The frigid, frozen elements of Winter are dissipating into the ground and air, and your senses are buzzing with excitement as the earth awakens. The gentle pulse of the earth hums under your feet, pushing its way up into your body in a whisper, as if saying: “Go…Seek…Explore.”
The first day of Spring has arrived! And Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is calling you to journey to your favorite destinations, introduce yourself to sites yet visited and breathe in the new, fresh air. Read on for Central U.P. destinations to experience.
Get outside on the first day of spring
Springtime is fresh, new, a little muddy and presents a blank canvas for our landscapes and gorgeous scenery. The need to be outdoors is growing, and the urge to plan a sightseeing adventure is taking over!
Hundreds of waterfalls pepper our coastline and lush forests, and spring offers the ideal time to witness their magnificent flow and roaring melodies. Rain moves into the areas in waves, washing away the debris of last year, and feeds the streams and rivers that fuel these brilliant sights. We’ll take you to the top of the U.P. (but not the Northernmost point), and elaborate on some of the best falls Michigan has to offer. Plan a trip during the few weeks between mid-April and early May, where viewing and trekking to the falls is optimal.
Wondrous waterfalls in all of their spring glory
In the Munising area, off of state road M28 to Munising Avenue and Sand Point Road junction, you will have the chance to visit multiple waterfalls, as well as Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. MNA Memorial Falls, known to the locals as “Twin Falls,” is best seen during or following a spring rainstorm due to being fed from two Alger County streams. The only time for viewing this 40-foot waterfall in action is while precipitation is flowing, so dress accordingly! However, these falls are currently closed for improvements.
Munising Falls offers a paved foot trail and two sets of stairs leading to platforms for a closer peek along Munising Creek. Dropping 50 feet over a sandstone cliff, the area is adorned with ferns, wildflowers, and, if temperatures are still below freezing, grand ice formations that will astonish and amaze you.
Nine or so miles away, Miners Falls awaits you through the rustic walking paths and past the Miners Basin. Located four miles North of H-58 off of Miners Castle Road, a short walk from the parking area is required to be able to see the falls, but you’ll only clock 1.2 miles (round trip) on your boots. The powerful waters billow over a 50-foot sandstone outcrop, a gorgeous rock layer formation shaped by years of erosion. Photo ops are available, as Miners Falls is equipped with a viewing platform, nestled below 64 steps flanked by wildflowers and greenery.
Miners Beach Road will lead you toward Bridalveil Falls for a sight quite incomparable to your journey so far. Crashing waves of Lake Superior will indicate that Miners Beach is near, and though it's not quite swimming weather, it will be hard to tear yourself away from the lakeshore. The Pictured Rock Cliffs are breathtaking; multicolored and dramatic, and Bridalveil Falls and its 140-foot cascade of water pours over the edges into an image resembling delicate lace. Though you can see the falls from a distance from lower Miners Castle Overlook and the west end of Miners Beach, the best view is from the water. Rent a kayak, canoe, or book a boat cruise, and revel in the beauty found at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
Eight miles up the coast, Spray Falls will be crashing into Lake Superior 70 feet over a cliff. The North Country Scenic Trail offers access to the falls, but to actually see it in action, you’ll need to be on the water. This also allows you to creep up onto the 1856 wreck of the ship “Superior,” which sleeps in 20 feet of water at the base of Spray Falls.
Traveling by vehicle, you’ll move onward for about an hour on county road H-58 to reach Sable Falls. Situated between the Au Sable Light Station on Au Sable Point and the Light Keeper’s Museum in Grand Marais, this waterfall flows an impressive 75 feet down into Sable Creek, which pours into Lake Superior. Viewing access is easy, but a bit of a trek down a 168-step staircase.
Found in Norway Township just north of the Michigan-Wisconsin border off the Menominee River, this landmark is nicknamed for the rocks the water flows over at each drop, which resemble piers. There are four rapids, and the largest drop is about 8 feet tall — Mishicot Falls. You can hike alongside the gorge, with the first and second drops located about a quarter mile upstream from the trail’s parking lot. There is also an overlook above the falls! While up there, you may notice some rafters testing their grit as this is a popular whitewater rafting destination.
Carp River Falls
For you who like a challenge, consider Carp River Falls in Marquette. Between Carp Lake and Lake Superior, the final five miles of the river drop over 600 feet with stretches of rapids, white water and smaller falls between. The river drops over 30 feet while sharply curving into Carp River Falls. Seeing these falls means a rewarding view but a challenging climb. Cross Morgan Creek above Morgan Falls and follow that trail upstream along the Carp River for half a mile. This trail will eventually go above Carp River when you arrive at Carp River Falls, so you will want to climb down to the falls and then back up to get a good view. Again, this route is challenging and not for the faint of heart — if you would prefer an easier route, we recommend Morgan Falls, which you can read about below.
Unnamed Morgan Falls
Also located in Marquette, Morgan Falls is the result of Morgan Creek and Carp River merging together with a 20-foot cascade. This waterfall is easy to visit; just head south from Marquette on M-553 and turn right onto Marquette Mountain Road, a dirt road right before you cross Carp River with no sign. If you see the ski lodge, you’ve gone too far! Morgan Falls is about 1.5 miles west of M-553 off a beat up dirt road. That being said, most cars should be able to make it to the parking area from which you can see the falls. Among locals, the true Morgan Falls location is debated, as some believe a cascade upstream is the actual Morgan Falls. To some, this location described above is Unnamed Morgan Falls. If you’re lost and ask for directions, be sure to mention both names! Learn more about Carp River and Unnamed Morgan Falls in Michigan Playground’s video.
Slow Down & Enjoy the View – Overlooks and Hikes
The frequency of snow storms has stopped, and though the sloshing of your footsteps may still require you to wear winter or hiking boots, you are ready for it! It is time to enjoy your vacation – slow down, be present in nature and savor every second.
Log Slide Overlook
Located in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Log Slide Overlook is named after exactly that: a chute created in the sand dunes that was used to transport logs during the logging era. From the parking area, you’ll clock about a quarter-mile walk round trip to the outlook, and the view from the top is stunning. Au Sable Point and Grand Sable Dunes are perfectly perched in the distance, great for photos and wonderment. The water below can be a deep cerulean blue and only adds to the beauty of this spot.
North Country Trail: Au Sable Light Station
Traverse up and down county road H-58 to Au Sable Point Trail to the Hurricane River Campground, and you’ll find another hiking opportunity. The North Country Trail offers a three-mile round trip hike to the Au Sable Light Station, where the 148-year-old lighthouse stands in magnificent reverence and historic shipwrecks speckle the shores of Lake Superior below.
Lake Superior Overlook
Roughly one mile down the coast, the Lake Superior Overlook is complete with two viewing platforms, with the lower one including a staircase down to Twelvemile Beach. Touted as one of the most beautiful shorelines in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Park, this overlook brings peace, tranquility and serenity to your trip.
From Chapel Beach to Mosquito Beach, hiking trails abound. Drive Chapel Road until it ends, and here you will find the Chapel Falls Trailhead. The six-mile round trip hike to Chapel Rock will take you wandering past picturesque Chapel Falls — showing off a 60-foot cascade of pure waters —and bring you to the shores on Chapel Beach. You can return to the parking lot and venture the one mile path towards Mosquito Falls, or increase your sightseeing distance to 10 miles, where you have the option to hike along the gorgeous cliffs of Picture Rocks, and finish the entire Chapel Loop. The ten mile journey holds many opportunities for photos – Grand Portal Point is an indescribable portrait of color and magnificence, and Lover’s Leap paints an image of togetherness and romance through its arch formation.
North Country Trail: Mosquito Beach to Miners Beach
The North Country Trail twists and turns through over 500 miles of wilderness in the Upper Peninsula, and many of these bucket-list stops can be found along its path. An hour and a half hike from Mosquito Beach to Miners Beach includes the areas of Elliot Falls, Potato Patch Falls, and the Lower and Upper Overlooks on Miners Castle Point. The sandstone cliffs are striped with sediment, telling tales of time and history in the assortment of colors shown in the rock. A set of stairs will lead you to the Lower Overlook, and a short walk to the Upper Overlook guarantees awesome views any time of day.
Beaver Basin Overlook
A collection of streams, lakes and wetlands make up the Beaver Basin Wilderness, and tucked inside the 11,000 acres of seemingly endless land and ample wildlife, you will find the Beaver Basin Overlook. A quiet spot known for its highly-sought-after solitude, spring brings wildflowers, fast-flowing creeks and many animals to spot on your adventure. Hike the North Country National Scenic Trail, or travel the very primitive and rustic three-mile access road to the Overlook. The area follows 13 miles of Lake Superior Shoreline, and goes inland nearly four miles.
Presque Isle Park
Presque Isle juts out between Presque Isle Harbor and Middle Bay in Marquette, and is home to Presque Isle Park and views of multiple unique features of the UP (including the World’s Largest Glacial Copper Deposit)! If you are not feeling the hike today, driving around the park is always an option; there is a road that takes you to the coast. Presque Isle Park presents many different species of animals and birds, and seven miles of hiking that includes the Bog Walk Trail, which takes you into the 10,000 year old bog that has laid claim to the wetlands of the area. Presque Isle Gazebo offers a perfect opportunity to snap photos of the Presque Isle Harbor Breakwater Light, and continuing along the shore, catch Presque Isle Lookout. At the top of the point, the Black Rocks sit 30 feet above the waters, and attract many cliff-jumpers in the summer. This time of year should be relatively quiet for your visit, so gazing out over the cliffs will be peaceful.
Thomas Rock Scenic Overlook
Thomas Rock Scenic Overlook can be found in Big Bay, southwest of Lake Independence, and can be accessed by a simple walk through woods. The half-mile loop hiking trail will present plenty of opportunities to gape and gawk at the new vegetation bursting from the thawed ground, and the sights of Lake Superior, the Keweenaw Peninsula and Granite Island are amazing.
Plan your spring visit to the Upper Peninsula today!
The list of things to do in the U.P. is impressive and grand: lighthouses, museums, campgrounds and state forest areas are all in abundance. This season, refresh your spirit and seek out all types of things that are new: try a restaurant you’ve been wanting to visit — there are over 500 in the Upper Peninsula! Local fare and regional eats are celebrated with 40 different locations for pasties, nearly 30 breweries and delicious eats that provide sustenance to your grumbling stomach and soul.
The first day of spring in the U.P. not only offers the years’ best day of outdoor exploration, but the spring equinox welcomes new life, more daylight and increasing temperatures. The explosion of fresh air you will find here while waterfalling and hiking is exhilarating, and a trip to the UP will be unlike any other you’ve ever taken.