Backcountry Camping

Two backpackers on a trail in the woods
Backpackers on a trail

NPS Photo

(Until further notice, there is no potable water available at Miners Castle.)

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore's backcountry offers opportunities for solitude, inspiration, physical challenge, and renewal. The nearly 100 miles of park trails includes the North Country National Scenic Trail, which runs 42 miles through the length of the park, adjacent to Lake Superior. Most of the park's 13 designated backpacking camping areas are along this trail. These small remote campgrounds each have 3 to 6 individual sites. In addition, there are eight separate group sites. All of these sites are only accessible to campers by foot and some by boat. (Also, there is one boat-in-only site, at Grand Sable Lake on the park's east end. Campers must supply their own boat.)

For drive-in campground information, click here.

The key to a successful backpacking trip is careful planning and preparation. When planning your itinerary, keep in mind the time of year, terrain, weather, and the physical condition of everyone in your party. Remember you can only travel as fast as the slowest person in your group.

Use the Backcountry Camping Planner (PDF 6.7 MB) - a 24-page pamphlet of important backpacking information - to help plan your trip. (Information about accessing certain backcountry camping sites by boat is also included in this planner.)

For additional information about winter backcountry camping, click here.


A backcountry camping permit is required for all overnight stays in the backcountry, year-round. The permit is only for the dates, locations, and party size specified. Permits must be obtained via or by calling: 1-877-444-6777. International callers: 1-518-885-3635.

There is a $15 reservation fee, and a $5 user fee per person, per night. Changes will result in an additional $15 fee. There are no refunds after your permit has been printed off. After you print the permit, no changes can be made. Permits can be printed as early as 14 days prior to your trip and as late as the start date of your trip. Do not forget to print and bring your permit!

How Do I Make Reservations on

Tent in forested backcountry spot
Backcountry campsite

NPS photo

You Need to Know

Backcountry campers must stay in specific backcountry campgrounds and numbered site as noted on their permit. Most campgrounds are located at 2 - 5 mile intervals along the North Country Trail. Each campground has a specific capacity; individual campsites within each backcountry campground are identified by a numbered post.

There are individual campsites and group campsites. Individual campsites are available for groups of 1-6 people (2 tents or hammocks maximum). Groups of 7-20 people (10 tents or hammocks maximum) must camp in designated group sites. Maximum three consecutive day stay at any backcountry campground. No persons or groups are permitted to camp longer than 14 days per calendar year in the lakeshore.

Hammocks are allowed in place of a tent, but both tents and hammocks must stay within 15 feet of the numbered post at the campsite. Keep in mind that trees are not available at all sites. Beach camping is prohibited.

No pets allowed at any backcountry campground. No bikes or wheeled or motorized vehicles allowed on trails. Drones cannot be launched or landed within park boundaries.

Most (but not all) backcountry campgrounds have access via a short walk to a drinking water source via streams, inland lakes, or Lake Superior.

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. Print park and backcountry maps before arriving. Or use the free NPS Mobile App and download park information on your phone before your visit.

Fires are permitted only in community fire rings at the campgrounds. Do NOT make a fire ring. Fires are not allowed at the Mosquito River and Chapel Beach campgrounds. No beach fires allowed anywhere in the backcountry.

Insects such as black flies, mosquitoes, and biting stable flies can be a nuisance between late May and September. Stable flies can be relentless and aggressive along the shore on hot, humid days with a south wind. Insect repellent does NOT work on them and they can make your hike a misery. They tend to target hiker legs and ankles, so bring along long, loose-fitting pants and thick socks in case you need them.

Commercial transportation is available certain times of year 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.

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, do not leave food unattended, and store food in the provided bear-proof lockers. Campers are required to clean out lockers before departing and not leave any food or supplies behind.

Follow Leave No Trace guidelines! Be responsible caretakers while in the park and respectful of other visitors.

Hunting occurs at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore within state regulations. Wear blaze orange or bright colors if you are concerned about being seen by hunters.


Last updated: January 24, 2024

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P.O. Box 40
Munising, MI 49862


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