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5 Destinations for Great Autumn Hikes and Waterfalls in Upper Peninsula Michigan

My parents and I put together an amazing and memory making fall tour for the best waterfalls in Upper Peninsula Michigan. Traveling with parents as an adult is an absolutely priceless experience, and I treasure these moments. So glad they want to take these trips! This state has some incredible scenery, and we got a ton of hiking in, as well as a bit of agate hunting, of course! My traveling companions are SO fun, and were active participants in the Great Foodie On the Road Tour. Come along for the ride on our search for the best waterfalls in Upper Peninsula Michigan.

Destination 1: Houghton/Hancock

Heading up through Wisconsin, we stopped in the little sister towns of Houghton/Hancock, divided by the Keewenaw Waterway. If anything is more gorgeous than these two little towns climbing up the sides of the river basin, framed in flaming fall color…..

We stayed in Houghton in a really unique boutique hotel called The Vault, made out of…you guessed it….an old bank. My mother provided entertainment every time we came and went in the form of “turning” the giant dial on the elevator, timed for maximum drama opening it, to the occasional surprise of elevator passengers. You can stay in the first level, called Old Money, in the room with the ACTUAL vault if you’re lucky enough to find it vacant, as it’s extremely popular. New Money, the second level, features unique modern rooms, and Found Money, the third level, has striking downtown views and boldly contrasting decor.

The basement is converted to the most amazing secret speakeasy, with a counter made of pennies (of course), and thick rock walls with cozy alcoves and nooks to enjoy their finely crafted cocktails. Try the Georgian Fall, or if you’re driving, any of the select and fantastic mocktails. https://thevaulthotel.com

Food: The Ambassador

We had heard a lot about the famous and historic Ambassador, with its gorgeous murals and cozy ambiance–and great pizza! Italian, German, and Finnish immigrants all left their mark on this picturesque little town. The spectacular brewing-themed handpainted murals were actually rolled up and stored during Prohibition, and were rediscovered, very romantically, many years later and now once again adorn the walls and ceilings. Try the Garlic Chicken Pizza, the Quesadilla Pizza, or build your own! https://theambassadorhoughton.com

Ambassador Restaurant on our tour of waterfalls in Upper Peninsula Michigan

Food: Suomi

This is a unique Michigan experience, Suomi is a Finnish breakfast restaurant specializing in Pannukakku, a thick custardy cross between a pancake and a Dutch baby, drizzled with raspberry sauce. The waitstaff are characters (speediest waitress ever), and the cheerful and simple blue and white dining area is obviously a local favorite. Definitely, try the Pannukakku! You’ll be shocked by the prices, which seem like a holdover from a previous era.

Food: Gemignani’s

This is a tiny authentic Italian restaurant across the river in the sister town of Hancock. We wished we could have timed it right to eat supper here, but did manage to sample their delicious desserts, tiramisu and cannoli. https://www.facebook.com/GemignanisItalianRestaurant/

Destination 2: Copper Harbor

Agate hunting and beachcombing at the tip of the Keewenaw Peninsula were the order of the day. It was a bright and sunny fall day, perfect for hiking, but the lake breeze can get chilly so wear layers! Lake Superior is very cold, very clear, and the most spectacular blue green. You find yourself staring into the horizon and forgetting to blink. We found only tiny agates but it was definitely an incredible experience. The pebbly beaches hide all kinds of rocky treasures and it’s hard to give up and leave without just….one…more…

We made some great cairns from the smooth lake rocks, and also Beach Faces out of rocks on one of the most unique black sand beaches I’ve ever seen. It was magical. Only the top layer was black, but if you scooped out a hole the sand beneath had strata of golden brown and black.

Falls: Manganese Falls

This clear running and intimate little waterfall is tucked in the woods off the main road and is so much fun to explore. You can climb right up close and pick your way over the boulders to the cleft of the falls. Our first of the waterfalls in Upper Peninsula Michigan!

Food: Harbor Haus

The VIEWS! Not only is the food excellent, but it’s hard to pay attention to eating when Lake Superior is stretched out before you in all its serene glory. Take a break from hiking the waterfalls in Upper Peninsula Michigan and come early enough to get one of the spectacular window tables. The food is German oriented and very artisanal and fresh. Try the Harbor Haus Planked Whitefish, or the Pork Chop topped with microgreens which was a special. The salads are bright and unique. Try the Beet Salad! https://www.harborhaus.com

Destination 3: Porcupine Mountains

We were just slightly early for peak color but still beyond spectacular. There are many overlooks in the Porcupine Mountains, and perfect lakes tucked in the bowl of the hills. We saw a lot of ATV adventures but wow! the trails are crazy. I’m sure they aren’t all as steep as the ones we saw, but it was totally a thrill seeker’s adventure.

Lake of the Clouds was a definite highlight for a short hike and gorgeous views. Be sure to make this a stop on your Autumn Waterfalls in Upper Peninsula Michigan

Destination 4: Pictured Rocks

We actually saw this on a previous trip but Pictured Rocks are amazing. Brightly colored bands of rocky cliffs can be seen from one of the popular boat day cruises. Dress warmly because the spray coming up from the boat combined with lake wind can get very cold, but the view is completely enthralling. It’s like no place I’ve ever seen before!

Destination 5: Bessemer/Ironwood

The Bessemer/Ironwood area had the largest concentration of waterfalls on our tour. Don’t miss this stop on your autumn tour of waterfalls in Upper Peninsula Michigan! We picked up a waterfalls map at one of the tourist towns along the way–just look for a visitor center and you can find a number of these waterfall maps. Make sure you get a paper map as cell service is nonexistent in many of these locations and you can become very very lost! There were nine waterfalls in drivable distance and we walked up SO MANY STAIRS!

Take the Black River Scenic Byway up to where the Black River spills into Lake Superior, and you can see the following chain of waterfalls: Great Conglomerate Falls, Potowatami/Gorge Falls, Sandstone Falls, Rainbow Falls, and end up at Black River Harbor for a Great Lake view. This was the highlight of our autumn tour of waterfalls in Upper Peninsula Michigan! The waterfalls are completely spectacular, and the hikes to get to them require good fitness and comfortable shoes, but the views are very worth it and the woods trails are gorgeous.

The End!

This trip to find the best waterfalls in Upper Peninsula Michigan was well worth the journey. We could only see a fraction of this beautiful part of Michigan in the few days we toured, so we will definitely be heading back to see some more! Stunning, remote and natural, Upper Peninsula Michigan is a must-see for fall travel.

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