Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is known for its plethora of dazzling waterfalls. This summer I made it a goal to go out there and view as many as I could. I saw dozens of them, both big and small, rapid and slow. Now that there is snow on the ground, I figured I would do a round up of my favorite Upper Peninsula waterfalls I saw this season.
O Kun De Kun Falls
With a 25+ foot drop along the Baltimore River, O Kun De Kun falls is one of the few true plunge falls (where the water looses contact with the ground) located in the region. While not the largest, these falls are my favorite in the area. For the adventurous there is also a small nook behind the waterfall you can get into.
O Kun De Kun is pretty easy to get to, with a trail head located right off of the highway. The path to these falls follows along the North Country Trail and is a moderately difficult ~3mile round trip hike. The only challenge I faced was mud. Bring your boots, especially if it has recently rained.
As the trail comes closer to the river, you will see a steep side trail going down to a waterfall along the river. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is the main attraction. While the upper falls are worth a visit, make sure you continue down the trail to experience the true greatness of O Kun De Kun. Be sure not to miss the beautiful wooden hiker suspension bridge located just down river from the main falls. If you are looking for somewhere to camp in the area, there is also a small campsite with room for a few tents and a picnic table near the bridge.
If you are interested in more about O Kun De Kun falls, I wrote about it in this North Country Trail trip report.
For more information visit the USFS page on this waterfall.
Dead River Falls
Unlike many of the others I saw, the Dead River Falls are pretty close to civilization; only 20 minutes from downtown Marquette. If you are in the area they are definitely worth the trip. The Dead River progresses along a series of drops for nearly half a mile. There are at least a dozen or more separate falls depending on what you count. Heights of these waterfalls range from small rapids to 20 foot drops. Continue up river until the water is tranquil to see them all.
The road to Dead River falls ends in a small parking lot near a hydro power plant. From there walk the gravel service road up the hill. After you have crested the hill you will see a small sign for the dead river falls off to your left. This will take you on the trail to the river. Getting to the actual falls area requires a bit of scrambling over some rocks. Round trip you are looking at ~2 miles of hiking.
For more information check out the Go Waterfalling page on these falls. This site is also a great resource for finding more Upper Peninsula waterfalls to visit.
Laughing Whitefish Falls
Laughing Whitefish Falls is a favorite of mine for day hikes as it is usually not too crowded. Compared to most of the other waterfalls in the area, this one is quite large with 100+ feet of total elevation drop.
The hike to these falls is pretty easy, being only .4 miles from the parking area. The path is pretty flat and well maintained gravel all the way to the upper viewing platform. To the side of the upper viewing platform is a set of stairs that takes you down to a platform to view the waterfall from below.
For more information see the Michigan DNR page on this waterfall.
Located in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Chapel Falls is a site to behold. Even though it gets pretty crowded here in tourist season, these falls are still worth a visit. Section creek descends 60+ feet in a horsetail chute fashion, similar to many of the other falls in the Pictured Rocks area.
From the parking lot, the hike to this waterfall is an easy one along a gravel path, only 1.3 miles one way. This trail will take you to the top of the waterfall. The top view is pleasant, but if you want to see the falls as pictured above you will need to go down to Chapel Lake and follow the creek back up to the waterfall. This requires a bit of bushwhacking, but if you are keen you will notice a small trail leading you there. It is also pretty muddy and wet along the lower Section Creek area, so bring your boots.
The entire Chapel area in Pictured Rocks is extremely beautiful. If you are looking for a longer hike there are many options in this area (detailed in this map) for loops taking you around the area.
For more information see the NPS page on this waterfall.
If you are ever in the Upper Peninsula, its many waterfalls are a must see attraction. There are dozens more that I did not include in this post, and hundreds more throughout the region to see. So get out there and hike!
What are your favorite Upper Peninsula waterfalls? Let me know in the comments.