Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is home to over 300 waterfalls and it becomes the ultimate winter wonderland November through March. These roaring waterways become massive, silent ice sculptures in the wintertime that you have to see to believe. There’s something so serene about the natural beauty of a frozen waterfall and, if you’ve never experienced it for yourself, you’ll want to visit these nine must-see sites this winter.
How do waterfalls freeze?
What does it take to freeze even the fastest, largest waterfalls? Cool air. And lots of it. First, the river or water source feeding the waterfall has to freeze. Next, the water that is flowing into the waterfall must maintain below 32 degrees — but it still looks like liquid. This is when frazil ice forms. These tiny particles start to collect and hang on to rocks and other materials in the cliff hang of a waterfall. Slowly, more frazil ice anchors to this point, until there is enough ice at the top to connect to the cold rock behind a waterfall and the ice that has gathered at the bottom.
Frozen waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula
Manabezho FallsBack to Top of List
Manabezho Falls was named after a spirit god to the Ojibwe people. And we can understand why — this is the largest waterfall on the Presque Isle River, about 20 minutes north of Thomaston. In the river’s final flow to meet Lake Superior, water cascades over this final 150-foot crest and drops 25 feet below! On both sides of the river, there is a trail to view the snowy landscape over the rocky rapids.
Canyon FallsBack to Top of List
Canyon Falls is located one hour west of Marquette in Baraga County along the main route US-41, so you won’t need to go out of your way to stop here. Just look for Canyon Falls Roadside Park to find the trailhead. The parking area is closed in the winter but there is a pull-off where you can park. A quick 15-minute walk through the picturesque forest will get you to the falls. Once there, you’ll see why it has been nicknamed “the Grand Canyon of the U.P.”
Bond FallsBack to Top of List
Located on the middle branch of the Ontonagon River near Paulding, Bond Falls is another wintery dream come true. The falls are made up of a series of smaller cascades and one larger waterfall with a total drop of about 50 feet. The main parking lot closes for the season in November but you can park along the street near the outpost. The trail to the falls is less than one mile and is generally packed down. The boardwalk can get very icy in the winter though so make sure you wear the proper footwear. This, too, is a pet-friendly trail.
Munising FallsBack to Top of List
Munising Falls at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Munising is one of the most easily accessible frozen waterfalls in the U.P., and it completely freezes in the winter. From the plowed parking lot, it’s less than a half-mile hike on the paved trail to reach the falls. Once you get there, you’ll be awed by the 50-foot ice column. The view of the frozen falls is even more spectacular after a fresh snowfall! This used to be a popular spot for ice climbing but now Munising Falls is closed to climbing due to hazardous rockfall.
Alger FallsBack to Top of List
Alger Falls in Munising becomes covered in ice formations and is a beautiful site to see when it’s surrounded by blankets of fresh snow. It’s a small waterfall with short levels but it only requires a quick stop along M-28. Since it is a roadside waterfall, no hiking is necessary.
Wagner FallsBack to Top of List
Another scenic waterfall just outside of Munising in central Alger County is Wagner Falls. The quick and easy half-mile hike through the State Park to the falls is beautiful, and there’s an observation deck overlooking the falls to give you the best view. While these falls have a less dramatic drop height of 20 feet, the peaceful setting and mild hike make this a visitor’s favorite. The trail is pet-friendly, too.
Laughing Whitefish FallsBack to Top of List
Laughing Whitefish Falls in Sundell is one of the tallest waterfalls in the state of Michigan at a height of 100 feet. There is an initial drop at the very top followed by a long slide of small-stepped rock. This makes it a unique site unlike any of the other falls on this list. The fact that these falls can freeze completely in the right winter conditions makes this an excellent spot to visit if you want to see a frozen waterfall. Take the half-mile trail to the observation deck at the top of the falls or the 157 steps down to the bottom. The view from below is a must-see! Just be careful walking down the steps, they may be very icy and slippery. Getting to the trailhead is a little more challenging. The road leading into the scenic site isn’t plowed in the winter so you will need to park at the entrance which is roughly a quarter-mile from the parking lot and the start of the trail. There’s a chance the trail will be packed down from snowmobilers but you’ll want to bring snowshoes just in case.
Tahquamenon FallsBack to Top of List
Tahquamenon Falls in Luce County are the most popular waterfalls in Michigan, so there’s a good chance you’ve visited them during other seasons. But don’t be too quick to cross them off your itinerary. Seeing these famous powerful falls in the winter is a totally different experience. The Upper Falls is the easiest to access. It has an almost 50-foot drop and stretches over 200 feet across. With a heavy flow of more than 50,000 gallons of water per second, it’s rare for these falls to completely freeze; but the top layer of the river turns to a sheet of ice and the falls become partially frozen. It’s truly magical to see and listen to these majestic falls in person.
Tips for viewing our frozen waterfalls safely
Before heading out to explore the frozen waterfalls of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, here are some quick tips to follow for a safe and more enjoyable visit.
- Always check the weather forecast to make sure the conditions are safe.
- Dress warmly. Wearing layers will keep you prepared for any weather changes.
- Bring snowshoes/ice cleats to help you get through deep snow or icy conditions.
- Stay hydrated. Be sure to bring water along with you.
- Pack a cell phone for emergencies.
- Bring a camera to capture the beautiful scenery.
- Always tell a friend or family member where you are going in case of an emergency.
Frozen waterfall images
Here are some of our favorite frozen waterfall images from the U.P. Imagine experiencing these serene settings that are temporarily paused in real time! We would love to add to our photos of these beautiful winter landmarks. If you snap something special, please submit it to our photo collector below!