Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Tahquamenon Falls River Trail Family Hike (There and back again...)

River Trail (There and back again...)
Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Trailhead Elevation: 645 ft.
Lower to Upper Distance (including observation decks): 6.2 mi. (my Forerunner 230)
Upper to Lower Distance: 5.15 mi.
Elevation Gain: 1107 ft. (my GPS)
Start Time: 12:12pm
Lunch Stop Time: 3:50pm
Starting Back Time: 4:23pm
End Time 6:22pm

Trip Report:
Having done a wonderful early morning trail run on half of the River Trail at Tahquamenon Falls I was ready to tackle it again. This time we'd be doing it family hike style with everyone going along for the fun. I always enjoy getting all 3 of my boys out onto the trail and helped get them and their packs ready for this one. They each carry a small daypack with a water hydration system installed. Having done a majority of my hiking out in Colorado I've become a firm believer in always carrying water on the trails, particularly when it comes time to teach my kids. I loaded each up with a liter of water and I carried a bunch of snacks in my Osprey Rev6 pack and we all got ready for the trail.

It was 12:12pm when we finally left our campground and we made the quick walk to the Lower Falls area. Having been there in the early morning I was able to guide us quickly onto the right paths. We enjoyed some more great pictures of the expansive lower falls and enjoyed some mist on the nearest boardwalk viewing area to the falls.

The group then headed out onto the River trail proper navigating the early mud and tree roots and hitting the trail. It was slow going as a group working up the initial hill and back down as well as navigating the occasional staircases and pockets of mud. The mosquitos were out and so we were also keeping the bug spray going to keep the little nuisances at bay.

When hiking with the boys, who are still age 11 and under, its always as much a mental game as it is a physical one. With four adults along in the group we did our best to keep them engaged in the hike and spotting wildlife when and where we could. Today we wouldn't see anything larger than squirrels and various birds.

As we passed the halfway point it was interesting then to get into new territory. For the most part the River Trail was a consistent mix of root, rock, occasional mud, thick vegetation, and times of good trail. We hit another big hill around the 3-mile mark (from our camp) and then hit a smoother section which we hoped to ride out to the end. That didn't quite last. At just over 4-miles from camp we headed uphill one more time onto a plateau which would take us to the end of the River Trail and the next trail junction.

Family photo at the Upper Falls (minus Sarah and I)

As the River Trail ended at the junction there is a nice sign board there, a bench, and a wooden staircase. The staircase was a large set of 114 winding steps down to a long boardwalk with a couple of great views of the Upper Falls. We dropped packs and hiked down this for some good pictures. We hiked back up and now hit pavement heading for the nearer observation area of the upper falls. The pavement heads for a junction with a paved path that heads to the Upper falls parking or one can continue on to the viewing area of the Upper Falls. We did so and found another staircase of 94 steps heading down to see the Falls up close.

Sarah and I had wondered about the brown color of the river, this explained it.

By the time we were done checking out the Falls we were getting really hungry for lunch. It was 3:50pm at the time. We headed up to the Brewery area where we had eaten and drank the night before and found a great concession stand open. We ordered an assortment of brats, dogs, BBQ pork,nachos, and Mountain Dew. It was windy and almost slightly chilly sitting there eating, but it was all good.

The boys as well as my mother and Sarah all decided they'd had enough for the day, this left my Dad and I to make the hike back to the Lower Falls. While I love hiking with the kids, to make the return hike I wasn't too disappointed to just have Dad and I as we could make much quicker time. We set out from the parking area on the short nature trail which is a dirt forest trail alternative to the paved path and soon found ourselves back on the River Trail. On the path back we ran into a few trail runners and other hikers still making for the Upper Falls. It seemed the trail-runners all like the later afternoon runs when perhaps the day tourist traffic died down. We set a goal of averaging 3 miles per hour and by the end we'd come close.

I really enjoyed the River Trail and would love to return to it again in the future as well as enjoy some of the other loops at Tahquamenon Falls that didn't get explored on this trip.

My wife Sarah and I have a running joke that because we've never seen
a live moose on our travels together that they don't exist. I tried to
convince her I got my picture with one

I have a track and waypoints from the hike all contained in a KML file that you are welcome to download and use (at your own risk).

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