#68 – Nothing to do in Big Bay? (Check out Alder Falls!)

alder falls big bay michigan 1Disclaimer: I’ve had some bad luck at Alder Falls. But do not let that stop you from visiting it! I know it will not stop me from going a third, fourth, or fifth time.

This trail is tricky to find. I passed by it probably twenty times before I finally found it the first time. If you’re coming from Marquette on County Road 550, travel about 20 miles and look for a large orange sign on your left that says ‘The Gulf’.

This means you’re almost there! Then look for a road on the right that is labeled ‘Mattis Rd’. You should see a dirt track a few feet up and on the left side of the road. That’s the road to Alder Falls. There is a driveway next to it with the sign ‘N3017 to N3077’. If you cross the bridge on 550, you’ve gone too far.

Congratulations! You’ve found the right dirt road.

If you have a car, I would not suggest taking it. A 4×4 truck with clearance might make it, depending on the time of year. The first time I went was in May 2013 and it was pretty rutted out and muddy. The second time I went was in April 2014 and there was still over a foot of snow on the ground, so snowshoes were recommended.

Whichever way you chose to travel, the road is a little over a ½ mile until you come to a small clearing and a sign that states “No Motorized Vehicles”. You will see a trail down to Alder Falls. This trail is very steep and slippery at points, so be careful! But once you are down, the area is quite beautiful. I have never really seen evidence of people being there other than the footpath, so I assume it is enough out of the way that most people don’t visit. Their loss!

My experience at Alder Falls

The first time I went out to this falls was (unbeknownst to me) the height of mosquito season. I made it down to the base of the waterfalls and was immediately covered in mosquitos. It did not matter how much bug spray I covered myself in, these mosquitos were immune! I stayed though, since I had already made the drive and hike. Despite the bugs, the area was immensely quiet and serene. I probably stayed a little bit too long, as that night I woke up with giant ‘rashes’ of mosquito bites everywhere.

alder falls big bay michigan 2I told myself that I would come back after the mosquitos were gone, but I did not make it out again till Waterfall Week at the end of winter in 2014. While most of the snow was melted around town and on the roadside, this backcountry road still had a good foot of snow on it. Well, with my bad luck I did not have snowshoes- only rain boots. I still decided to go and made it mostly dry to the waterfall (some areas were waste deep!).

I spent a good hour photographing the different parts of the waterfall and the creek above it, enjoying every minute of not getting bitten by bugs!

You can actually climb up the side of rocks and hike the ridge above. As luck would have it though, I fell in on my way down. So then I had to hike half a mile back in the snow soaking wet from the knees down! Can you say cold feet?

So a couple of words to the wise: be prepared! Bring mosquito spray and wear thicker clothes during the summer, bring snowshoes and extra socks in the winter!

Bottom Line: Do not let my stories scare you. I love this waterfall, even though it has a curse on me. Due to its location, it is a good chance that you will have the gorgeousness to yourself and whoever you chose to share it with.

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