Mitten List: Tahquamenon Falls

July 31, 2015


I think I’ve mentioned at least a couple (million) times before that pre-travel research is not really a thing that I do.

I’d like to think this is because I’m a spontaneous, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl.

But I suspect it’s because I’m more the lazy, watching-Netflix-while-in-pajama-pants type.

So, I didn’t know a whole lot about Tahquamenon Falls prior to my arriving there as the first stop in my Upper Peninsula adventure.

I didn’t know how to spell it. (I still don’t. I had to Google search it before I wrote the title of this post. And every time I type the name, I have to double-check it with the title to make sure I’m getting it right.)

I didn’t know how to pronounce it. (According to a brochure I read while I was there, it rhymes with “phenomenon.” Seriously, did you ever think there would be a word that rhymes with “phenomenon”? I thought that was kind of like the word “orange.”)

I didn’t know there are actually two separate falls.

There are the Lower Falls, which is a set of smaller falls, located near Paradise, Michigan.

The Lower Falls

The Lower Falls

And then about four miles south are the Upper Falls, a much taller horseshoe-shaped falls.

The Upper Falls

The Upper Falls

I didn’t know that you could hike the four miles between the falls. And I certainly didn’t know that this would be something I would want to do.

I mean, sure, I like a good hike as much as the next girl. But hiking four miles to get to the Upper Falls when I could just as easily drive there? That seemed a bit, well, drastic. I’m more of a one-to-three-mile-and-only-because-I-can’t-drive-there hike kind of girl.

Plus, the four miles only gets you to the other falls. It doesn’t get you back to where you started. Hiking eight miles round trip? Now that’s just the talk of crazies — you know, the kind of crazies who make a regular habit of wearing those pants with the legs that zip off into shorts.

But, when I showed up at the Lower Falls, I discovered it was crawling with families, particularly of the stroller-wielding, screaming-toddler variety. And my instant reaction was: “Gah! Get me to the nature!”

(No offense to my toddler-having, stroller-wielding readers out there. I’m sure your toddlers are lovely and never, ever scream in public and would not make me choose running away into the bug-infested woods over spending a minute more of time with them.)

That’s when I saw this sign:


If ever there was a sign that screamed: “NOT FOR TODDLERS OR STROLLERS! DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT, PARENTS!,” it was this sign.

The trail was indeed not stroller or toddler-friendly. In fact, it wasn’t even very Sally-friendly. It was full of mushy bits, and there were a whole lot of rooty bits. And because I find it hard to walk on smooth surfaces without tripping, this was especially tricky for me.


Rooty bits.

It was also a very long four miles. Like, really, REALLY looonnnggg. I suspect it had something to do with all the hills. I think anytime there are hills on a hike, they should add a mile or two to the trail sign, just so you can feel a bit better about yourself when it takes you five million years to complete the hike.

But despite the mushy bits and rooty bits and the hilly bits and the bits which were only a mile but felt like five billion, I was happy I had decided to take the hike. If only because of all the many beautiful bits, like this:


And this:


And this:


It was also very quiet and terrifically un-screamy. Unless you count the number of times, I screamed at the mile markers which would say something ridiculous like “3 more miles” when I could have sworn that I’d already hiked at least twenty-five billion miles already.


3 MORE MILES??? Don’t make me hurt you, mile marker sign!

I finally arrived at the Upper Falls, where instead of being greeted by a big huge, wonderful waterfall, I was greeted by stairs. Lots and lots of stairs. Each set of stairs leading to different platform where you could view the falls from a different angle.

And even though my legs were like, “You just made me hike four miles of hills and roots and now you want me to climb STAIRS? Are you mad, woman???” I climbed every single set of stairs. If only so that I could get a selfie in front of the falls at twenty different angles.

I have the “Standing Really Far Away From the Falls With a Mildly Crazy Look on my Face Selfie”:

2015-07-07 15.22.34

I have the “Standing a Little Bit Closer to the Falls (This Time with a Hat for Variety!) Selfie”

2015-07-07 15.38.18

And then the “Standing Super Close to the Falls That I Just Hiked Four Miles to See Even Though I Could Have Driven Here Selfie”:

2015-07-07 15.46.15

Just like the Lower Falls, the Upper Falls were teeming with strollers and screaming toddlers. But by then I was too tired to attempt running off into the forest.

Plus, I had discovered two more wonderful facts about Tahquamenon Falls:

First, there is a brewery in the Upper Falls portion of the park. Yes, a brewery! In the park! Because what says, “Congratulations! You just hiked a ridiculously long, mushy, rooty, hilly four miles that you could have much more easily driven!” like a pint of microbrew beer?


And, secondly, there’s a shuttle you can take between the two sections of the falls so you don’t have to hike both ways.

You guys, it was as if the people at Tahquamenon State Park had read every single one of my dreams and made them a reality.

I mean, a brewery! In the park! And a shuttle ride back to my car!

It was like my version of Disneyland! (Except my version of Disneyland would have involved a lot less rooty bits and hills and mile marker signs that just seemed to be taunting me. And a lot more beautiful bits and beer.)


Have you ever gone on a hike to avoid other people? (Admit it, you totally have, right? I mean, I can’t be the only one!)


I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On July 31, 2015 at 6:18 pm Leslie in Oregon said:

    Oh Sally, I have been on that hike so many times. Not that exact hike, but ones that made me feel exactly the same, particularly at the mile indicators. But you did it, just as you keep challenging yourself…BIG BRAVO!!! That you found a brewery and a shuttle at the end of the hike was the most magical ending to a hiking story I’ve ever heard or dreamed. I hope you felt as good as you looked at the end of the hike!
    From the long-sleeve, high-neck upper garment you wore on the hike, I gather that it was not hot or (very) humid. Here in Portland, I am getting stir crazy, as it has been too hot to do anything (highs of 103° yesterday, 101° so far today). We are not geared for temps that high! Thank you for the relief of this very funny, inspiring Sally-story today.

    • On August 2, 2015 at 11:46 am Sally said:

      It was actually the perfect weather for a hike. It had rained a LOT the night before, so that day was a little cooler with hardly any bugs. I got super lucky because the following days were much hotter and buggier. That being said it was probably a bit too hot for what I was wearing, but I was wearing it because I was worried about bugs and getting sunburnt because it doesn’t seem to matter how much bug spray and sunblock I apply. So I’d rather be hot and sweaty in love sleeves and a high neck, then burnt and bug-eaten.

  2. On July 31, 2015 at 6:25 pm Pam said:

    I did that very hike one time and also went to the brewery! My main memory was that my best friend fell in the mud near those steps, and I reacted, er, less than kindly (with laughter and good natured derision). We also thought we saw a bear–an obsession!–but it turned out to be a Labrador retriever.

    And yes, it is a VERY long eight most. Doesn’t seem that it should feel s long, but it does.

    • On August 2, 2015 at 11:43 am Sally said:

      You did the full 8 MILES?? Woah. There was no way I could have done the route back. Especially after climbing all those stairs and drinking beer.

  3. On August 1, 2015 at 12:57 am eleanore said:

    If I ever go back to MI, I’ll do this hike and drink that beer. That likes a great day.

    • On August 2, 2015 at 11:41 am Sally said:

      And be sure to take the shuttle back because nobody has to be a hero and walk all 8 miles. Plus, who wants to hike after beer? I just wanted to take a nap!

  4. On August 1, 2015 at 12:56 pm janice said:

    I’ve never gone on a hike to avoid other people but I’ve toally walked blocks and blocks out of my way in order to do so; like urban hiking, does that count?
    janice recently posted..Cousin Coralina

  5. On August 1, 2015 at 8:09 pm Priya said:

    Girl, this is amazing. I can promise you that I would not have been able to do this. Also, I haven’t really hiked alone. I kind of did when I was in Noosa but it was very small. If I went hiking alone, I’d probably get lost and then just live out there in the woods.
    Priya recently posted..Priya’s Summer Travels Starting Now

    • On August 2, 2015 at 11:38 am Sally said:

      The key is to find a well-marked trail. It also helps if you can find a trail that doesn’t have a lot of turn-offs or other trails branching off of it as that gets tricky. Even though this trail was super ridiculously long, it was very well marked and there was really no place to veer of the trail by accident as one side was the river and the other side was a big huge hill.


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