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Michigan and Wisconsin Hikes: Table of Contents Michigan Trails 1. Tahquamenon Falls State Park 2. Munising Waterfalls Tour 3. Bond Falls Park 4. Porcupine Mountains State Park: Summit Peak Trail 5. Porcupine Mountains State Park: Presque Isle Unit Wisconsin Trails 6. Devil’s Lake State Park Hike #1 Trails: (numerous) Location: Tahquamenon Falls State Park Nearest City: Paradise, Michigan Length: 1.8 miles Last Hiked: August 2001 Overview: Two short hikes leading to lower and upper Tahquamenon Falls, respectively. Park Information: http://www.michigandnr.com/parksandtrails/Details.aspx?id=428&type=SPRK Directions to the trailhead: From Paradise, go west on SR 123 8 miles to the entrance to Lower Tahquamenon Falls on the left. Pay the small entry fee and proceed along park roads to the falls trailhead, following signs. Upper Tahquamenon Falls is located another 4 miles west on SR 123. Again, turn left and follow signs to the upper falls trailhead. The hike: Located in the eastern Upper Peninsula, Tahquamenon Falls is one of the crown jewels of the Michigan state park system. The state park surrounds the last 20 miles of the Tahquamenon River as it winds its way east toward Whitefish Bay and Lake Superior. Highlighting this journey are two waterfalls, both of which are among the largest east of the Mississippi. The park has an extensive trail system. A 12-mile scout trail winds along both sides of SR 123 and past both waterfalls. Also, a four mile trail connects the upper and lower falls areas and would make for an excellent extended day hike. Our route contains two short hikes that combined yield the maximum scenery for the shortest distance of any trail in the park. From the Lower Falls Parking Area, pick up the blacktop trail that heads west into the forest. Immediately the basin, a shallow pool of water into which the waterfalls flow, comes into view. The land across the basin is not the other side of the river, but it is actually an island. Notice the waterfall to the left of this island. Stop at an overlook for a good view of this falls. Our hike stays on the north bank of the river, and therefore does not swing close to this waterfall for a close look. The park does offer canoes for use by its patrons to row across the basin to the island. A short trail around the island offers excellent views of waterfalls on both sides of the island, but that trail is not described here. Continue along the blacktop trail, following signs that say “overlook.” The blacktop soon turns to boardwalk as the trail enters a forest consisting of yellow birch, maple, and white pine. After 0.4 miles arrive at the first wooden overlook on the left. Standing on this overlook, you are but feet away from powerful Lower Tahquamenon Falls. This waterfall drops 50 feet in three tiers splashing over rocks and carrying large volumes of water. Though not as high and dramatic as upper falls, this may be my favorite waterfall overlook in the park. A good waterfall is not merely seen, but also heard and, in the best of cases, felt. Standing almost directly over the falls, one can feel the spray and clearly hear the powerful roar of the water cascading over bare rock. The water has a brown tint created by tannin, the same substance that gives Dr. Pepper its color. After you have viewed both this and another overlook slightly further on, retrace your steps to your car and head for upper falls. Having parked at the upper falls parking area, again choose the blacktop path which leads downhill into the forest. In 0.3 miles arrive at a trail junction with another blacktop trail, this one running along the rim of the Tahquamenon River gorge. Turn left and begin walking with the gorge on the right and the forest on your left. The falls can be heard down in the gorge but not yet seen. Bypass two trails that go off to the left. The first one is our return route and the second one is the river trail connecting you to the lower falls in four miles. Look for a metal set of steps leading downhill to the right. Descend eight flights of steps to arrive at just above river level in the gorge. Now heading upstream, a boardwalk and a few more metal steps negotiate the rock walls of the gorge to arrive at a wooden overlook. From this point, the falls are easily visible about 0.5 miles upstream. This waterfall features a straight drop of 90 feet into a large plunge pool. Upper falls is the second widest waterfall east of the Mississippi, with the widest being, of course, Niagara Falls. Shale rock walls line either side of the waterfall. After viewing the waterfall, retrace your steps to the intersection for the return route, as described above. Turn right on this gravel trail and enter a birch, maple, beech, and white pine forest with a dense shrub layer. Several interpretive signs tell about the animal and plant life of the forest. In 0.3 miles the trail comes out at the upper falls parking lot to conclude the hike. Hike #2 Trails: (numerous) Location: Various Munising waterfalls Nearest City: Munising, Michigan Length: 1 mile Last Hiked: August 2001 Overview: Several short hikes to waterfalls surrounding the town of Munising, Michigan. Directions to the trailhead: (See below) The hike: Munising is a small town sitting directly on Lake Superior in the middle of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In the wintertime, Munising is a famous stopover for snowmobilers buzzing along one of the many snowmobile trails that criss-cross the Upper Peninsula. In the summer, the town becomes a tourist attraction as ships heading for the nearby Pictured Rocks or touring the numerous shipwrecks in Munising harbor depart from the town’s docks. The town is also home to several waterfalls of various characters that add to the scenic beauty of Pictured Rocks and Lake Superior. All of these waterfalls are easily accessed by short hikes from marked parking areas and trailheads. Our directions start in downtown Munising and then proceed from waterfall to waterfall. Start by going east on SR 28 and turning left on Prospect Street. Where Prospect Street ends, turn left and proceed two blocks to the parking area for Horseshoe Falls, our first stop. Pay the small entry fee, exit the building onto the trail system and turn left, heading uphill along a small stream to Horseshoe Falls. The trail ends at the falls, which gently drop 30 feet in three tiers onto bear rock. The falls are spring-fed and therefore run the entire summer. The name Horseshoe comes from the rock shelter which surrounds the falls in the shape of a horseshoe. Turn around and head back downhill, turning gently right as the trail forks. Take a moment to visit the garden, which contains several local shrub and flower species and the pond, which features trout and ducks that visitors can feed. After viewing both of these attractions, head back to the souvenir shop to complete the hike. Our next stop is Munising Falls. Retrace your steps back to SR 28 and turn right. Where SR 28 turns left into downtown Munising, turn right and go past the national forest visitors center. At a sign for the city hospital, turn left, pass the hospital and look for a sign for Munising Falls on the right. Turn right here and park in the parking lot next to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Visitors Center. Walk past the Visitor Center and look for a gravel trail heading for Munising Falls. The trail begins following a creek up a narrow ravine. Where some steps go uphill to the right, stay left, cross the creek on a bridge, and shortly arrive at the base of Munising Falls. At 60 feet, this is the largest spring-fed waterfall in Munising. Water vertically drops over the top of a large rock shelter directly into a small plunge pool before proceeding downstream. In terms of appearance, this waterfall greatly resembles those of the Appalachian plateau. At times in the past there has been a trail leading uphill and under the rock shelter behind the falls. However, due to erosion, this trail has become unsafe and has been closed. Retrace your steps first to the parking lot, then to SR 28. Turn left onto SR 28 and head east out of Munising to the intersection of SR 28 and SR 94. On the left side of the road directly across from SR 94 sits Alger Falls, which can be viewed from a gravel pull off on the left side of the road. No hike is required to view the falls which cascade 20 feet out of the forest and into the field along SR 28. This not a spectacular waterfall, but given the lack of effort required to reach it, it is easily worth the journey. To reach our last waterfall, turn onto SR 94 and proceed 0.3 miles to Wagner Falls State Scenic Site, accessed by a small parking lot on the left side of the road. Begin by taking the small dirt path leaving the parking area and entering the forest. The path meanders along with the main stream on the left, soon crossing a side stream on a wooden bridge. 0.25 miles from the trailhead the trail reaches a wooden platform in front of Wagner Falls. Water cascades in moderate volume 25 feet over innumerable small terraces of stone. Of the four waterfalls presented here, this is probably my favorite, not because of looks, but because of the peaceful splashing sounds the water makes as it falls over the countless rock ledges. It is hard to believe such a tremendous sound could be made by such a small waterfall. Close your eyes and simply listen to the splashing, just imagining what could be sitting in front of you. After soaking in the sounds and sights, retrace your steps to the parking area to complete your tour of Munising’s waterfalls. Hike #3 Trail: Bond Falls Trail Location: Bond Falls Park Nearest City: Watersmeet, Michigan Length: 1 mile Last Hiked: August 2001 Overview: A moderate hike featuring Bond Falls, one of the most notable waterfalls in Michigan. Park Information: http://www.michigandnr.com/parksandtrails/Details.aspx?id=412&type=SPRK Directions to the trailhead: From Watersmeet, go north on US 45 9 miles to Bond Falls Road in the town of Paulding. Turn right on Bond Falls and go 2 miles east to the gravel turnoff that serves as a parking lot for the area, marked by a Bond Falls sign. The trail leaves the left side of the road. The hike: Owned by the Upper Peninsula Power Company, Bond Falls Scenic Area features one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula. Just upstream from the falls is Bond Falls Reservoir which provides hydroelectric power for customers and a constant supply of water for the falls. Two trails forming a double loop are contained on the grounds. The first loop, described here, is 1 mile long and takes the visitor around the falls. A second loop not described here is 2 miles and makes a longer loop around the Bond River valley below the falls. The trail leaves the parking area and immediately begins heading downhill through pine forest with the river on your right. In 0.2 miles reach the top of the falls and begin a concrete staircase heading downhill beside the falls. At the base of the steps, the trail curves right as the second loop goes off to the left. The waterfall now becomes fully visible on the right side of the trail. The 60-foot falls is actually a long series of cascades spilt into left and right sides by a small wooded island. The two sides of the falls are so large that they cannot both be photographed in one frame using a standard lens. Cross a wooden bridge over the Upper Branch of the Ontonagon River that creates the falls and view the left side of the falls. The trail continues up the eastern bank of the river, climbing steeply and occasionally over bare rock. The trail continues climbing, turning left away from the river, soon to arrive at Bond Falls Road with the reservoir across the road. Turn right on the road and proceed on a short walk along the roadside to the parking area to complete the hike. Hike #4 Trail: Summit Peak Trail Location: Porcupine Mountains State Park Nearest City: Silver City, Michigan Length: 0.7 miles Last Hiked: August 2001 Overview: A short, relatively steep hike to a wooden overlook platform on Summit Peak. Park Information: http://www.michigandnr.com/parksandtrails/Details.aspx?type=SPRK&id=426 Directions to the trailhead: From Silver City, go west on SR 107, entering Porcupine Mountain State Park. Turn left onto South Boundary Road and follow signs to the turnoff for Summit Peak Trailhead. Park in the blacktop parking area at the end of the access road. The hike: Located in the very northwest corner of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the Porcupine Mountains are a special place. The state park represents the largest wilderness area east of the Mississippi. Indeed, much of the land inside the park looks much as it did when the land was first settled some 175 years ago. The most famous point in the park is Lake of the Clouds, a large lake surrounded on three sides by mountains some 1000 feet above lake level. Besides the overlook at Lake of the Clouds, which can be accessed by a 350 foot blacktop trail, the best views in the park can be found from Summit Peak looking northward toward Lake Superior. This trail is part of a larger network that criss-crosses the Summit Peak area. The route described here is the shortest and easiest route to the views Summit Peak has to offer. From an information kiosk on the north side of the parking lot, pick up the wide gravel trail as it immediately begins ascending through mature oak-maple-birch-hickory forest. The trail uses a couple of switchbacks to gain elevation and provides several benches for the weary during the climb. At 0.2 miles the trail levels off somewhat before coming to the base of a short wooden staircase. Ascend these stairs and in 100 yards come to the wooden overlook platform that provides broad views to the north. The Porcupine Mountains dominate the foreground while Lake Superior, now about 10 miles away, can be seen on a clear day in the background. After soaking in the view, retrace your steps downhill, losing 250 feet of elevation to return to the parking lot and complete the hike. Hike #5 Trail: West Shore Trail Location: Porcupine Mountains State Park, Presque Isle Unit Nearest City: Wakefield, Michigan Length: 1 mile Last Hiked: August 2001 Overview: A hike featuring numerous wooden steps leading to three of the largest waterfalls in Porcupine Mountains State Park. Park Information: http://www.michigandnr.com/parksandtrails/Details.aspx?type=SPRK&id=426 Directions to the trailhead: From Wakefield, go north on County Route 513 into Porcupine Mountains State Park. Pass the turnoff to South Boundary Road on the right and park at the parking area designated for the North Shore Trail. The hike: Few rivers in Michigan can match the beauty of the last 2 miles of the Presque Isle River. Just before emptying into Lake Superior, the river plunges over three waterfalls in quick order while passing through a dense pine forest. the river makes a perfect nesting area for the bald eagle, and almost every summer one will be spotted nesting in the pines high above the river. The river is contained in the very western section of the state park. The area is linked to the rest of the park by South Boundary Road for automobiles and the North Shore Trail, which treads along Lake Superior, for foot traffic. In the Presque Isle Unit itself, there are two trails, one on either bank of the river. They are called the West Shore and East Shore trails, respectively. The three waterfalls on the river can be viewed from either trail, but since the road and parking area are on the west shore, we chose the West Shore Trail to describe here. Enter the forest and soon pass along the edge of a sunny, warm meadow. At a trail junction on the east edge of the meadow, turn left and soon bypass a side trail going right to another parking area. Continue heading north and soon descend a long flight of wooded steps to arrive at river level just before it empties into Lake Superior. At this point, the North Shore Trail continues straight across a bridge over the river to link up with the East Shore Trail and then continue east toward park headquarters. Our hike turns right and begins paralleling the west bank of the river. Using wooden boardwalks and steps to make the hiking easier, the trail offers superb views of numerous cascades and rapids in the river to the left. Shortly, the first waterfall, Manabezho Falls, comes into view on the river. This is one of the most unusual waterfalls in Michigan. There appears to be a fault line running perpendicular to the river at this point, with the south side of the fault being some 70 feet higher than the northern side. Large volumes of water spill through low areas in the fault line, thus creating the waterfall. This waterfall, in my opinion, marks the highlight of the hike. The trail begins climbing a long series of wooded steps out of the gorge, only to bypass the return route going right and descend more wooden steps back to river level. Now above Manabezho Falls, the trail comes to an overlook of Manido Falls. This waterfall is smaller and less dramatic than its predecessor, but the overlook here is right beside the falls, thus yielding a better view than you had of Manabezho Falls, which was viewed from 100 yards away. From Manido Falls, continue upstream to a viewing platform which offers a view of Nawadaha Falls some 0.5 miles upstream. This is another smaller waterfall that features some white cascading water. A free viewer gives you a better, closer view of the falls than can be had with the naked eye. It also might be useful in spotting bald eagles in the trees. The trail continues past this platform for a closer view of Nawadaha Falls. However, the trail is steep and unsafe in sections, so I recommend viewing the falls from the platform described above. Retrace your steps back up the wooden stairs and turn left on the dirt trail heading back to the parking lot. Close the loop in 100 feet, walk back past the meadow and return to the blacktop parking lot, thus completing the hike. Hike #6 Trails: CCC, Devil’s Doorway, Balanced Rock Trails Location: Devil’s Lake State Park Nearest City: Baraboo, Wisconsin Length: 2.9 miles Last Hiked: August 2001 Overview: A difficult trail to the East Bluff rock formations overlooking Devils Lake. Park Information: http://www.devilslakewisconsin.com/ Directions to the trailhead: Take SR 123 south out of Baraboo. Where SR 123 curves left, take a soft right onto South Shore Road. Stay left where Burma Road goes right. Drive past Devil’s Lake to the CCC Parking lot on the right. Park here; the trail begins across the road from the parking lot. The hike: Devil’s Lake is a geological oddity. Once the bed of an ancient river, the lake is currently surrounded by 500-foot rocky hills and has no visible outlet or source. The cause of this drastic change was the last period of glaciation some 10,000 years ago. This area of Wisconsin along with the famous nearby Wisconsin Dells was one of the few parts of the state that did not become covered by the massive ice sheets. Instead, glaciers went around this area, pushing rock debris into the path of the ancient river. The river eventually became stopped by an ice and rock dam. The result was a lake with piles of rocks surrounding it. Established in 1911, Devil’s Lake is one of the more popular parks in the Wisconsin State park system. The main attraction is the unusual rock formations that surround the lake, although its close proximity to Madison and Wisconsin Dells probably create extra traffic as well. In terms of facilities, the park features a campground, a nature center, several picnic shelters, and 10 miles of hiking trails. Our hike takes us to the top of the east bluff overlooking Devil’s Lake and past some of the more famous rock formations. Begin by crossing the park road and following the trail marked with purple, the CCC Trail. Trails at Devil’s Lake are marked by color and name, but they are not difficult to follow. Ignore a trail that goes off to the left (this is our return route) and begin climbing the east bluff. At first this climb is made through a dense maple-oak forest, but further up the climb goes out into a barren boulder field. Fortunately, steps have been cemented together out of pieces of rock to make the climb more possible. This was accomplished by the depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), hence the name of the trail. Despite the steps, the climb is long and steep, gaining almost 500 feet in elevation in 0.6 miles. If you are not sure which way the trail goes in the boulder field, look for the white mortar used to hold the steps together, and this will tell what direction to scramble. After much scrambling and numerous switchbacks, the trail makes one final switchback to the left to work around a rock wall. Now atop the east bluff, the valley and opposite ridge can be seen to the left and below you while a pine forest is to the right. The trail at this point becomes the Devil’s Doorway Trail and begins heading west. Overlooks and rock formations come into view on the left as does the lake some 500 feet below you. Ignore the steep Potholes trail going left and continue along the east bluff following a rolling course. Pass the Devil’s Doorway and Balancing Rock rock formations and soon arrive at the north end of east bluff. The lake is now fully in view straight ahead. At this point, pick up the Balanced Rock Trail, which goes to the left. Begin descending while admiring the lake in front and below you, but being careful not to slip or fall on the stone steps. Also, take care not to bother rock climbers that tend to congregate along the trail as they watch one of their comrades high above. At the bottom of the hill, the trail nears a railroad track and arrives at an intersection with the Grottoes Trail, which goes to the left. Turn left here and begin hiking east with the rocks above you to the left. All of the steep climbing is over now, as the Grottoes Trail is an easy 0.7 mile trek through mature oak forest to reconnect you to the CCC Trail, thus closing the loop. Turn right at this junction and proceed a short distance first to the park road, then to the parking lot to complete the hike.
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