Agate Falls

Ottawa National Forest, Michigan

Trip Date: Saturday, August 11th, 2018
Last Updated: Monday, September 10th, 2018
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★★★(5/5)
Overall Difficulty Easy
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 0.3 miles roundtrip
Time 20 minutes
Terrain Mostly flat
Best Seasons Spring, Summer, Fall
Family Friendly Yes
Dog Friendly Yes
Accessible Yes

Highlights

Hike Walkthrough

Agate Falls is a must stop for any trip to this part of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. This and nearby Bond Falls are two of the most impressive waterfalls in Michigan, and they're both so close you should see both in the same day. With a location right along the highway, this is a quick and easy adventure with a major scenic reward.

The paved trail starts by passing underneath the highway, then it opens up into the forest, as shown in the first picture below. Almost as soon as you started, you'll reach the viewpoint of the falls, shown in the second picture below. The trees block much of the falls, and unfortunately they're evergreens so coming during leaf off periods won't improve your view.

The accessible paved trail to Agate Falls

The accessible paved trail to Agate Falls

Agate Falls as seen from the viewpoint at the top of the gorge

Agate Falls as seen from the viewpoint at the top of the gorge

Honestly, this excursion is disappointing if you stick to the paved trail with its lackluster view of the falls. If you're willing to step off the main trail onto the use-trails heading down to the river, your experience improves drastically and makes this one of the most beautiful destinations in the Upper Peninsula. If the ground is wet and muddy, do not attempt this as it can be slippery and dangerous in addition to destroying the hillside. Take your time when hiking down since the trails are heavily eroded and steep, and hold on to rocks and trees to steady your steps. Once at the bottom, you can truly enjoy the spectacle of nature that is Agate Falls, as shown in the picture below.
The beautifully cascading waters of Agate Falls

The beautifully cascading waters of Agate Falls

Once back up on the paved trail, you can also hike further uphill to meet the snowmobile trail that crosses the old railroad bridge above the falls. From the top of the bridge, you'll enjoy a unique aerial vantage point with distant views of the surrounding forest, as shown in the two pictures below.
Looking south from atop the old railroad bridge

Looking south from atop the old railroad bridge

Agate Falls as seen from above

Agate Falls as seen from above

After you finish savoring the scenery, return to the paved trail and back to the parking lot. I hope you enjoy this little excursion! Let me know what you think in the comments section below, and be sure to use #nocoastbestcoast on Instagram and Twitter after your trip!

Important Information

Neither the official Michigan Department of Natural Resources page linked at the bottom of this page nor the Ottawa National Forest page about Agate Falls mention rules about pets -- since nothing is said either way I would assume dogs are allowed, but it's probably best to keep them on leash. This is an excellent place for the whole family since it's a short, flat walk on a paved, designated accessible trail to view the falls; however, the trail down to the falls is much too steep for young children so I recommend staying on the paved trail with kids. The official page says the parking area and facilities are open from May to October, but I suspect you would be able to park here and at least hike the accessible portion of the trail during the winter (going all the way down to the falls would be slippery and dangerous when snow and ice is present). This is a fairly popular spot, but people don't linger long once they've seen the falls, so if you're patient you can have the place to yourself for a moment.

Directions

Agate Falls is located right off the south side of Michigan Highway 28 between Paynesville and Kenton. From the Ottawa National Forest Visitor Center in Watersmeet, take U.S. Highway 45 north. After about 15 miles, turn right on Himanka Hill. The road bends and changes name to Paynesville Road, then turn right on Shortcut Road. Turn right onto Michigan Highway 28 ahead, and the turnout for Agate Falls will soon be on your right.

Google Maps Directions

Parking, Fees, and Facilities

Parking is free! There are restrooms, a picnic area, and water available near the lot.

External Links

Nearby Hikes

Bond Falls

Ottawa National Forest, Michigan
★★★★★(5/5)

Meximine Falls

Ottawa National Forest, Michigan
★☆☆☆☆(1/5)

Cascade Falls Loop

Ottawa National Forest, Michigan
★★★★★(5/5)

Summit Peak and Mirror Lake Loop

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Michigan
★★★★☆(4/5)

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