July 29, 2015
Exploring Pictured Rocks: Hiking The Chapels
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
This year I’m finally seeing the Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore how it was meant to be seen; by hiking. On our annual memorial day weekend trip, Steve and I hiked to Spray Falls, something we had never done before. After experiencing this hike, I couldn’t wait to get back out on the trails and see what other magnificent sights I could discover.
My mom hasn’t spent a lot of time in the Pictured Rocks and for her birthday this year, I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to show her why falling in love with the U.P is so easy. I picked a 6.6 mile (RT) portion of the Chapel Loop, located in the Chapel/Mosquito area, that included Chapel Falls, Chapel Rock and Chapel Beach.
I’ve been to Chapel Falls a few times before but this was my mom’s first. She absolutely loved it. She couldn’t get over how amazing it was; how wild and how beautiful. The waterfall is about 60 feet tall and cascades down rock face into Chapel Lake. Just above the “lower drop” is another small drop and a wooden bridge that is very picturesque.
We left the traffic of Chapel Falls behind and moved onward towards Chapel Rock. Never being past the falls before, this part of the hike was a treat for me. The trail narrows and isn’t wide enough for two people to walk side by side in most places. The trees grow in close and cover the trail, which provided a much needed relief for us to the extreme heat of the day. Hiking another 1.8 miles on an easy trail, brought us to the large rock formation known as Chapel Rock.
Chapel Rock, although beautifully sculpted, has a unique feature growing on top of it; a tree. From a previous trip, I learned that there use to be an archway connecting Chapel Rock to the “main land” but some time ago, the arch collapsed and left the tree with it’s roots stretching across the void. It’s a pretty neat sight to see up close.
Chapel Beach, another .1 mile from Chapel Rock, is very active. Chapel Creek empties into Lake Superior and creates a small waterfall as it slides down sandstone to the beach. We didn’t stay long due to the black flies. I took a quick swim in Lake Superior and then back to the woods for the return 3.3 mile hike.
If you continue to follow the trail, it’ll take you in a loop past Mosquito Falls and eventually back to the trail head. I believe it’s close to a 10 mile hike all together.
I’ve heard it said that this hike is one of the best in Michigan (although I hear that a lot about other hikes too) and one of the best in the U.S. Perhaps it was the section that we hiked, but in terms of sheer beauty, I’d have to say that our Hike to Spray Falls was much more picturesque and if you only had time to do one, to pick that one instead.