We’ve mentioned before that our trip to all 59 National Parks only lengthened our list of must-see spots around the U.S. The only National Parks in the Great Lakes region are Voyageurs in MN, Isle Royale in MI and Cuyahoga Valley near Cleveland. So we missed a lot of great spots. We decided before our 59 tour was over last year that our next U.S. Road trip needed to be to the Great Lakes. Now, after 8 days and 6 new NPS sites on 3 Lakes and in 3 states, I think we made an excellent choice!


The full itinerary included:

  1. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore with a night in Grand Rapids, MI (1 day)
  2. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (1 day)
  3. Mackinac Island State Park (1 day)
  4. Taquamenon Falls (1/2 day)
  5. Picture Rocks National Lakeshore (2 days)
  6. Keweenaw National Historic Site (1/2 day)
  7. Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park (1/2 day)
  8. Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (1 day)
  9. St. Croix National Scenic River (1/2 day)


And it made for the perfect road trip because the stops were pretty evenly spaced and it was a great loop:


Elizabeth and I agreed the highlight of the whole trip was a 10-mile hike we did at Pictured Rocks called Chapel Basin Loop. Definitely a top 10 all-time hike, and probably my favorite I’ve done in an NPS unit outside the National Parks. Plus, like everywhere else on our trip, early May was outside the heavy tourist season, so we barely saw anyone and there were no bugs.


The only bummer of the off-season travel was the tour boats around Pictures Rocks and ferries out to Apostle Islands weren’t operating yet, so we missed the perspective from the water. And it was surprisingly cold (like lows of 30 degrees!). So I would recommend going in late May when more stuff is operating. 


We saw some amazing lake views, rock formations, historic towns, dunes and waterfalls. But we also have plenty to go back for in the Great Lakes!


Written by Cole