Twelvemile Beach

One of the truly amazing things about Lake Superior is its diversity. You can go to one location and find rocky points jutting out into the lake, then go a few miles down the road and find fine sand beaches. And just about everything in between.

On the eastern end of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a long stretch of shoreline known as Twelvemile Beach…for obvious reasons. There are multiple access points, but my favorite is one people often think about the least. Along H-58 between Munising and Grand Marais sits a little rest stop with a pair of restrooms. It’s known as the Lake Superior Overlook because there’s also a viewing platform accessible from the parking lot. Quite a few people stop, head out to the platform, take pictures, and leave again. However, just the other side of the restrooms is a trail that leads to a set of stairs that takes you down to the beach.

Because most people are only stopping briefly between destinations, not many of them go much farther than the stairs. Admittedly, this is a scenic spot. You don’t have to go far for great views. Superior spreads out before you and a little stream empties into the lake just to the left of the stairs. Personally, I always find it amazing that streams and rivers have an end point. True, it goes without saying. Every stream starts somewhere and ends somewhere. But there’s something cool about being at that spot. At the terminus. What I like even more is that the stream, Sullivan’s Creek, changes every year, twisting and bending just a little differently depending on where the waves have deposited more or less sand.

Sullivan’s Creek Emptying into Lake Superior, copyright the UP Traveler, no use without prior authorization

When I get to the bottom of the stairs, I take in the view, turn right, and start walking. And walking. And walking. You’ve got a couple of miles of isolated, largely unvisited beach before you hit the Hurricane River campground. This stretch has variety, everything I like in a leisurely stroll. There are pebbly spots where I can admire the incredible granites, jaspers, quartzes, and basalts the lake grinds out. There are larger boulders that sometimes break up the beach. And then there are places with nothing more than sand.

Boulders on Twelvemile Beach, copyright the UP Traveler, no use without prior authorization

And, as you can see, you can’t beat the color of Lake Superior’s clean, clear water. The hues depend on the angle of the sunlight and the depth of the water, and it can change from cyan to emerald green to turquoise – often in the same area. And vegetation is never that far away. This is something else I enjoy about Lake Superior. You can go from beach to forest with just a little walk.

Twelvemile Beach Vegetation, copyright the UP Traveler, no use without prior authorization

This place is the definition of peace for me, pleasant calm for all my senses. Soft sand underfoot. The rythmic rolling and splashing of the waves. The colors of the lake surface, rocks, sky, and plants. The smell of cedar, pine, and fresh water. And for taste? Well, I bring along a simple sandwich, a jambon gruyère, which isn’t nearly as pretentious as it sounds. And, if I’m hungry at the end of the day, there’s a food truck in Munising where the guy behind the window makes, of all things, an excellent cubano.

So, if you’re one of the lucky few out of all the people in the world who finds yourself navigating the lovely, tree-lined tunnel of H-58 between Munising and Grand Marais, don’t miss your chance to hit this section of Twelvemile Beach. A few hours here will leave you feeling like you’ve communed with the best the universe has to offer.

Location: Twelvemile Beach from the Lake Superior Overlook

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