Sunset at Miner’s Castle, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

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Pick up a postcard from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and it will probably have a photo of Miner’s Castle on it.  This distinctive cliff, protruding out into Lake Superior, is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the park.  And there are a couple of great ways to see it, that don’t require a lot of effort.

Location

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 Miner’s Castle area, from downtown Munising, drive 5 miles on H-58, then turn left onto Miner’s Castle Road.  This paved 6-mile road ends at the Miner’s Castle overlook.  Shortly before the end, you can turn onto a dirt road that leads down to the beach on the east side of Miner’s Castle.

My Visit

After enjoying a long hike at Chapel Rock, and doing a little more driving around Pictured Rocks (I didn’t even make it halfway through the park), I hurried back to Miner’s Castle and arrived just before sunset.  It’s a great time to see this landmark…

… as the setting sun lights up the west-facing cliff, as it curves out gracefully to the point which holds Miner’s Castle.  There’s an official viewpoint here, just a short walk from the parking lot, as well as a few other places along the cliff that offer nice views.  But, from each spot, you get a similar picture.  You can, however, get closer.

Hiking down to Miner’s Castle

A well-developed path, that includes a bunch of stairs and some zig-zagging switchbacks, takes you from the parking area down to the backside of Miner’s Castle.

I rushed to get down here, hoping it would be a good spot to watch the sunset.  Indeed, a few other photographers had already staked out a spot on the viewing platform.

But, I didn’t think the view was very exciting.  Yes, you do get a close-up view of Miner’s Castle from here, but it just didn’t work for me.  So I took a few shots, then packed up and sprinted back up the trail.  I had high hopes for one more spot, and just enough time to get there.

Miner’s Castle used to be slightly more impressive.  Prior to 2006, there were two rock turrets atop the formation, but then, one of them collapsed into Lake Superior.  Now, there’s just one.  As erosion, freezing, expansion, and contraction take their toll, someday it will also crumble.

On the opposite side of Miner’s Castle, there’s a nice little beach.  I was hoping I would be able to see the rock formation from here, but I could not.  And, those pesky clouds near the horizon moved in, robbing me of the sun in the final moments of the day.  But at least I had the beach all to myself.

Dinner: It’s a Pasty

With daylight fading, I headed out of the park, and back to Marquette for the night.  Before leaving Munising…

… I stopped for an authentic Upper Peninsula treat — a pasty (pronounced PASS-tee) at Muldoon’s Pasty Shop.

A pasty is a pretty basic food — it’s a pastry pocket baked with meat and potatoes inside.  The flavor is pretty bland until you add some Sriracha sauce, which really made it come alive.  The pasty originated in Cornwall, England, and was brought over by immigrants who settled in the U.P.  It was especially popular with the area’s miners, who could easily bring pasties to work for their lunch.

Drivelapse Video

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:

The Bottom Line

Miner’s Castle is one of the most recognizable spots in Pictured Rocks, and it should definitely be a priority to visit.  I thought sunset was a nice time to see it, but it would be good to stop here any time of the day.  The beach is also a nice side-trip, but not necessary, if you have other destinations you’re trying to reach.

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