All but one of Michigan’s incredible waterfalls exist above the Mackinac Bridge. A unique aspect is how each of the Upper Peninsula’s waterfalls takes on a new form as the seasons change. During the warmer, wetter days, the falls come roaring to life, but the colder season can freeze magnificent cascades right in its tracks, creating a nature-inspired ice sculpture.
If you’re headed up north and want to add an impressive waterfall or two to your agenda, there are at least 300 different options to choose from — so we’ve narrowed down that list to a handful of must-see selections. If your destination is toward the Western Upper Peninsula, be sure to add some of these waterfalls to your itinerary.
Here are a few jaw-dropping waterfalls to include in your next road trip across the Eastern and Central Upper Peninsula.
Tahquamenon Falls | Paradise
Undoubtedly, the most popular pair of waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula is the Upper and Lower Tahquamenon Falls in Tahquamenon Falls State Park. Situated on the Tahquamenon River before emptying into Lake Superior, there are quite a few overlooks to view these falls from different angles. You will notice that these falls are a brownish color, earning them the nickname “Root Beer Falls.” This is because of the tannins that leach into the cedar swamp at the start of the Tahquamenon River.
The Upper Falls possess a 50-foot drop and a 200-foot wide opening where over 50,000 gallons of water flow through every second during the wet, spring months. It is one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River — only Niagara Falls surpasses it in size!
Four miles downstream sits the Lower Falls, a series of five falls that spill all around a tiny island formation that’s accessible by a footbridge or rowboat.
The park is open year-round, and there are plenty of accessible areas for all ages and capabilities.
Miners Falls | Munising
About 10 miles northeast of Munising on Miners Castle Road, Miners Falls is the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore’s most powerful falls. Dropping 50 feet over a sandstone rock formation, there are two separate viewing platforms (the upper and lower overlooks) to take in this natural beauty.
Because this waterfall is located off of a seasonal road that isn’t plowed during the winter months, it’s only accessible on foot or snowmobile once the snow begins to accumulate. During the spring, summer, and fall months, you will park in the small lot at the top of the trailhead and head down the well-maintained dirt trail for 0.6 miles until you reach the roaring falls. Pet owners, rejoice — your leashed dog is welcome to join you on this excursion!
Chapel Falls | Munising
If you continue northeast past Miners Falls, you will find the Chapel Loop Trail another five or so miles off of H-58. Once you’ve carefully navigated the backcountry road to the trail’s parking lot, it’s time to start hiking down the old roadbed for 1.2 miles to see this impressive and remote waterfall.
Chapel Falls is a steep, 60-foot cascade into nearby Chapel Lake, with two viewing platforms conveniently located around the scenic Chapel Basin that you’ll pass on the way in and out. Still feeling adventurous? Continue hiking another 1.8 miles toward Chapel Rock and a breathtaking view of Lake Superior.
Sable Falls | Grand Marais
If you’re heading from Munising to the Grand Marais area, Sable Falls is a quick stop right off the road and a must-see destination. Tumbling down a 75-foot slope of sandstone formations before making its pilgrimage to Lake Superior, Sable Falls has a phenomenal viewing platform at the bottom of a long staircase. The trail to these steps is a quick walk (0.4 miles round-trip) and continues past the falls to a rocky beach where you can watch the water reach the big lake.
This is another stop where your furry friend is welcome to join you as long as it is on a leash.
Dead River Falls | Marquette
Headed to the Marquette area? Be sure to add Dead River Falls to your list of must-do activities! Go north on County Road 492 off of US-41. Turn left on Forestville Road, and go over the one-lane bridge until you come to the old power station and its parking lot. Head up the wide, gravel trail and turn left at the “Dead River Falls” stump trail marker for a 1.5 miles out-and-back adventure.
Once you reach the bottom of the stairs, you can decide to turn downstream towards the lower rapids or upstream towards the main falls. The first drop of Dead River Falls is a momentous cascade into a large pool below, where many enjoy swimming during the warmer months. Continue upstream to see the second drop into a narrow, shallow stream, and a third that flows about 15 feet across three ledges. You will know it’s time to turn around when you come to a large pool of water at the end of the trail.
A word of warning: to reach these falls requires being agile enough to scale some steep slopes and carefully navigate very rugged terrain.
Black River Falls | Ishpeming
Only eight miles south of downtown Ishpeming, down County Road 581, lies the Black River Falls, a unique waterfall display.
Once you’ve parked, it’s only a short walk (0.2 miles there and back) over a small, wooden bridge until you reach the top of the falls. You can then head down the dirt path to see the falls from the best vantage point. Watch the Black River rapidly flow through this narrow channel of rock and plunge 25 feet or so into the river below.
Plan your Upper Peninsula Visit
Regardless of the time of year you decide to head north to explore the Upper Peninsula, there are plenty of bucket list activities to keep everyone busy. Add a few lighthouses, cultural attractions and historic sites to your travel plans, and be sure to leave some room for rock hunting or stargazing. If you are lucky, you might get a peek at the Northern Lights.