Michigan has over 13,000 miles of hiking trails and walking paths in state forests and parks. More trails can be found throughout the state in national, county, and city parks. These Michigan trails provide an abundance of opportunities to explore the outdoors in every season. But, which are the best Michigan hiking trails for fall? Check out our picks for the best fall hiking trails across the state…
6 Best Fall Hiking Trails in the Upper Peninsula
There are so many Upper Peninsula hiking trails with amazing views and fall foliage to choose from, it was hard to narrow it down to just a handful of favorites. Here are our top recommendations for Upper Peninsula fall hiking trails in Michigan…
Isle Royale National Park Greenstone Ridge Trail on Isle Royale
For experienced hikers, there’s no better way to explore Isle Royale than to backpack the Greenstone Ridge Trail in Isle Royale National Park. This 40-mile trail is a challenging hike to complete, stretching across rough terrain from Windigo on the southwest end of the island to Rock Harbor on the northeast end of the island.
Along the way are panoramic views of colorful leaves among inland lakes, rocky exposed rides, and forested wilderness.
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park Escarpment Trail in Ontonagon
On the west side of the Upper Peninsula, you can take a moderate hike along the Escarpment Trail within Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. The protected land encompasses about 60,000 acres and is the largest state park in Michigan.
Although it has more than 90 miles of hiking trails through old-growth forest, this 4-mile trail gives you views of Lake Superior, Carp River Valley, and Lake of the Clouds in a single trip.
Sugarloaf Mountain Natural Area Easy Trail in Marquette
Marquette has several hiking trails that are worth a fall trek, but the trail in Sugarloaf Mountain Natural Area is our favorite. There are actually two different paths to the viewing area — One is easier but longer than the other. This route is more ideal for admiring the changing leaves too.
Try not to spend all of your time looking up at the beautiful fall colors, though, because the path has some roots and rocks that could make you trip.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Chapel Loop in Munising
Of the locations with the best Michigan hiking trails for fall, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is one of the most popular. It has about 100 miles of paths that lead to beaches, cliff tops, cultural sites, and waterfalls.
We just love the Chapel Loop from the Chapel/Mosquito parking lot. For 3.3 miles, it passes Chapel Lake and Chapel Falls and leads to Chapel Beach and Chapel Rock.
You can turn back from there, or follow the cliff-side trail to Mosquito Beach before heading back for and past Mosquito Falls a total of 9.5 miles.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park River Trail in Paradise
Linking the Upper and Lower Falls in Tahquamenon Falls State Park, the River Trail is a nearly 5-mile hike that follows the Tahquamenon River. The walk is very scenic but has exposed roots and hilly terrain, making it moderate to difficult at times.
The trail offers some of the best views of the fall colors on the east side of the Upper Peninsula.
Mackinac Island Trails
Since vehicles aren’t allowed on Mackinac Island, the only ways to get around are by biking, riding a horse-drawn carriage, and walking. That’s why it’s covered in more than 70 miles of trails.
The trails are within a 4-square-mile island, so it’s easy to walk from one side to the other, exploring the many historic and cultural sites along the way.
On top of that, you can circle the entire island via an 8-mile trail with gorgeous views of the fall foliage and Lake Huron.
4 Top Northwest Michigan Hiking Trails for Fall
To help you plan your fall hiking in Michigan, here are the top hiking trails in Northwest Michigan (Lower Peninsula) for amazing views of the changing colors of autumn. These Michigan hikes range from easy to difficult, so there’s something for everyone.
Young State Park Jordan Valley Pathway in Boyne City
In the Lower Peninsula, the Jordan Valley Pathway is one of the most popular trails for hiking. It’s located in Young State Park, which rests on Lake Charlevoix and extends for 563 acres. The trail is 18 miles long and winds along the Jordan River through the Mackinaw State Forest.
Although it’s well worth the trek anytime, the trees along the Jordan Valley Pathway have some of the most vibrant colors during the fall in Michigan.
Antrim Creek Natural Area Trails in Ellsworth
Among the best Michigan hiking trails for fall in the Lower Peninsula’s northwest corner are those in Antrim Creek Natural Area.
This 156-acre gem has nearly 1 mile of undeveloped shoreline along Lake Michigan and features a range of landscapes. The 2.1-mile trail system leads you through a conifer swamp, forested wetland, hardwood forest, meadow, and shrub thicket.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Empire Bluff Trail in Empire
With about 100 miles of hiking trails, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a beautiful place to see the leaves change. The trails are clearly marked, and each one offers unique views.
Although longer hiking trails are available along the lakeshore, we prefer to walk the 0.75-mile Empire Bluff Trail during the fall. It offers the perfect scene of foliage and Lake Michigan.
Ludington State Park Lighthouse Trail in Ludington
Featuring 7 miles of sandy shoreline on Lake Michigan and the 5,000-acre Hamlin Lake, Ludington State Park has no shortage of scenic fall views.
Of the more than 21 miles of marked trails, we really enjoy the 3-mile Lighthouse Trail. It leads you through wooded and open dunes to the iconic Big Sable Point Lighthouse, which you can climb and capture great memories on camera.
3 Best Michigan Hiking Trails for Fall in the Northeast
Hartwick Pines State Park Old Growth Forest Trail in Grayling
Hartwick Pines State Park is one of the largest in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan with 49-acres of old-growth pine forest.
It has 21 miles of trails, but the Old Growth Forest Trail stands out to us when it comes to observing the changing leaves in fall. The trail is 1.25 miles long and features benches for sitting and enjoying the scenery.
Rockport State Recreation Area Trails in Alpena
As the 100th designated state park in Michigan, Rockport State Recreation Area is located on the Lake Huron shoreline. Throughout the varied landscape is 23.2 miles of hiking trails under a canopy of colors.
An old limestone quarry, sinkholes, and a dedicated natural area offer plenty of visual interest as well.
Huron-Manistee National Forests Highbanks River Trail in Oscoda
The massive, nearly 1 million-acre Huron-Manistee National Forests are situated between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron in Northern Michigan, offering some of the best Michigan hiking trails for fall adventures. However, the Highbanks River Trail is a 3.5-mile path that has magnificent views of the AuSable River.
The trail is sprinkled with stairs that branch off to the edge of the water. In some spots, you can look over the valley and almost see Lake Huron on a clear day.
4 Top Fall Hiking Trails in Southwest Michigan
Rosy Mound Natural Area Nature Trail in Grand Haven
You can choose from a variety of trails within Rosy Mound Natural Area. One is a boardwalk trail that takes you over sand dunes near the beach.
The 2-mile Nature Trail, though, takes you through the trees, across open fields, and along sand bluffs. It’s a delightful journey with an array of scenic views.
Pickerel Lake Park Trails in Cannonsburg
With 80 acres of untouched wilderness, Pickerel Lake Park is also known as Fred Meijer Nature Preserve. It has a mix of natural landscapes and a branching trail network that allows you to explore.
No matter which one you walk, you’ll be surrounded by brilliant fall colors.
Riley Trails in Holland
Although not typically brought up as one of the best Michigan hiking trails for fall, the Riley Trails will take your breath away. Located within Riley Trails Park, this trail loop leads you over rolling hills and through a canopy of beech-maple and pine trees.
These Michigan fall hikes and the stunning fall colors in Holland will exceed your expectations.
Warren Woods State Park Trail in Three Oaks
Stretching across 311 acres in the southwest corner of Michigan, Warren Woods State Park is a diamond in the rough. Most people overlook it because Warren Dunes State Park — which has great fall leaves viewing opportunities too — is just 7 miles north.
The park has towering maple and beech trees that burst with color, and you can walk among them on the 0.5-mile trail, which follows and crosses the Galien River.
3 Best Michigan Thumb Hiking Trails in the Fall
Huron County Nature Center and Wilderness Arboretum Trails in Port Austin
Only about 1 mile from M-25, the Huron County Nature Center and Wilderness Arboretum is a preserve with a Nature Center that’s open all year. It has several walking trails among the changing colors of aspen, maple, and oak trees.
In mid-October, the Nature Center hosts the Fall Color Highlight event, which is dedicated to the colors and watercolor painting.
Port Crescent State Park Day Use Trail in Port Austin
At the tip of the Michigan Thumb, Port Crescent State Park is a recreational hot spot for families, couples, and groups. During the fall, it’s a great place to check out the colorful leaves.
While the park has more than 5 miles of hiking trails, the 2.3-mile Day Use Trail is ideal for an easy fall stroll because it takes you through oak and pine trees.
Sanilac Petroglyphs Historic State Park Trail in Cass City
You might not think that Sanilac Petroglyphs Historic State Park would have one of the best Michigan hiking trails for fall. But, it has a 1-mile hiking trail through woods and across the Little Cass River.
Along with getting to see the fall foliage, you can explore the interesting Sanilac Petroglyphs, which are the largest known group of ancient rock carvings in the state.
5 Top Southeast Michigan Fall Hiking Trails
Wadhams to Avoca Trail
Extending for nearly 20 miles between the two namesake towns, the Wadhams to Avoca Trail follows a historic rail line. One of the big draws is the 640-foot Mill Creek Trestle, which was built in the 1800s.
From 60 feet high, you can look out over Mill Creek Valley and see the vibrant colors that cover the landscape every fall.
Ortonville Recreation Area Trail in Ortonville
Within Ortonville Recreation Area is about 5,400 acres of high wooded hills. Among the many recreational activities available is a 3-mile hiking trail loop. The walk through a thick hardwood forest is an awe-inspiring journey during the fall.
If you want to ride a horse through the colorful scenery, you can take advantage of 8.5 miles of equestrian trails.
Stony Creek Metropark Trails in Shelby Township
Giving you the chance to enjoy the outdoors without leaving the suburbs, Stony Creek Metropark is full of amenities. One of them is a Nature Center, which maintains 5 miles of self-guided nature trails with interpretive signs that wind through the park.
Additionally, the Metropark has 13 miles of easy to moderate hiking trails without signage. Whether you’re walking one of the woodlots, open meadows, or old fields, the fall colors abound.
Belle Isle Park Trails in Detroit
Rich in natural beauty and history, Belle Isle Park has some of the best Michigan hiking trails for fall. This Detroit gem covers 982 acres of an island within the Detroit River.
It’s full of walking paths, including paths through colorful tunnels of trees. You can also walk the perimeter of the island — on the south side of which you get views of Ontario, Canada because the island is so close to the border.
Pinckney Recreation Area Trails in Pinckney
With more than 11,000 acres and 40 miles of multi-use trails, Pinckney Recreation Area is a hiking enthusiast’s paradise. The 2-mile Silver Lake Trail, 3.3-mile Losee Lake Trail, and 5.1-mile Crooked Lake Trail are all fantastic options for seeing the fall foliage.
You get the chance to see a terminal moraine as well — the edge of a mass of sediment and rocks carried down and deposited during the last glaciation period.
More Fall Hiking in Michigan
We know we’ve barely uncovered the surface of the amazing fall hiking trails in Michigan known for being ideal treks for enjoying the state’s colorful foliage.
Do you frequent different hiking trails throughout Michigan during the fall? We’d love to hear even more recommendations for the top Michigan hiking trails for fall color enjoyment!