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.
So if you’re wondering when to go to Michigan for fall foliage, here’s everything you need to know! Read on for tips on seeing autumn leaves, planning a trip to view the beautiful colors, and the best places to see them.
How Michigan Fall Foliage Works
Autumn marks the glorious return of trees full of vibrant color and the beginning of their long sleep during the winter months.
This process begins when plants slow down their production of chlorophyll. As the chlorophyll fades, other components that give plants their color become more prominent — beta carotene gives leaves an orange hue, anthocyanin gives them a reddish tint, and flavonols give them a yellow hue.
Different types of plants vary in their leaf color according to which compounds they contain or produce. That’s one reason why Michigan fall colors are so beautiful. There are more than 75 different native tree species growing in Michigan, with many others that were imported from elsewhere in the United States and even the rest of the world.
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 in Michigan
Explore the US-41 Tree Tunnel into Copper Harbor
The fall colors in the Copper Harbor area are some of the most colorful in the state. There’s no better way to experience the sheer beauty of those colors than by taking a drive through the “tunnel,” US-41 into Copper Harbor. This canopy of color is breathtaking and makes for a great drive on a perfect fall day.
See Vibrant Fall Colors Around Marquette
Nestled right on the shore of Lake Superior, there are lots of great places to see fall colors in and around Marquette.
You can stroll along the Lake Superior shoreline or go chase some waterfalls. Morgan Falls is just outside Marquette, it’s pet friendly and the decline to the falls is only a short distance.
You can also go for a scenic drive. If you’re up for a little adventure, drive down County Road 510. It’s unpaved and well-traveled during the fall, but the colors are brilliant and you can get a great view from the CR 510 Bridge.
Trek to Top of Copper Peak
Located in Ironwood, one of the most adventurous ways to see fall colors in Michigan is to go to the top of Copper Peak, which is the site of a former ski jump.
After taking an 800-foot chairlift ride to the crest of a hill, you’ll take an elevator ride to an observation deck. If you’re truly daring, you can walk an additional eight stories to the starting gate.
From the top, you can see more than 2,500 square miles, three states, and even some of Canada.
Explore the Ghost Town of Fayette
Fall can be experienced in all kinds of ways in Michigan. One of the most interesting ways is to stop in the ghost town of Fayette. It’s about an hour from Escanaba and a ghost town surrounded by fall color makes for a striking contrast.
While you’re there, be sure to stop at the overlook at Snailshell Harbor. You’ll get an awesome view of the fall colors, a great look at the town itself, and you’ll see the limestone bluffs that surround it.
Experience the Majesty of Kitch-iti-kipi
Known as the Big Spring, travel to Palms Brook State Park in Manistique to see one of the most beautiful natural wonders in the state.
This 40-foot natural spring is beautiful to see at any time of the year, but it’s even more beautiful in the fall when it’s surrounded by majestic fall colors. Savor the drive to the spring and make sure to take lots of pictures.
See Fall Colors at the Soo Locks
There are a lot of great places around Sault Ste. Marie to see fall colors, including at Tahquamenon Falls. But you don’t have to travel outside the city to enjoy the colors.
In downtown Sault, you can visit Soo Locks State Park. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a twofer: you can see the fall colors and see a freighter going through the Soo Locks. If you walk along the shore, you may just find a few more spots to enjoy the colors.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Leelanau State Park in Northport
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.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Maple City
While Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is known for its bluffs, sand dunes, 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 and enjoy the stunning views at the Dunes Scenic Overlook, too.
Trek the Corsair Trails near Tawas
The Corsair Trails are renowned for being one of the best cross-country ski networks anywhere. But in the fall, it provides a fun and adventurous way to see the beauty of a Michigan fall.
The trail network has three trailheads, each of which is just a few miles northwest of East Tawas. There are over 26 miles of trails and loops to explore, so it’s perfect whether you want to spend a day or a whole weekend.
See the Best of Lake Michigan Fall Color in Ludington
One of the best Lake Michigan towns to experience fall is Ludington and there are lots of spots to check out.
The Ludington School Forest offers more than five miles of trails where you can bike and hike to take in all autumn has to offer. Ludington State Park is also great for recreation and has more than 18 miles of trails, more than 5,300 acres of forest, and much more.
You can also go for a stroll or a bike ride downtown along the beautiful Lake Michigan lakeshore.
Take a Fall Ride on the Silver Lake Sand Dunes
West Michigan is blessed every year with amazing fall colors and places like Silver Lake are the best spots to see the fantastic yellow, green, and red colors.
The Silver Lake Sand Dunes are a fun and scenic place to see the fall colors. You can take an off-road vehicle for a spin on the dunes or take a guided tour. You”ll be able to see Silver Lake and Lake Michigan and the majestic fall colors surrounding them.
See Breathtaking Views in Gaylord
Gaylord is, in a word, exquisite in fall and there are several places where you can bike, hike, or paddle to see the best of the season.
But for truly breathtaking fall vistas, there are two locations to go. Treetrops Resort in Gaylord is well-known for its golf courses, but it also provides one of the best fall views in all of Otsego County. The Sturgeon River also offers awe-inspiring views and is a great way to experience fall from a different point of view.
Travel the In-Town Cadillac Fall Color Route
Cadillac’s in-town Cadillac Route is a great way to enjoy fall in downtown Cadillac. The 7-mile Cadillac Foot and Bike Path offers a chance to explore downtown and continue on to Lake Mitchell at the edge of the Manistee National Forest.
The Around Cadillac loops allow visitors to visit numerous scenic overlooks, farm markets, and hiking experiences. These routes offer the best of everything as you cross the Pine and Big Manistee rivers.
Visit Hartwick Pines State Park in Grayling
The contrasting hardwood and evergreen forests of Northern Michigan are something spectacular to behold in the fall and Grayling is the perfect place to see it all.
Head down M-93 or I-75 to Hartwick Pines State Park. Here you can bask in the colors of fall while enjoying a leisurely bike ride or hike on a crisp fall day. Hartwick Pines is one of the biggest state parks in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and it’s hard to match its beauty.
There are 21 miles of trails, 49 acres of old-growth pine forest, a visitor center, a campground, and more. It’s got all the ingredients you need for a day trip or a fun camping weekend in the fall.
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.
Destinations for Viewing Fall Foliage in the Southern Lower Peninsula
Visit Mt Pleasant’s Exciting Park System
Great fall colors can be found anywhere in Michigan, even in Mount Pleasant in central Michigan. One of the best spots in the Mount Pleasant area is the Bundy Hill Preserve in Remus. There are two miles of trails to explore and you can scale the highest point in Isabella County at 1,270 feet.
You can also see fall beauty at Deerfield Nature Park in Remus, where you’ll find a covered bridge, disc golf courses, and more.
Mount Pleasant’s park system is also a great way to explore the city and see fall colors. There’s space for skateboarding, picnicking, playgrounds, horseshoe pits and so much more. They’re the perfect spots for fall family outings.
Explore the Thumb Coast in Port Huron
The gateway to Michigan’s thumb coast is a great place to visit for fall color. In fact, it may be one of the state’s best-kept secrets.
Fall is the prime time to see gorgeous autumn hues and you can’t go wrong with driving along M-25. The roadway actually ends in Port Huron, but while you’re in town you can take a gander at Fort Gratiot.
See the Best of Nature in Port Austin
If Michigan’s fall colors are your thing, hop on M-25 in Port Huron or head north on M-53 and head to Port Austin. The drives are picturesque and the colors stretch for miles as you drive along the Lake Huron coastline.
Stop into town to visit the seasonal farmer’s market or visit for one of Port Austin’s fun events.
If you want to get back to nature, check out the hiking trails at Huron County Nature Center and Wilderness Arboretum or Port Crescent State Day Use Park. When it comes to nature, you can’t be the views the Nature Center offers, especially in the fall.
Take a Ride With BaySail in Bay City
One of the best ways to experience fall in Bay City is on the water with BaySail. This allows visitors to take a sailing trip on the Saginaw River and Saginaw Bay.
The boats typically depart from downtown Bay City, and you’ll be able to see fall colors in a completely different way. You can bring the whole family or charter an entire ship for a private cruise or private dinner.
The Bay City Recreation Area is also a great place to see a decent amount of fall colors when conditions are right.
Leaf Peep at For-Mar Near Flint
If your idea of a fun day is hitting the trails and going on a fall hike, For-Mar Nature Preserve near Flint has you covered. The preserve and arboretum, which opened as a county park in 1970, has seven miles of trails to explore.
The arboretum stretches over 116 acres and features more than 1,800 different specimens of more than 150 species. If you love plants, trees, shrubs, and other flora and fauna, you’ll be amazed at all that you see here during the fall months. You’ll want to take your time to make sure that you see it all.
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!
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.
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 in southwest Michigan, 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Tips to Maximize Your Michigan Fall Colors Experience
Is there a map so that I can track fall foliage in Michigan for 2022?
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?
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?
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.
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?