Maybe you don’t have time to make the excellent 6-mile loop hike out to Chapel Rock and Chapel Beach, but a shorter hike to a beautiful waterfall seems just right. The Chapel Rock Trailhead offers a solution: the 1.1 mile (one way) hike out to Mosquito Falls. Just be prepared for one thing: it can be really difficult to get down to the perfect photo spot, and even more difficult getting out again.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is located on the Lake Superior coast, in between the towns of Munising and Grand Marais. If you’re coming from Marquette, it’s about a 45 mile drive on M-28 to the Munising Falls Visitor Center. Coming from Interstate 75, you’ll also take M-28, then M-77, to the Grand Marais Visitor Center, about 100 miles. In between Munising and Grand Marais, Adams Trail, route H-58, runs inland, and side-roads provide access to many of the park’s destinations.
To access the Chapel Falls Trail, take H-58 14 miles from downtown Munising, then turn left onto Chapel Road. This 5-mile dirt road dead-ends at the trailhead.
I tacked-on the side-trip to Mosquito Falls at the end of my hike out to Chapel Rock. By the time I reached this sign…
… I had already hiked about six miles. But, I always have trouble passing up a good detour, so I decided to add a couple more miles to my route. If unlike me, you’re just hiking from the parking area to Mosquito Falls, you’ll only be facing about a two-mile round-trip, and you’ll find this split about 3/10 of a mile from the parking lot.
It’s a fairly easy hike out to Mosquito Falls — although just a bit more challenging than the rest of the loop route out to Chapel Rock. There are some small ups and downs that probably seemed bigger to me, because I had been hiking for a few hours. But, there’s one thing that’s unmistakably big about this trail.
If you want to get down to the best viewpoint of Mosquito Falls, you’ll need to do some climbing. There’s a gap in the rock that gives you access to the creek, but it’s a pretty big drop. There is a pile of rocks directly below, which provide some help, but that gap is still probably four or five feet high.
To get down, I attached my camera bag to my hiking stick, and lowered it down, then tossed my backpack, and finally, eased my way down to the rock pile.
Here it is from another angle.
Once I was down there, I decided I’d worry about getting back up when it was time to leave, and instead turned my attention to photographing…
There are a few ways to photograph Mosquito Falls — either go downstream just a bit…
… or get up close. I didn’t see an easy way to get to the other side of the creek, but I didn’t need to. The pictures were good enough from this side.
And then, I turned my attention to getting back up that cliff. Once again, I put my camera bag on my hiking stick, and lifted it up. Then, I grabbed onto anything I could to make the climb. There wasn’t much to hold onto. But, I was able to shift just enough of my weight onto the ledge to provide the leverage to pull the rest of my body up. I’m about 6 foot tall, and if I was just a few inches shorter, I think I would have had a problem. The moral of the story: if you’re hiking out here, it’s probably best to go with a friend who can help with that cliff. And maybe, someday, the park service will add a ladder or a cable.
Here’s a look at the drive through Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Keep in mind, it just shows the drive, not necessarily the best views, which are often at the end of a trail:
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Mosquito Falls was one of the nicest waterfalls I photographed on this trip. If you hike this trail, make sure you’re prepared to get down, and back up, the cliff at the waterfall.