Weekend getaway: waterfalling in one day

For many Metro-Detroiters, Autumn calls for trips up north to observe the colors change in the leaves. The term “up north” however, doesn’t always signify crossing the bridge into the “North Country.”

What many Lower Peninsula residents, or “flat-landers” don’t realize about the Upper Peninsula is how strikingly contrasted the geographic landscape is. From the canyon rock gorges and coastal cliffs to the several hundred waterfalls that empty into endless miles of Great Lakes lakeshore.

Aside from Ocqueoc Falls, Michigan’s hundreds of waterfalls are all in the UP. Some of them can be viewed from drive-up lookout points and others require light to brisk hikes to reach. Here is a list of beginner level falls that any outdoor enthusiast can enjoy in just one day.

Munising Falls

From the Mackinaw Bridge, Munising Falls is about a two-hour drive. There is a parking lot and a visitor center with maps and a sign that reads “Munising Falls 800 ft.” The short walk foreshadowed by the sign is paved and includes wooden bridges over the river until it reaches wooden stair sets that elevate visitors on the left side of the falls and lead them up to the yellow, sandstone cliff that surrounds the falls. There is a 50-foot drop separating the top of the cliff and the bottom of the falls flowing into Munising Creek. This waterfall is a great destination for all weather conditions.

Miners Falls

It is only about a 17-minute drive from Munising Falls to Miners Falls heading left onto Washington Street and again on East Munising Ave. Turn left on Miners Castle Road and in four miles make a right on Miners Falls Road and keep right (if you go straight, you will dead end into the famous Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and trails that lead down Great Lake cliffs to Miners Castle Beach). There is a small parking lot next the trailhead, which runs about .6 miles to the wooden overlook above the sandstone gorge. The falls stand about 50 feet tall and crashes with great power into the Miners River.

Dead River Falls

The mid-day stretch is the hour and 15 minutes it takes to get from Miners Falls to Marquette’s best, Dead River Falls. Once parked, visitors must walk up the gravel road hill to get to the trailhead. At the trailhead, visitors can hike along the Dead River in the woods and on the rocky gorge itself alongside the river. The river continuously winds up a mountain and leaves a new surprise at every corner.

Dead River Falls is a channel of falls and rapids ranging in size from 15-25 ft. Locals and daredevils alike cliff jump from the highest falls (25 ft.). For the experienced hammock camper, this is an ideal location for tying up whether in the woods off the river or over the gorge 25 ft. from the middle falls.

Night Cap

At this point in the day, the sun is surely close to setting. About 10 minutes away in downtown Marquette is Presque Isle, an elevated loop through the peninsula including mountainous cliff overlooks and playground of black rock formations littered with tide pools and rocky shore coves. It overlooks Lake Michigan and into Canadian waters and is the perfect spot to witness Michigan’s sunsets. It’s also a popular cliff jumping destination.