Fall colors seem to be coming early this year and if we can’t stop the coming of fall, we might as well enjoy it! You can experience Jackson’s fall colors from the comfort of your car, with your own two feet, on a bike or by kayak. There are many opportunities to enjoy nature in Jackson that include not only the fall colors but also the migrating birds that seem to flock to our parks and sanctuaries. Throw in the harvesting of a few grapes for some of that delicious Michigan Wine, and you get a delicious and relaxing fall colors destination.
- By Car
Experience Jackson promotes three different self-driven tours that will help you experience the fall colors from all over the county.
The Fall Foliage Tour – West starts you at one of the hotels along the I-94 corridor and continues throughout the west side of the county, stopping at Minard Mills County Park, Parma Café for the famous “Parma Scrambler,” and Indian Brook Trout Farm where you can take a hay ride, pick out your pumpkin, eat a donut, and fish in the trout pond.
Fall Color Driving Tour – Brooklyn Irish Hills starts you at the beautiful Hidden Lake Gardens. The garden shows off its vistas cloaked in all the colors of the rainbow in the fall. You may explore from the comfort of your car or on foot along the meandering footpaths. Continuing north, you can make a stop at Wampler’s Lake either by stopping for lunch at Jerry’s Pub or from Hayes State Park. Then continue on through Brooklyn until reaching your final destination, the Super 8 Brooklyn.
Fall Foliage Tour – Northeast starts you with a full breakfast at the Hankerd Inn Resort, continues on to Waterloo Farm Museum, then the Waterloo Recreation Area, Sandhill Crane Vineyards and Café for lunch, and finally ends at Haehnle Sanctuary to watch the Sandhill Cranes come in to roost.
- By Foot or Bike
Sparks Park & The Cascades
Although the famous waterfall is not running in the fall, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy fall at this park including the urban fishery pond stocked with blue gill and largemouth bass, a popular walking path, baseball fields, and a championship golf course.
Ella Sharp Park
This park is the largest city park in Jackson featuring softball diamonds, soccer fields and a public golf course. There are also nine separate trails making about 11.5 miles of single track cut into the woods for mountain biking, running, or hiking.
This 10.5 mile rail trail connects the Village of Concord with Jackson at Weatherwax Road. The trail is mostly rural and takes cyclists and hikers through many scenic vistas including a section along picturesque Lime Lake. Don’t miss the Wild Life Marathon along this trail on October 12!
- Bird Watching
With bird watching quickly becoming one of the fastest growing hobbies in America, Jackson is the perfect destination to pick up the new hobby. Birds flock to Jackson especially the Sandhill Cranes who roost in Jackson in the thousands, not only at the sanctuaries but practically everywhere you look. Experience Jackson has also created a Jackson County Bird Sighting Checklist to get you started.
Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Sanctuary
This 963-acre Michigan Audubon Society Sanctuary is known throughout the state as THE staging area for Sandhill Cranes. The sanctuary is always open and on fall weekends sanctuary greeters will be available to answer questions. Each fall, thousands of Cranes come to roost each night at this sanctuary.
Don’t miss the annual Cranes, Colors and Cabernet Festival on October 18 at the sanctuary and at Sandhill Crane Vineyards, combining the beauty of nature with the fruits of the fall harvest. The event starts with naturalists sharing their crane knowledge with the group as they lead a caravan of cars through the sanctuary and area fields to see cranes up close. The caravan returns to watch hundreds, sometimes thousands, of cranes fly in for the night. Sandhill Crane Vineyards will be open all day for wine tasting and will stay open late for crane watchers, with a special preview release of their Cabernet Sauvignon along with mulled wine to warm crane watchers up from their journey.
Birding enthusiasts will enjoy many bird watching opportunities at Dahlem, because the nature center is well known throughout the state as having one of the largest Eastern Bluebird trails. With five miles of hiking trails containing forests, fields, marshes, and ponds, you can enjoy a guided hike every Tuesday at 9 a.m. or experience the natural fall wonders on your own. A resurfaced 3/8 mile trail has been specially designed for those with limited mobility so everyone may enjoy nature this fall.
Waterloo State Recreation Area
As the largest state park in the lower peninsula, there are many opportunities to explore the fall colors at the Waterloo State Recreation Area, which is also a global Important Bird Area (IBA). An IBA provides essential habitat for a species of bird, in this case it’s the Cerulean Warbler. Despite a decline in its population in the US, dozens of pairs of Cerulean Warblers flock to the area each year. This designation makes bird watching a popular activity at this park throughout the year, but is especially interesting in the fall.
- By Canoe or Kayak
Paddling along the Grand River, the longest river in Michigan, is a great way to enjoy the fall colors. The Grand River actually gets its start right in Jackson County before making its way north and ultimately emptying itself into Lake Michigan. The Grand River Environmental Action Team (GREAT) organizes monthly public canoe outings. Don’t miss the GREAT Paddle Events on September 13 & October 12. There are also many lakes available for paddling and Quiet World Sports offers public kayak rental at Vandercook Lake County Park.
- By The Glass
The wineries that surround Jackson form the heart of the Southeast Michigan Pioneer Wine Trail which stretches from Adrian in the south to Haslett in the north. Fall means harvest season for the grapes of Michigan. What better way to celebrate the harvest than with a grape stomping party like the Harvest Party and Grape Stomp at Cherry Creek Old Schoolhouse Winery on September 13 or celebrate the release of a favorite vintage with the popular Raspberry Festival at Sandhill Crane Vineyards also on September 13. Being out in the country among the vines lends itself to some pretty great fall vistas too.