South Branch Pike River Upper Falls

Keeping with the South Branch Pike River I took a long drive through the Marinette County Forest in search of some hard to reach falls. I parked at the far north terminus of FR218 and parked in the pullout. The road forked from here but was too narrow for my liking to take the truck any further (and I wasn’t sure it actually went through at the time). Hiked the rest on foot from here taking the left path which I came to find was the long way.

Why did I go left? Here’s what the right path looked like – overgrown in brush, doesn’t look to be travelled too often. Turns out this would have been much shorter. Oh well, I needed the walk anyways.

Back to my walk, here is what the left path looks like. Starts out as pretty nice two track but eventually gets narrow and scratchy. Good for a side-by-side, not so good for my truck.

Here’s the view a bit further along. There are some small parking spots or turnouts but all overgrown and not often used. Lots of fallen branches and sharp sticks. Pretty easy walk though and not really that far.

At the end of the road, the two track splits and becomes overgrown. Looks like they might mow occasionally but not often. I took the left path to stay close to the river but both of them seem to eventually lead deeper into the woods where I was going.

If you keep your eyes open you’ll find someone marked the way using some pink flagging tape tied on trees. Look for these to be sure you follow the right path. There are multiple trails marked this way so be sure to compare to your GPS app on your phone if you have that available. Keep in mind all the trails leading to the river are thick with brush and require bushwhacking to varying degrees.

Case in point: The first path I followed led to the river and sounded like there were falls at the end, but ultimately turned out to be a couple beaver dams. Looks like there could be stone rapids underneath but it’s impossible to tell for sure. Don’t get bamboozled!

Further downstream I found the first set of actual rapids. You can visually see the river level drop here which is pretty unique. From what I can tell this is the top-most part of what I am searching for.

A little more brush busting and the terrain along the river turned from dirt to stone. Up top you can just barely make out the rapids looking back upstream.

The view looking downstream is much better though: South Branch Pike River Upper Falls (at least that is what we’re calling it for now). From the south shore looking downstream you can see there is a large initial drop, after which the river rambles down the rocks for another 50-100 yards.

Atop the rocky bank looking directly down you can’t see much. It’s a steep cliff and extremely slippery due to being covered in moss. I couldn’t get any closer without really taking some dangerous risks. If you come here, exercise extreme caution. I’m not joking when I say falling from here could easily result in a bad day – or your last day.

A few more careful steps along the cliff and you can get the best perspective of the initial drop looking back upstream. I’m very bad at estimating heights but I reckon that first part is at least 10 feet. The volume of water passing through can be felt in your chest as it crashes down.

Viewing the bottom section becomes difficult to impossible due to the sharp slope of the cliff and the slick moss preventing you from climbing very far down.

Viewing from below without taking a swim is even more difficult. This is as far as I could crawl out onto the ledge without falling in. Viewing from the opposite shore might be possible but there is a block of private land there so it’s either impossible or would be like walking a tight-rope. Though I am curious about that route as I’ve seen other photos online…maybe I need to write them a letter and ask nicely.

I would have stayed longer but my sunlight for today has been depleted. I walked back to the truck and admired the tall pines standing overhead making it seem like I drive a Hot Wheels toy. There are other features both up and downstream here so I will be back in the future. For tonight it was back to camp.


Here’s a short video of my hike and the falls in action. Some good shots but I freely admit I could have done better with more time. There will be more to come in the next outing.

Hiking Data

Here’s my hiking track in orange. Parked at the far bottom left and started up & around. As you can see I took that shortcut on my return trip. If you too a direct route to the falls it would be less than 1 mile each way. Notice that orange marker about 1/2 way along? Satellite views make that look like small rapids but to my ear it sounds MUCH larger. I’ve seen other photos now as well – this is definitely worth a return trip with some additional planning.

Total distance just under 2 miles which includes my extra walking. Elevation changes over 100 feet but it’s mostly gradual other than nearest the river. I plan to add miles on this in the future.

Lat = 45.5504799 , Long = -88.1420517 -- Show at Google Maps

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