Must Visit Fall in Michigan Sleeping Bear Dunes 17 Must-Visit Places for Amazing Michigan Fall Colors & Tips to Maximize the Experience
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17 Must-Visit Places for Amazing Michigan Fall Colors & Tips to Maximize the Experience

The first time that you feel a crisp cool in the air, you know that it’s time for the leaves to change in an explosion of orange, red, and yellow. One of the best states in which to experience fall is Michigan.

Bordered by four of the Great Lakes, the Mitten has no shortage of breathtaking views throughout the year. When autumn comes, though, going to see the Michigan fall colors makes for a wonderful relaxing or romantic getaway.

Where are the Best Places to See Fall Colors in Michigan?

We can’t say that we know of any “bad” place to enjoy the fall colors in Michigan, but the Awesome Mitten contributors have been blessed to explore some pretty amazing places during the fall months, and we’re eager to visit many of them ourselves.

From the shores of Lake Superior to the local breweries of Southwest Michigan, our writers will have you dreaming of a fall you’ll never forget… and you might discover a new-to-you town to go visit along the way!

Let’s take a look at where the best places to see fall colors in Michigan are…

P.S. If we miss your favorite fall destination in Michigan, be sure to comment below and let us know where you like to enjoy fall in Michigan!

Best Places to Visit in the Upper Peninsula for Fall Foliage

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in Ontonagon

Covering about 60,000 acres of land, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is one of the few major wilderness areas in the Midwest. It’s home to miles of streams and rivers, several waterfalls, and old hemlock-hardwood forests along Lake Superior, which offer an unrivaled natural beauty in the fall.

There’s a Summit Peak observation tower, an 18-hole disc golf course, more than 90 miles of hiking trails, and several campgrounds to keep you busy.

Michigan Fall Colors in Upper Peninsula - Porcupine Mountains in Fall

Fall at Keweenaw National Historical Park in Calumet

Northeast of the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park and in the center of the Keweenaw Peninsula, Keweenaw National Historical Park in Calumet is a special place that tells the story of copper mining in this part of the Upper Peninsula. Its mission is to preserve the landscapes and other resources, which is why it’s such a beautiful place to visit in the fall.

You can turn the visit into a scenic drive through the Keweenaw hills and charming towns.

Keweenaw Peninsula - Michigan fall colors
photo credit: @kristafog

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Munising

As we consider the best times to catch the changing colors of fall, we continue our Michigan fall color tour in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The town of Munising along Lake Superior is best known for its waterfalls and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. It is also home to the Au Sable Lighthouse.

Breath-taking beauty awaits you at every turn during fall in Munising. Whether you go for a drive through a canopy of color, you brave the chilly water of Lake Superior for a water-view of the golden topped cliffs, or you hike to one of the area’s majestic waterfalls, you will stand in awe of the beauty of fall in this deciduous tree-laden paradise.

Also along Lake Superior, the deep forest of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore offers a picturesque view of Michigan’s fall foliage. The park features dunes, inland lakes, waterfalls, and a wild shoreline with beaches and sandstone cliffs.

There are nearly 100 miles of hiking trails, such as the North Country Trail, and numerous sightseeing opportunities, including lighthouses and other maritime sites.

Michigan Upper Peninsula - Munising - Pictured Rocks - Miners Castle - Fall in Michigan colors beautiful

Fall at Tahquamenon Falls State Park in Paradise

With the Tahquamenon River at its center, Tahquamenon Falls State Park stretches across 50,000 acres. At almost 50 feet, its Upper Falls is one of the biggest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River. In addition, its Lower Falls consists of five smaller waterfalls that cascade around an island.

The River Trail connects the falls, and the mostly undeveloped park makes getting great pictures of the fall colors a breeze.

Michigan Upper Peninsula - Tahquamenon Falls - Michigan fall colors

Visiting Mackinac Island in the Fall

Sitting in Lake Huron between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan, Mackinac Island is a delightful place to visit during the fall. There are fewer tourists compared to the summer, which makes walking around the island more enjoyable while you soak up the hues of amber and crimson in the trees.

You could even take a carriage ride, go horseback riding or savor a picnic downtown at Marquette Park.

Michigan Mackinac Isle - Fall in Michigan
photo credit: @mackinacisle

Where to See Michigan Fall Colors in the Northern Lower Peninsula

Road Trip on the Tunnel of Trees Scenic Heritage Route

One of the most scenic road trips for viewing the fall foliage in Michigan is via the Tunnel of Trees Scenic Heritage Route. Otherwise known as M-119, this historic route runs for about 30 miles along Lake Michigan. It starts at Cross Village, where a bluff with a giant white cross overlooks the lake.

The Tunnel of Trees passes through Good Hart, Middle Village, and Harbor Springs before reaching Petoskey. Along the way, there are plenty of places to stop for hiking, taking pictures, and shopping.

Fall in Michigan - Tunnel of Trees on M-119 - Michigan fall colors
photo credit: @thepuremichigander

Ocqueoc Falls Bicentennial Pathway in Ocqueoc Township

Passing through Ocqueoc Township, the Ocqueoc Falls Bicentennial Pathway is the best way to see Ocqueoc Falls, the biggest waterfall in the state’s Lower Peninsula. The pathway has four loops, which range from 3 miles to 6 miles long and are suitable for biking and hiking.

The towering hardwoods and pines provide an awesome backdrop of fall colors for pictures.

Fall in Michigan - Ocqueoc Falls Bi-Centennial Pathway
photo credit: @megan_peltz

Leelanau State Park in Northport

Located at the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula in Lake Michigan, Leelanau State Park has 8.5 miles of foot trails that encompass you in the fall foliage of Leelanau County.

With more than 1,500 acres, the park features a picnic area, rustic campground, and Grand Traverse Lighthouse, which is a historic monument. You can tour the lighthouse and museum, which offers treasure hunts and has a gift shop.

Leelanau Peninsula - Leelanau State Park - Fall in Michigan

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Maple City

While Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is known for its bluffs and sandy beaches along Lake Michigan, it features inland lakes and lush forests that satisfy your craving for those Michigan fall colors.

If you’re just passing through, take a detour on Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive in Empire for a dazzle of color. You can stop at the Dunes Scenic Overlook too.

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park - Fall in Michigan
photo credit: @belovedwanderlust

Fall Things to Do in Alpena

As the Sanctuary of the Great Lakes, Alpena is the place where history and heritage collide with relaxed outdoor adventure. With its claim to fame being its position on the 45th Parallel (halfway between the North Pole and the Equator), Alpena is situated on the shores of Lake Huron in northern Michigan and is home to the nation’s only freshwater marine sanctuary.

Centrally located to 7 lighthouses, and boasting 1000+ miles of shoreline, 43K+ acres of state forest land, 300K+ acres of open water, and more than 2 dozen parks, Alpena is a must-explore fall destination in northern Michigan.

Aside from exploring four hiking trails, you can tour the 80-foot-tall Alpena Light on Thunder Bay River. Also called Little Red, the lighthouse is believed to be the only one of its kind in the country.

Additionally, you can get tickets for Alpena Shipwreck Tours on the Lady Michigan, which has glass-bottom viewing wells.

Alpena Michigan Lighthouse House - Michigan fall colors
photo credit: @lucky_overlord

Destinations for Viewing Fall Foliage in the Southern Lower Peninsula

Coopersville & Marne Railway Train Rides

A fun way to see Michigan fall colors is to hop on a Coopersville & Marne Railway train. The railway operates vintage passenger trains with cars from the 1920s. From Coopersville, the train rides take you about 7 miles to Marne. The track travels through fields and farms, and it crosses over four creeks and two bridges. The Famous Pumpkin Train is popular for its fall-themed entertainment.

This is just one of Michigan’s fall train rides available!

Coopersville Train - Fall in Michigan
photo credit: @mrxeman

Holland State Park in Holland

Known for its beaches on Lake Macatawa and Lake Michigan, Holland State Park has many fall activities to offer. There are campgrounds, paddle rentals, fishing, and a playground.

The iconic Holland Harbor Lighthouse, also called Big Red, is a beautiful setting for sunsets. However, you get the best look at the fall foliage while walking the nearby Mt. Pisgah Dune Boardwalk.

Holland Michigan lighthouse - Fall in Michigan
photo credit: @tbonnette007

Fall Things to Do in Saugatuck

Saugatuck is a unique place to visit if you want to see fall colors in Michigan. With miles of Lake Michigan beaches and shorelines, this city is full of character and culture, and it has some of the best beaches in the world.

An excellent thing to do here in the fall is to explore Saugatuck Dunes State Park, which has more than 12 miles of trails through rolling hills and steep slopes.

You can also take a colorful hike up the Mount Baldhead Park trail to Mount Baldhead, which offers a panoramic view of the lake.

Saugatuck Dunes State Park - Fall in Michigan
photo credit: @hiddengardencottages

Fall in Kalamazoo

Named one of the top 10 affordable outdoorsy cities in the country, Kalamazoo is a perfect fall destination for Michiganders. Just 45 minutes from Lake Michigan in the southwest corner of the Lower Peninsula, this vibrant city has something for everyone to enjoy this fall.

Whether you take a hike through one of the many nature centers, visit a local pumpkin patch or apple orchard, or meander through the streets of downtown Kalamazoo, you’ll be invigorated by the fresh air of fall in this beautiful city.

Don’t miss the best fall color drives in Kalamazoo!

fall in kalamazoo michigan
photos of Fall in Kalamazoo found on the #discoverkzoo hashtag on Instagram

Whitehouse Nature Center at Albion College

Whitehouse Nature Center is a special place for seeing the changing leaves because it’s located on a college campus. It’s the only classroom that stretches across 140 acres, and it has a river, more than 400 plant species, and 5 miles of trails.

The River’s Edge Trail follows the Kalamazoo River. You can visit live exhibits of amphibians and reptiles in the center as well.

White Nature Center at Albion College - Fall in Michigan
photo credit: @drjprez

Road Trip on Huron River Drive Between Dexter and Ann Arbor

Leading you through the trees and across the Huron River, Huron River Drive gives you an excellent glimpse of the fall colors. It runs alongside the river, and the stretch between Dexter and Ann Arbor is ideal for cycling.

Along the way, you can stop at the Dexter Cider Mill for hand-picked apples, apple cider, doughnuts, pastries, and hard cider. Further down is the Delhi Metropark in Ann Arbor, which has 52 acres of oak trees.

Dexter River Walk - Dexter Michigan - Michigan fall colors
photo credit: ahomolek

Fall in Ypsilanti

Just east of Ann Arbor along the I-94 corridor, the Huron River runs through the town of Ypsilanti. Riverside Park, a nearly 14-acre park along the Huron River connects downtown Ypsilanti with Depot Town and is full of fall color during the months of October and November.

“Ypsi”, as it’s affectionately known, has a rich history, which shines through in its vibrant shopping, dining, and entertainment scenes – and is inspiring a resurgence of visitors from near and far. Two main districts, Downtown and Depot Town, are historic areas infused with innovative, bohemian, locally-driven businesses.

Sometimes overlooked because of its more famous neighbor (Ann Arbor, Michigan), Ypsilanti has its own inimitable, groovy, authentic ambiance worthy of a weekend fall getaway.

fall in ypsilanti michigan
photos of Fall in Ypsilanti found on the #ypsireal hashtag on Instagram

Tips to Maximize Your Michigan Fall Colors Experience

fall color tracker map 17 Must-Visit Places for Amazing Michigan Fall Colors & Tips to Maximize the Experience
screenshot from SmokyMountains.com

Is there a map so that I can track fall foliage in Michigan for 2021?

If you want to track Michigan peak colors in fall, this fall foliage tracking map can be of assistance. It shows peak fall colors Michigan 2021 predictions as well as the other 47 contiguous US states. You can also use #mittenlovesfall2021 to find our real-time fall foliage tracker.

When is peak fall foliage in Michigan?

Since the changing of the leaves depends on the weather, there’s no set time when the colors begin to pop. In general, the fall colors peak in the Upper Peninsula and northern half of the Lower Peninsula around late September to early October. Then, the peak period for the southern part of the Lower Peninsula is between early and mid-October.

Sometimes, the colors last into early November. The coastal peak season will vary from the inland peak season, as well.

What’s the weather like in Michigan in the fall?

In September, Michigan weather is slightly warm with frequent rain. The temperatures become cooler in October, and some nights get as cold as 32 degrees Fahrenheit. When you’re observing the fall foliage, always take a jacket and umbrella just in case.

What are the best things to do in Michigan in the fall?

There are tons of things to do in Michigan during the fall. Hiking, camping, and taking scenic road trips are very popular. You can plan day trips that include experiences at apple orchards and pumpkin patches too. If you’re into sports, football season is in full swing during the fall.

Where do people typically vacation in Michigan in the fall?

Locals and visitors alike typically take vacations in Michigan’s popular destinations, which include Mackinac Island, Ann Arbor, Holland, Traverse City, and Lansing. On top of that, there are many fall festivals and events to experience in Tecumseh, Frankenmuth, and Kalamazoo.

With so many national and state parks, though, nearly everywhere in Michigan is an ideal autumn vacation spot.

Where can I find great pictures of fall in Michigan?

There are a plethora of great pictures of Michigan fall colors online. We’ve compiled some of our favorite photos of fall in Michigan here.

What are some Michigan fall colors driving tours?

While the Tunnel of Trees and Huron River Drive are great fall driving tours, there are several other scenic routes in Michigan.

In the Upper Peninsula, there’s US-41 from Houghton to Eagle River to Copper Harbor.

In the Northern Lower Peninsula, you could take US-31 from Mackinaw City to Petoskey to Charlevoix, or plan a day trip from Gaylord to Mio to Alpena.

Further south, consider driving from Grand Rapids through Grand Haven and South Haven to Kalamazoo.

On the east side, you could travel from Detroit through Algonac and Lake Orion to Port Huron.

More Fall in Michigan

We LOVE fall in Michigan and are excited for you to explore this amazing time of year with us. Tell us – where is your favorite place for fall colors in Michigan?

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