Location: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Sheer rock cliffs, unruly waves, miles of forest and wild waterfalls. Who could say no to that? That’s the scenery you can expect to see when you hike the North Country Trail in Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore. The trail follows, literally, along Lake Superior from Munising to Grand Marais and offers some spectacular views.
Steve and I were looking for a day hike in the Pictured Rocks, and it just so happened that Spray Falls, located on the North Country Trail, was the only waterfall in the area we hadn’t seen yet. We decided that this would be an ideal hike and looked into access points to the North Country Trail. We found two that were near Spray Falls; the trail to Chapel Rock or the trail through the Beaver Basin Wilderness Area. We decided to take the Beaver Basin Wilderness route.
The Beaver Basin Wilderness Area
This area is 11,740 acres, with 13 miles of Lake Superior shoreline, 8.5 miles of connector trails and 6 back-country campsites. There are three lakes; Beaver Lake, Trappers Lake and Legion Lake as well as five streams, extensive wetlands and beech-maple hardwood forest. The trail head for the hike to Spray Falls is located near the Little Beaver Lake Campground. From this point, Lake Superior is roughly 1.6 miles.
The North Country Trail
Steve and I were pleasantly surprised when we reached the North Country Trail. I imagined this trail would be mostly forested, with a few views of Lake Superior. This wasn’t the case. At first it was mostly trees, but there were coves that allowed you to leave the trail and enjoy the rocky shore of Lake Superior. This places didn’t have anyone there but us and we went lots of time just sitting on the rocks and enjoying the view of the spirited lake.
Beyond the coves, the trail began to climb up and the trees started to clear out. Eventually the trail leveled again and the trees between us and Lake Superior disappeared. We were on top of the Pictured Rocks cliffs and Lake Superior was some 200 feet below us. The stunning blues and greens of the water reminded me of some tropical place rather than of Michigan. It was absolutely breath-taking.
Spray Falls, according to the National Park Services (NPS), is best viewed from a boat. However, I think the view from the trail is also pretty impressive. Spray Falls plummets 70 feet over a cliff and directly into Lake Superior. The North Country Trail crosses over the waterfall’s source, providing an additional view, but we didn’t go that far up trail. Also, according to the NPS, the shipwreck of “Superior” from 1856 lies at the base of the falls in 20 feet of water.