The long weekend stretches out before us when we arrive in Houghton for our daughter’s spring graduation from Michigan Tech University. It’s cool and damp, but the days ahead promise sunshine and warmer temperatures and a full schedule: meeting up with family and friends, attending Covid-altered graduation festivities and helping Emma pack up and move out of her apartment.
We also plan to spend some time exploring the Keweenaw, one of our family’s favorite places in Michigan and a spot we’ve come to know even better these past few years with more frequent visits to see Emma at Tech. What’s new for us this time, though, is seeing the area in late spring—past trips have been at the height of summer, during fall’s peak colors, and in February, when it’s the coldest and snowiest.
At the top of our must-do list are the Keweenaw’s waterfalls, which we’re told roar to life as winter’s 270+ inches of snowmelt away. You’ll find more than a dozen in the area. Here are a few of our favorites:
Explore Hungarian Falls
The Keweenaw Land Trust’s 10-acre Hungarian Falls Nature Area includes the uppermost falls, historic dam, pond and some woodland trails that cross onto the property. Visitors enjoy views of Dover Creek flowing through a short gorge, as well as three more waterfalls downstream of the dam and pond.
Directions to Hungarian Falls
Directions: Along M-26, west of Lake Linden in Tamarack City, turn north onto 6th Street. Take the left fork (Golf Course Road) and drive up the hill 0.5 miles to an access road on your left marked by a closed gate. Park along the shoulder and hike in along this access road for 0.2 miles. Turn right at the fork to access the Hungarian Falls Nature Area, or turn left to visit the lower falls. Park at the bottom of the hill and hike up, or drive in from the northern end of Golf Course Road (off US-41), park at the end of the plow line and hike south to the falls.
Douglass Houghton Falls
These falls, which are Michigan’s tallest (110 feet from the top, where Hammell Creek flows, to its base), are quite the sight—and also a bit of a hidden gem that requires some planning and a sense of adventure. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources purchased the property in 2018 and the falls are open to the public, but the area is, as a friend at the DNR pointed out to me, “very much in its raw and natural state.” The DNR plans to make upgrades in the near future.
Directions to Douglass Houghton Falls
The falls can be accessed from above by parking on M-26. About halfway between Lake Linden and Calumet, watch for a pine stand with a faded orange flag tied to a small tree on the east side of the road. There is a trail behind the flagged pine that quickly skirts the creek and is about a five-minute walk to the top of the falls. Exercise extreme caution since the drop-offs here are sheer cliffs and very high. Our group of six decided to carefully hike down to the base of the falls, which provided gorgeous views while also ensuring a somewhat challenging climb back up!
Photo by Heather Johnson Durocher
Related Read: Journey to Chocolay Bayou in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Explore Canyon Falls
This Baraga County attraction, easily accessible from a roadside picnic and parking area off US-41, provides lovely views along a scenic trail that hugs the Sturgeon River. Along the way, you’ll witness a series of rapids and small waterfalls before you reach Canyon Falls, also referred to as the “Grand Canyon of the U.P.” due to the impressive surrounding gorge. Keep walking to see two more defined drops, including a narrow pour into a popular cliff-jumping spot.
Directions to Canyon Falls
Ten miles south of L’Anse on US-41, the roadside park is located on the right side of the road just north of a bridge over the Sturgeon River. Park here and follow the crushed rock trail to the main waterfall. Some spots allow for climbing down into the gorge onto large, flat rocks parallel to the river’s flow.
Related Read: Hike to Northern Michigan’s Breathtaking Frozen Waterfalls.