Off Road Your Way to Pinnacle Falls

If you are like me, you have a bucket list of things you want to see in the Upper Peninsula. Maybe that is why you are reading this page. Or maybe you Google searched “How to find Pinnacle Falls; I’m so lost!” I wouldn’t be surprised if that is what happened. This article will guide you to Pinnacle Falls, MI.

The area between Marquette and Big Bay that stretches out towards the Huron Mountains is a beautiful, wild place. Until recently, no one really ever went out there! Currently, construction is going on to build better roads out in the area to help with the new mine near Big Bay. But do not worry! There are still plenty of off-roading places to go, and you will have to visit them to get to Pinnacle Falls.

Pinnacle Falls itself is a drop on the Yellow Dog River. Named for the pinnacle of the rock next to the falls, it is part of a gorge that nature has dug out. It’s a rather large waterfall for the area at approximately 25 feet of a cascade. The trail that leads you down to the waterfall is not terribly long, maybe half a mile. However, it is steep! Be ready for a workout hiking out of the gorge.

My experience & tips on how to find this awesome place

Back when my man and I first started dating, we attempted to find this waterfall. We thought we had failed miserably and ended up settling for Yellow Dog Falls (a waterfall also off CR510- much easier to find!). Turns out we were only a couple of turns away from the trail!

It’s very easy to get mixed up out here; everything kind of looks the same. And due to the mine construction, more and more dirt roads are being created.

Off Road Your Way to Pinnacle Falls
Pinnacle Falls – image from:

However, hopefully, the direction I included will make it easier to find this site.

Maps to Pinnacle Falls

Follow the dirt road to the next dirt road on the left and then turn right at the tree. If you end up in a beautiful valley with a waterfall- you made it!

Start off on County Road 510, a partly paved road a couple of miles from Big Bay. Take this road to AAA Road, which is not marked, but I believe it is about 3 miles down 510. It is a very well-traveled wide road; you will probably see a few trucks on this road. Turn right (it’s the only way you can turn!).

Take AAA road 5.5 miles. Hopefully, this mileage will not change too much in the future, but they are building roads that are cutting through the forest, which may change the directions. Figures crossed!

At the 5.5 mark on your odometer, you will see a dirt road to your left– turn here! It is well-traveled. I would reset your odometer at this point.

Follow the odometer markings on the map included. They are very accurate! There are more turn-offs than listed on this map. However, so long as you stay on the more well-traveled road, you should be fine.

We took a wrong turn somewhere between the 1.15 and 1.9 mark, so if you come to a Y where you are unsure, stick to your left!

Then at 1.9, you will make a right turn (if I remember clearly, it is an opening that branches off into a few two tracks). Go straight from here!

You will pass a tall pine tree just as the directions state. And shortly after, you will reach a parking area that is not labeled as ‘Pinnacle Falls’ but does have a sign about the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.

Follow the trail down the gorge! You come to a pillar that says “Pinnacle Falls” with a hand-carved arrow pointing to the trail on the right. This might lead to the falls if you are up for some rock climbing- however, follow the trail straight ahead that leads down another hill and through some very large bushes. This trail takes you to the valley floor.

Bottom Line

A fun off-roading & hiking adventure if you want to explore the wilderness beyond Big Bay! You do not need a 4WD vehicle to get here, but a higher clearance vehicle is suggested. The roads are mostly packed with some bumps along the way. I suppose a car could make it, and I just would not want to bring my car off-roading. No cell service out Pinnacle Falls, so do not count on your phone’s GPS.

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About the author
Growing up in Detroit, Lindsey is a Michigan State University alumnus. She feels incredibly lucky to live in Detroit, and much more, to spend her days promoting the Detroit area as a travel destination.