Dead River Falls
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Dead River Falls | Marquette’s Best Waterfall Hike

Michigan is home to over 300 waterfalls, almost all of which are located in the Upper Peninsula. One of the best places to go for a hike is Dead River Falls in Marquette.

Nearly 84% of the Upper Peninsula is forested, and the plants and wildlife thrive in the vast wilderness areas. Some of the best hiking trails and waterfalls are found near and around the City of Marquette.

Marquette | A City of Hiking Trails

Marquette Michigan is located directly on the shores of Lake Superior and takes pride in the natural beauty around it. In addition to being the largest city on the peninsula, it has a rich natural and cultural history, making it a popular and enjoyable place to visit.

There are over 340 miles of trails in and around the city, allowing visitors and residents alike to experience the beauty of the forest and the magnificence of Lake Superior. If you’re looking for a short hike with some amazing views you don’t have to travel far.

The Trail to Dead River Falls

Just a few miles outside of town is Dead River Falls, a truly beautiful wilderness area with some of the best waterfalls in the area. The trails themselves are rated as moderate, but there are some spots that definitely lean a little more toward the difficult end of the spectrum.

Fortunately, the challenging spots are short and few in number. Most of the trail requires easy to moderate hiking with many scenic stops along the way.

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The rushing Dead River

Where to Park & Access the Trail

To start your journey you can use Google Maps to take you to the Dead River Falls scenic spot. The map will take you to a parking loop next to a hydropower plant on the Dead River.

This was where I got a little confused my first time hiking out there, but just head up the hill past the gate, which is sometimes open from May to October, and you’ll be golden. Even if the gate is closed, you can walk by it easily to access the trails. It’s there just to prevent driving up the hill.

Officially Starting the Hike

Shortly after you reach the top of the hill, you’ll find a set of wooden stairs that officially take you down into the trail. The stairs don’t go far, and this is when you hit what’s probably the hardest part of the trail.

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Stairs to the trail

The path has worn down quite a bit here, and it’s very steep and covered in exposed roots. The roots are actually fairly helpful because they act a bit like steps and help you walk down without slipping. 

The hills involved in this hike are one of the main reasons that it’s not recommended for winter hiking. However, I’ve found that, as long as you have good boots and don’t mind sliding down icy slopes on your rear end, it can be a pretty fun hike in the snow too. 

Tree root stairs

Approaching the Dead River & Lower Falls

Once you have reached the bottom of this hill you come to the river. You’ll encounter the lower falls very quickly, and even if you stop here and don’t go any farther, the view is well worth it.

From here, the trails are still a bit tricky in some spots and aren’t always clearly marked. But what’s an adventure without a little bit of challenge? As long as you stay within sight of the river you won’t get lost.

The trail from the parking lot to the farthest waterfall is about 1 mile. To the first fall, the trek is only about 1/4 mile. All along the river are places to stop and rest, admire the falls, and even have a picnic. 

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The lower falls

Arriving at Dead River Falls

The main attraction is, of course, Dead River Falls themselves. If you follow the trail to the end, there are about 9-10 individual falls to see and experience.

The tallest fall, one of the farthest to hike out to, is about a 25-foot drop. Most of the falls are shorter with just 3-foot to 8-foot drops, but they’re no less beautiful.

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The main falls

The Wildlife Around Dead River Falls

The forest is teeming with life — deer, squirrels, rabbits, foxes, and many more — that make their homes near the Dead River.

While it’s unusual to see beavers living near the falls, they’re often seen downriver near the Dead River Basin. They may occasionally make their way upstream. Also, you might see otters or muskrats swimming in the calmer areas of the river.

The trail is dog-friendly as well, and if you’ve always wanted to see a 14-pound terrier try to gleefully hurl herself off the top of a 10 foot waterfall, then just come hiking with my dog. She loves water to an almost unhealthy extent, which just makes hiking the falls more exciting for me.

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Visiting Dead River Falls in the Winter

While the falls are generally considered a summer attraction, it’s still possible to visit them in the winter, although significantly more difficult. The steep hills combined with the snow and ice of an Upper Peninsula winter make for some rough climbing.

But like in the summer, the views make it well worth the work. Although, after hiking out there in the winter I did have to wonder if it counted as a 1-mile-long hike when I spent half of it slipping and sliding down slopes on the seat of my pants. 

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Snow-capped waterfall

There are a lot of waterfalls in the UP, and the Dead River Falls are certainly worth visiting. When the water is warm you can swim near the Upper Falls. When it’s cold you can simply enjoy the view.

Grab a pasty and hike out to picnic by the rushing water. Enjoy the solitude of the forest, or go with friends and family to laugh and have fun together. 

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Snow-covered rocks and forest along Dead River

Enjoy More of What the Upper Peninsula Has to Offer

As mentioned, the Upper Peninsula has so many naturally beautiful landmarks in addition to Dead River Falls. In fact, there are several hiking trails in the Upper Peninsula that are suitable for all skill levels.

Also, you’ll find tons of things to do in Marquette all year. Whether you’re looking for summer activities or winter recreation, Marquette has it all!

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