The Mitten is such a beautiful state, especially in the Upper Peninsula, during the winter. Amid the rolling hills and wilderness areas, waterfalls abound across the region. Michigan is said to have nearly 200 named waterfalls, all of one being in the Upper Peninsula. When the temperature drops, often below zero, the whole peninsula turns into a winter wonderland. The waterfalls freeze into thick pillars and sheets of ice, creating some of the most stunning natural attractions around the Great Lakes. Since it would be difficult to visit all of the frozen waterfalls in Michigan, here are some that should be at the top of your list of things to do in Michigan in winter.
Tips to Keep in Mind for Exploring Frozen Waterfalls in Michigan
Exploring frozen waterfalls in Michigan will differ slightly from exploring flowing falls during the summer. The best time to explore frozen waterfalls in Michigan is during late February and early March because the ice has had time to build and the days are longer.
While the temperatures are just starting to rise, you should still be ready for cold, snowy weather. Make sure that your car has good snow tires for the drive, and consider renting a snowmobile to access unplowed roads. Wear warm clothes, and be prepared for it to be windy.
If you plan to hike, take some ice cleats or snowshoes to be on the safe side. Walking sticks and ski poles can be useful too. Here are a few more tips to keep in mind:
- Don’t forget to bring a camera.
- Take a water bottle to stay hydrated.
- Pay attention to warning signs on trails.
- Don’t walk on groomed cross-country skiing and snowmobiling trails.
Frozen Waterfalls in Michigan’s Western Upper Peninsula
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in Ontonagon
On the far west of the Upper Peninsula, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is one of the few large wilderness areas left in the Midwest. It’s home to hemlock hardwood forests, miles of streams and rivers, and several frozen waterfalls in Michigan. In particular, the waterfalls along the Presque Isle River are worth visiting.
With a 150-foot crest and 25-foot drop, Manabezho Falls is one of the biggest waterfalls on the Presque Isle River. Its name is a reference to a spirit god of the Ojibwe peoples. You can easily get a view of the falls via a nearby trail.
Above Manabezho Falls, Manido Falls has a crest of 50 to 150 feet depending on the volume of flowing water. The falls drop about 15 feet, and you’ll have no problem seeing it from the trail. The name comes from an Ojibwe word that means “ghost” or “spirit.”
Farther up from Manido Falls is Nawadaha Falls. It has a crest of 50 to 150 feet, again depending on water volume, and a drop of about 15 feet. Unlike the other two waterfalls, you have to climb some rugged trails to reach it.
Bond Falls Scenic Site in Haight Township
Southeast of the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, the Bond Falls Scenic Site is a waterfall on the Middle Branch Ontonagon River. As the water tumbles over a belt of fractured volcanic rock, it creates numerous small cascades that fall for about 50 feet. A boardwalk with six viewing spots is accessible, but walking it during the winter can be challenging.
Agate Falls Scenic Site in Trout Creek
If you follow the Middle Branch Ontonagon River north, you’ll come to Agate Falls Scenic Site. As one of the most picturesque waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula, broad bands of interlacing cascades are created by the water falling over terraced sandstone. It has a drop of nearly 40 feet, and you can see it from the nearby foot trail.
Laughing Whitefish Falls State Park in Sundell
To the east and beyond Marquette, Laughing Whitefish Falls State Park has one of the most impressive frozen waterfalls in Michigan. The water falls down rock ledges about 100 feet before landing in a deep gorge of layered limestone. Three observation decks overlook the falls. Be aware that the road to the parking lot for the trail isn’t always plowed completely, so snowshoes are recommended.
Frozen Waterfalls Near Munising, Michigan
There are 19 waterfalls in and around Munising, which is a very high concentration. A lot of them are located within Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (see below), but the following are notable falls outside of the park.
Au Train Falls in Au Train Township
Just west of Munising, Au Train Falls is a wide waterfall with cascades over several rock formations and a crest of 200 feet. The upper part of the falls has a 40-foot drop, while the lower part only falls about 10 feet. During the winter, the hike to the upper falls can be slick, so tread carefully. Fortunately, the road is plowed regularly.
Scott Falls in Au Train Township
North of Au Train Falls and closer to the Lake Superior shoreline, Scott Falls is one of the easiest Michigan waterfalls to reach. The reason is that it’s located next to M-28, and you can even see it from the road. The water flows over a sandstone cliff, falling about 10 feet into a small pool below.
Wagner Falls Scenic Site in Munising
One of the frozen waterfalls in Michigan that you must see is at Wagner Falls Scenic Site. The site is about 22 acres, and you can expect a snowy hike on the trail and boardwalk. The water cascades down about 100 feet of rock and is nestled among hemlock and pine trees.
Memorial Falls and Tannery Falls in Munising
At about 40 feet each, Memorial Falls and Tannery Falls are located very close to each other and both have caves behind them. The same trail offers access to both falls and can be slippery during the winter. Although they’re similar, Memorial Falls is more popular for ice climbing.
Frozen Waterfalls Along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Munising
Many of the frozen waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula are located within Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The Au Train Formations, which consist of hard limey sandstone, are more resistant to the water flow than the lower soft sandstone layers. Despite most of the waterfalls being accessible by foot, watch your footing on uneven terrain. Here are five waterfalls that are worth the trek.
One of the most-visited waterfalls on the west side of the park is Munising Falls. An 800-foot paved trail leads to the falls, which has a 50-foot drop into a canyon. You can stop by the visitor center before you start the trek. Even though the parking lot is plowed in winter, the trail isn’t.
Another impressive waterfall is Miners Falls, which has about a 50-foot drop over an outcrop of sandstone. The trail from the nearby parking lot is a rolling dirt and gravel pathway through woods. There are two overlooks along the way, and you get views of the Miners Basin as well.
If you want an epic climb up a frozen waterfall, you’ll get it at Bridalveil Falls. It’s located about 0.5 miles northeast of Miners Beach, and the water plummets 140 feet from one of the Pictured Rocks cliffs and into Lake Superior. You can see it from the beach, lower Miners Castle overlook, or the lake.
Like Bridalveil Falls, Spray Falls plunges directly into Lake Superior. However, it’s 70 feet high. The best point from which to view the waterfall is the lake, but you can kind of see it from the North Country Scenic Trail too. At the base of the falls, the 1856 Superior shipwreck rests 20 feet underwater.
On the eastern side of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Sable Falls is about 1 mile west of Grand Marais. A short trail leads from the parking area to a long staircase of 168 steps, at the bottom of which is the best spot to view the falls. The water drops 75 feet over sandstone formations.
Frozen Waterfalls in Tahquamenon Falls State Park in Paradise, Michigan
You’ll find the most popular frozen waterfalls in Michigan at Tahquamenon Falls State Park. The largest is the Upper Falls, which is 50 feet high and 200 feet wide, and the walk to the falls is the easiest. The Lower Falls are 4 miles below and consist of five minor falls that flow around an island.
Noteworthy Waterfalls in the Lower Peninsula
There aren’t many waterfalls in the Lower Peninsula – in fact, there’s only one natural waterfall in the Lower Peninsula – and they don’t always freeze during the winter. However, here are a couple of spots that are worth exploring if you’re looking for frozen waterfalls in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.
Ocqueoc Falls Bicentennial Pathway in Ocqueoc Township
Located along the Ocqueoc Falls Bicentennial Pathway is Ocqueoc Falls, the largest waterfall – and only natural waterfall – in the Lower Peninsula. Additionally, it’s the only waterfall in the United States with universal accessibility. Although it’s not a tall waterfall, the area has 6 miles of biking, cross-country skiing, and hiking trails.
Barton Nature Area in Ann Arbor
There isn’t a natural waterfall in the 102-acre Barton Nature Area, but the Barton Dam has a majestic appearance when it freezes during the winter. Constructed in 1912, the dam becomes a frozen wall of water across the Huron River. You can get a good view from the nearby footbridge.
Winter Brings More Than Frozen Waterfalls in Michigan
During the winter, Michigan offers a plethora of experiences. If you want to see more ice formations, check out the Eben Ice Caves. There are several ski resorts in Michigan and fun polar express train rides and holiday light displays during the winter holiday season. In addition, here are some other things to do in Michigan in winter and fun winter vacation destinations in Michigan.