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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Paradise, Michigan / Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Campground, and Brewery

May 2015, Weekend-Weekday, 3-nights, Lower Falls - Portage Lot #11

I have shared a few photos in this post, and there are many more photos of the trails and the falls in the Tahquamenon Falls album on my Facebook page.

Arrival and check-in

The online reservation system for Tahquamenon Falls State Park says that the lower falls portage campground is open year round; however, a post on their Facebook page said that the road to the lower falls had just opened a week before our stay. Initially, we were the only ones with a reservation the dates of our stay, and two more campsites had been reserved before we left on our trip.

upper falls
There was not anyone working at the entrance to the lower falls campground when we arrived. Our name and lot number were posted on the board for arriving campers, so we drove to our lot. There was an orange cone on the lot to designate that it was reserved. We moved the cone, and before we finished parking, a ranger drove by and stopped to greet us. She confirmed that we were the ones who had reserved the lot, and she asked if we had any questions. She provided some information about the trails and such in the area, although she did not have any park or trail maps with her. She then departed to get our check-in materials. We were not on our lot when the ranger returned, and when we got back to our lot later, we found that she had left our registration materials for us with a note.

Lot #11

Although this is a large, spacious lot (78' x 41'), the fire pit was very close to our camper. There were a few trees on the lot; however, it is a mostly sunny lot with a lot of open area between this lot and lot 13, so we did not understand why the fire pit had not been put in a different location. We have a long power cord, and we parked about as far away from the electric box as we could.

Lot 13 would have been a better lot, because we could have parked on that lot close to lot 11, and we still would have been a good distance away from any campers on lot 11. The fire pit would also have been farther away from our camper. Next time, we would choose lot 11!

view from inside RV
I have labeled the lots and some information in the photos here, and the photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

The photos of lot 11 on the reservation website are pretty accurate, although it was not evident that the fire pit is so close to where we would be parking our RV.
view from lot 11

The river was visible from lot 11 and from the back window in our RV. The lot was level and the ground cover was mostly dirt.

view from lot 11


The bathhouse in this section of the park looked fairly new. It was clean and in good condition. It was in much better condition than the bathhouse in the channel campground in Muskegon State Park. We stayed in Tahquamenon Falls State Park in the late 1980s, and I remember that the bathhouse was in poor condition at that time.

My husband and our son both used the showers and said they were great. They said the water was hot and the rooms were clean.

Falls and hiking trails

Spring is a fabulous time of year to visit the falls because the water is usually higher from all the snow melt. Along with the Tahquamenon Falls album on Facebook, I have uploaded a couple of videos, as well. One down side to visiting in the Spring, is that some of the trails may be underwater at this time of year.

lower falls
It is an easy walk or bicycle ride of less than ½ mile from the portage campground to the lower falls. There is a snack bar and gift shop located near the lower falls walkway. Boats are available to rent later in the season. They were prepping the boats the day of our arrival.
view from bench on hiking trail

The hike from the lower falls to the upper falls is over 5 miles, and it is not an easy hike. The elevation went as high as 766', and we did not go up just once. There are several ups and downs along the trail.

view from trail between the
upper and lower falls
An employee in the lower falls gift shop had told us that part of the trail was under water, so we were not sure how far we would get when we started. There were a few muddy spots along the trail; however, we did not encounter any impassable spots, and we did not get wet or muddy.

view from the trail between the falls
We started at the lower falls and hiked about half way before we found a nice place to sit. We stopped at a bench by the river.

There was also a bench atop the next hill, which looked like it would have been a better place to rest, if we had not just stopped at the bench by the water right before we got to that bench.

In the summer, there is a shuttle service between the two falls. This was not running yet at the time of our visit, and I did not inquire about the schedule or cost.

view of the Brink from the upper path
We had also visited the upper falls from the campground the day before by car. It was 94 steps down to the Brink, and 116 steps down to the Gorge--I think! Information for both is posted at the top of the climb down. The walk back to these two areas from the upper falls parking lot is an easy walk along a tar path.

Since the shuttle service was not running, we had to hike back to the campground! We decided to stop at Tahquamenon Falls Brewery for a bit, and then walk back to the campground via the road. The brewery is located just inside the park entrance of the upper falls next to the parking lot. The brewery is privately owned; however, I do not know if you can visit it without having a park pass to the falls. It seems like it would be difficult to keep track of guests entering the brewery only.

There were a couple of gift shop type stores in this area also, which we did not visit. The brewery sells growlers and they have four beer choices. They have a full food menu. Along with a couple of brews and wine (we stopped both days that we visited the upper falls), we tried the Smoked Fish Dip, Brew Pub Cheese Soup, Whitefish Sandwich, and Barbecued Pork Sandwich.

The Smoked Fish Dip was very good, although the crackers left something to be desired. They were small wrapped packets of saltine type crackers. The Cheese Soup had excellent flavor, although I would have preferred something different in the broth. It contained what tasted and looked like frozen mixed vegetables. Both sandwiches were good, and the Brew Pub Fries were excellent! If you are looking for just a snack and brew, I suggest the fries.

The walk back to the campground from the brewery was just as hilly along the road (848'); however, the distance was almost a mile less than when we had hiked the trail. There is a trail from the road to the campground, located after the lodge and shortly before the campground entrance. This trail does not show on the park map; however, we had seen the trail on the trail signs in the park, so we took the trail when we got to it. Big mistake! This trail was under water and impassable at the end. We had followed the trail almost all of the way to the campground before we ran into water. We could see the campground parking lot, and we could not get through, so we had to turn around and go back to the road.

The next day, we hiked a small portion of the North Country Pathway between the lower falls portage and rivermouth campgrounds. The trail and walkway down to the river is next to lot 13.

The elevation near the start of this trail went as high as 95'. There is another trail off the North Country Pathway near the start, which is not on the park map. We did not venture too far on that trail, as the footbridge/step was not in place across the creek.

There are even more hiking trails in this park, which we did not venture out on. There were not many hikers the days of our visit, and I was surprised we did not see more wildlife. We saw a few birds and a hare. We observed a few eagles in the distance one of the days that we walked to the lower falls.
secondary trail off North Country Trail

Overall and misc.

This is a beautiful state park. We drove through the rivermouth campground, and observed several lots on the river with great views. This section would be a great place to camp for kayaking, although it is over 15 miles from the falls.

Paradise, which is located between the two campground areas, has a gas station, a small grocery store, and a couple of small shops. We stopped at the grocery store. Although the store looked primitive, it was very clean, and I was impressed to see that they had fresh whole-grain bread.