A native Yooper, Jesse Land publishes the Upper Peninsula travel website “Things to do in the U.P.” When he’s not chasing his kids around the yard, he’s chasing them around the lakes, hiking trails and waterfalls of the Upper Peninsula.
As you may know, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is home to several hundred waterfalls. In fact, the vast majority of the waterfalls in the book “A guide to 199 Michigan Waterfalls” are in the Upper Peninsula! Knowing this, the question then becomes, which waterfalls should you visit? It’d be tough to see them all!
Some require a long hike on a well-marked trail. Others are remote and completely unmarked. And quite a few are very easily accessible. For some parents then, the question becomes, which ones would make a good stop with the kids?
Well, I’ll point out that the above book is very helpful, filled with photos and excellent descriptions of the “what, where and how” of each waterfall. But for those of you with young kids (mine are six months, two and nine), I’ll give you a few good options.
#1 – Bond Falls
Bond Falls, in “The Wilds of Michigan,” is easily one of the most popular waterfalls in the U.P. Despite its remote location, the boardwalk at Bond Falls is always alive with the pitter patter of footsteps, and you’re sure to see a photographer or two snapping photos of this magnificent drop of the Ontonagan River.
Why is it family friendly? Bond Falls makes a good family stop because the path to the falls is a short, handicapped accessible boardwalk and the surrounding trails are well-traveled and wide open. The boardwalk skirts around the entire lower drop of the falls, and a fence along the edge allows little ones to see the falls without the risk of tumbling over the edge.
#2 – Canyon Falls
About forty two miles south of Houghton, MI, Canyon Falls makes a terrific stop for a family looking to get out of the car and stretch for a bit. If you’re headed to or from the Keweenaw, this is an opportune spot to do just that!
Why is it family friendly? A section of this trail is a boardwalk, and the rest of the trail is well maintained and well marked. You’ll have an easy ten minute walk downstream to the falls (perfect for “leg-stretching”), and the viewing platform at the falls is fenced off to keep your little ones from straying. Mainly, this makes a good stop with the kids because they’ll get to run around and burn off some energy. Who knows, maybe they’ll end up napping the rest of the way to Copper Harbor?
#3 - Sable Falls
Sable Falls is one of the many wonderful waterfalls of the Upper Peninsula’s Alger County, home to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Several dozen stairs (slippery when wet, so be careful!) lead down to this picture perfect waterfall.
Why is it family friendly? Presuming your kids are able to handle the stairs, again, this is a great way for them to get out of the car and stretch their legs. I haven’t taken my kids here yet, but when I do I’ll have my youngest in the “don’t’ leave home without it” Baby Bjorn. My two year-old will be able to negotiate most of the stairs as long as we hold her hand, and our nine year old will run up and down those puppies like nobody’s business.
Also, Sable Falls and Grand Sable Dunes share a trailhead. The three hundred foot high dunes are well worth checking out and just a short walk away!
#4 – Horseshoe Falls
Right in Munising, Horseshoe Falls is a private waterfall that requires an entry fee (and a walk through their gift shop) to view. The gift shop also sells ice cream, local trinkets and books about the Upper Peninsula.
Why is it family friendly? It’s only a few hundred feet from the gift shop to the waterfall on a smooth, gravel walking path, and this waterfall makes an excellent spot for a family photo. They’ve got a trout pond here as well, where for twenty-five cents you can feed the fish. When I recently visited Horseshoe Falls with my stepson we ended up feeding the fish for half an hour and had a blast!
One last thing; all of the above waterfalls have restrooms in their respective parking areas. A must for any family on the road!
Thanks so much for reading! If you’d like more Upper Peninsula travel tips, visit my Things to do in the U.P. website (http://www.thingstodointheup.com), where I write a weekly blog post about all sorts of cool things to do in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula!
Photos and text © Jesse Land 2012 All rights reserved, used with permission