Mikel B. Classen
One of the real benefits of travelling throughout Michigan are its roadside parks. Often affording views of many of Michigan's natural wonders, they are always worth a stop. In the Upper Peninsula this also holds true, especially at a roadside park in Baraga County called Canyon Falls.
The Canyon Falls Roadside Park is located 14 miles east of L'anse on U.S. 41. Located on the south side of the road, there is only one turn in instead of the usual two. Keep in mind this is a Roadside Park, there is no overnight camping, but this is one place spending some time should be mandatory, hidden in the wilderness here is one of the magnificent sights of the U.P.
A well marked path leads from the parking lot downhill and into the woods. Take it. This is an excellent pathway and is well travelled. The winding trail leads through old growth cedars and pines. Boardwalks are built over springs and sensitive areas. Before long the Sturgeon River appears through the trees providing views of the primordial river as it cuts its way through the Upper Peninsula wilderness. Large flat rocks along the river bank are natural places to sit and take in the beauty of the river.
Ahead the trail makes a slight rise and without warning you're there, the sound of the crashing water of Canyon Falls suddenly fills the air. The water fall is here and then, so is the canyon that gives the falls its name. Canyon Falls is the beginning of the Sturgeon River Gorge, a wilderness area that is treacherous and thick. The trail ends here.
But, what an ending. Ancient trees grow out of stone cliffs. Rainbows project across the rushing water of the falls in the sunshine. Downstream the sheer rock cliffs rise where the river has cut through them for ten thousand years. The mist from the falls keep the rocks damp and colorful. Springs flow from the cliffs feeding the river that runs below. Worth the walk doesn't somehow seem to cut it, it's so much more than that.
There are few places like Canyon Falls. Most will find the trail fairly easy, young and old. It takes only about 20 minutes or less to get back there, very little time spent for the reward that waits. To truly round out a visit here, make sure to pack a picnic. Tables at the park are nicely placed under large old growth shade trees.
A hike, a picnic, breathtaking scenery, what's there not to like? Canyon Falls Roadside Park is one of those hidden gems that most wish they could find. Don't pass it by, you really are missing something.
For more information about Canyon Falls Roadside Park check here: http://www.dnr.state.mi.us/publications/pdfs/wildlife/viewingguide/up/15Canyon/index.htm