We set out on this hike with big ambitions of hiking 8 miles.
Online information as well as the signage said that the trail was 4 miles each way. This did not account for the 1+ before and after the trail or the 200+ steps to the viewing areas. We ended our hike as a one way hike and it was 6.8 miles.
They had a shuttle service that took you from the end of the trail to the beginning of the trail. It was $16 well spent. Plus the driver of the shuttle gave us some great information about the North Country Trail. We had never heard of this trail but its a crazy ambitious hike. It looks to be tougher than both the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Coast Trail. It starts in up state New York and goes allllll the way to North Dakota. It’s 4600 miles long and if you thru-hike you are bound to encounter freezing temperatures being that far north. It takes on average 7-8 months to complete the entire trail. I just could not imagine … Brrrrr!
Speaking of Brrrr… When we set out to do the River Trail at Tahquamenon Falls it was quite nippy. But we warmed up pretty quickly. The hike started out with a nice view of the lower falls.
It was a boardwalked area with lots of look out points. Once we got off of the boardwalk there was a pretty decent ascent. That got our blood pumping…. But the middle part of the trail was pretty flat. There were lots of planked walk ways and bridges, along with a few sets of stairs. The trail is very clearly marked, it almost impossible to get lost on this one…. Even for us :). There were also plenty of benches to stop and take rest. The river itself had a reddish brown tint to it. This is because the water filters through a Cedar River and the trees change the color of the water. Although discolored this water is said to be very clean. The city girl in me doesn’t really trust it but, that is what they say.
There was another ascent at the end of the trail. Then you leave the trail and walk for a bit on a paved road. At this paved road there is a sign that says 116 steps to the gorge. This is one of the look out points to see the upper falls… So we did the 116 steps down and 116 steps back up. Thinking we had seen what there was to see, we started walking towards where we thought the parking lot was. Well then we came to another set of stairs. This one said 94 steps down. So we did the 94 steps down. This was a view from the top of the falls. And my personal favorite view. The look out points for both the upper and lower falls were pretty crowded. You are able to park in the parking lot less than a mile away from each of them. There was a yummy restaurant/ brewery right in the same parking lot of the upper falls look out area.
Let’s just say that our first family hike did not get off to such a smooth start. We were very unorganized in the morning rushing to grab and go all that we would need (which was not much). So there was a little frustration there…. But the hour long drive brought us plenty of light conversation and pretty Maryland views. We even arrived a little early to the park. The gates were not set to open until 9am.
Well around 9:15pm we started getting frustrated that the gates STILL were not open. By 9:40pm I was on the phone with the DNR trying to figure out if maybe this part of the park was not open on Sundays. Low and behold 5 minutes after the phone call someone arrived to open the gate.
Finally we were off on the trail. We got a later start than we had intended but luckily the cover of the trees gave us plenty of shade and the humidity was not so bad, not so bad at all. The hike to the falls was SOOOO short and non-strenuous. The terrain was very easy to navigate. There were boardwalks, rocks to hop over the stream, dirt paths and rock formations.
Along the way we saw some pretty cedar trees and some other old trees with beautiful exposed roots.
The falls were gorgeous!! So very pretty. We had the place to ourselves for about 20 minutes before anyone else arrived. We got to swim out to the falls , dig under rocks to find bugs and just enjoy the peace and quiet.
It really did feel like we had our own piece of paradise.
You can absolutely bring kids along with you on this hike. Maybe even pack a snack and stay for a few hours. I loved that the falls even made my son smile and clap. Which if you have a teenager you know this is not always easily done.
The water was clean we filled up a water bottle just so we could see how clear it was. After about 45 minutes of playing in the falls we headed back towards the car. You can opt to come back along the trail the way that you came OR you can go up around the back and top of the falls and cross the river up there. There is a trail to the left of the falls that you can take up and around the back of the falls. There was a fun little rock crevasse that had what looked like rock steps.
The loop back around was a little more strenuous but I would still classify it as easy. PLUS you can sit in the water where the before the falls turn into falls.
There was a small area at the bottom of the falls that would allow you to jump into the water pool below but it was too small for our taste and not worth the risk. So after playing around in the water for a while we took the hike back to the car. The loop behind the falls met up with the same trail that we came in on. So it was a nice leisurely walk back.
I would recommend this trail if:
You are looking for someplace to take a short walk and cool off
If you have smaller children with you
If you want to just check out some beautiful sights
If you are looking for a work out you might want to skip this one.
The trail is easy to find
We came from route 24 just drive through Rock State Park
make a left on to St. Mary’s Road and then a right on to Falling Branch Rd. The parking lot will be on the right hand side.
It was my intention to post once a week but now I am all amp’d up ready to go! Ready to blog, ready to hike, ready to climb Mt Everest… Well maybe that is pushing it a little bit. 🙂
I was so afraid to start this blog because I was so afraid of not following through on reaching my goal of hiking once a week and then completing the Md section of the AP. But if it keeps up the way that today has then there is no way I can not do this. I appreciate all of you cheering me on, sending me hiking suggestions and just taking the time to read my silly little blog. I don’t know how this whole blogging thing works but it is looking like if you “LIKE” this blog and “FOLLOW” this blog then I will be easier to find on the internet. Which would make me famous and boy wouldn’t that be sweet. I might finally get my dream job as a hip hop back up dancer or as Oprah. Ha Ha!!