Must-Visit Places for Amazing Michigan Fall Colors
By Jeff Wellman
There is no better place on earth to see the dynamic and vibrant fall colors than in Northern Michigan. With our dense, old-growth forests, scenic great lakes, and rolling hills, the landscape provides a beautiful backdrop for the colors to make their fall appearance. A fall color tour is a unique way to experience the Mitten State and enjoy autumn. Below, find a guide for some of the best places to view the fall colors up north that you won’t want to miss.
One of the few major wilderness areas in the Midwest, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is in the northwest Upper Peninsula. Home to miles of rivers, waterfalls, and beautiful hardwood forests, its topography is impressive and offers sweeping, elevated views of Lake Superior and Lake of the Clouds. The park boasts over 90 miles of trails, many campgrounds, an observation tower and even a 18-hole disc golf course. Located 15 miles west of Ontonagon, you’ll also be a stone’s throw from some of the UP’s most historic locations including Houghton, Hancock, and the Keweenaw Peninsula.
The fall colors of the Keweenaw Peninsula are some of the most dramatic and impressive in the world and can even be seen from space at their peak. Once the summer temperatures start to drop, the landscape fades from a sea of green to vibrant shades of orange, red and gold. Because of its northern latitude, the colors tend to change earlier than downstate, so head north the last week of September to experience the colors at their peak. For a panoramic view of the colors, ride the chairlift to the top of Mount Bohemia. The sweeping views of the changing foliage and mighty Lake Superior are worth the adventure.
Head east to Newberry, located in central, eastern Upper Peninsula, and experience one of the Upper Peninsula’s most grand natural wonders – Tahquamenon Falls. The main waterfall is one of the biggest east of the Mississippi, and there are other smaller falls as you venture downstream. The large, deciduous trees line the upper falls, and turn bright shades of red and orange as their autumn colors develop. A paved trail from the parking lot to the falls makes this an easy and accessible vista for any walks of life.
Northern Lower Peninsula
Tunnel of Trees
M-119 runs for 30 miles along Lake Michigan, from Cross Village and through Good Hart, Middle Village and Harbor Springs to Petoskey (or vice versa!). The tree-lined highway provides a beautiful, colorful canopy that envelops the highway. The winding road meanders over rolling hills with spectacular views of Lake Michigan and Beaver Island. This route can also be explored by bike, if desired, with the historic Legs Inn near Cross Village making a great pit stop for lunch. A stop at Pond Hill Farm for some festive fall activities would also make this a trip to remember.
Traverse City Area
From Sleeping Bear Dunes to the Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas, greater Traverse City is a fantastic place to visit to experience Michigan’s fall colors. Visit historic lighthouses, take in views of the spectacular dunes and clear blue waters, and of course the technicolor fall foliage. There are plenty of cute towns and areas to explore, with countless lighthouses, beaches and trails to explore. Finish your day viewing the colors with a glass of wine at one of the area’s countless wineries.
Venture to the northeast corner of the lower peninsula to visit the biggest waterfall downstate. Ocqueoc Falls includes a pathway that has four loops, ranging from 3-6 miles and are suitable for biking or hiking. The old growth, towering hardwoods and pines provide an impressive backdrop for viewing the fall colors. Nestled between Cheboygan, Rogers City and Onaway, the park is easily accessed and the trails are flat and wide, making it an easy hike for all ages and skill levels.