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Winter waterfall guide & safety tips
The waterfalls of the Porcupine Mountains and Ontonagon County are worth visiting in any season, whether they’re rushing wildly in spring, framed by fall colors, or covered in scenic snowfall in the winter. Here’s what you need to know before you go.
The most famous falls in the western U.P., Bond Falls is a popular stop in any season, but a covering of snow and ice makes these scenic cascades an even more impressive site in winter. Head about an hour south of the Porcupine Mountains on the southern edge of Ontonagon County to find the Bond Falls Scenic Site, where the Middle Branch of the Ontonagon River drops about 50 feet over a wide belt of rock, creating seemingly countless cascades. Boardwalks offer great views of the falls and are easy to traverse even when snow-covered. A Michigan DNR Recreation Passport is required for entry to the parking lot at the bottom of the falls.
Getting there: Take Highway 45 south through Bruce Crossing to Bond Falls Road, then follow Bond Falls Road for about 3 miles until you reach the scenic site.
These out-of-the-way falls along the Baltimore River are one of the few plunging falls in the Upper Peninsula, as water plunges about 15 feet over a sandstone ledge. It takes a bit of a hike to get to the falls, but they’re easy enough to find, as they sit along the North Country Trail amid beautiful snow-covered scenery.
Getting there: Head north on Highway 45 for about 8 miles and follow the signs to the parking area. From the parking area, it’s about a one-mile hike to the falls; you’ll pass the smaller upper falls before you get to the main falls.
Another easily accessible set of falls, Agate Falls is located about 7 miles east of Bruce Crossing and are considered some of the prettiest falls in Upper Michigan. The falls are nestled under a railroad trestle (which is part of Ontonagon County’s snowmobile trails in the winter) and are a popular spot for exploration in any season. A short trail follows the falls to their base on the Middle Branch of the Ontonagon River.
Getting there: From Bruce Crossing, head 7 miles east on M-28 until you reach the roadside park.
If you’re looking for something a little more off the beaten path, head to Cascade Falls, situated in the Ottawa National Forest northeast of Bergland. As the name implies, Cascade Falls consists of several different cascades—the tallest about 5 feet in height—along the West Branch of the Ontonagon River. The trail leading to the falls is easily accessible for hikers but could lend itself to snowshoeing, depending on the amount of snow on the ground.
Getting there: From Bergland, take M-28 east about a mile to Forest Road 400. Follow Forest Road 400 for about 7 miles (the road is unpaved but should be fine in winter) until you reach a side road with a sign for the falls; follow this road to park and hike a little over a mile to the falls.
WINTER WATERFALL SAFETY
Heading out to visit the area’s frozen waterfalls? Here are some tips to follow for a safe and enjoyable visit.
- Always check the weather forecast to make sure the conditions are safe
- Dress warmly—wearing layers will prepare you for any weather changes
- Bring snowshoes and/or ice cleats to help get through deep snow or icy conditions
- Stay hydrated—bring water with you
- Pack a cell phone for emergencies
- Bring a camera to capture the scenic views
- Let someone know where you’ll be
Learn more about waterfalls in the Porcupine Mountains and Ontonagon County here.
After a day of exploring these snow-covered spectacles, you’ll need a place to recharge and warm up, so check out the area’s hotels, cabins, and more.
Note: Please travel safely and responsibly when you are visiting the Porcupine Mountains and Ontonagon County. Some businesses and facilities may have modified hours or procedures; please contact them directly for information. See Michigan’s latest coronavirus orders here.
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