If you are searching for a wonderful day hike I would highly recommend the Chapel Loop Hike- Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan. This is a 10 mile loop with breathtaking views along the gorgeous lakeshore bluffs of Lake Michigan.
This was our first time hiking this trail and I am extremely thrilled to say #1 we made the entire 10 miles and #2 it will be repeated again! Here is what we did, where we stayed, and advice for anyone thinking about attempted this hike.
We drove from our home in WI and stayed the night in Munising, MI which is about 20 minutes from the trail head. Before leaving home, I contacted the park ranger and we discussed the black fly problem and bear precautions. He informed me that the black flies are normally gone by September but could linger depending on the weather. We purchased headnets to wear in the instance that these were still lingering although we never needed them. The only place we encounter them was when we were on the beach and they were not too horrible. As for bear precautions, as much as I hated spending $50 on a can of bear spray, I did it anyhow. My husband wore this the entire hike on the outside of his pack for easy access if needed. Thankfully, the only bear we saw was in the backyard of our hotel and I was safely inside our room looking out at this fine creature. I will say, however, that along the trail we did run into a few other hikers and backcountry campers whom all had their bear spray visible and ready also, so I felt a little safer knowing that we had ours too. Now, as for the trail….we arrived just before 8am Saturday morning and the parking lot only had a few cars in it. We used the bathroom facility, took a look at the maps, warnings, and such on the board and decided to head the direction of Chapel Falls.
The first part of this trail was wide and went through big, beautiful forest.
Not far in we heard Chapel Falls.
Then we headed further towards Chapel Rock. This was really amazing.
After Chapel Rock you will continue down the trail to Chapel Beach. This is also the location of the first campsite area for back country campers.
And an area that had restrooms. I was very thankful for this and I must say, this was one of the nicest signs I saw along the trail.
When I came out I found my husband had stripped of his pack, shoes, and socks and was enjoying the cool waters of the lake.
After a nice break here we headed up further to Grand Portal Point. These few miles went by so quickly because the views we saw as we hiked the bluffs edge were just spectacular.
As you round the back side of Grand Portal Point you come to a very nice area for a break. At this point you are about half way finished.
If you decide to sit and have a snack, watch your packs, critters are very friendly on this trail. We met this little fella begging for one of our almonds.
As you make your way further you will see beautiful blue water, rock ledges, and what is known as Lover’s Leap Arch.
This is all while hiking along the lakeshore on, at times, a very narrow path near the edge, caution is needed.Your next big stop will be at Mosquito Beach/Camp which is also camp area #2 for campers.We found this much more busy with tourists and moved pretty quickly through this area toward Mosquito Falls.
By this time we were getting pretty tired. The trail had turned from packed dirt, to sand, and these last few miles were loose rocks and tree roots causing huge tripping hazards it seemed. We slowed our pace to not injure ourselves and upon arriving at the falls my husband actually took his shoe off again to soak his foot for a bit. (Remember, he is recovering from a herniated disc that has left him with nerve damage in that leg/foot and ice cold water helps)
While he did this I explored the area.
All that was left after this was the parking lot. Which seemed to be miles from where we were but was actually only about another mile. When we arrived back at the parking lot I was completely speechless……….there were so many cars that they had started parking up both sides of the dirt road for almost an entire mile. My advice is if you plan to do any part of this hike arrive early. Very early.
We accomplished this 10 mile hike is just over 6 hrs, with two breaks for a snack and two rest periods in the water. After finishing for the day we returned to our hotel, ate dinner, and were both in bed by 7pm exhausted but extremely grateful for accomplishing this hike. It was wonderful!
My personal thoughts: I loved this hike, however, I am one that loves rock, bluffs, and waterfalls. If you are the same, then you should also enjoy this hike. There is a lot of different terrain here, nothing severe, but different throughout. Roots and rocks can be detrimental to toes so sandals would not be your best choice of footwear here. I thought the trails were very well marked until the last few miles. From Mosquito Campground until the parking lot they can be somewhat confusing so remember your trail map. And one last thing, because I know every female will appreciate this, yes you will find restrooms at the start, at Chapel Beach Campground, and at Mosquito Beach Campground HOWEVER bring your own TP!
NOTE: We did run into one trail hazard along the route and it was well marked and a detour has been made by the park dept. It only brings you off trail a few yards at most. Be careful.