right off the back of the boat!

You actually cruise for 45 minutes, passing Miner’s Castle and Painted Coves. Then you push off on your kayaks to explore 11 more rock formations. The boat picks you back up at the end and you cruise for an hour back to Munising.

Important Details of this trip:

  • 5 Miles of Kayaking
  • 45 minutes – 1 hour of cruising each way
  • Morning tours departing at 9 a.m. & 10 a.m.
  • Afternoon tours departing at 2:30 p.m. & 3:30 p.m.
  • Tandem kayaks & paddles are provided
  • Life vests and spray skirts are provided
  • A guide escorts you down the shoreline
  • 12 people + 1 guide in a group
  • Adults: $149 | Youth 12 & Under: $110

This trip truly exceeded my expectations. Despite lasting five hours, the day seemed to fly by! When we launched from the cruise boat, the guides were so helpful getting us all out to sea safely. Once the expedition began, our guide, Frankie, would tell us about each formation and let us paddle around and explore, waiting patiently to take us to the next stop.

Our guide even remembered each of our names after telling her once! She talked to each of us throughout the trip, and was very observant about where every member of the group was, ensuring no one was left behind or went “swimming” on accident.

The kayaking begins near Lovers Leap, and we actually get to paddle through the natural stone arch! We even saw hikers up above and waved to them as they wound their way along the 10 mile loop.

One of the best parts of this trip was the use of tandem kayaks. These are longer and more stable in Lake Superior’s waters. There are many warnings about kayaking in Lake Superior because it can be rough, and you have to have a sea kayak rather than a recreational kayak to withstand the waves. Even on a calm day, you’ll be hit with wake from the cruise boats passing by. It makes for a rocky but fun trip!

Safety was a huge proponent of this trip, and so we were also provided with life vests and a splash guard to keep us from getting soaking wet.

With Lake Superior’s unpredictable weather, it’s important to be flexible. Sometimes it’s unsafe to go out and kayak along the lakeshore. If this happens, Pictured Rocks Kayaking will either rebook you to a different day, refund your trip, or they offer an alternative excursion with a partial refund.

With all the rain and wind we’ve had this year, water levels are high and the water has not been cooperating. I got lucky because my trip went out, but every trip from three days prior had to be cancelled because the lake was so choppy.

There’s so much to do in the U.P., so if you’re planning to kayak Pictured Rocks, I recommend booking it for the first day you’re in Munising, that way you can re-arrange your schedule if you have to post pone it by a few days!

Once you’re booked, through the safety briefing and on you way, you’re guaranteed to have a great time. This lakeshore is so beautiful and I’m thankful someone had enough sense to preserve is all those years ago! It’s a truly magical spot with cliffs towering 200 feet above you, and turquoise water so clear you can see all the way to the bottom.

You’ll paddle into huge coves, small caves and under archways in the vast waters of the Great Lakes, and you’ll always remember it. It’s one of the coolest excursions I’ve ever been on, hands down!

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