Writer | Rachel White
Photo | UP Travel
Weekend Waterfall Getaways
Michigan is chock full of water, where lakes, rivers, ponds and streams abound. But perhaps the most enchanting waters are those that tumble over rock formations, representing the more than 300 waterfalls scattered across our Upper Peninsula and one in the Lower Peninsula.
Most falls are viewable year-round, with each season offering great opportunities to experience the natural flora and fauna along the way, serving as beautiful precursors to the majesty of the falls. Perhaps the hardest part is deciding which waterfall to visit.
“People who love waterfalls make multiple trips,” Adonia Finendale, U.P. travel expert, says. “There are so many epic waterfalls in the U.P. it’s impossible to do in one weekend.” Finendale has good advice: Decide which region of the U.P. you want to go to and choose a grouping of falls you can visit during a long weekend.
Finendale’s favorite cluster of waterfalls is located in the Western U.P. in the National Black River Scenic Byway near Ironwood. There are five unique falls as the river swoops down to Lake Superior, and you can trek to each individually for a dazzling one-day hike. Due to the number of steps and stairways, as well as a suspension bridge, this trek is more suited to agile hikers.
As you make your way along the trail, you’ll first encounter Great Conglomerate Falls, where a mound of conglomerate rock splits the river into two breathtaking falls. Next, you’ll next stop at Potawatomi Falls which is wheelchair accessible from the parking area and an easy walk to the falls for the less adventurous. It’s also in a particularly scenic area of the forest, making it a good stop for a picnic lunch. Nearby, you’ll find the 34-foot drop and canyon of Gorge Falls. You’ll see Sandstone Falls rambling over the boulders next, and finally, Rainbow Falls will provide a roaring end to your hike. The town of Ironwood has plenty of camping and lodging options, as well as other things to discover, like charming shops and Copper Peak, one of the nations largest ski-jumping hill outside of Europe.
For falls in the Central U.P., a good bet is Munising and the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. In addition to the stunning Pictured Rocks, you‘ll find 20 falls in the area. A half-mile hike takes you to the exquisite and powerful Miners Falls, a 50-foot drop over a sandstone outcropping. On a warm day, head to Elliot Falls at the far eastern point of Miners Beach, and you can splash around where the waterfalls meet the beach. Bridalveil Falls is best viewed from the water, so grab a kayak and head out. If you’re not up for that much activity, you could also take a cruise to view Spray Falls on a relaxing boat ride.
If you are hanging out in the Western U.P., Finendale recommends making a stop at the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park where you’ll find a hidden gem. This one is especially spectacular in autumn when the leaves begin to put on their show, and the trail to the falls is open through October. The Presque Isle River Waterfalls Loop has three waterfalls over a 2.3-mile loop trail. The first you’ll encounter is the largest drop, Manabezho Falls. Then Manido Falls and finally, the picturesque Nawadaha Falls. An easy hike through the forest makes this an ideal day trip.
Whichever Michigan waterfalls you choose to explore, you won’t be disappointed. The natural splendor is never-ending in the U.P., and might just leave you planning your next trip to chase the next waterfall.