Backcountry Camping

Backpacker admires the Lake Superior shore view.

Backpacker along the North Country Trail

NPS photo / Gregg Bruff


Backcountry Trip Planner - 18 page pdf filled with important backcountry information


Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore includes a 42 mile section of the North Country National Scenic Trail, stretching from Munising to Grand Marais.

The Lake Superior shoreline provides a spectacular place for backcountry camping, hiking, and relaxation. Hikers are rewarded with exhilarating views and opportunities for personal challenge and introspection.

Campers must stay in designated backcountry campgrounds, located at two to five mile intervals along the trail. Each campground has a specific capacity; individual campsites within each backcountry campground are identified by a numbered post. Permits are required.

Pets are not permitted. Fires are permitted only in community fire rings at the campgrounds; however, fires are not allowed at the Mosquito River and Chapel Beach campgrounds.

Transportation (privately operated) is available for hikers wishing to take a bus to the starting point and hike back to their vehicle. For information, please visit the Shuttle Service webpage.

Backcountry Trip Planner (pdf)
Backcountry site bulletin (pdf)
Backcountry map (pdf)
Trail mileage chart (pdf)

Backcountry Permits
A backcountry permit is a contract between you and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore through which you agree to help us preserve and protect the backcountry for future generations.

All hikers and sea kayakers camping overnight in the backcountry must obtain a permit. Permits must be obtained in person; the permit is available the day of your trip or one day prior.

Permits are available at the Hiawatha National Forest - Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Interagency Visitor Center in Munising year round. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, permits are available at the Grand Sable Visitor Center in Grand Marais.

If arriving after business hours, you must wait until the next day to obtain your permit and begin your trip. Only people in the camping party may obtain the permit.

The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore backcountry is very popular, especially in July and August and holiday weekends. Advance planning and having an alternate itinerary are important when requesting a permit.

A user fee of $5 per person, per night is required when you pick up your permit. There are no refunds.

Individual campsites are available for camping parties of 1-6 people (2 tent limit). Groups of 7-20 people must camp in designated group sites.

Plan your trip to follow the principles of Leave No Trace,

Day hikers do not need a backcountry permit.

Backcountry Regulations (pdf)
Trail Mileage Chart (pdf)
Leave No Trace (pdf)
GPS Coordinates - Backcountry Campgrounds (pdf)
Backcountry Reservations
All backcountry campsites are available for advance reservations. (No reservations are available for the drive-in campgrounds at Little Beaver Lake, Twelvemile Beach, and Hurricane River.)

An advance reservation fee of $15 is required at the time of your reservation (no refunds). Credit cards (Visa or Mastercard), U.S. checks (no foreign), or money orders are accepted for payment. There are no refunds.

Reservations must be postmarked or faxed at least 14 days prior to the first day listed on the backcountry itinerary. There are no phone or internet reservations.

Reservations are accepted beginning January 1 of each year. A random drawing is held on the third Thursday in January for all reservations received since January 1. Reservation requests received on or after the third Thursday in January are filled on a first-come, first-serve basis.

We strongly recommend reservations for all group sites, the busy summer season, and holiday weekends.

If you choose not to make a reservation, you will need to plan your backcountry trip according to the campsites available at the time of your arrival at the visitor center.

Backcountry Reservation - information and application (pdf)

Backcountry Safety and Enjoyment
Come prepared for a variety of weather, insects, and terrain.

The Pictured Rocks are spectacular but can be dangerous to the careless hiker. Fifteen miles of the North Country Trail are atop 50-200 foot high cliffs. Cliff tops are covered with loose sand and gravel. Unsupported overhangs of soft sandstone are common. For your safety, stay away from the cliff edge.

The weather near Lake Superior is very changeable. Summers are often warm but be prepared for cool, rainy, windy weather. Hypothermia can occur at any time - know the symptoms. Use a layered clothing system.

You may encounter bears and other wildlife in the backcountry. Keep a clean camp and exercise caution. Store food in lockers or hang on food poles.

Insects such as black flies, mosquitos, and stable flies can be a nuisance between late May and September. Long pants and shirts and insect repellant are recommended.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is closed to hunting April 1 to Labor Day, but is open to hunting the rest of the year during small and large game seasons. Wear blaze orange or bright colors if you are concerned about being seen by hunters.

Do not expect your cell phone to work in the park. Many areas do not receive reception due to cloudy conditions, hilly topography, heavy forest cover, and a lack of towers.

Backcountry Sanitation
Only water obtained from park water systems can be assumed safe to drink. To protect your health, all water from streams, lakes or other natural sources must be boiled for one full minute or filtered through a one micron filter before being used.

Wash yourself, dishes, and clothing at least 100 feet from a lake campsite, trail, or stream.

Backcountry toilets are available at Mosquito and Chapel Beach campgrounds. Please do not throw trash in backcountry toilets.

To dispose of human waste at other locations, select a spot at least 100 feet from any trail, campsite, or water. Dig a shallow hole 3 to 6 inches deep. Bury waste and paper. Groups should establish a communal privy and cover it after the last use.

Leave No Trace
Learn how you can minimize your impact on Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and other places you recreate.


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