Twelvemile Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Twelvemile Beach, which is located on the northern shore of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, is part of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on Lake Superior. Twelvemile Beach spans the twelve miles from the Au Sable Light Station in the east toward the Beaver Creek campground in the west. Twelvemile Beach offers rustic overnight camping with stunning views of Lake Superior.

Driving north on I-75 to reach Twelvemile Beach at Pictured Rocks National Shoreline? Colonial Michilimackinac Visitor’s Center and Fort Entrance is a great place to stop before heading over the Straits of Michigan. It’s located right under the bridge with ample parking. There are modern amenities inside, and visitors with lots of free time can purchase admission to the fort.

The Mackinac Bridge spans the five miles between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. Known as both Big Mac and Mighty Mac, this bridge opened in 1957 after decades of engineering challenges. The incredible views of the Straits of Mackinac include both Lake Michigan to the west and Lake Huron to the east. This is a toll bridge, at $4 per passenger car, which connects Mackinac City (LP) and St. Ignace (UP).

Pictured Rocks’ Twelvemile Beach is located on the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT), which spans about 4,600 miles between eastern New York and North Dakota. There are parking lots nearby to join the trail close to Pictured Rocks attractions like Twelvemile Beach. Some attractions, however, are accessed only from the Trail.

The Log Slide, which is near the Log Slide parking lot, is a remnant of the late 19th-Century white pine logging era in the Upper Peninsula. Visitors can go down into this chute, but it is really steep and only for the surest-footed. The National Park Service posts frequent warnings about unstable dunes.

The Grand Sable Dunes is but one attraction in the 45 miles between the towns of Grand Marais and Munising in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This image was taken from the Log Slide Overlook with an iPhone 6S Plus at 4:30 pm on June 22, 2016.

The National Park Service puts out a Backcountry Planner that provides prospective visitors with all the information they need to plan a backpacking trip. There is information on the types of terrain encountered, which is to say, everything. Staying on the trail is the best way to stay safe on the North Country Trail at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

The Au Sable Group Campsite can only be reached on foot via the North Country Trail. This is a backcountry campsite and a backcountry camping permit is needed. There are bear boxes here, plus bear poles, to keep food well away from the UP’s black bears. This site holds seven to twenty people. This site is about two miles from the Log Slide, and is surrounded by dense pine trees. Lake Superior is close by.

The Au Sable Light Station was built in 1873 and is 87 feet tall. From the National Park Service: travel to the Hurricane River Campground located 12 miles west of Grand Marais on Alger County Road H-58. Park in the day use parking area near the bridge. It is a 1-1/2 mile walk (one way) to the lighthouse. Walk the hiking trail to the east beginning at the picnic area near the Hurricane River mouth. Exposed shipwreck remains dot the shoreline. Watch for the signs and steps to the beach along the trail.

Twelvemile Beach has rustic camping, but many of the 36 campsites here offer stunning views of Lake Superior. There is no electricity here, but there are drinking water stations with high volume spigots and vault toilets. There are two accessible camp sites. Campers need to keep their food in their vehicles. Twelvemile Beach is about four and a half miles west from the Au Sable Group Site.

These steps, which lead to the beach, originate near campsites 1, 2, and 3. There are two other beach entry points; each provides an amazing view of Lake Superior. The boards here are not uncomfortable to the feet, but steps on the cliff are rugged, and the sand on the beach is very hot.

There really isn’t much to say about getting down to the beach from the boardwalk, other than watch your step. The sand can make the steps slippery, and the descent is steep. Toward the bottom, the steps are almost nonexistent.

Despite Twelvemile Beach campground being completely full when this image was taken, there was hardly anyone using Twelvemile Beach. Now, there are trails to hike (for instance, the White Birch Trail) and dinners to cook, but there are still cairns and castles to build. The beach was very, very clean, as was the entire Twelvemile Beach campground. This campground, unlike the Au Sable and Sevenmile sites, do not require backcountry camping permits.

This image looks due north out onto Lake Superior. Looking closely at the shoreline, an observant viewer will notice that there are rocks only, and no shells. (There’s no beachglass, either.) The rocks are highly polished granite and quartz that sparkle in the sun and water. The NPS asks that visitors leave these gems on the beach for all to enjoy for years to come.

These kayakers are staying close to the shore as the weather proves to be mild and wonderful for the third week in June at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The kayaks these young men are using are recreational kayaks, and they are not recommended for navigating far from shore. Sea kayaks—which are designed for rougher waters—are the recommended kayaks for touring the waters near the pictured rocks that have made this shoreline famous.

This view of Twelvemile Beach looks east; the water here is incredibly cold and clear. That said, the NPS recommends a two-step process before drinking the water because the germs that cause Crypto and Beaver Fever are both present. First, treat with tablets (this blogger uses MSR brand) and then filter (LifeStraw brand soccer-style bottle). Such water tastes fine. There are many options available for treating water; do your homework.

This view of Twelvemile Beach looks west. In fact, less than three miles to the west is another campground with beach access and stunning views, the Sevenmile Group Campsite. This is a backcountry site and it has no treated water. The 2.6 mile trail is easy but is soft and sandy in some spots. Between these two camp sites are many spots to view sunsets. Sevenmile has more room to spread out than Au Sable.

This drive-in campground fills up very early in the morning (though there is a parking lot for daytime beachgoers). A campsite here allows for two vehicles and two tents; fill out an envelope (inset) and make payment at a hut. Attach the envelope tab to the post at left. This site is smaller than most, but it has a picnic table, fire ring, and tent pad. It is very close to the White Birch Trail and the NCT.

Once the sun goes down, the temperatures at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore drop like a rock. According to the Backcountry Planner, the average high temperature for June is 70.2 deg F (21.8 deg C) and the average low is 49.7 deg F (9.8 deg C). The sun will disappear in the next five minutes, and there will be no twilight left on this section of the North Country Trail.

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