The Copper Country’s unique geology makes it a hot spot for waterfalls of all shapes and sizes. No two are alike, especially so in winter! Many of our favorite waterfalls make excellent places to go on an adventure to in the winter, so strap on (or lace up!) your snowshoes and take advantage of the deepening snowpack to discover what these familiar sights look like as giant, flowing ice sculptures!
This is one of the most popular waterfalls in the area, and for good reason. No matter the season, there’s something amazing to see! With three distinct drops to choose from, Hungarian Falls is your best bang for your buck if you’re looking for frozen waterfall views.
While it’s the most difficult to see, the lower falls make up for it with an astounding view out over Torch Lake and the communities below. Scaling down the steep, snowy valley for a better look certainly is an option, just don’t forget you have to climb back up! I recommend staying on the panked* trails to avoid turning a fun afternoon adventure into a longer (and potentially hazardous) ordeal.
*Panked trails are those that have been “packed-in” by previous snowshoers. Some ol’ yooper probably misspelled it once upon a time and the name stuck!
The middle Hungarian Falls takes on a different flavor in winter as the straight drop over the sandstone ledge freezes into a curtain of ice with Dover Creek entombed within. Depending on how the falls freeze up, sometimes you can see water coursing through the ice below. Further up the hill above the dam and pond lay the uppermost Hungarian Falls, an equally impressive drop at the end of a tight gorge. This drop often is covered in layers of thick snow that make for exciting slides once the ice is thick enough.
Access is a little trickier in the winter as the steep road is not plowed, but you do have two good options. The first is to park at the bottom of the hill on 6th Street in Tamarack City and climb up (be sure not to block anyone’s driveway or the fire hydrant!). However, my preferred option is to visit via Calumet. Head south on Golf Course Road until you reach the end of the plowed portion. Park here (again, avoiding private property) and hike the road until you reach the main access point.
O Kun De Kun Falls
Located south of the copper mining community of Mass City, some say O Kun De Kun Falls is better in winter than summer. They may not be wrong: If the falls freeze up just right, this is one of the few waterfalls in the Western U.P. that you can hike behind! Even if this isn’t the year for it, you should still add O Kun De Kun to your shortlist of snowshoe adventures this winter.
One important point of note: there is plowed parking off US-45. For those of us who struggle to find a spot to put our vehicles on winter trips, this is a godsend. On weekends the parking area can fill up with snowmobile trailers so be sure not to park anyone in. From there it’s a little over a mile hike to the falls. You have two options here: hike in on the forest road that is packed down by snowmobiles, or stick to the North Country Trail which is for hikers only. The latter will take you nearer to the river and is my first choice. The terrain is relatively gentle either way.
Eventually the trail emerges at the Baltimore River, with O Kun De Kun Falls roaring through the ice on your right. It’s quite the sight to behold, even in winter! The North Country Trail crosses the river via a lengthy snow-covered suspension bridge, allowing you to investigate the falls up close. If you’re lucky, the ice will have blocked off a cavern behind the falls where you can listen to the river above you. It’s quite the experience! On your way back to your vehicle, be sure to swing down to Peanut Butter Falls just upstream of O Kun De Kun for a bonus treat.
A classic waterfall that should not be missed! Canyon Falls looks great summer or winter as the powerful Sturgeon River squeezes through a tight gorge. Parking is the same as in the summertime, though the Alberta rest stop along US-41 isn’t plowed and the facilities are closed. Plan your bathroom breaks accordingly. Due to the popularity of this scenic site, the trail to the falls and beyond is usually well panked, and you may be able to sneak by without snowshoes. If you want to explore off the established trails (trust me, you do), snowshoes are a must.
The North Country Trail in this area quickly reaches Canyon Falls after a short, mostly-flat hike. The spray from the falls coats the trees and gorge walls, making for an extraterrestrial scene of strange ice shapes. Don’t turn back yet, though! Keep hiking downstream for more impressive scenery as the river snakes through the rocky chasm below. After lake-effect snowstorms the surrounding forest makes for a beautiful hike unlike anywhere in the Keweenaw.
The biggest waterfall on this list, Bond Falls also is the best developed. Boardwalks lead you around the falls and over the Middle Branch Ontonagon River, but keep in mind they aren’t shoveled so snowshoes are still advised if the trail hasn’t been panked down. There’s enough water flowing over the rocky ledges to keep the river thawed even in the coldest winters, although the same can’t be said for the trees nearby. Be careful climbing the trail alongside the falls leading to the smaller upper drops as it gets very icy! Follow Bond Falls Road east of Paulding to get to this one. Park at the gate leading to the unplowed parking area and hike in. This is a great day excursion that could be paired easily with O Kun De Kun Falls!
This little gem of a waterfall feels remote but is right off the “highway,” i.e. M-26 in Twin Lakes. To get there, turn onto Poyhonen Road across the street from Krupp’s Resort & Mini Mart and head towards Omer’s Golf Course. Watch out for snowmobile traffic near here: the Bill Nicholls Trail is a snowmobile superhighway! Park near where the plow line ends by the resort and keep hiking up the road a short distance. On your left a trail heads off into the woods and will quickly lead you to the Misery River. Turns out there’s nothing miserable about it up here, as the mature cedars and hemlocks make for a very picturesque experience. The falls drop over several tight rock ledges through this area, with one final push stretching over a dozen feet high. It’ll be hard to tell under all of the snow though, so be sure to check where you’re standing to make sure you haven’t accidentally strayed onto the river.
And a bonus one for the spring: Eagle River Falls
Eagle River Falls piles on the ice and snow during the long winter which makes it tough to see. To get the best view of this waterfall, swing by in the spring when the river is roaring with snowmelt! The water winds its way through the icy remnants of a long winter. Check it out from the historic bridge overlooking the gorge. This is an easy falls for everyone to enjoy as it has the shortest hike and clearest viewpoint of any on this list.
About the Author
Nathan (aka Nathan Invincible) is an adventuring conservationist that photographs everything. He’s spent the last 15 years exploring the Western U.P., crisscrossing the region “working” for the likes of the Copper Harbor Trails Club, Finlandia University, and other organizations to improve recreational opportunities for everyone. His favorite season is when you can breathe without inhaling a dozen mosquitoes.
Discover More Keweenaw Waterfalls
Visiting the Keweenaw’s waterfalls make a great adventure all year long. Use the map below to take a virtual tour to see which one you’ll visit next!