If you’re visiting the Great Lakes State and mulling over adding Ocqueoc Falls to your itinerary, just do it!
Here are three reasons I recommend Ocqueoc Falls to anyone visiting Michigan:
- Accessible without long hikes: Going to waterfalls usually involves long, challenging hikes, but not Ocqueoc Falls. From the parking lot, you only need to take a short walk on a pathway to reach the trail going to the waterfall.
- Escape to nature: Ocqueoc Falls is the largest waterfall in Lower Peninsula and a major attraction in itself. But aside from this, the area also has plenty of scenic trails to explore.
- Pick from a handful of recreational options: You can go camping, fishing, hiking, and other outdoor activities that you might want to do.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about visiting Ocqueoc waterfall, where to stay, nearby attractions, and more.
Where is Ocqueoc Falls?
The name “Ocqueoc” is derived from a Native American word that means “crooked waters.” The area around Ocqueoc Falls was historically inhabited by the Anishinaabe people.
As for the actual waterfall, Ocqueoc Falls is located in the northern part of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. More specifically, within the Ocqueoc Falls State Forest Campground and Recreation Area, near the community of Millersburg in Presque Isle County, Michigan.
The waterfall and park is about 85 miles from Traverse City and 250 miles away from Grand Rapids and Detroit.
Things to Do in and around Ocqueoc Falls
The main attraction here is the waterfall. Yes, Ocqueoc Falls is the largest in the lower peninsula of Michigan, but don’t expect a waterfall rolling from an edge of a cliff.
Ocqueoc Falls has a drop of only 5 feet. The waterfall is fed by the Ocqueoc River. Throughout the years, the river cuts through the region’s limestone bedrock and created the 5-foot drop.
Its popularity comes from being the only 1 of 2 waterfalls in the area, and the only publicly-owned waterfall that’s open to everyone. Also, leashed dogs can join you here.
Aside from breathing in the fresh air and taking unlimited pictures of the waterfall and its surroundings, visitors are also encouraged to hike, fish, kayak and camp.
Explore the hiking trails around Ocqueoc Falls
Whether you’re up for a hike or looking for a bike ride, Ocqueoc provides around six miles of trails with three marked loops. All of which offer scenic views of the river and towering trees, then ending at the falls.
The trail is open year round with backcountry skiers and snowshoers using it in the winter.
What I like best about hiking in this area is that most people stick to the falls, especially in the summer and fall, so the trails can feel peaceful and exclusive. If you find someone that hiked or biked the same time as you, go beyond the 2.8-mile loop to escape the “crowds.”
No matter which trail you decide to explore, you’ll likely end up by the waterfalls.
Download a complete trail guide and map for all four loops available.
Can you swim in Ocqueoc Falls?
Swimming on the three-tiered waterfall is allowed and mostly kid-friendly.
But you do have to be more careful once the water flows stronger, faster and become too dangerous even for advanced swimmers.
Don’t let young kids go near the rocks by themselves, as these could get slippery. There isn’t any lifeguard in the area, so you have to take care of your own group when you visit.
Fishing in Ocqueoc Falls
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources stock the Ocqueoc River with rainbow trout each year, so if you’re planning to visit Ocqueoc Falls and would love to do some fishing, this place is the perfect spot.
Anglers can fish for trout, smallmouth bass, northern pike and other fish species in the Ocqueoc river both upstream and downstream from the falls. Just read the latest Michigan DNR fishing rules and license requirements before your visit.
Kayaking in Ocqueoc River
Kayaking is allowed in the river near Ocqueoc Falls, but just like swimming, water flow can move fast or go high suddenly and become dangerous. As such, you’ll need to be prepared and wear a life jacket.
If you didn’t bring a kayak with you, you can head over to nearby Paddle Brave Canoe Livery or Ocqueoc Outdoor Center for kayak rentals, safety equipment rentals and guided tours.
Enjoy a picnic in the park
There are picnic tables and grills if you decide to eat your meals by the grassy area near the falls.
Just make sure to arrive early to reserve your spot. The place gets full as early as 9am, especially during peak months.
Camping at Ocqueoc Falls
Across the road from the trailhead is Ocqueoc Falls State Forest Campground.
This campground offers 15 sites featuring potable water (via a handpump well) and vault toilets. Most of the campsites overlook the Ocqueoc River since they’re situated on a high bank.
When you camp out at Ocqueoc Falls State Forest Campground, you’ll need to pay a nightly fee on top of the daily vehicle pass. Of course, if you have a state park annual pass, your fees would be cheaper.
Note that there is no reservations available for campsites. The 15 available sites are on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The best thing about staying in the campground is that you’ll also have access to the beach nearby. You’ll have an option to go here if the falls area is full of people.
Getting There: Directions to Ocqueoc Falls
The falls are located in Presque Isle County. If you’re using Google Maps or your own GPS system, pin Ocqueoc Falls to lead you here. The place is just over 10 miles west of Rogers City.
To get here, drive through M-68 for about 10+ miles. Turn right onto Ocqueoc Falls Highway and turn right once you see the entrance.
You’ll be welcomed by the day-use area and a parking space. From here, the waterfall is just 300 feet away.
Best time of year to visit Ocqueoc Falls
If you plan to swim in the river, the best time to go is in the summer when you can enjoy the water’s temperature. The problem with summer trips is that the place will be full of people, so you’d need to get up early (around 7 to 8am) to enjoy the water all to yourself.
Summer and fall months offer better climate for hiking or mountain biking.
However, if you’re here for fishing, maybe you’d like to wait for spawning season (September to October) and actually see salmon swim upstream.
In the winter, cross-country skiing is possible thanks to groomed trails. Note that there aren’t any groomed trails for snowshoers and fat tire bikers.
Other Michigan Stopovers
If you want to try locally-brewed beer, here’s a list of must-visit Grand Rapids breweries.
Got more time to explore Michigan?
There are many memorable stopovers in the state, starting with Mackinac Island and Lake Huron beaches (and other beaches in Michigan).
Cover photo provided by: Tony Faiola