Best Place To See Fall Colors In Michigan – Perhaps what makes fall in Michigan so special is how short the season is. The leaves change color from green to bright yellow and red, lasting no more than a few weeks before slowly falling to the ground. That little window before the official start of winter is one of the best times to see fall weather in Michigan instead of hiking, exploring scenic spots, or heading to an apple orchard for fresh cider .
If you have a DSLR or non-mobile phone camera, you’ll want to take it with you when you explore these places to see Michigan’s fall foliage. Before you head out, use the Michigan Fall Color Map to learn when each region is best for fall foliage.
Best Place To See Fall Colors In Michigan
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a protected shoreline area along Lake Superior. It is known for its unique sandstone rock formations, cascading waterfalls and stunning forested mountains. But autumn is perhaps the best time to visit, when the vibrant foliage enhances the red of the coastal sandstone cliffs. The colors really stand out against the bright blue waters of the Great Lakes.
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The best way to experience the fall colors by the lakes is by taking a scenic drive, going on an organized boat tour, or taking your kayaking trip. From the water, you can see iconic landmarks like Rock Chapel, Lover’s Jump, and Grand Island Lighthouse. The best hiking trails for fall colors are the Miner’s Castle Trail and the Chapel Falls Loop, both of which lead to famous lake views.
Located far north in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Tahcumenon Falls State Park contains 50,000 acres of pristine forest and one of the tallest waterfalls in the Midwest. The park comes alive in autumn when the surrounding trees take on warm hues, creating a colorful backdrop for the park’s upper and lower waterfalls.
Hiking is by far the best way to enjoy the fall colors at Taquamenon Falls State Park, which are usually a week or two late. Some of the best hiking trails include the Lake Clark Loop, the River Boardwalk Trail, and the Waterfall Loop.
You’ll have to take a ferry to get to Mackinac Island, but it’s worth the effort in the fall. This Lake Huron vacation island is located between Upper and Lower Michigan. It’s a historic site with cobbled streets and stunning architecture, and it’s not uncommon to see horse-drawn carriages through town.
Michigan Fall Color: See Where Leaves Are Bright, Where They Are Gone
Stretch your legs on a hike along the Bear Bluff Trail. It is one of the steepest trails on the island, but offers spectacular views of the surrounding fall colors. Renting a bike and cruising the Mackinac Island Inner Loop is another great way to explore the island. You’ll pass colorful forests, sandy beaches and idyllic meadows on an eight-mile route. For the intrepid, Great Lakes Air offers Michigan Fall Foliage Watch flights that last about 20 minutes.
Along the north shore of Lake Michigan is Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, a beautiful park of sand dunes, beaches and scenic hiking trails that come alive in the fall. The Empire Bluff Trail is one of the best places to see the colors as it leads to a spectacular lookout overlooking the lake.
In the park, you can take the scenic Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive to spend a few hours. Be sure to stop at Lookouts 9 and 10 for the best views of the lake and falls. By the way, the observation decks are especially beautiful at sunset.
Nearby you will find Traverse City with many additional fall activities. Be sure to take time to drink locally produced apple cider, visit a pumpkin farm and eat spiced donuts (yum!). Also nearby is the small harbor town of Glen Arbor, which is home to the popular Cherry Republic gift shop that sells Michigan beer, wine and candy.
Best Places To Experience Fall In Michigan
The old pines and hardwoods of Hartwick Pines State Park create a delightful contrast in the fall. The 9,700-acre preserve has miles of biking and hiking trails, offering plenty of ways to be active and enjoy a stunning burst of color. The Mertz Grade Trail is considered easy and perfect for a family walk through the fall foliage. Other popular hiking trails that offer great fall color viewing opportunities include the Old Forest Walking Trail and the Ausable River Trail.
If you’re into water sports, take a canoe tour or rent a kayak on the Ausable and Manistee Rivers. You can also see the old log cabin at the Hartwick Pines Logging Museum, which tells the state’s logging history.
Why You Should Go: Take a scenic chairlift to take in some of the best fall foliage in Michigan.
The Porcupine Mountains are a small range on the Upper Peninsula on the north shore of Lake Superior. The locals affectionately call the mountain “the Pig” and usually come here for wonderful walks in the park, fishing, bird watching and, of course, admiring the autumn leaves. One of the best falls is the Presque Isle River Falls Loop, which passes several waterfalls that beautifully reflect the colorful leaves.
Showcasing The Dnr: Michigan Has Great Places To Tour Fall Colors
There are some spectacular views in this area that you don’t want to miss, such as Cloud Lake in the ancient forest. Climb to the top of Summit Peak, the highest point in the park, for a more panoramic view of Michigan’s fall foliage from a 40-foot tall observation tower. If you’re not into hiking, you can ride the chairlift on weekends in September and early October.
The Deadman Hill Overlook is a hidden gem in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula that overlooks part of the Jordan Valley in the Mackinac State Forest. The trail is three miles long and is ideal for day hikes. It also connects to the 18-mile Jordan River Trail for those willing to hike or stay overnight at the Pinney Bridge Campground.
While the observation deck has a sad back story, the monument transforms into a beautiful display of oranges, reds and yellows every summer. In this part of the state, the colorful deciduous forests of Michigan contrast well with the scattered pines nearby.
With a nickname like Tree Town, you can be sure that Ann Arbor offers some of the most beautiful fall foliage viewing spots in Michigan. Just east of the city is Gallup Park, a 70-acre preserve that is considered one of the city’s most beautiful fall foliage spots. The park features colorful hardwoods and hiking trails along the banks of the idyllic Huron River. It’s a great place for a family picnic or barbecue under a breezy canopy of leaves.
Best Scenic Fall Drives In Michigan For Stunning Color And Views
The scenic Huron River Drive between Ann Arbor and Dexter is another great place to catch some fall colors. It is a 10 mile stretch along the banks of the Huron River surrounded by trees. Other fall sites in Ann Arbor include the Mitch Nichols Arboretum’s Yew, Furstenberg Nature Area, and Riverside Park in nearby Ypsilanti.
The Tunnel of Trees Scenic Heritage Trail, also known as State Road M-119, is a 20-mile scenic byway that begins near the village of Cross and ends in Harbor Springs in northern Michigan. The ride takes about 50 minutes and is a narrow and winding road lined with colorful trees. The route eventually opens up to the bluff high above Lake Michigan.
Once you’re done with your visit, take some time to see the nearby sights. Lake Michigan in Petoskey State Park has a great beach, and Pond Hill Farms (in Harbor Springs) hosts pumpkins, apples, and more (including pizza!).
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Must Visit Places For Michigan Fall Colors W/ Map
Brittany is a freelance travel writer and avid photographer with a passion for hiking and nature. Originally from Wisconsin, she loves travel blogging after living and teaching English in South Korea. She is now space independent and loves to travel to new and exciting places comfortably.
You can follow her adventures on Instagram or her travel blog Lifeofbrit.com, where she shares helpful travel guides and budget tips for single women traveling in Asia and beyond.
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