Distance: 6.5 km linear
Location: Paradise, MI
I went along with the Saulteaux Voyageur Trail Club on this hike. This outing was extra-nice because the hike leader had pre-arranged for the hike to be guided by the park naturalist –and because there was some good food to look forward to at the end of the hike! It was fantastic to have the park naturalist Theresa along. She was so pleasant and full of great stories and interesting information about the park and the area.
The River Trail of Tahquamenon Falls State Park takes you by two waterfalls and an old growth forest as it follows the Tahquamenon River. Tahquamenon State park is the second-largest park in Michigan and the Upper Falls are possibly Michigan’s most famous waterfalls, but the Lower Falls are worth the trip too. From Paradise Michigan, the Lower Falls entrance is 16 km west on M-123. Park at the Lower Falls –there is a day use fee to be paid. This hike is linear, so it would be wise to bring two vehicles and leave one at the Upper Falls parking lot before starting your hike, or you could arrange for the shuttle to drop you off at the Lower Falls.
Start your hike at the trail-head found in the Lower Falls parking area. You will quickly begin to see views of the Lower Falls which are a series of five smaller falls that cascade around an island. Naturally occurring tannic acids that leach from the spruce, cedar, and hemlock swamps feeding into the Tahquamenon River are what give the water and the falls their brownish color. Continue along the River Trail past the Lower Falls as it climbs above the river rapids and passes by hemlocks and a cascading brook before descending to a ledge above the river. After about 2 km the river slows and widens and the trail descends following close to the river. You will reach a bench at about the 3km mark. This is a good place to take a snack break.
After the bench, the trail will start to climb up a bluff and then climb again until it reaches the headland. Once on top you will soon hear the Upper Falls as you walk. When you reach the paved trail junction you will find several places to view the falls. Two require descending long staircases, and two are lookouts you can walk right up to. The Upper Falls are 50 feet high and nearly 200 feet across. Once you have viewed the falls from the platform at the bottom of the steps near the Giant Pines Trail, retrace your steps back to the Upper Falls trailhead parking lot.
In the Upper Falls parking lot you will find the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery and Pub where you can have a good meal after your hike!