Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is plentiful with natural beauty and when you step out of your RV at Tahquamenon Falls State Park you’re in for a unique treat. It is one of the largest falls east of the Mississippi and the centerpiece of the park. The Upper Falls features a drop of nearly 50 feet, is more than 200 feet across, and water flows at more than 50,000 gallons per second. Many campers refer to them as “The Root Beer Falls” because the amber-colored water cascading over the falls resembles root beer. Hike four miles downstream and you will arrive at the Lower Falls, five smaller falls that cascade around an island.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park is the second largest state park in the system. It is 48,000 acres and spans over 13 miles. The park also has about four miles of shoreline on Lake Superior at the mouth of the Tahquamenon River. Even though this popular park features two campgrounds and receives over 500,000 visitors a year, you’ll find plenty of places to be away from the crowd and enjoy nature at its finest because most of the park is very rustic with no roads, buildings, or power lines.
You’ll also love the variety of outdoor activities available at the park no matter what time you drive your RV through the entrance. During the warmer months, you can enjoy hiking, fishing, and canoeing. If you don’t mind the cold, the snowy Upper Michigan winters are perfect for snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. Year-round activities include photography, studying nature, and even hunting.
RV Rentals in Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Transportation in Tahquamenon Falls State Park
One of the benefits of visiting Michigan's Upper Peninsula is crossing the Mackinac Bridge., a very large suspension bridge spanning the Straits of Mackinac to connect the Upper and Lower Peninsulas. Or you can drive through Wisconsin and enter Michigan’s Upper Peninsula from the western side.
Either way, you will head toward Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula and reach the Tahquamenon Scenic Byway (M-123). The Byway passes natural wonders, breweries, wild animal sanctuaries, waterfalls, museums, lighthouses, and miles of Lake Superior shoreline. There are several side trips you can make along the way including the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, Oswald’s Bear Ranch, and the Two Hearted River, first made famous by Earnest Hemingway’s short story “Big Two-Hearted River.” Drive along M-123 then take the loop that runs from Highway M-28 through Paradise, past Tahquamenon Falls State Park, through Newberry and back to M-28.
There is convenient parking near all three modern campgrounds. The Upper and Lower Falls have their own parking lots and day-use areas. If you park at the Upper Falls you can take a 4-mile hike down to see the Lower Falls. Or, you can rent a boat and row over to a small island with a half-mile perimeter trail and view the Lower Falls from there. Shuttles are also provided between the falls during peak summer months.
Campgrounds and parking in Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Campsites in Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Hemlock and Portage Campgrounds
The Lower Falls Campground has two loops, Hemlock and Portage. They are both modern campsites located near the Lower Falls.
The Hemlock Campground is located about a mile from the Lower Falls and is open year-round. It is a favorite camping spot for cold-weather enthusiasts. The state keeps about a dozen spots open and plowed. The water is turned off to the sites, but electricity is still available in the winter. However, winter camping is not for everyone. It’s a good thing Tahquamenon Falls State Park is a great place to relax and enjoy nature any time of year!
The Portage Campground is the most popular campground due to its proximity to the river and the Lower Falls which are only a quarter mile away. This campground fills up quicker than the rest. There are several waterfront sites with river views. A boardwalk provides easy access to the Lower Falls and you can continue on the River Trail to the Upper Falls, a restaurant, and a brewery! The hike is challenging but you can take a shuttle during peak summer months.
Tahquamenon Rivermouth Campground
The Tahquamenon Rivermouth Campground is located near the Upper Falls. The park is five miles south of Paradise on M-123 where the Tahquamenon River flows into Whitefish Bay on Lake Superior. This is a modern 72-site campground with electrical service, including some sites with 50-amp hookups. The sites are large but there is little privacy provided for interior sites. However, the campground has room for you to stretch out with picnic areas and potable water. The bathrooms and showers are kept clean and the park has a recycling center for paper, plastic, aluminum, and propane canisters.
There are also 36 rustic campsites. Although the rustic sites do not have electricity, they do have a fire pit and picnic table. You can pay a small fee to take shower at the Modern Unit.
A restaurant, brewery, gift shop, and snack bar with ice cream are all available at the Tahquamenon Rivermouth Campground. Kayaks are available to rent and there are also miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking. There are also good fishing opportunities along the river bank, or you can walk over to Whitefish Bay on Lake Superior and walk along the sandy beach. Limited cellphone service allows you to enjoy nature without the distractions of everyday life. Pets are welcome to join you during your stay.
There are no first-come, first-served camping options at this state park.
Seasonal activities in Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Lace up your hiking boots if you want to see portions of the park that are rarely seen by the public. The park has over 35 miles of hiking trails including the North Country Scenic Trail that crosses 16 miles within the park including the trail between the Upper and Lower Falls. You may see an occasional moose feeding in the wet areas of the park. Other area wildlife includes black bears, coyotes, otter, deer, fox, porcupines, beaver, and mink. Look up to see the many bird species including pileated woodpeckers, spruce grouse, bald eagles, waterfowl, and songbirds. With so many creatures to see during your hike, you won't want to leave your camera or binoculars in the camper.
Avid fishermen will love the many fishing holes in the Tahquamenon area. Take your bait and pole to the Lower Falls and you may catch some northern pike, muskellunge, walleye, yellow perch, or smallmouth bass. Fish along the river or in the frigid waters of Lake Superior. Bring your boat or rent one from a local vendor. Fishing licenses are available from the General Store. You will also find live bait and a small selection of fishing poles.
Visiting The Falls
An RV trip to this incredible state park wouldn't be complete with a visit to the falls. The Upper Falls can be viewed from the nature trail down to the falls. There is also an observation platform for an up-close view. The Lower Falls is visible from the island and rowboats can be rented from the park concession. When you are hiking to the falls from your campsite don’t forget to look up and take in the numerous species of nesting birds.
Avid hunters come from miles around to enjoy the thrill of the hunt at Tahquamenon Falls State Park. Area game includes white-tailed deer, black bear, elk, and turkey, small game, and waterfowl. However, there are many rules and regulations about hunting on state land so be sure you have the proper license and know the rules before heading out.
If you love speed and snow, then snowmobiling is right for you! Hitch your trailer to your RV and load up your snowmobiles because you are headed for fun. There are over 200 miles of snowmobile trails available as long as there is enough snow. Snowmobiles are only allowed on designated trails with a minimum of 4 inches of snow. Riders can hike to the falls area from the main parking lots and enjoy the miles of marked trails available.
Cross-Country Skiing and Snow-Shoeing
Enjoy a winter wonderland while you get your cardio on. Warm up during the cold winter months with some cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. The park features over four miles of regularly groomed ski trails and is also open to backcountry skiing. Snowshoeing, another highly popular winter sport in Upper Michigan, is allowed anywhere that is open to the public. Be sure to walk next to the ski tracks when using trails maintained for cross-country skiing.