Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore — Au Sable Light Station Trail, Shipwrecks, History, a Lighthouse, and views of Lake Superior

Some hikes I have a hard time finding enough photos to use in a post. This time I had the opposite problem. This short hike really packs a punch in terms of scenery.

The hike I’m talking about, the Au Sable Light Station hike, is found in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. This hike is the section of the North Country Scenic Trail between the light station and Hurricane River campground.

We were lucky enough to be camping at the Hurricane River Campground so this hike was easily accessible. If you aren’t staying at the campground, there are parking lots just outside the camping area. You have to walk through the campground to access the trail.

Au Sable Light Station Trail:

Length: 3 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Easy
Description: This trail follows an old US coastguard access road that overlooks the beach and Lake Superior. Several points allow hikers to access the beach and explore two shipwrecks. The trail ends at the light station.

We started this trail from Hurricane River Campground, walking east towards the light station. While we didn’t stay on the actual trail for all that long, the time we spent on it was nice. The trail was wide and flat with wonderful views of Lake Superior below.

Once we arrived at the first access point to the beach, we took it and continued walking on the sand. This access point was made of wooden steps leading to the beach. The last few steps of the staircase were nonexistent and required a short jump onto the sand. Once on the beach, we continued walking towards the light station.

This look was behind me (looking back towards Hurricane River Campground.) The sandy beach ends here and turns to shoreline.

Lake Superior alone is enough to make this trail memorable.

We found this little guy hanging out in the rocks near the water. He was holding his own against the waves!

Walking further on the beach, we came to the first of two ship wrecks, which is actually three separate ship wrecks mashed into two.

The first is the Mary Jarecki.

This ship, carrying iron ore, went aground when it ran off course in the fog on July 4, 1883. No lives were lost in this wreck.

The oak keelsons and iron treenails are still visible above the water.

Walking further on the beach will bring you to the wreck/wrecks of the Gale Staples and Sitka. While these two ships met disaster in separate occurrences, Lake Superior has mashed them together into one pile of wood and iron over the years. Because the ships are so similar, it’s difficult to tell which part comes from which ship.

The Sitka, full of iron ore, ran aground on October 4, 1904. This ship filled with water and was abandoned in the lake. 17 men were rescued from the ship.

The other ship, the Gale Staples, was full of coal on it’s way to Port Arthur when it wrecked in 1918. Thankfully, no lives were lost in this wreck either.

The two ships were very similar, they both were double decked wooden bulk freighters with two masts. They were 272 and 277 feet long, built in 1887 and 1888. Twins! (Thank you NPS for all the ship wreck information!)

Iron nails stick out of the sand behind the exposed ship, showing how long the ships continue beneath the sand.

Continuing down the beach, we found another access point to the trail. This one was a log ladder.

Once up the ladder, we could now see the lighthouse!

Built in 1874, the lighthouse provided direction for ships in this portion of Lake Superior’s “Shipwreck Coast.”

The lighthouse was staffed until 1958, when it became fully automated.

The lighthouse is 86 feet tall.

Today, the lighthouse is solar powered and shines a much smaller light from the catwalk railing.

Want to climb the tower? Lighthouse tours are available in the summer time. (Thank you, NPS for all the information about this lighthouse!)

At the end of the lighthouse grounds, near the fog signal building, you can catch a glimpse of the Au Sable Dunes. We visited a portion of the dunes in an earlier post about Log Slide. Even from this far away, it’s gorgeous.

After enjoying the view, we walked back to the campground, this time taking the trail the entire way.

For an easy 3 mile hike, this trail is packed with history and stunning views. If you’re in the park looking for a hike, this one is a must do.

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