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. Let’s take a look at where to go to see fall colors 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.
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
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.
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 for the Changing Leaves
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
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. 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 and sandy beaches along Lake Michigan, it features inland lakes and lush forests that satisfy your craving for 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.
Things to Do in Alpena
Sitting on the Lake Huron shoreline, Alpena is a charming city with unique things to do during the fall. 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
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.
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.
Things to Do in Saugatuck
Saugatuck is a unique place to visit if you want to see fall colors in Michigan. Nestled on miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, 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.
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.
Tips to Maximize Your Michigan Fall Colors Experience
Is there a map so that I can track fall foliage in Michigan for 2020?
If you want to track Michigan peak colors in fall, this fall foliage tracking map can be of assistance. It shows peak fall color predictions for Michigan as well as the other 47 contiguous US states.
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 activities in the fall?
There are tons of activities 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 driving tours to do in Michigan?
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.