Looking for a magnificent winter adventure in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula? Hike or snowshoe to these frozen waterfalls near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
Featured in the December 2020 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine. Subscribe.
Memorial Falls // Munising
There are a few examples of waterfalls in the U.P. that are simple to reach but have unparalleled beauty. Memorial Falls is the highlight, but if you plan a bit, three stunning pillars are available within a half-mile journey.
Tips: These falls are visited frequently in the warmer months, but there is no trail maintenance in the winter. Snowshoes will make your travel fun and enjoyable. Show up after a fresh snowfall on a cold blue-sky day for a stunning contrast around the falls.
Safety: These ice pillars have running rivers inside them. Take care while viewing the falls up close and know that they are always slippery around their bases. Make sure you know where rivers are flowing away from these pillars.
Directions: From downtown Munising, head northeast on H-58 (Munising Avenue) for almost 2 miles. Turn right on Nestor Street. Follow the signs at the intersection of Nestor and Cleveland Street to park in a safe location and follow the trail heading west. Signage is available to help guide you on this short approach.
Miners Falls // Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
This is a gem of a waterfall in winter. Plan to be rewarded with sunshine filtering through tall maples and dappling snow-blanketed firs. Descending into the Miners Basin reveals a mix of frozen waterfall ice surrounded by a coating of frosty spray on every surface, forming very unique shapes and textures. Two ways in offer a hearty ski and snowshoe or a route cut shorter with the help of a snowmobile.
Tips: The best photos of this waterfall usually come from the rim at one of the two overlooks. Be prepared for a slippery and often snowy trail—I recommend utilizing foot traction and good snowshoe flotation (how well you “float” or sink into the snow depends on factors such as your snowshoe size, your weight and the density of the snow).
Safety: Do not try to drive to the summer parking area for this waterfall! Miners Castle Road turns into a snowmobile trail in the winter past 672—it is very deep snow that fools many each year with its benign appearance. You will get stuck, and the tow bill is astronomical (and phone service spotty).
Directions: Plan to park on Miners Castle Road at the intersection of 672. Ski or snowshoe almost 3 miles to reach the falls. If you are looking for an easier way in, rent a snowmobile and ride from the intersection to the parking area, leaving just a half-mile, human-powered trek to the rim.
The Grand Portal Point Seeps // Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
This is the full experience—a more than 14-mile roundtrip slog of ups and downs, with deep snow guaranteed. You will move slowly, and will likely be exhausted after completing this trip. But anyone who makes the trip will be rewarded with views of one of the best areas in the park in a season that most don’t ever get to experience. You will be following some of the highest cliffs in the park—a perfect setting in this winter wonderland.
Tips: Cross-country skis seem to be the favorite mode of travel here. Expect fresh, deep snowfall. This is a true backcountry experience, with no groomed trail. Take plenty of time to stop at all of the overlooks—the views and the ice formations are stunning and unique.
Safety: It has to be said that this is a serious trip requiring a healthy respect for winter conditions. If you have any doubts about making this trek, contact Downwind Sports about guided trips or tips. downwindsports.com/mainSite
Directions: Park at the end of the plowed section of Chapel Road. Most often, the plow stops 2 miles from the Chapel Basin parking lot. After making your way to the trailhead, you have three loop options to reach this section of the park.
Sand Point // Munising
The Munising area harbors a whole different look in the winter months, showing a brand new face as the snow and ice arrive. Picturesque sandstone cliffs are blanketed in wild ice formations for the majority of winter.
Tips: Access an array of frozen waterfalls by heading east from the Sand Point parking area and down the Lakeshore Trail. Every creek and drainage produces a multitude of ice formations. The Lakeshore Trail is great to explore on a sunny winter day. (Expect a slippery but easy-to-follow trail.)
Parking: There are multiple parking areas along Sand Point Road near the Pictured Rocks Lakeshore Park Headquarters that will put you in the vicinity of the Lakeshore Trail. Head east along the trail to access an array of frozen waterfalls.
Erik Olsen is an active lifestyle, commercial and editorial photographer. He loves working in awe-inspiring environments with plenty of mental and physical challenges. Follow Erik’s adventures at erikolsenphoto.com.
Find this article and many others in the December 2020 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine; or subscribe to get Traverse delivered to your door all year round.