We may hate to admit it, but summer is winding down. Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back in season, my mother is already talking about Halloween, and I just pulled out my first flannel shirt. The realities are settling in that fall is here.
Although summer is when we usually spend the most time on the road, we should not forget about how beautiful fall road trips can be. Michigan is one of the few lucky places that experience the magic of having our world turn into a brightly colored fairytale of orange, red, and yellow as the weather begins to cool.
Before all of your weekends fill up (I know mine are booking fast!), reserve a Friday, Saturday and Sunday to take a slow drive along one of the many beautiful Michigan highways. The colors will not be a disappointment, and there’s just something about making a stop on an empty beach during a cold fall day and restores peace and tranquility to the year.
Highway M-37: Baldwin to Traverse City
This inland drive will take you through rolling hills (including the highest peak in the Lower Peninsula) and winding around some of the densest forests in the state. The direct route takes about an hour and a half to complete, but if you’re out to enjoy nature, I’d recommend 4 or 5 hours.
A section of this road travels through the Manistee National Forest, which is home to thousands of trails perfect for a fall walk and encompasses all kinds of wildlife, from squirrels to bears. You’ll easily be able to find yourself in the middle-of-nowhere, surrounded by nothing but the sound of rustling leaves.
When arriving in Traverse City, I recommend grabbing some dinner at the Blue Tractor. The warm pulled pork mac & cheese is going to be heaven after spending the day in crisp fall weather.
Highway M-25: Lexington to Caseville
This stretch of road brings travelers along quiet beaches, quaint towns, and even near the famous Turnip Rock. In order make the most of the road, you should stop at every town along the route. Enjoy the downtowns and take a peek at the beaches, even if the water is too cold for a swim.
I recommend allotting 5 hours for the trip, which doesn’t include a possible detour for a kayaking trip in Port Austin. Starting in Lexington allows you to finish near Caseville just in time for a sunset over Lake Huron. The colors will run for miles along the wooded road and the chilled air is going to call for a coffee stop (the Raven Cafe is a great choice in Port Huron). After summer, this part of Michigan is quiet, really quiet – expect deserted beaches and little traffic, which sounds the ideal autumn adventure.
Highways M-28 & M-64: Porcupine Mountains State Park to Wakefield
Have you ever heard of Wakefield? If you’re not from the U.P., it could be unfamiliar. This stretch of M-28 and M-64 curves by lakes, national forests, and rolling hills. The mountainous terrain is something of wonder for most of us Michiganders and has the power to transport us to faraway lands.
The western U.P. drive takes roughly an hour, but expect it to last much longer, chances are you’ll be doing some serious hiking in the Porcupine Mountains and some serious relaxing next the Lake Superior and the inland lake of Gogebic.
Be sure to fill up on gas before the journey because you won’t see many signs of human life, and the evening adventures will be quite dark. With leaves will falling all around, the long journey will be worth the destination, but get up north fast because leaves turn much earlier in the U.P.
Highway US-31 & M-119: Elk Rapids to Harbor Springs
Tunnel of trees? Yes, I know you’ve heard of it! It’s located north of Petoskey off of this particularly beautiful fall route. The drive on US-31 from Elk Rapids to Petoskey is common (especially in the summer months), and I think we can already agree it’s a beautiful drive. Add the fall colors, and you’re looking at a picture-perfect drive along the lakeshore for miles.
Looking to spend the whole weekend adventuring? Add this route onto the Baldwin to Traverse City route! Elk Rapids is only a 20-minute drive from Traverse City, and the combination is the definition of the ultimate Michigan weekend in the fall.
Where are your favorite places to drive in the fall? We’re curious to find more places for colorful adventures in Michigan.