Visitors flock from all over the world to see the stunning shores of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. There are several beautiful waterfalls scattered throughout this stretch of the Hiawatha National Forest, and Miners Falls is no exception. A sun-dappled nature trail meanders from the parking lot down toward the river. In this pristine woodland, Miners River erupts from a sandstone cliff, and the rushing falls plummet into a water-carved basin. Miners Falls is often passed over because it’s a little off the beaten path, but getting there is an easy drive from Munising, and then a little hike down Miners Trail. For those who like to explore, Miners Falls is a rewarding side-excursion.
A gorgeous location
Miners Falls is situated deep in the Upper Michigan mixed hardwood forest of the Pictured Rocks region. The falls take their name from Miners River, so-called because it was thought to contain valuable mineral deposits, yet it never ended up being mined. Beech, Sugar Maple, and Yellow Birch make up a large part of the forest’s composition, although advancing Beech Bark Disease is taking its toll on the Beech trees. The forest here provides rich habitat, and it’s common to spot chipmunks and various bird species, notably the Hermit Thrush and the Red-Eyed Vireo.
One curiosity of this forest, particularly visible from the nature trail leading to the falls, is that many of the trees have grown in oddly bent shapes. Some of them have serpentine curves and some are bent at hard angles, implying a break that healed crooked. Has the wind taken its toll? Do the trees have to bend to reach the light coming from ever-changing holes in the canopy? Is there an indefinable flow of energy influencing the trees? Or are they trail markers left by the Native Americans? You’ll have to be the judge and see for yourself.
As the trail descends toward the gorge, the forest shifts to more moisture-loving trees, like spruce, fir, and cedar. Keep an eye out for the furtive martin or fisher, as they tend to hunt near the shallows.
Directions and details
Munising is the closest major town. Miners Falls is a 9.5 mile (15.3 kilometer) drive to the east and north. Take Alger County Road H-58 east to Miners Castle Road. Head north 5 miles (8 kilometers) to a gravel road. There is a sign here for the falls. Follow the gravel road east for 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) to the park.
As part of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Miners Falls is open all day, every day, year round. The parking lot is ample, and picnic tables are available for visitors to enjoy an al fresco meal. If dining in is more your thing, try one of the local restaurants in Munising. The Falling Rock Cafe and the Dog Shack both consistently earn good reviews. At the falls, restrooms are limited to vault toilets, but they are well-maintained. Dogs are welcome in the picnic area, but not on the trail.
Taking full advantage of Miners Falls Trail
The trail from the parking lot to the falls is 1.2 miles (about 2 kilometers) round trip. While not specifically designed to be chair accessible, the bulk of the trail to Miners Falls is graveled and gently rolling, with no steep slopes, all the way to the upper viewing deck. The right off-road wheelchair could make it to this point. After that, 77 steps lead down to the lower viewing deck. There are several benches placed strategically to allow folks to rest and take in the scenery.
Miners Falls Trail is a particularly good trail to use as an educational experience. The National Parks Service has published a free downloadable trail guide. There are ten numbered posts along the trail that correspond with ten short paragraphs in the guide, highlighting important and interesting details about the forest, the falls, and their history.
You might be interested in these Airbnbs!
A view from the ridge
As you follow the trail, you’ll start to see glimpses of the gorge through the trees. The sheer sandstone cliffs are impressive and beautiful. Geologists estimate that it took roughly 9,500 years for the water to erode the bedrock into a 50 foot (15.2 meter) cliff.
Miners Falls: a stunning vista
The view of Miners Falls is awe-inspiring. The white plunging water is visible across the vast gorge, plummeting over 50 feet in a rushing torrent. Miners Falls has the highest water volume of any waterfall in the Pictured Rocks region.
There is something fascinating in the way so much energy can spring suddenly from the quiet peace of the dense woodland, and the ground can be sliced open to reveal the layers of its skin, its geological history.
There is no direct access to the water from the trail or the viewing decks, although a look at the old trail underneath the modern decking reveals recent evidence that a lot of people still sneak down to wade into the shallows. Fresh footprints are visible along the old, closed dirt path down to the water.
A delightfully spooky feature
There’s an amusing detail at the base of the waterfall. If you look closely, the large sandstone boulder that helps channel the raging water has been worn away over time in a way that makes it resemble, very clearly, a human skull. To my knowledge, there are no rumors about the gorge being haunted, but who knows?
A call to adventure
Miners Falls has a lot to offer. Go ahead and meander just a little from the main tourist sites and enjoy an hour or three in a splendid forest and a stunning waterfall.
Get Trip101 in your inbox
Create an account to bookmark our articles, like local expert tips, receive great stories in your inbox, and follow writers and topics that you love.Log in with Facebook Log in with Twitter Log in with Google ×