Amid a towering grove of pine trees in the Hiawatha National Forest lies Jack Pine Lodge, Resort, and Campground not far from Manistique, Mich. Surrounded by national forest land, the campground offers ORV and snow mobile trails literally at your doorstep. And its location just 25 minutes from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Munising makes it an ideal base camp for exploring the region.
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Jack Pine is a private campground that offers 27 campsites, all with water and electric; 24 of those sites include sewer too. The campground features 30 and 50 amp service, as well as four pull-through sites. Sites can be reserved on a nightly, weekly, monthly, or seasonal basis. Cabins are also available and can sleep four to nine people. Although there is very little road noise (there are lots of ATVs buzzing around), there is a bar and grille located at the front of the property, and some nights the music and noise from the bar could be heard in the campground.
Our back-in site (No. 17) had a spacious yard area that gave the kids a lot of room to play. The water connection points were located on the back of the electric boxes, so make sure you bring long-enough water hoses, as our 25-foot hose did not reach. Cell coverage was spotty at the campground–but that was pretty typical of our entire experience in the UP. 🙂
At only $30 a night for full hook-up, we weren’t sure what kind of campground Jack Pine would be (because sometimes cheap prices make you wonder if it will be a dive). But as you will see in the video and pictures below, we were pleasantly surprised to discover Jack Pine offered a manicured but secluded campground at state park prices.
(And yes, Jarrett had fun playing with his drone to capture some of this footage. 🙂 )
Although the mosquitoes were not bad here, we did have to contend with black flies and stable flies. Thankfully the Thermacell seemed to keep them at bay. (And like we’ve mentioned in other recent posts, I don’t think we would have survived the Upper Peninsula without the Thermacell!)
Here are a few pictures of the campground:
Since we had full hook-up, we did not shower in the bathrooms. They were very basic, but very clean.
The amenities were pretty simple but strategic given this remote location is nestled in prime ORV and snow mobile country. Onsite you could find:
- a camp store with firewood for $5 a bundle
- Wi-Fi (our site was directly across from the camp store, so we could sit at our picnic table and get the Wi-Fi to work)
- laundry facilities
- gas fill up
- very small playground area
- bar and grille
- space for additional trailer parking on the property.
During our stay, the campground hosts also offered special activities, such as a pancake breakfast complete with a Bloody Mary bar.
Our visit to Jack Pine Lodge served as our basecamp to explore Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, near Munising, Mich. We spent two days exploring the national park–the first day by car and the second by boat cruise. On our first day of exploring we started at the NPS visitors’ center in Munising where we snagged the kids Junior Ranger booklets before heading to the beautiful Munising Falls.
It is an easy hike to reach the falls, and this area thankfully allows leashed pets. We had planned to visit more of the park’s waterfalls, but we were surprised by the park’s limitations on where pets are allowed. There didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to why pets were allowed some places and not in others, so this was a big disappointment as we had planned to do more hiking while visiting this park. But now we know, which means we can tell you so that you know before you go that this is NOT a pet-friendly area.
Aside from that, though, we had a delightful time seeing Miner’s Castle (pictured above) from two vantage points and then driving the length of the lakeshore up to Grand Marais where we visited a small but free Light Keepers House Museum.
The highlight of our time at Pictured Rocks, though, was the sunset boat cruise we took on the Fourth of July through NPS concessionaire Pictured Rocks Cruises. It was pricey for two adults and three children ($106!), but it was really worth it because without the opportunity to view the rocks from the water, you are really missing out on the whole Pictured Rocks experience. So our No. 1 tip for visiting Pictured Rocks: Make sure you have budgeted enough money to do the cruise ride.
Seating on the boat ride is first come, first serve, so another tip is to make sure you are in line no later than 30 minutes before departure. We were in line 45 minutes before ours departed, and that was enough time to snag seats on the right hand side of the boat so we’d be able to get some great pictures. (On the way out the boat goes at a slower pace up the coastline as the captain narrates; those sitting on the left side of the boat will have the rocks on their side on the ride back, but the boat is traveling at a faster clip so you have to be quick with the camera.) And good news for parents of littles: There is a men’s and women’s bathroom if needed. 😉
The two and a half hour sunset cruise provided the perfect lighting for pictures, with the added bonus of getting to watch the sun set on the lake. We took no less than 400 pictures during that boat cruise–good thing we have a digital camera and we can snap away! (Now I just have to find time to process all those pictures!) In addition to the sweeping beauty of the boat ride, our narrator, Captain Leo, was hilarious.
Below is a video Jarrett created from our visit to give you a small taste of what this experience was like and why any visit to Pictured Rocks wouldn’t be complete without a boat cruise of some kind:
But our fun wasn’t quite over for the night: When we returned to the dock around 10, a crew was busy setting up the Fourth of July fireworks display that would launch around 11 p.m. (It doesn’t get dark enough until that late!) So even though we were scheduled to leave early the next morning to travel to Door County, Wis., the kids talked us into staying to watch the fireworks–and we’re glad they did. Munising put on a fantastic display! So now we’ve had three years of epic Fourth of July celebrations: 2015 in Cody, Wyo., 2016 at the Central PA 4th Fest, and then this year’s fun. What in the world will we do next year? 🙂
Dates of stay: 7/2/17 – 7/5/17
Cost: $30 per night