The Keweenaw is known for its snow. In a normal year, we’re talking over 270” of total accumulation! While deep powder stashes can be found across the peninsula, it’s hard to enjoy them if you’re not geared up for a big day. Fortunately, there’s an easy, enjoyable way to experience our deep snows right in the heart of the Keweenaw: Hungarian Falls!
Snowshoeing at this scenic site can be done in under two hours at a family’s walking pace. Not only is Hungarian Falls easy to find, it changes throughout the season which means no two visits are alike. Don your toque and strap on your snowshoes because a trip to Hungarian Falls this winter should be near the top of your list!
Unique ice formations develop at Hungarian Falls each winter, making it a beautiful snowshoe hike.
The start of your Hungarian Falls hike is located about 15-20 minutes from Houghton and 10 from Calumet, making it a cinch to squeeze in between other winter adventures. Access isn’t quite as easy as it is in the summer though, so be prepared to hike a little extra distance.
From the Houghton area, head north on US-41 until you reach Golf Course Road, just before you reach Calumet. Turn down this road for 3 miles, following it around the curves near the golf course. Eventually you’ll reach the end of the plowed portion where the plow drivers chicken out. Park near here (map), but be sure to avoid blocking or entering the private driveway at the end.
You can also hike up from the bottom of the hill (map) on the Lake Linden side. This option is more challenging and includes significantly more hill climbing, so for this guide we’ll stick to the route from the top. Trust us on this one unless you need your cardio.
The Hungarian Falls snowshoe hike can be done in under 2 hours from the parking area on Golf Course Road.
From where you parked at the top of the hill, snowshoe down the road for 0.3 miles. There will likely be a path made by prior snowshoers or snowmobiles to make your life a little easier. In case the mileage is tough to track, you’ll make your way past a sweeping bend in the road as it enters a dense woodland. Look for a single right-hand turn down a narrow road marked with two metal posts (possibly buried in snow!). Again, unless there is a lot of fresh snow there will likely be a path to follow. If you start going down the steep hill on the road, you’ve gone too far.
Snowshoe down the narrow road on your right for about 1000’ until you reach a T-intersection partway into the forest. Here’s where you have a choice to make! Hike uphill to the pond, dam, and uppermost falls first, or downhill to the middle and lower falls? I always go uphill first to ensure I don’t miss anything.
The Upper Falls & Dam
Hang a right at the T-intersection to head uphill. It will be gradual at first and the trail will lead you to the dam’s spillway. The century-old concrete is still holding strong despite years of freeze-thaw action!
The old concrete dam on the way to Upper Falls freezes over during the winter months.
Keep hiking up the hill a short ways until you come upon the pond. Do not hike on the ice! Currents under the ice could hide unexpected thin spots that would be an unhappy and dangerous surprise to find. Even if others have gone out already, skip the temptation. It’s not worth the risk, and no, the ice fishing here is not good either.
Prior snowshoers may have panked a path for you to follow. Be careful around the river, and don't hike on the ice!
Stick to the trail along the edge of the gorge as it heads up the hill. Prior snowshoers will have panked down a path for you, making navigation relatively easy. Just keep hiking! The gorge grows ever deeper until you come across the uppermost Hungarian Falls. This blocky cascade will almost certainly be covered in snow and ice, with different shapes forming every year. Earlier in the season there will be more water visible, although late in the season Dover Creek is completely entombed in ice.
The water rushing through Upper Falls is a sight to see from above.
You can easily view the falls from above, but for the best views you’ll need to descend the steep hillside to see it from below. Be careful sliding down the snowy embankment, and remember that you’ll have to climb back out again the way you came. Checking out the falls up close is a lot of fun, especially if you can find a clear patch of ice where the water flowing underneath is visible.
Middle & Lower Falls
Backtrack from the uppermost falls to the T-intersection to begin the second half of your adventure. Continue downhill along the creek a short distance until you quickly reach the middle Hungarian Falls. In winter the waterfall transforms into a column of ice anchored to the rock behind it. Thick icicles form from seeps in the rock adjacent to the waterfall, making this a truly spectacular spot to check out.
Massive icicles suspend from the rock all the way to the ground.
To see the falls up close, you’ll need to descend the gorge carefully. Avoid descending adjacent to the waterfall as there’s always a chance it hasn’t frozen completely.
Middle Falls can be seen up close, but you must carefully descend the gorge.
Just downstream from the middle falls is the biggest drop of them all. Hopefully you still have energy to spare and are plenty warm, because you don’t want to miss it! Either hike along the top of the gorge to reach the lower falls, or snowshoe along the creek to reach the main attraction. Here the gorge opens up with a tremendous view out over the landscape, with the lowermost falls dropping away into the abyss below. It’s quite the scene when covered in fresh snow!
The view of the gorge is quite beautiful after a fresh snowfall.
Viewing this waterfall is a challenge that requires going to the bottom of the gorge off-trail. We don’t recommend doing this as it is very steep and difficult to snowshoe down safely. Climbing back up also is a major effort. It’s best experienced from the top, being sure not to tread too close to the edge of the cliff in case there is an overhang of snow that could give way.
Once you’ve gotten your fill, snowshoe back the way you came to your vehicle. Ready to warm up? Swing by the Michigan House Cafe or Keweenaw Coffee Works in Calumet for a post-adventure snack!
All winter adventures in the Keweenaw require warm gear, and plenty of it. Gloves, hats, jacket(s), boots, and snowpants (if you plan to slide on your butt) are all required. Dress in layers in case you get too warm and need to shed some heat. A day bag to stash your spare gear, water, and a snack is probably a good idea. If you are need outdoor gear, here's a good place to start.
Aluminum or composite snowshoes are durable and provide good underfoot for climbing steep slippery slopes.
What type of snowshoes are right for this hike? I prefer more modern metal and composite snowshoes, as they typically have better crampons underfoot for climbing up and down steep slopes. You can use more traditional wooden snowshoes and still see everything, but you’d have a harder time getting to the bottom of the upper and middle falls. Sometimes there’s so much traffic out here that you barely need any snowshoes at all, at least until you step off the main path and sink up to your thighs in powder. After big storms though, snowshoes are a must.
Need rentals? If you are coming from Houghton, pick up rental snowshoes at Downwind Sports. Headed to Hungarian Falls from the Calumet area? Stop by Cross Country Sports to find a suitable pair of renters for your snowshoe hike.
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