Nestled in the forests of the Upper Peninsula, Tahquamenon Falls State Park is a hidden gem in this northern wilderness. This Michigan state park is most famous for the cascading waterfalls that are found within its borders, but there are plenty of other things to see and do within this gorgeous landscape.
This guide will give you all of the information you need to make the most out of your time at Tahquamenon Falls State Park.
Things to Do in Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Tahquamenon Falls State Park welcomes more than 500,000 visitors each year, and for good reason. It’s home to some of the largest waterfalls in the Midwest, and there are miles of hiking trails to explore. Let’s take a look at the top attractions and activities.
Most visitors who make the trek to Tahquamenon Falls State Park consider the Upper Falls to be the star of the show. If you only do one thing at the park, you should visit this waterfall. The Upper Falls is the largest waterfall in Michigan, spanning more than 200 feet wide and featuring a 50-foot drop.
To get to the waterfall, you need to walk a brief path that stretches for about a quarter-mile. It leads to the viewing areas, which are the best places to see the falls in their entirety and to grab a couple of photographs.
To experience the power and might of the Upper Falls for yourself, you can climb down 93 steps to the brink viewing platform. If you aren’t ready to be done with the Upper Falls, you can still venture farther down another 112 steps until you reach the edge of the river.
Every perspective is unique, and the various viewing options allow you to customize your experience at the Upper Falls.
If you look at the stats alone, it may seem like the Lower Falls pale in comparison to the mighty Upper Falls. However, these smaller waterfalls are still breathtaking in their own way, and they’re some of the most unique waterfalls in the Midwest.
The Lower Falls are actually a series of five waterfalls that are connected. All five of the falls cascade around a small island, making them seem like something directly out of a fairy tale.
Theresa Neal, a Tahquamenon Falls Park Interpreter, says that the Lower Falls are “overshadowed, by the larger, more popular Upper Falls.” As a result, the Lower Falls are usually less busy than the Upper Falls, which is great if you don’t want to battle a huge crowd of people.
Access to the Lower Falls
To get to the Lower Falls from the Upper Falls, you can take a 4-mile drive down M-123. If you’ve set aside enough time, though, we recommend hiking the 4-mile trail between the waterfalls.
The falls themselves can easily be seen from the viewing platforms, which makes for an easy photo opportunity. However, you may want to do more than snap a quick photo and continue on your way.
The Boardwalk & Rowboats
To get a closer look at the falls, you can walk along the boardwalk for a quarter-mile until you find the peaceful viewing platform situated at the edge of the forest. It’s one of the best places to experience the power and wonder of these falls.
In addition, you can extend your time at the Lower Falls by taking a rowboat adventure to the island in the center of the falls. Rowboats are often available for rent at the park’s concession stand. Keep in mind that this activity is seasonal and likely only be available during the warm weather months.
Toonerville Trolley & Riverboat Tour
One of the most unique and exciting ways to trek to the Tahquamenon Falls is to book a Toonerville Trolley tour. This full-day tour is best described as a historical wilderness adventure, and it allows you and your family to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The tour begins in Soo Junction Michigan, where you’ll board the Toonerville Trolley, an authentic narrow-gauge train that takes you on a slow and immersive 5.5-mile journey through the forest and toward the Tahquamenon River.
While you’re on the train, you’ll be able to spot local wildlife and enjoy your surroundings, all while knowing your adventure will continue when you arrive at the water’s edge. When the train ride ends at the river, you board a riverboat and begin your trip downstream toward the falls.
The 21-mile riverboat ride is both peaceful and beautiful. It allows you to soak up the views as you rest up for the next part of the adventure that lies ahead.
The riverboat docks about 1 mile away from the Tahquamenon Falls. At this point, you can disembark and hike the gentle trail to the private viewing area. If you’re looking for an intimate experience that includes an adventure, then this is one of the best ways to experience the Tahquamenon Falls.
Once you finish at the falls, you get to enjoy boat and train rides on the way back to Soo Junction. This tour lasts the entire day, so you should plan accordingly if you book this excursion during your Upper Peninsula vacation.
The Toonerville Trolley & Riverboat Tour is considered one of the best train rides in Michigan.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park Trails
Tahquamenon Falls State Park is a year-round park where visitors can traverse more than 35 miles of hiking trails. During the winter season, the hiking trails can be used as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trails, adding an element of adventure to a whimsical season at the park.
Some of the most popular trails include:
- The Giant Pines Loop
- Lower Falls to Upper Falls Restaurant
- Clark Lake Loop
- Wilderness Loop
Many people who come to the park want to conquer the most challenging trail within its borders, the 4-mile Trail Between Da Falls. It stretches between the Upper Falls and Lower Falls.
On the surface, it may seem like a convenient way to see both places in the park. However, this trail is best reserved for experienced hikers who have the stamina and skills needed to traverse the hilly terrain. While it may be a difficult trail to hike, the scenic views are certainly rewarding.
“The 5-mile River Trail is the most beautiful, but most difficult trail in the park,” says Neal. “The winding trail follows the Tahquamenon River from the Upper Falls to the Lower Falls. The Giant Pines Loop leads hikers through a massive hemlock forest, and passes by two of the largest living white pines in Michigan.”
You can even take a Bear Den Hike to check out a real bear den! From educational events to geocaching and more, there’s surely some kind of new activity to draw you back to the park this year even if you’ve already been there!
Other Nearby Attractions to Check Out During Your Visit
While you can easily spend all of your time in the Upper Peninsula exploring the wilds of Tahquamenon Falls State Park, you may also be interested in checking out these other nearby attractions.
M-123 Tahquamenon Scenic Byway
If you want to see the best of what the Upper Peninsula has to offer, your best bet is to embark on a road trip along the M-123 Tahquamenon Scenic Byway.
This highway stretches for more than 63 miles throughout the heart of the Eastern Upper Peninsula. Along the way, you can discover the charm, history, and natural beauty of this quiet part of Michigan.
Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum & Whitefish Point Light Station
It’s one thing to take a look at the Great Lakes from the shoreline and another thing entirely to experience the agony that lies below the waves.
The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum and Whitefish Point Light Station is a unique attraction that allows you to learn more about the perils of the waters and the shipwrecks that can be found along the coast.
Welcoming more than 75,000 visitors each year, it’s quickly becoming one of the most popular attractions in the Upper Peninsula.
Crisp Point Lighthouse
Isolated in the farthest reaches of the Upper Peninsula is the iconic Crisp Point Lighthouse, which is considered one of the most photogenic lighthouses in the state of Michigan.
For decades, the lighthouse wasn’t even accessible, but today, you can take a seasonal road to this remote stretch of beach to learn more about the tower, its keepers, and the roles that they’ve played in keeping the waters safe.
Two Hearted River
As you travel throughout the Upper Peninsula, you may encounter the mighty Two Hearted River. To soak up the best views of this sparkling river, you want to hike the North Country Trail, which at one point crosses over the river near its mouth.
Many people find that the Two Hearted River is the perfect picnic locale and a great place to soak up the beauty that surrounds them in the Upper Peninsula.
Oswald’s Bear Ranch
This family-friendly attraction can be found in Newberry, and it’s one of the most unique places to visit in all of Michigan. Oswald’s Bear Ranch is one of the largest black bear sanctuaries in the country, and visitors have an opportunity to view the bears in spacious, natural habitats.
In addition, when there are bear cubs at the ranch, some lucky visitors can hold and take pictures with the adorable baby bears that are being raised there.
Nature’s Kennel Iditarod Sled Dog Racing and Adventures
No wintertime trip to the Upper Peninsula is complete without a trip to McMillan, where you can enjoy a sled dog racing experience at Nature’s Kennel Iditarod Sled Dog Racing and Adventures.
Reservations are required in advance for this seasonal activity, which is typically available from the middle of December until the end of March.
Luce County Historical Museum
To add a dose of history to your summer tour of the Upper Peninsula, consider a stop at the Luce County Historical Museum in Newberry. This museum is located in a 19th-century structure that once was home to the local sheriff and was used as the town jail.
Tahquamenon Logging Museum
The Upper Peninsula is known for its endless natural beauty, but it also has a rich history. The Tahquamenon Logging Museum is one of the best historical attractions in the region, and it offers a glimpse into the life of a Michigan logger during the lumber boom.
Along with checking out the artifacts that are on display in the museum, you have the chance to eat a hearty meal made for the likes of a lumberjack.
Muskallonge Lake State Park
While your hikes in Tahquamenon Falls State Park will take you through the magical forests of the Upper Peninsula and lead you to the most captivating waterfalls in the state, these trails are lacking in lakeshore views.
If you want to hike along the shore, consider an excursion to Muskallonge Lake State Park, which is known for its lakefront hiking trails. This 217-acre park is located on a stretch of land between Muskallonge Lake and Lake Superior, offering some of the most serene waterfront views in Michigan.
North Country Trail
The North Country Trail is widely regarded as one of the best trails in the Upper Peninsula, but it’s best reserved for experienced hikers who are familiar with the local terrain.
This trail begins at the mouth of the Two Hearted River and extends throughout the Upper Peninsula to the Straits of Mackinac. Known for its rustic foot trails, it’s a rugged trail that offers an immersive, remote experience.
Curley Lewis Memorial Highway
The Curley Lewis Memorial Highway is another scenic roadway in the Upper Peninsula, but rather than cutting through the wild forests of the region, it hugs along the Lake Superior shore.
Some points of interest that you’ll see along this gentle, winding road are the Point Iroquois Lighthouse and the Mission Hill Overlook.
Point Iroquois Lighthouse
If want to add another lighthouse to your Upper Peninsula vacation itinerary, make an effort to visit the Point Iroquois Lighthouse in Chippewa County. This stately lighthouse was carefully restored, and visitors can go to the top of the tower to take in the panoramic views of the area.
This lighthouse is open to visitors five days per week during the summer, and on weekends during the early fall. It’s closed for the winter and spring months.
Explore Tahquamenon Falls During Any Season
Tahquamenon Falls is a year-round destination in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. No matter which season you visit, there’s something unique to experience here.
Springtime Fun at Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Life springs anew in April and May at Tahquamenon Falls State Park. Many people consider this to be one of the best times to visit the park, largely because the spring runoff leads to the most powerful flows at the falls.
During the peak of the runoff, the Upper Falls can dump more than 50,000 gallons of water per second. While the rest of the park is incredibly quiet during this time of year, the sound of the crushing water is overpowering. It’s one of the most moving times to experience these mighty falls.
In addition to fast-flowing falls, the spring season ushers in new wildlife, beautiful blooms, and the hope of warmth and sunshine ahead. The hiking trails are bursting with color and life, yet the crowds of summer have not yet arrived.
The weather can still be unpredictable, though. It could be as cold as winter during a late April visit. But the peaceful, hopeful experience makes it all worthwhile.
Make Summer Memories at Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Families from across the Midwest often feel that summer is the best time of year to visit Tahquamenon Falls State Park. The annual summer break from school means that this park is teeming with life as visitors pile into the entrance and head off to see the waterfalls for themselves.
Surrounded by the green leaves of summer, the waterfalls are particularly beautiful during this time of year. The cool breezes and warm sunshine often make for ideal hiking weather, but you’ll want to pack the bug spray if you intend to go hiking during the summer months.
On top of that, summer is one of the best times for camping in Tahquamenon Falls State Park. There are many campgrounds within the park to choose from, as well as several private campgrounds in the communities located just outside the park.
Fall Splendor at Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Summer may be considered the peak travel season at Tahquamenon Falls State Park, but fall is quickly eclipsing it as the most popular time of year to visit. More and more people are discovering that the falls look particularly breathtaking when they’re surrounded by the vibrant colors of autumn.
During the fall color peak — which can take place anytime from late September until early October — visitors clamor to get into the park to see the water juxtaposed by the leaves.
The cooler temperatures often make for more enjoyable hikes, but be prepared that there may be an influx of hikers alongside you. You may want to consider a weekday visit, if possible, to avoid the crowds that have become synonymous with fall weekends.
Enjoy a Winter Wonderland at Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Travelers who have visited the park during the spring, summer, or fall will find that it feels like a completely different place during the winter months. Tahquamenon Falls State Park is a year-round park, and visitors can explore the trails and visit the falls at any time during the year.
The park in winter is a place to enjoy solitude and wonder. Snow blankets the landscape, giving the waterfalls a cozy yet mysterious appeal.
While there are far fewer visitors at the park, you’ll still be able to enjoy some of the traditional features, including the hiking trails. Many people find that this is the best time to use those trails for snowshoeing or cross country skiing.
The barren winter landscape offers a completely different outdoor experience, and it should not be missed by those who enjoy an adventure. In addition, some of the campgrounds are open throughout the entire year, allowing you to stay on site and make the most out of your northern trek.
“Ice-coated waterfalls, groomed cross-country ski and snowmobile trails, endless snowshoeing opportunities, and enough fresh snow to enjoy all of these activities is why Tahquamenon is such a spectacular winter destination,” says Neal.
Where to Stay When Visiting Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Depending on the type of travel experience you’re interested in and your budget for your Upper Peninsula vacation, you can choose from a variety of lodging options near Tahquamenon Falls State Park. Take a look at the most popular accommodations below.
A favorite pastime in the area is Tahquamenon Falls camping, and there are many campgrounds within the park itself. You can book rustic campgrounds, RV spots, or tent campsites throughout the entire year. There also are some private campgrounds available in nearby communities, such as Newberry.
Vacation rentals are another option for those who want a home-away-from-home type of experience. You can rent quaint cottages located throughout the Upper Peninsula and within driving distance of Tahquamenon Falls, as well as rent a private lodge within the state park itself.
Hotels & Motels
To combine a touch of luxury with your rugged outdoor experience, consider staying in a nearby hotel. Several hotels in Paradise Michigan are highly recommended by local travelers, including the Magnuson Grand Lakefront Paradise and Tahquamenon Suites Lodging.
Where to Eat Near Tahquamenon Falls State Park
While it’s certainly possible to pack a picnic lunch and enjoy a meal with the best possible views, several local restaurants nearby serve fresh meals after you’ve spent hours exploring. These are some of the best places to eat near Tahquamenon Falls State Park.
Tahquamenon Falls Brewery
Arguably the most convenient place to eat near Tahquamenon Falls, Tahquamenon Falls Brewery is actually located within the park’s boundaries. It’s a favorite among locals and visitors alike because of its flavorful food (and delicious pasties!) and its eclectic, lively atmosphere.
The brewery is located in the Upper Falls area, and there’s nothing better than a good beer and some food after walking around the park all day!
Brown Fisheries Fish House
Brown Fisheries Fish House is a local haunt in Paradise Michigan that’s regarded as one of the best restaurants in the Upper Peninsula. It may seem like a questionable roadside restaurant — and you may even wonder if it’s open — but it’s one of the only places where you can get truly fresh fish.
It’s a commercial fishery that serves up the fish that it catches on a daily basis. When there’s a good haul, you can expect the fish to keep on coming. If it was a slow day on the water, you may want to get there early — it sells out fast.
Frequently Asked Questions About Visiting Tahquamenon Falls State Park
What is the distance from Tahquamenon Falls State Park to other Upper Peninsula destinations?
Tahquamenon Falls State Park is located in the eastern region of the Upper Peninsula.
Newberry is one of the closest cities to Tahquamenon Falls State Park. It takes about 30 minutes to drive from the heart of Newberry to the park.
Pictured Rocks, off the coast of Grand Marais, is about a 1.5-hour drive from Tahquamenon Falls. The Mackinac Bridge, which connects the Upper and Lower Peninsulas, is also about a 1.5-hour drive from Tahquamenon Falls.
Marquette is a popular city in Central Upper Peninsula on the Lake Superior shoreline. It takes about a 2.5-hour drive from Tahquamenon Falls to get there.
How much does it cost to get into Tahquamenon Falls State Park?
There’s an entrance fee to get into Tahquamenon Falls State Park and see the Upper and Lower Falls. Michigan residents are required to purchase a Recreational Passport, which serves as an annual pass to all state parks.
Which is better, the Upper Falls or Lower Falls?
The Upper Falls and Lower Falls each offer a distinct experience for visitors, and neither one is considered better than the other.
If park visitors only visit one set of falls, they most often choose the Upper Falls because it’s the larger and more famous waterfall.
However, we recommend that you make time to visit both waterfalls in order to get the full experience during your time at Tahquamenon Falls State Park.
Can you see Tahquamenon Falls without hiking?
Neither the Upper Falls nor the Lower Falls are visible from the roadway or parking areas. However, the viewing platforms for the falls are easy to get to. Both can be accessed by gentle paths that are less than 1 mile long.
You can enjoy the falls from the first designated viewing area, or you can continue to explore further depending on the amount of time that you have and your physical ability to climb steps.