Tahquamenon Falls State Park (pronounced tuh-QUAHM-in-un) is one of the most popular places to visit in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The state park features Upper Tahquamenon Falls – the larger and more iconic area – and Lower Tahquamenon Falls – a series of smaller cascades downstream. The Upper Falls are one of the most recognizable spots in Michigan. In addition to its namesake falls, the park is home to a variety of wildlife including moose, black bears, deer, otters, and beavers.
Things to do in Tahquamenon Falls State Park
As one of Michigan’s top state parks, there are so many things to do at Tahquamenon Falls. Of course, you have the waterfalls, but there’s so much more to see and do. You can hit the trails, hit the water, or even hit the bar all right within the state park.
Upper Tahquamenon Falls
I’ve visited more than my share of Michigan State Parks over the years and I really think that the area around Upper Tahquamenon Falls is one of the nicest parts of state land. It’s one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River at 50 feet tall and a massive amount of water falls over the brink every second.
From the parking area, it’s a relatively short walk to the Upper Falls overlook. An easy, paved path along the river offers additional glimpses of the waterfall peeking through the trees. On my last visit, it was dotted with strollers and ECVs, so it should be accessible for most. There may have also been an unreasonable amount of golden retriever puppies on the pathway that day, though I can’t guarantee you’ll have the same experience. No, I didn’t dognap any of them; I just waited a few years and adopted my own golden retriever mix from a rescue.
Eventually, you’ll reach a wooden staircase that takes you down to the brink of the falls for a close-up view. Obviously, this part is not accessible, but if you’re able to do the stairs it’s a fantastic view.
One of the notable features of Upper Tahquamenon Falls is the brownish tinge that the water has. It’s been likened to root beer before and I will admit that occasionally it does resemble a root beer float when foam gathers at the bottom. The water isn’t dirty or polluted – the color and tendency to foam come from tannin that seeps into it from tree roots. I think it gives the waterfall a unique look.
Upper Tahquamenon Falls is accessible year round and each season lends its own special flavor to the viewing experience. Spring brings the highest water flows, summer the greenest foliage, autumn the brilliant colors of changing leaves, and winter the sight of the falls partially frozen over.
Tahquamenon Falls Brewery
Located just off the parking area for the Upper Falls, the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery serves up hearty meals and micro brews right inside the state park. They have burgers, salads, entrees, and pasties on the menu in addition to their beer. The building also includes a gift shop. Note that the brewery closes for part of the year, so check the hours here before you plan your visit.
Lower Tahquamenon Falls
Lesser known than the upstream waterfall, Lower Tahquamenon Falls offers a different kind of fun. Here, the river passes over a series of small cascades and visitors have a chance to actually get into the water.
The best way to explore the Lower Tahquamenon Falls area is to rent a rowboat. This will allow you to access the island in the center of the river. I did see some people attempting to wade across to the island, but this should be done carefully as the current is still strong in many places and the rocks you’ll be walking on are slippery. I stuck to wading just a few feet from the shore to stay on the safe side.
Hiking in Tahquamenon Falls State Park
The state park is home to more than 35 miles of hiking trails, including a 16-mile section of the North Country trail, which stretches from Vermont to North Dakota.
The River Trail is one of the most popular in the park and many visitors make the 4.8 mile hike along the river between the Upper Falls and Lower Falls. During peak seasons, a shuttle runs back and forth so hikers can choose to only go one way instead of doing the out and back.
Other popular trails include the 9.5 mile Wilderness Loop which takes you out into the much quieter wooded area of the park. The Clark Lake Loop is approximately 5 miles long and takes you to little Clark Lake. From here, you can continue via the short Portage Trail to larger Betsy Lake. The Tahqua Trail is a portion of the previously-mentioned North Country Trail that runs along the Tahquamenon River from its mouth inland.
Enjoy the water
Is it really a Michigan vacation if there isn’t a body of water involved? Boat rentals are available at the Lower Falls area if you’d like to paddle over to the island. If you bring your own motorized boat, you can use the boat launch at the Rivermouth area to head out onto Lake Superior. Fishing is also permitted in the park.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park also has a small beach on Lake Superior, located at the Whitefish Bay Picnic Area. Even having grown up swimming in the Great Lakes, I find the water in Superior a little too chilly, but feel free to go for a dip.
Upper Peninsula winters are harsh, but the park is open year round. The Upper Falls are particularly spectacular when they partially freeze over and the snow-covered banks offer a beautiful contrast to the brownish waters. Snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and snowmobiling are all popular winter activities. Limited winter camping options are also available, though water service is turned off during this time of year.
Tahquamenon Falls camping
If you want to stay in Tahquamenon Falls, camping is the way to go. The state park has three campgrounds and also allows backcountry camping. In addition, there’s a single-unit lodge available for rental and one cabin.
The Lower Falls Modern Campground is located – you guessed it! – near the Lower Falls. It has two separate loops (Hemlock and Portage) and has modern sites with electrical hookups, water spigots, and full bathrooms. Some accessible sites are available.
At the eastern end of the park, where the Tahquamenon River meets Lake Superior, you’ll find the Rivermouth Modern Campground and Rivermouth Pines Campground. The Modern campground includes electric service at the sites and restrooms. The Pines campground is rustic with no electric hookups and pit toilets. Campers here can use the bathroom facilities at the Modern Campground, which is a 10-minute walk or short drive away. The Rivermouth Pines campground also has one two-bedroom cabin available for rent with electric outlets, a fridge, and heaters. The Rivermouth area also has a group camp area that can be reserved.
Larger parties can rent the Tahquamenon Falls Lodge located between the Upper Falls and Lower Falls. It features three bedrooms and two bathrooms and sleeps up to 8 people. Guests here get a full kitchen with pots, pans, silverware, plates, and glasses. It also comes stocked with games and books for relaxing evenings or rainy days. Bed linens and towels are also provided.
Note that between Memorial Day and Labor Day the lodge can only be rented for 6-night stays, checking in on a Saturday and out on a Friday. During the rest of the year, there is a minimum of four nights.