Michigan has some pretty roadside parks, and one of the nicest has to be at Canyon Falls and Gorge, just off of U.S. 41 near Baraga on the Sturgeon River in the state's Upper Peninsula.
We discovered this spot while making the 10-hour drive from the Detroit area to Copper Harbor at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula. The convenient location right along US-41 makes it a nice place to stop and stretch your legs before heading on north up the Keweenaw to one of the farthest reaches of the Michigan's U.P.
The trailhead for the walk back to Canyon Falls and Gorge is in a park with a parking lot, restrooms, a picnic area, and drinking water.
The walk out to the falls and back is a little less than 2 miles on level terrain, with a short stretch of boardwalk over some swampy areas. So, it's possible to can check out Canyon Falls and catch a quick picnic lunch before continuing on your way in less than an hour.
The trail takes visitors through mature hardwood forest along the river before arriving at the Canyon Falls.
We visited Canyon Falls during early September, well after spring when the water is highest, and just ahead of the fall color. It was still a scenic trip with several small rapids and waterfalls along the river, and good water flow at the 15-foot-tall Canyon Falls.
If you have a little more time to spare, you can continue a way past the falls on an older trail that leads further along a canyon with walls formed by straight line faults that give it a boxy appearance.
Travelers don't particularly know Michigan for deep canyons or gorges, making this gorge a pretty impressive sight for many visitors and earning it the nickname of "The Grand Canyon of the Upper Peninsula" or "The Grand Canyon of Michigan".
Canyon Falls and Gorge is part of Michigan Technological University's research forest.
The roadside park is open on a seasonal basis, as the parking lot remains unplowed during the winter.
Want to learn more about Canyon Falls and Michigan's many other waterfalls? Check out A Guide to 199 Michigan Waterfalls by Laurie Penrose, a book we've found very helpful when traveling and looking for waterfalls.
Canyon Falls is quite near the shrine to Bishop Baraga, the first bishop of the Upper Peninsula and a priest known particularly for his work among Native Americans, who learned the native languages so he could author grammar, dictionaries, and prayer books for Native American readers. Check out my story about Bishop Baraga: the Snowshoe Priest.
© Dominique King 2010 All rights reserved