Shining Cloud Falls

September 2009

State: Michigan

Location: Porcupine Mountains State Park

Height: 20

Crest: 15+

Water Source: Big Carp River

Waypoint: 46.75806N 89.87139W

Summary: Shining Cloud Falls is the largest and most scenic of the Porcupine Mountain's backcountry falls. It is at least a 5 mile one way hike to the falls, but definitely worth it if you like hiking and wild waterfalls.

Shining Cloud Falls is the largest, and one of the wildest backcountry waterfalls in Porcupine Mountains State Park. You will have to hike at least 5 miles in to see the falls, and another 5 miles to get back. If you are looking for a good long day hike this is a winner. In addition to the main falls there are also a number of smaller cascades, and whatever route you take there is lots of wilderness scenery.

The total drop of the falls is about 20'. The falls consists of two parts, a slide on the left, and a plunge on the right. In higher water the two parts merge, but in lower water the two parts are distinct, as can be seen in the photos on this page. Plunge falls are rare around Lake Superior.

From the trail you cannot see much of Shining Cloud Falls. Just below the falls is a deep and precipitous gorge and the trail passes high above the falls. There is one distant somewhat overgrown overlook on the trail. To get better views you will have to descend into the gorge a bit. Getting to the top of the falls is not too hard, and assuming the water is not really high, you can walk down the side of the slide to reach the base of the falls.

The real challenge with seeing Shining Cloud Falls is reaching it. It is located on the Big Carp River Trail. This trail begins at the Lake of the Clouds Overlook. It is 8.5 miles one way from Lake of the Clouds to Shining Cloud Falls. This features some fabulous escarpment scenery. Another scenic route is to take the Lake Superior Trail from Presque Isle to the mouth of the Carp River and then hike upstream to the falls. It is about 7.5 miles to the mouth of the river, and the falls are 1.25 miles upstream. The shortest, but perhaps least scenic route is to take the Pinkerton Trail to the mouth of the Little Carp River, follow the Lake Superior Trail to the mouth of the Big Carp River, and then follow the Big Carp River Trail upstream to the falls, for a total distance of about 5 miles.

Downstream of Shining Cloud Falls are a number of unnamed falls and rapids. Several of these are larger than some of the named falls on the Little Carp River. The last drop near the Lake is known as Bathtub Falls. If you are hiking upstream to the falls, do not be fooled by the smaller drops. The trail follows the river closely, but it climbs away from the river before reaching Shining Cloud Falls. There is no sign marking Shining Cloud Falls, but it is very distinctive.

The route we took started at the Little Carp River trail head, taking that trail to the Cross Trail, following the Cross Trail to the mouth Big Carp River, and then hiking back up to the falls, for a total distance of about 6.5 miles. We were able to shave more than a mile off of this route by fording the Big Carp River when the Cross Trail reached it. This would probably not be possible in high water. The advantage of the route is that it takes you past Overlooked Falls and Greenstone Falls. You can also turn it into a long loop hike in order to see Trappers Falls.

We had beautiful sunny weather all week in the Porkies. The downside is that it was hard to get nice photos of the partially shaded falls.

[Lake Superior] Nearby Falls

Trappers Falls is about a 5 mile hike from Shining Cloud. If you take the Cross Trail route, you will pass the much smaller Overlooked Falls and Greenstone Falls on the way. The larger and much more easily visited Manabezho Falls and the other Presque Isle River Falls are also in Porcupine Mountains State Park.

Photo Gallery

The slide on the left

The plunge on the right

Looking down the slide

A small drop downstream

A segmented slide downstream

The far side of the slide

Another small drop downstream

Bathtub Falls, near the shore

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Last Modified: Monday, 03-Jul-2017 23:43:26 MDT.

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