"Beaver Basin Wilderness" Exploring Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

June 30, 2014  •  2 Comments

Michigan-based photographer John McCormick shares some tips for exploring the "Beaver Basin Wilderness" - Michigan's Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.


Of all the places within the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, the area designated as the "Beaver Basin Wilderness", is not to miss if you want a true back-country experience in one of the best locations of the park. In part 1 of this series I talked about the eastern areas, areas between Grand Sable Dunes and Twelvemile-Beach. This post will be focusing on the Lake Superior shoreline between Spray Falls on the west to Beaver Creek outlet on the east.

To begin your hike for this trip, start at the Little Beaver Lake campground. We most often do day-hikes on our trips, but there are several back-country campsites if you're wanting to do a pack-in trip. You can also camp right at Little Beaver Lake, on a first-come first-serve basis. This first photo of Little Beaver Lake was taken on its north side where the trail intersects with the Beaver Creek or Big Beaver Lake trail.


Little Beaver Lake - Pictured Rocks National LakehsoreLittle Beaver Lake - Pictured Rocks National Lakehsore


Following the Beaver Lake trail east, you will soon see the stunningly clear water and beautiful views of Beaver Lake. The trail follows its shoreline for a bit before reaching Beaver Creek. On our last hike, upon reaching the creek we took off our hiking-boots and waded for awhile. The water here is also remarkably clear and the bottom is sandy. The photos below, a view of Beaver Creek, then, our son Mike crossing this really cool a-frame log footbridge.  Also in the photo is my wife Shelly, taking her boots off to play in the water.  The third photo is where the Bever Creek flows into Lake Superior.


Beaver Creek, Beaver Basin Wilderness Pictured Rocks National LakeshoreBeaver Creek, Beaver Basin Wilderness Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore


Footbridge over Beaver Creek - Beaver Basin WildernessFootbridge over Beaver Creek - Beaver Basin WildernessMy son Mike crossing Beaver Creek in the Beaver Basin Wilderness.


Mouth of the Beaver Creek - Pictured Rocks National lakeshoreMouth of the Beaver Creek - Pictured Rocks National lakeshore


The remaining photos were all taken along the Lakeshore North-Country Trail. To see these areas, instead of heading east at the intersection at Little Beaver Lake that I mentioned, go straight and follow the trail north towards Lake Superior. When you reach the shoreline and head west on the trail, you will come to the area known as "the-coves". It's gorgeous there, the water in Lake Superior is so clear. These beautiful little coves that have been carved by the lake look like scenes straight out of the tropics; we call it, "Michigan's Caribbean". The coves back-county campsites are in this area as well.


The Coves - Pictured Rocks National LakeshoreThe Coves - Pictured Rocks National LakeshoreI've been in the Caribbean before , it's great...but I'll take Michigan's pristine unspoiled beaches and shorelines any day. These coves along pictured rocks are fascinating and gorgeous.


"The Coves"  Lake Superior"The Coves" Lake SuperiorThe coves area of Pictured Rocks National lakeshore


Sunset at the "Coves" Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.Sunset at the "Coves" Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.Sunset in the coves area Lake Superior Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Michigan's Upper Peninsula


Hiking farther west from the coves, the trail climbs until you are high above the lake on the cliffs edge. When we first started taking our boys on this hike, Shelly and I got a few extra gray hairs!  In places, the trail is just a couple of feet from the edge!


Lake Superior sunset Pictured Rocks National LakeshoreLake Superior sunset Pictured Rocks National LakeshoreCliff Edge ,Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Sunset

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There are many interesting lookouts, rock formations and vistas to see along the trail. This tall pine caught my eye while we were hiking out in late evening.

The Lone Pine, Pictured Rocks National LakeshoreThe Lone Pine, Pictured Rocks National LakeshoreA tall White Pine stands along the shores of Lake Superior in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.


Before the trail gets too high above Lake Superior, there are some places you can get down to the shoreline and do some exploring. We found this little hidden beach a couple of years ago. It was really unique; a large group of boulders and a leaning pine tree, interesting and picturesque.


"Rocky Shores" Beaver Basin Wilderness Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore"Rocky Shores" Beaver Basin Wilderness Pictured Rocks National LakeshoreThis is a remote area of Pictured Rocks in the Beaver Basin Wilderness area. Stock Image Licensing, Fine Art Prints

The last photo is Spray Falls, which is at the western end of the Beaver Basin Wilderness. Like I mentioned in part 1 of my, exploring Michigan's Waterfalls blog,  Spray Falls plunges 70ft over the Pictured Rocks cliff edge directly into Lake Superior. These areas that I have mentioned, from the coves to Spray Falls, involve climbing some fairly steep trails in spots and is a moderate hike. Be sure to take plenty enough water and snacks..  Also remember, there are places where the trail gets very close to the edge of the cliffs.  Be aware that this is an ever changing and fragile landscape. Keep a safe distance and have a fun hike.

You can download maps of the park and get other useful information here.


"Spray Falls" Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore"Spray Falls" Pictured Rocks National LakeshoreSpray Falls , Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore - jmphotography@casair.net


Thanks again for taking the time to read my blog. If you have any questions about visiting Pictured Rocks, or would like to leave a comment, please do that below. You can select public, or private.  Also, I highly recommend checking out our Pictured Rocks gallery ; I have over 100 of my favorite shots in there taken in all seasons over many years of visiting the park.

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Thank you very much!




John McCormick is a lifelong Michigan resident and has been interested in Michigan Nature Photography for over 30 years. Michigan is a beautiful place to live and photographing that beauty is his absolute passion. To follow his recent work be sure to "like" his facebook page. To see all of his Michigan photo galleries, purchase prints, or to license an image, use the links at the top of this page.



Michigan Nut Photography
Thanks for dropping a line Wayne, that is some fascinating history. Wouldn't it be great to go back in time and see these original homesteads and cabins.
Wayne Mahowald(non-registered)
My favorite wilderness area. When I was growing up, we had a place on what is now called Trappers Lake (Perch Lake then). I think I have pictures from the late 50's to early 60's somewhere. My great uncle had a place on Big Beaver even earlier than that, the cement from his place is still there right off the trail.
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