I live in Michigan, and I honestly enjoy living here. So every once in a while I get a teensy bit annoyed when I hear people suggest that Michigan’s waterfalls can’t be amazing because there isn’t a significant elevation change. There are some really great waterfalls in Michigan. Just search to find examples! And then, on the opposite extreme, Michiganders (and maybe other vertically challenged states) have a tendency to advertise waterfalls that aren’t really amazing, and probably wouldn’t even register in other states. Whitefish Falls is an example of Michiganders being just a bit too excited, though I’ve seen smaller than this being called a waterfall of importance.
Whitefish Falls is found in Alger County, which has some really great waterfalls, along with some very scenic waterfalls. Whitefish Falls just can’t compete. I had visited other falls, such as Laughing Whitefish Falls and Miner Falls, in the same time period, so this seemed mild in comparison. It would be a great place to wade and enjoy a nice summer day, but it’s not a waterfall that I would go out of my way to visit (at least after visiting it)! There are just so many other waterfalls that are far more worth your time. (If I remember, there were campgrounds right near the falls, so it could be an enjoyable place to set up a tent, without being as crowded.)
There is a stretch of US-41 that runs N/S between Rapid River (which is north of Escanaba) and Marquette. This is found in between M-67 and M-94.
If you head north from the intersection of US-41 and M-67, you’ll pass Utah Road on your right.
Shortly after this, you should see Diffin Road, followed by River Road, both of which will be on your left.
Turn left onto River Road. If you miss the turn, turn left onto River Road. (River Road forms a loop off of US-41, so if you miss one opportunity, take the next opportunity.)
Park at one of the camp areas, and then head slightly northwest toward the river. It really isn’t that difficult to find.
Accessibility: 9/10 (easy, I don’t think there was a direct path to the falls, but it’s a very short hike.)
Height: 10′ (total drops)
Length of Hike: 0.1 miles round-trip
I had a chance to visit the Pictured Rocks again this weekend, and the park never ceases to disappoint. I’m trying to think how many times I have visited, and it’s got to be around seven now. It must be at least two years since the last visit though. In the past few years, it became possible to drive through much more of the park, at least more easily now that H-58 is paved all the way from Munising to Grand Marais. I had read that a few people were disappointed that the road was no longer had that wilderness feeling. I, on the other hand, was finally excited to experience a few of the places that I had not visited because I really didn’t care for the previously long stretches of unpaved roads.
One place I was now able to visit much more easily was Hurricane River Falls. The parking area at the Hurricane River Campground not only leads to the falls, but very quickly to Lake Superior, and also is one place to start the hike to Au Sable Point Lighthouse. I haven’t yet visited the lighthouse, but I figure I need a reason to visit in the future (not that there aren’t hundreds of good reasons to visit the Pictured Rocks). The main focus was Hurricane River Falls, one of the few easy-to-visit waterfalls in the park that I had yet to visit. There are a few other far more hidden waterfalls I may never see without some assistance, but this is not one of them. It is only a few hundred feet or so from the parking area. Hurricane River Falls isn’t particularly tall, but it is an enjoyable waterfall. The largest drop appears to be found by taking a slight left from the parking area along the river. If you head down toward the beach, you can see what are more of rapids as they meet Lake Superior. I’m not sure that I would drive out of my way just for the falls, but there are many other reasons to visit the area.
From Grand Marais, head west on Alger County Road H-58.
Keep going past the Log Slide Overlook (which is worth a stop).
Drive a few more miles to the Lower Hurricane River Campground. If headed west, the turn will be on your right.
Head a few hundred yards down the road to the dirt parking area.
For the falls, just explore the river, both upstream and as it meets Lake Superior.
Accessibility: 9/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: 0.1 miles round-trip
I believe that Alger Falls might win the award as my most visited waterfall anywhere. I live in Michigan, so it makes sense that one of the falls in Michigan might be the most visited…but why Alger Falls?
Alger Falls is by no means the tallest, widest, or most impressive waterfall in the state (or even county, for that matter). Photographing it can even be difficult because the sun seems to like to play games with the falls.
And yet the reason that the sun plays games is also likely the reason that I’ve seen it so many times. It’s wildly easy to visit. It is a roadside waterfall, just a hundred feet or so from M-28. This is not some back highway with very few cars. This is the main road leading into Munising. At certain times of the year you might not see many cars, and yet during the summer, it’s crawling with people. And if you’re heading into Munising, there’s a pretty high probability you’ll be passing Alger Falls.
The falls are off at an angle, so the first time, there was some hesitation about where to park. Pull off, and you’ll be OK. There’s a sign indicating you’re at the right place. After the first visit, it becomes much less difficult to recognize where the falls are. I think I’ve shown the falls to nearly every person I’ve visited the Upper Peninsula with. Oh, and another benefit…Wagner Falls is less than a quarter of a mile away, and Horseshoe Falls, Tannery Falls, Memorial Falls, and Munising Falls are within a few miles. If you don’t mind expanding the radius further, there are at least 20 relatively easy-to-visit falls in Alger County alone.
Heading north along M-28, just about 2 miles from the center of Munising, you’ll find Alger Falls off on your right. There’s a green sign (hard to read at a distance) that indicates you’ve reached the falls!
Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: Roadside
Memorial Falls definitely “falls” into the category of “Waterfalls I’ve had the most difficult time photographing”. I haven’t visited the falls in about three years, but it took three tries before I got relatively decent shots of the falls.
Let me just say that it is definitely worth a visit to MNA Memorial Falls, even if the waterfall doesn’t want to play along with you. The hike to the falls is very cool. As you begin to descend into the gorge, there are sandstone cliffs just next door to you. It’s a really neat experience.
The first time I visited the falls, I did not have the best of cameras. The second time I had a better camera, but it’s hard to deny the fact that this is a tricky waterfall to photograph. Because of the shape at the crest of the falls, it’s almost as if the light is amplified, and the photos can show up very washed out. It wasn’t until the the third try that I finally got some shots that weren’t completely overwhelmed by the light around me. Showing up earlier in the day might be better, if I think about the orientation of the falls.
The photographs don’t do the falls justice. There may not be a huge amount of water flowing over the falls (unless it’s recently rained), but there is definitely an optical illusion occurring here. The falls don’t look particularly tall, but they are taller than they appear. I’m still amazed when I look at the photos I took of my friend standing behind the falls. She looks like she’s being engulfed by the rock overhang.
*There may be a 2nd falls visible to the left of the main falls if a significant amount of rain has fallen.
From Munising, head east on County Road H-58.
After about a mile or so (?), you’ll come along Washington Avenue on your left. Pass Washington Avenue, but begin to slow down. Shortly after this, you’ll come upon Nestor Avenue on your right. Turn right onto Nestor Avenue.
Drive about 3/4 of the way down Nestor Ave (which is pretty short). Look for a small sign indicating the start of the trail to Memorial Falls. The sign will be on the right side of the road (assuming you haven’t turned around already on this one way street).
4) The hike starts in a beautifully forested area, and then proceeds to descend downhill. You’ll wrap around a sandstone wall and end up at the falls.
Accessibility: 8/10 (easy/moderate)
Length of Hike: 0.5 miles round-trip
I thought I had touched on all of the waterfalls I’ve visited in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, but apparently not. Miners Beach Falls (also known as Elliot Falls) is a little treasure just waiting to be found, and it’s amazingly easy to visit.
The Pictured Rocks just so happens to be one of my favorite places to visit. And if you’re looking to spend just one day there, the area around Miners Beach is a really great choice. There’s the interesting rock formation at Miners Castle, and if you continue down a dirt road for a short distance, you’ll end up at Miners Beach. In the depths of summer, I bet this beach is amazing for swimming. In early May, though, this beach can be downright wicked. The winds off the lake can cause the temperature to drop significantly, but you’ll still be rewarded with stunning views.
At the very eastern end of this beach is a waterfall that you could likely miss if you weren’t intentionally trying to find it. It’s not particularly tall, only about 6′, in two separate drops. But what makes this waterfall great is the scenery around it. Since the falls flow into Lake Superior, you can try numerous different angles to get both the falls and the lake in one shot. And when the lake is choppy with waves, it can only add to the beauty.
Go down Miner’s Castle Road (Alger County Road H-13) passing over Miners River.
You’ll reach a point where you can turn left toward Miner’s Castle or turn right toward the Lakeshore trail head. Head toward the Lakeshore trail head.
At the parking lot, you have two options. Heading up the Lakeshore Trail, you will find Potato Patch Falls. If you head left toward the sounds of waves, you’ll end up at the lake.
Once at the beach, look right, and you should see the stream falling into the lake.
Accessibility: 9/10 (easy, it’s very sandy, so it’s not 100% stable)
Length of Hike: 0.2 miles round-trip
I missed Bridal Veil Falls the first time I went searching for it…and I was staring right at it! Not that I would have been able to really tell. Bridal Veil Falls is extremely seasonal in nature. Of the three (maybe four) times I’ve visited the falls, I’ve only seen water flowing once. It actually baffles me that it gets so much attention compared to the more impressive waterfalls in the park.
The first time I visited, I took a picture of the cliffs, and then realized later that I had taken a picture of the spot where Bridal Veil Falls was, but there was really no water flowing. It was “wet”, but it just looked like any normal cliff. That was understandable, considering it was July or August, and it had dried up by then.
The second time I visited in May, and by then the waterfall had already dried up. I was surprised it had disappeared so quickly. The third time was the charm, and I finally saw the falls. If you look to your right while standing at the Miners Castle viewpoint, you might be able to see the falls if they’re flowing. They can also be seen from the Miners Beach if you’re looking at just the right angle. To get a good photo from any of those spots, you really do need a camera that can zoom in, as you’re still some distance from the falls.
I also hiked along an unofficial trial to see if I could get a better view, starting right near Miners Beach Falls. It was a very muddy hike, and in the end, I have to admit I really didn’t get any better views. I did get to see some other beautiful scenery, though. You might consider taking a cruise, but I wouldn’t bet on seeing the falls unless it’s been raining like crazy. Take a cruise to see the much more impressive and permanent Spray Falls.
Go down Miner’s Castle Road (Alger County Road H-13) passing over Miners River.
You’ll reach a point where you can turn left toward Miners Castle or turn right toward the Lakeshore trail head. Head toward Miner’s Castle, and from the Miner’s Castle viewpoint, you might just be able to see the falls.
From the Lakeshore trail head, you might also try heading toward Lake Superior, and if you walk down the beach, the falls will come into view at some point.
Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: not applicable
Spray Falls plunging into Lake Superior (August 2010)
I’ve been wanting to visit Spray Falls for a considerable amount of time, and I’ve been finally able to add it to the list of waterfalls I’ve seen. I’ve visited the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore about seven or eight times by now, and I’ve always put off visiting Spray Falls.
I’ve read stories that made it sound like it was a terrifying journey to view the falls from the trail. I thought to myself, “I shouldn’t go alone just in case something bad happens.” Other descriptions also made it seem like there weren’t so great views of the falls from the trail, and that the only real way to get a great view was from the Pictured Rocks cruise. Well, that’s a bunch of bull.
The hike to the falls is not short, though. It is rather long. I think the book I have says about 3 miles one-way, but I would hazard to say that it is longer than that. There is a lot of curving as you hug the shoreline. There are some steep parts, but they’re not all that bad. It’s just a long hike, but well worth it!!! You get to be rewarded with the view of a waterfall plunging into Lake Superior. And by the way, it is MUCH more interesting than Bridal Veil Falls, which people seem to have an obsession with when showing pictures that represent the Pictured Rocks. Spray Falls is NOT seasonal, which makes it much more worth it to hike to see the falls.
From Munising, head east on H-58 for 20 miles or so.
You’ll pass the center of Melstrand on your way, and then you’ll come to the road leading to Little Beaver Lake. Take a left onto that road, and head down that road for about 3 miles.
On your left there will be a parking area for the trail head. Park here.
Start your journey at the trail head. It can be a little confusing at first. You’ll be starting on the White Pine Trail, which is not very clearly marked. You’ll see a bunch of numbered signs, though, that indicate you’re following the right trail. There is another “fake” trail that looks like it might lead somewhere, but it doesn’t.
After about 0.5 miles, you’ll see a sign pointing toward Lake Superior and Beaver Lake. Head toward Lake Superior. It will wind around for a ways.
After a while, you’ll be at Lake Superior. Look for the sign that points toward Chapel Beach. You want to follow this trail, which will be to your left. You’ll follow this trial for however long, passing by a number of a campground sites. FINALLY, after much effort, you’ll come to the sign indicating Spray Falls which leads to the “outlook”. It’s a cliff edge, though it wasn’t really that scary, and that’s coming from someone who’s not a fan of heights. Then return the way you came or head on to Chapel Beach, another 2 miles further.
Accessibility: 3/10 (hiking), 10/10 (cruise)
Length of Hike: 6 miles round-trip
Wide view of Spray Falls and the Pictured Rocks
The view of the falls from the Pictured Rocks Cruise
I’ve visited Sable Falls three times in the past five years, and it always seems to surprise me. The pictures of Sable Falls can never do it justice. I think it might have to do with the fact that it has multiple drops that lead to a sort of optical illusion. Each drop is rather large but it definitely doesn’t look like that!
The very short hike to the waterfall seems to have changed since my first visit in 2005, though maybe I just don’t remember it that well. During my first visit, I seem to remember that you could walk up very close to the falls without any difficulty. In 2008, many stairs had been built and viewpoints had been installed. At the end of the viewpoint at the base, it now is “blocked” off from leaving the approved trail, though I can tell that people still do find a way.
While there are many waterfalls in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Sable Falls is essentially off by its lonely self. On the western side of the park (near Munising), there are a multitude of falls within a 10 or 15 mile radius. Sable Falls is really the only major fall in its general vicinity. If you’re in the area, check out Grand Marais and the Grand Sable Dunes, as you won’t find many other waterfalls in the area.
From M-28, head north on M-77 until you enter the village of Grand Marais.
At the intersection of M-77 and County Road H-58, turn left and head west on H-58.
After just 2 miles or so, you’ll come to the parking area for Sable Falls, which is clearly marked. If you drive a short distance further, you’ll come to the East Visitor’s Center.
At the Sable Falls parking area, follow the signs to the falls.
Accessibility: 9/10 (easy, there are stairs)
Length of Hike: 0.5 miles round-trip
The uppermost portion of Laughing Whitefish Falls in July 2008
Laughing Whitefish Falls is one of the taller waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I’m a really bad judge of heights, but from other sources, it is about 100′ tall. That would definitely put it as the first or second tallest in the state. There are two parts to the falls, an initial, but short, vertical drop, followed by the much longer slide down. If this waterfall were in Pennsylvania or New York, it would have been surely called Buttermilk Falls, since this is one of the few waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula to have that “consistency.” Here in the Upper Peninsula, though, we have the interestingly named Laughing Whitefish Falls.
While not as widely known as Bond Falls or Tahquamenon Falls, it is still an impressive falls…impressive enough that it has its own scenic site set aside by the state. The hike to the falls is very enjoyable, though the drive down the dirt road to the parking area is pretty insane. I can’t recall many other dirt roads that have been more covered in potholes and deep grooves. I was actually concerned for my car. It’s a short way, though. Just go very slow!
After hiking to the falls, you will notice you are standing at the crest of the falls. You can take the numerous stairs down to the base of the falls, though the viewing platform could prevent you from further exploring the falls. Some people were slipping through the platform to get a better view.
From Munising, drive west on M-94 for a considerable way.
Turn north onto Dorsey Road and drive 2.8 miles to the end of the road, which will be the parking area for Laughing Whitefish Falls.
After parking, head down the relatively flat trail to the falls.
Accessibility: 8/10 (to crest), 7/10 (down the stairs)
Length of Hike: 1 mile round-trip
Chapel Falls is another example of a great waterfall to be found in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, one of my favorite places to visit. I’ve visited this area at least once every year, if not more than that.
The trail heading to the falls is absolutely beautiful. I hiked it in July, and even then it was amazing. I can only imagine how pretty it must be in late May and early June when all of the wildflowers are in bloom. As you’re hiking along, you may hear a trickle along the way, which may be another waterfall hidden away from sight. You’ll know when you reach Chapel Falls, as this waterfall is almost impossible to miss. I believe it is taller than it first appears. The only problem is that the viewpoints are somewhat prohibitive. There are two or three different viewpoints, two being before you cross the Chapel River, with the other being found after crossing the Chapel River. The one after crossing reveals that the falls are much more extensive than first would be expected.
From Munising, head east on H-58. Head about 16-17 miles on H-58 going east.
You’ll pass through a town called Melstrand. A mile or two after that, you’ll come upon a sign indicating the entrance to the Chapel Area of the Pictured Rocks.
You’ll turn left on that road, Chapel Road.
You’ll head five or six miles down Chapel Road. Stay on Chapel Road, which is not paved for much of the way.