Fall colors at Canyon Falls, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

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Much to my surprise, a little roadside path turned into one of the biggest highlights of my Upper Peninsula vacation.  Canyon Falls offers an easy walk through the woods, with numerous viewpoints of multiple waterfalls and an impressive little gorge.  It’s the perfect break on the drive between Marquette and Houghton, and it’s even more beautiful in autumn when the leaves begin to change.

Location

Canyon Falls is located along US 41, north of the junction with US 141, and about 10 miles south of L’Anse, Michigan.  Watch for a roadside park.

My Visit

At first glance, Canyon Falls looks like it’s just a roadside park.  But if you follow the signs…

… you’ll end up on this nice path through the woods.  It’s still nothing extraordinary…

… until you get to the banks of the Sturgeon River.  At this first sighting of the water, there isn’t much of a gorge yet.  You’re right next to the water, and you can walk out onto some big, flat rocks, over which the river occasionally flows.

Along the trail, I was finally starting to see some fall colors.  It was the first week in October, and up until this point, everywhere I had been in the U.P. was still pretty green.  But here, I was more inland from Lake Superior, and the change was starting to occur.  I would guess this area probably reached the peak around mid-October, 2017, but of course, that date could vary from year to year.

Canyon Falls

The actual, official Canyon Falls is best viewed by climbing down a small cliff and taking a spot on this rocky outcropping.  There might be a way to see it from the other side of the river, but I didn’t find a way over there.  Also, it was drizzling on me, in addition to the spray from the waterfall itself, so I decided to be satisfied with this vantage point.

Somewhere along the way, you might run into this sign, that says TRAIL ENDS.  Don’t believe it.  The trail continues much further on, and to be honest, some of the best scenery is further down the gorge.

For example, scenery like this.  Thank goodness that one tree had turned bright yellow!  If all else failed, I could go home with at least one picture that showed some fall colors.

That tree was also visible a short distance away, where the Sturgeon River squeezes through a narrow passage in the gorge.  Of course, this waterfall isn’t the official Canyon Falls, but I think this spot is even prettier.

Even though it was raining steadily on me, I kept going, until I reached this spot.  The gorge had once again widened out, and I’m guessing I was near the real end of the trail, or at least, I had gone as far as most people go.  At this spot below Canyon Falls, the water pours over the rocks and into a larger pool, creating a spinning vortex of water.

From here, I hiked back up the gorge, got back in the car, and continued the drive on to Houghton.  I made one more stop along the way, in L’Anse, to check out one of the waterfalls along Falls Creek — but to be honest, it wasn’t very impressive, and the creek was littered with garbage.  I know there are several waterfalls along Falls Creek, and if you find a better spot, please let me know in the comments!

Drivelapse Video

Here’s a look at the drive from Marquette to Canyon Falls on US 41:

The Bottom Line

Canyon Falls and Gorge was one of the highlights of my Upper Peninsula trip.  I’d highly suggest you take a break from your drive for an hour or so, and hike this short, enjoyable trail to check out the waterfalls!

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