The landscape of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is truly amazing — towering rock formations, coastal and inland beaches, lush forests. When the leaves change color in the fall, the land looks even more beautiful. However, taking in the view isn’t the only thing to do. Pack your bags because we have a long list of fall things to do in the Upper Peninsula.
Outdoor Fall Things to Do in the Upper Peninsula
Fall Hiking in the UP
Whether you’re taking an easy stroll on a sandy beach along Lake Superior or trekking through a forest, the Upper Peninsula has a ton of nature trails. One of the largest trail networks is the North Country Trail. Stretching through eight states, it’s more than 4,600 miles long, and Michigan is home to the largest section. In the Upper Peninsula alone are nearly 550 miles of hiking trails that primarily traverse wilderness areas.
In fact, part of the North Country Trail passes through the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in Ontonagon. It’s the largest state park in Michigan and offers a heart-pumping hike to the top of the Porcupine Mountains. From there, you can view one of the biggest old-growth forests in the country.
Biking in the Upper Peninsula
Like hiking, there are many opportunities for cycling and mountain biking. For instance, the Iron Ore Heritage Trail is a 47-mile paved path that runs between Marquette and Ishpeming. Interpretive markers tell of the peninsula’s mining history as you pass old quarries. You can bike other well-maintained trail systems in Marquette as well.
Farther west, the Keweenaw Peninsula has become a mountain biker’s paradise. Miles of trails have been established over the years. The Copper Harbor trail system is suitable for riders of all skill levels.
Visiting Isle Royale
Just north of the Upper Peninsula is Isle Royale, home of the Isle Royale National Park. The unparalleled solitude and ruggedness of the island offer a plethora of adventures for hikers, kayakers, and backpackers through October. You have to take a ferry from Houghton or Copper Harbor to get there, and the ride alone is well worth the trip.
Canoeing & Kayaking
Canoeing and kayaking are popular activities along the shores of Lake Superior, but the Upper Peninsula has several great rivers for these activities too. In the Hiawatha National Forest in Manistique, the Indian River Canoe Trail follows a 51-mile-long river with free-flowing waters that provide habitats for common and rare wildlife.
The Keweenaw Water Trail is an epic, 100-mile paddle from McLain State Park to Portage Lake. Along the way, it circles the edge of Lake Superior. Because of the conditions on this trail, it’s most suitable for seasoned paddlers. You can explore only part of it or the whole trail, the latter of which takes about seven days.
Watching the Northern Lights
Since there are fewer residents and less light pollution, seeing the aurora borealis is possible and one of the best fall things to do in the Upper Peninsula. In fact, you can find many remote spots on Lake Superior with dark skies for viewing the northern lights in Michigan. And fall is one of the best times because daylight hours are fewer, giving you more nighttime hours to catch a glimpse.
With large state and national forests, the Upper Peninsula is well equipped for camping. Whether you want to rent a tent, RV campsite, or cabin, you’ll find stunning locations throughout. Many of the campgrounds, especially the rustic ones, are ideal for viewing the northern lights.
Consider these destinations for your Upper Peninsula fall camping adventure:
- Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
- Ottawa National Forest
- Hiawatha National Forest
- Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
- Tahquamenon Falls State Park
- Straits State Park
Upper Peninsula Historical Sites & Venues to Explore in Fall
For almost 25 years, the town of Fayette was a center for processing and shipping crude iron. In the late 1800s, the businesses collapsed, and it became a ghost town. Today, you can wander through it as Fayette Historic State Park. The 711 acres surround Snail Shell Harbor on Lake Michigan, and you can explore the restored structures.
Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum
Lake Superior is known for its unpredictable weather, much like an ocean because it’s so vast. As such, there have been more than 100 shipwrecks on its waters. The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum in Paradise showcases one of the most famous — the SS Edmund Fitzgerald shipwreck. The museum has the ship’s bell on display and many other related artifacts.
The Soo Locks
One of the most unique fall things to do in the Upper Peninsula is experience the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie. You can watch an engineering marvel at work, adjusting the water level so that large ships can traverse the uneven waters between Lake Superior and Lake Huron.
If you would rather experience it for yourself, hop on a Famous Soo Locks Boat Tours excursion.
Native American History
All of Michigan is full of Native American history, especially the Upper Peninsula. In St. Ignace, for example, you can visit the Museum of Ojibwa Culture north of Mackinac Bridge to learn more about this tribe’s culture and lifestyle. The museum has the biggest collection of tribal-made arts and crafts in the region.
Best Fall Tours & Cruises in the Upper Peninsula
One of the unique fall things to do in the Upper Peninsula is touring the mines on the Keweenaw Peninsula. The region was one of the most prosperous in the country during the copper boom.
You could tour the Delaware Copper Mine or Quincy Mines, both of which demonstrate this rich history by taking you underground where the copper was once extracted. On the other hand, you could visit the Iron Mountain Iron Mine to learn about the extraction of iron in the region.
The Great Lakes shorelines are sprinkled with more than 40 lighthouses — all of which offer the chance to snap gorgeous pictures. However, the only way to see some of them is via boat.
Shepler’s Ferry lighthouse cruises depart from St. Ignace, exploring lighthouses both along Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Additionally, Famous Soo Locks Boat Tours offers lighthouse cruises on Lake Superior.
Pictured Rocks & Shipwreck Tours
The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is one of the most well-known parts of the Upper Peninsula, and hiking isn’t the only way to see it. From Munising, Pictured Rocks Cruises offers views of the colorful scenery from Lake Superior.
With all of the shipwrecks on the bottom of the lake, Glass Bottom Shipwreck Tours features cruises that pass over some of the wreckage. Because of the cruise boat’s glass bottom, you can see the wrecks below.
Upper Peninsula Events, Pumpkin Patches, & Corn Mazes
U.P. Fall Beer Festival
Early to mid-September, the U.P. Fall Beer Festival is one of the most fun fall things to do in the Upper Peninsula. The outdoor event is held in Marquette and features a range of handcrafted beverages, live entertainment, and more.
Oktoberfest is synonymous with autumn. Downtown Iron Mountain’s Oktoberfest and Curtis Oktoberfest are both held in late September or early October. They feature German food and beer, as well as an assortment of entertainment — including singalongs and polka dancing.
Getzloff Corn Maze
If you want to challenge yourself with a corn maze, visit Getzloff’s in Wilson. The farm has been building corn mazes for years and offers fun for the whole family. You can meet farm animals, cuddle with kittens, pick your own pumpkins, and take a hayride.
Hayes Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch
For all-day fun on a farm, go to Hayes Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch in Rock. Aside from a corn maze and U-pick pumpkins, there are a ton of activities here, such as a hayride, rope maze, hay mountain, pumpkin treehouse, hay maze, pumpkin bowling, duck races, and so much more. You can even pick up some fall decorations for home.
Unforgettable Fall Things to Do in the Upper Peninsula
While this list includes great ways to see the fall colors and keep yourself busy during fall in the Upper Peninsula, there are two things that you must do — visit some waterfalls and take a scenic drive. We’ve noted our favorites below.
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is home to so many waterfalls that there’s some dispute over exactly how many there are. About 200 waterfalls are named, but the natural landscape is so vast that there could be more than 300 waterfalls.
You can find many of them in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Hiawatha National Forest, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and Tahquamenon Falls State Park. Others are sprinkled throughout the Keweenaw Peninsula, L’Anse, Marquette, and other towns. We encourage you to find as many as you can!
A surefire way to enjoy the autumn colors and weather is to take a scenic drive. In our opinion, the three best ones are on the Keweenaw Peninsula between Eagle River and Copper Harbor.
M-26 runs along the Lake Superior coastline between the two towns, giving you a chance to stop at beaches, parks, waterfalls, and lighthouses along the way. Also, you can stop at The Jampot in Eagle Harbor, a bakery run by monks of the Catholic Monastery of the Byzantine Rite. The nearby Holy Transfiguration Skete Society of St. John is a beautiful site too.
Further inland and shortly after Eagle Harbor, you could turn off M-26 and onto Brockway Mountain Drive. This 9.5-mile stretch might be one of the most scenic drives in the Midwest, making it one of the best fall things to do in the Upper Peninsula. You can follow the road up the Brockway Mountain ridgeline and then down to Copper Harbor.
A third option is the Tunnel of Trees on US-41, which runs right down the middle of the Keweenaw Peninsula between Houghton and Copper Harbor. This section of road, which starts in Central, was the first to be designated a Scenic Heritage Road in Michigan. It’s about 18 miles and gives you a jaw-dropping view of the landscape.
Frequently Asked Questions About Fall Activities in the Upper Peninsula
Where are the best fall colors in the Upper Peninsula?
There are many great places to enjoy fall colors in the Upper Peninsula. You can find the changing leaves all across the region, especially among the many state and national parks. That’s why there are so many great fall things to do in the Upper Peninsula.
When to visit the Upper Peninsula for Fall Color?
Generally, leaves change color as temperatures start to cool. This means that the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is the first area to experience fall foliage in Michigan. The peak period occurs about the middle to end of September.
Can you see the northern lights in Michigan in fall?
While seeing the northern lights is one of the most beloved fall things to do in the Upper Peninsula, it’s not the only time when you can see them. August through April offers plenty of chances, although October, November, March, and April have the best opportunities.