Awesome Mitten’s Guide to Explore Bond Falls in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

It’s no secret that Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is home to some truly unique and wonderful natural beauty. In particular, Bond Falls is one of the many waterfalls in Michigan that are worth visiting.

Situated in the Western Upper Peninsula in Ontonagon County, Bond Falls is located in the middle branch of the Ontonagon River.

Bond falls hike
Bond Falls | photo via @parksjd

Bond Falls | A Site to Behold

The Bond Falls Scenic Site in Michigan is located in southern Ontonagon County and is open year-round. You can easily find it by heading south from Ontonagon on US-45, which is about a 45-minute drive. It’s officially located in Haight Township, a few miles east of Paulding.

The waterfall itself isn’t a natural waterfall and forms as a result of a nearby dam operated by the Upper Peninsula Power Company. Usually, you can see anglers in the flowage above the dam trying their hand at catching stocked trout.

Bond falls hike
Bond Falls | photo via Jesse Land

The Sheer Size

The total drop of the falls is roughly 50 feet, and it stretches more than 100 feet wide. There’s a picnic area atop the falls that leads down to multiple trails where you can get closer.

Also, you can get a perfect view of the falls via a 600-foot boardwalk that leads across the river to the base of the falls. You can observe the waterfall at a rest area below the waterfall and dam as well.

No matter the time of year you visit, the falls are a sight to behold. The water freezes in the wintertime, turning Bond Falls into one of Michigan’s dazzling frozen waterfalls.

Bond falls hike
Bond Falls | photo via @aubrietahope

Things to Do Near Bond Falls

You can certainly spend many hours checking out Bond Falls. But there are also many great scenic spots worth going to if you’re in the area.

The Porkies

One spot that’s a must-see is Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. Locally known as the Porkies, these mountains stretch across Ontonagon and Gogebic counties near the Lake Superior shoreline. The park spans 31,000 acres and has the oldest growth of northern hardwood forest.

The Lake of the Clouds, which sits between two ridges in a valley in the mountains, is a popular tourist attraction. Hikers, fishermen, and campers visit for the stunning wilderness. Nature enthusiasts visit for amazing views, including the Lake of the Clouds Overlook of the former M-107.

There’s an occasional nighttime skywatch at the lake, offering quite a view of the water and stars above.

Bond falls hike
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park | photo via @bcyork

Restaurants Near Bond Falls

If you’re looking for something to nosh on after a day of exploring Bond Falls, your best bet is to head into Ontanagon for some delicious eats.

Pasty Shops

If it’s your first time in the Upper Peninsula, you absolutely need to try a pasty. This delightful concoction is a mix of beef, potatoes, and rutabaga wrapped in a delicious flaky crust. Several of the best pasty shops in Michigan are located nearby.

For instance, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Syl’s Cafe. It serves traditional pasties, which you can get with or without coleslaw. You can also get a delicious breakfast there.

Read more  A Complete Guide to Arenal Volcano National Park

The Little Cookie Store in Ontonagon is worth the stop too. As the name implies, the store sells baked goods. But it also has pasties, which are big and full of flavor.

Bond falls hike
Syl’s Cafe | photo via @darthbeige

Roxey’s Bar and Grill

Another great restaurant is Roxey’s Bar and Grill. Here, you’ll find tasty munchies and delicious sandwiches and burgers. You can even order some cold, delicious beer, which can be the perfect way to cap off a Bond Falls adventure on a hot summer day.

Places to Stay Close to Bond Falls

If you’re planning a trip to see Bond Falls or other nearby waterfalls, there are plenty of places to stay.

Running Bear Resort

Consider staying at Running Bear Resort, which is located in Ottawa National Forest in Paulding. These cabins are open all year and offer access to the falls, fishing lakes and streams, and hiking trails.

Wilderness Bay Lodge and Resort

Another great spot is Wilderness Bay Lodge and Resort in Watersmeet, which offers rustic lakeside cabin stays. You get access to free Wi-Fi, a full kitchen, and a bait shop with boat rentals. In Watersmeet, you’re less than 20 minutes from Bond Falls, and it’s more or less a straight shot up US-45.

Bond falls hike
Wilderness Bay Lodge and Resort | photo via @lilyjewelphoto

Northern Waters Casino Resort

The Northern Waters Casino Resort in Watersmeet offers the best of all worlds. You get access to comfortable rooms, 24-hour gaming, delicious dining, and 18 holes of golf.

More Waterfalls to Visit in Michigan’s Upper Michigan

If you’re on a mission to explore other Michigan waterfalls, the Western Upper Peninsula has you covered. Here are a few that we recommend.

Agate Falls Scenic Site

About 20 minutes from Bond Falls on M-28, the Agate Falls Scenic Site is also in the Middle Branch of the Ontanogan River. It’s 39 feet high, and you can see it from a parking lot located on M-28 or from a railroad bridge that spans the length of the falls.

Bond falls hike
Agate Falls | photo via @bradbellisle

Bonanza Falls

Another hidden gem worth checking out is Bonanza Falls. It’s located just down the road from the Porcupine Mountains and features multiple drops, although none are more than 10 feet.

The angled slabs of slate create multiple drops and fantastic pictures. It’s not uncommon for visitors to see bears, deer, eagles, and other animals while visiting the falls.

Bond falls hike
Bonanza Falls | photo via @aceymann

Waterfalls in the Porcupine Mountains

On the western edge of the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is the Presque Isle River. This river is home to three majestic waterfalls — Manido, Manabezho, and Nawadaha — all of which are easy to reach from a nearby parking lot. And, you get a good view from a viewing platform.

O Kun de Kun Falls

The O Kun de Kun Falls in Ontonagon County is also worth checking out. The waterfall is among the wildest of all the scenic falls in the county, as well as one of the largest. While not as big as Bond Falls, it’s plenty scenic and untamed.

Getting there requires a hike of more than 1 mile since there are no fences or signs around. It’s a plunging waterfall, and if you’re sure-footed and careful, you can actually go behind it. Take US-45, and head about 8 miles north of Bruce Crossing. There’s a parking area, and the trail is part of the North Country Trail.

Bond falls hike
O Kun de Kun Falls | photo via @scott_lindenberg

Tahquamenon Falls

If you’re headed toward the east side of the Upper Peninsula on your way home, you absolutely need to stop by Tahquamenon Falls. Located between Newberry and Paradise, you’ll actually find two magnificent falls.

Read more  Mansfield Area Trails – East Side

The Upper Falls has a drop of 48 feet and is more than 200 feet across. The water has a notable brown color from the tannins of the cedar swamps that drain into the Tahquamenon River. The Lower Falls are located 4 miles downstream and are a series of five small cascades around an island.

Bond falls hike
Tahquamenon Falls | photo via Shalee Blackmer

Frequently Asked Questions About Bond Falls MI

Check Out the Upper Peninsula’s Bond Falls & Other Waterfalls

If you haven’t been to Bond Falls or any of the other waterfalls in Michigan’s Western Upper Peninsula, you’re missing out! It might be a long trek, especially from the Lower Peninsula, but the trip is well worth it.

You’ll see amazing waterfalls and breathtaking views that will leave you in awe of how beautiful the Upper Peninsula is. For a true taste of the wilderness, book a room in a rustic cabin, stop in for a pasty, and head to the falls. You’ll leave with some beautiful pictures and even better memories.

— Update: 14-03-2023 — found an additional article Bond, Agate and O Kun de Kun Falls make for a picturesque day trip in the U.P. from the website for the keyword bond falls hike.

It was a nearly perfect fall day, 72 degrees and not a cloud in the sky, a slight breeze causing the yellow aspen leaves to shimmer in the October sun.  

“This is so picturesque,” my mom said as we stood between O Kun de Kun Falls and a small footbridge downstream, not another person in sight.  

We were in the heart of Michigan’s waterfall country in the western Upper Peninsula, far enough into the Ottawa National Forest that we had only run into a couple people on our 1.3-mile hike to the falls, but not too far that we didn’t still have cellphone service.  

It was the first of three falls we planned to visit that day — the smallest of the bunch, but the only one we would have completely to ourselves.  

The U.P. is home to all but one of Michigan’s waterfalls, more than 300 of them, ranging from little 5-foot cascades to 110-foot Douglass Houghton Falls, the state’s tallest. 

Some, like the impressive 50-foot-tall, 200-foot-wide Tahquamenon Falls, stand mostly on their own, requiring a separate trip to see them. 

But others, like the quintet that line a 5-mile stretch of the Black River near its mouth on Lake Superior, are grouped close together, making for an ideal day trip of chasing waterfalls.  

Three falls around Paulding, Mich., about 20 miles north of Land O’ Lakes, fall into that category.  

Bond, Agate and O Kun de Kun Falls are only about 10 miles apart respectively and can easily all be visited in a day. The first two are Michigan scenic sites, accessible via short walks from developed parking areas, while the latter is more rustic and accessible via a longer walk along the North Country Trail. 

Bond Falls 

Bond falls hike

The most impressive of the bunch, Bond Falls is also the most developed, protected as part of a Michigan scenic site. It’s also the most popular, and according to a sign at the trailhead, has been attracting visitors since the late 1880s. The waterfall is named for Oliver S. Bond, who once owned the land it’s on.  

The 50-foot waterfall on the middle branch of the Ontonagon River has two main sections that cascade over a wall of blocky basalt that stretches 100 feet across. A dam upstream means the waterfall always has a steady flow. 

The waterfall is close enough to the parking lot that you can hear its roar from there. A short walk along a paved path leads to an accessible boardwalk that circles the base of the falls, with a handful of viewing spots, including two sections with thin metal gates instead of the usual wood to allow for better viewing for visitors using wheelchairs. Stairs from the boardwalk lead down to more viewpoints along the river, close enough to feel the falls’ spray.  

Read more  Find Three Rivers Park District on Social Media

Trails lead up both sides of the river; the right side is more developed, with water from the cascade flowing over the stairs in spots. The trail continues upriver, where there are more small drops. 

Find Bond Falls at 12512 Bond Falls Road, east of Highway 45 at Paulding. The parking area (off Scenic Overlook Drive), which has an accessible vault toilet, requires a Michigan recreation passport, available for $9/day for non-Michigan residents at the trailhead (cash or check). Leashed pets are permitted. 

The parking area is usually open mid-May through mid-October, but you can still access the top of the waterfall year-round via the hiking trail that starts across from the Bond Falls Outpost and travels along the west side of the river. The stairs and the boardwalk are not maintained for winter use, however. 

Agate Falls 

Bond falls hike

This 40-foot waterfall — about 5 miles downstream from Bond Falls, but 15 minutes by car — is easy to get to, but lacks the unobstructed views of the other two unless you’re willing to scramble down a steep hill. 

Like Bond Falls, these falls have been a tourist attraction for a while, drawing visitors since a resort with cottages and a tavern opened there in 1935, according to a sign at the trailhead. At that time, more than 125 steps led to a viewing platform at the waterfall’s base. 

Today there’s a viewing platform near the top of the falls that offers some peek-a-boo views. Find access to it at a Michigan Department of Transportation roadside park on the south side of Highway 28 west of Trout Creek.  

From the parking area, follow the paved path along the river north under the highway and an old railroad bridge (now a recreation trail) through stands of pines to the observation platform. It’s tough to see the entire waterfall when the trees are fully leafed out, but you can catch a glimpse of the falls as they tumble over the terraced sandstone. 

The steps down to the waterfall’s base are long gone, but the more adventurous can follow unofficial trails past the observation deck down the 30-plus-foot hill to the riverbank. The hill is steep, though, and can be slippery when littered with leaves and pine needles.  

The roadside park, which has vault toilets and picnic tables, is open early May through late October. Leashed pets are permitted. 

O Kun de Kun Falls 

Bond falls hike

The smallest waterfall of the trio, it’s also the most rustic and requires the longest hike, 1.3 miles one way (2.6 round-trip) on the North Country Trail.  

But that means it’s also the least busy, and there’s a good chance you could have the waterfall all to yourself, especially if you visit on a weekday.  

The hike is relatively easy and especially lovely in the fall, following a well-maintained gravel path through groves of aspen to the Baltimore River. The trail is mostly level until it begins a gradual descent to the river. 

A brown sign there marks the upper falls, viewable via a scramble down an unofficial trail. The upper falls consists of a handful of small cascades that tumble over a short ledge and boulders that you can climb on. 

About 800 feet farther down the North Country Trail, however, is the main waterfall, a 25-foot cascade that drops cleanly over a steep ledge in the rock. The waterfall is viewable from a few spots along the river, including a footbridge downstream.  

Find the parking area on the east side of Highway 45 north of Bruce Crossing. The parking area is free and leashed pets are permitted. 

Contact Chelsey Lewis at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @chelseylew and @TravelMJS and Facebook at Journal Sentinel Travel.

RELATED:Here’s how you can see 7 Wisconsin waterfalls in one day


Recommended For You

About the Author: Tung Chi