20 Best Places to See Michigan Fall Colors

Published:

Modified: September 21, 2021

by Rina Bernardo

East Channel Lighthouse on Grand Island at Munising, Michigan

As summer fades and the temperature drops, the trees in Michigan start to change colors, signifying the change of season. From deep shades of green, they turn into jaw-dropping shades of red, yellow, and gold. These Michigan fall colors create a picture-perfect scenery that complements its natural wonders. Along with the mystical Northern Lights in Michigan, its fall foliage are one of the must-see sights in the state.

 

But where exactly are the best fall foliage spots in Michigan? When is the best time to visit Michigan in the fall? Here’s the lowdown on the best places to see the fall colors in Michigan.

Upper Peninsula

1. Porcupine Mountains

Panoramic view of Lake of the Clouds at Porcupine Mountains during a fall dusk

Photo by Jim Sorbie on Flickr

The Porcupine Mountains is one of the best places to view the Michigan fall colors. Located near the shores of Lake Superior, it boasts an extensive stand of old-growth hardwood forests. During the fall season, these trees turn into fiery shades of red and gold.

 

Fall in love with the fall scenery as you explore the Porcupine Mountains, also known as the Porkies. Visit the Lake of the Clouds Overlook, a vantage point where you can see the lake surrounded by towering trees in various shades. Chase waterfalls and follow different trails that lead you to the Manido, Manabezho, and Nawadaha falls. You can also ride the chair lift (subject to availability depending on the season) and view the lovely foliage from a different perspective.

2. Tahquamenon Falls State Park

Upper Tahquamenon Falls in Michigan

Photo by George Thomas on Flickr

Tahquamenon Falls State Park is one of the best places for spotting Michigan fall colors. With over 50,000 acres of unspoiled natural wonders, there’s plenty of sights to see and things to do. Its proximity to neighboring Canada also makes it a great day trip from The River Trail is one of the highlights of the park, a five-mile hiking trail that takes you through colorful hardwoods and pine trees.

 

If you love chasing waterfalls, this is the best park to visit as it boasts the majestic Tahquamenon Falls. Hailed as one of the best waterfalls in the US, the falls feature a fascinating root beer-like water leached from the cedar swamps nearby. It also flows all-year-round so the falls, along with views of the fall foliage, make a perfect backdrop for pictures.

3. Keweenaw Peninsula

Bird's eye view of From Brockway Mountain Drive on the Keweenaw Peninsula during fall

Photo by Julie Falk on Flickr

Near Copper Harbor is Keweenaw Peninsula, another must-visit place during the fall months. Its northern location along with the cool waters of Lake Superior makes it the perfect place for scenic walks in late September. It also offers several outdoor activities and opportunities to admire the fall colors.

 

Start your exploration of Keweenaw Peninsula at Houghton, a small town with vibrant trees scattered around downtown. Take a scenic drive and be in awe of the fall colors along with views of Lake Superior. The area also offers different hiking, biking, and ATV trails to get a better view of the foliage. In some trails, you may even be rewarded with the sight of rushing waterfalls framed by the colorful trees.

4. Pictured Rocks

View of Miners Castle at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, stunning Michigan fall colors

Photo by Kiyo on Flickr

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is one of the areas in Michigan that first welcomes the autumn leaves. Located in the Upper Peninsula, tourists can catch the vivid foliage as early as mid-September. If you’re up for scenic drives, Pictured Rocks also has several multi-city routes that showcase gorgeous cliffside sceneries.

 

The dramatic multicolored sea cliffs and waterfalls surrounded by colorful trees at Pictured Rocks present a raw wild beauty unlike anywhere else. Bask in the warm hues of the foliage as you navigate through the trail. There are over a hundred hiking trails with various levels of difficulty for every traveler. If you can brave the cold waters of Lake Superior, take a kayak and view the autumn trees from a different perspective.

5. Kitch-iti-kipi

Aerial view of Kitch-iti-kipi spring in Michigan

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

With its turquoise waters and surrounding pine trees, Kitch-iti-kipi is one of the best places to see Michigan fall colors. It is also Michigan’s largest freshwater spring and is a major tourist destination in the Upper Peninsula. As such, expect gorgeous landscapes and picture-perfect scenery from every corner.

 

The viewing platform at Kitch-iti-kipi overlooks crystal-clear waters mirroring the warm hues of the trees. At the surrounding park area, enjoy a relaxing picnic as you soak up the tranquil atmosphere. Aside from admiring the picturesque surroundings, anglers can also fish for trout, brown trout, and brook trout.

6. Marquette

Uphill road in Marquette, MI, during autumn

Photo by Gary Meulemans on Unsplash

Whether you’re looking for scenic drives, hiking and biking trails, or family-friendly landscapes, Marquette is the perfect destination. It is the perfect getaway for outdoor enthusiasts and those looking for the next swoon-worthy autumn scenery. Furthermore, its location near Lake Superior also makes it a popular autumn destination.

 

On your fall trip to Marquette, check out the views from Sugarloaf Mountain. Take the easier route if you’re traveling with family so you can spend more time strolling through the trails. However, if you’re up for a challenge, take the faster yet steeper trail to get to the viewpoint. Another famous foliage-viewing spot is from the dog-friendly Thomas Rock Scenic Overlook which has wheelchair-accessible trails.

Northern Lower Peninsula

7. Tunnel of Trees Scenic Heritage Route

Aerial view of Tunnel of Trees, mesmerizing Michigan fall colors surrounding a long road

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Along with California’s iconic Big Sur, Michigan’s Tunnel of Trees are some of America’s best drives. Also known as M-119, the 28-mile highway starts at Harbor Springs and ends at Cross Village. Throughout the journey, there are plenty of stops and photo stops where you can snap the perfect shot.

 

Start your road trip through the Tunnel of Trees Scenic Heritage Route at Petosky going to Harbor Springs then head north. Be in awe of the canopy of brightly-colored hardwood trees along the way, stopping for photos now and then. If you plan on taking this picturesque route, it’s better to hire a driver as you wouldn’t want to miss any of the breathtaking views!

8. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

A house on the tip of the North Bar Point on North Bar Peninsula of Sleeping Bear Dunes

Photo by jimflix! on Flickr

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore combines Michigan’s fall foliage with views of the lake and dunes. It offers various ways for tourists to enjoy the autumn foliage: from charming lakeshores, winding roads, and hiking trails. If you have a National Park Pass or a National Parks Senior Pass, you can enjoy free admission to the area.

 

At the North Bar, the emerald waters perfectly mirror the red and gold-hued forests, creating a scenery straight out of a painting. For the best views of both the foliage and the lake, follow the Empire Bluff Trail. The 1.5-mile nature hike passes through a hilly terrain dotted with beech trees and maple trees. You can also bring your pets and service dogs on the trail as long as they are on a leash.

9. Leelanau State Park

Autumn landscape in Leelanau County at Leelanau Peninsula, Mi

Photo by Richard Hurd on Flickr

Located at the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula, Leelanau State Park offers 1,350 acres of gorgeous Michigan fall colors. The park also boasts incredible views of Lake Michigan and the rustic Grand Traverse Lighthouse. Like many state parks, Leelanau State Park has campgrounds, picnic sites, and hiking trails for you to enjoy the foliage.

 

Go on a drive under the blaze of the autumn leaves and catch lakeside views at Leelanau State Park. Then, visit the Grand Traverse Lighthouse, whose white walls stand out in the middle of the autumn colors. Several hiking trails also provide a way for tourists to stretch their legs and enjoy the view of the colorful trees.

10. Mackinac Island

Grand Hotel Secret Garden at Mackinac Island during autumn

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Mackinac Island may be one of Michigan’s famed summer destinations, but it’s also beautiful to visit in the fall. Aside from the vivid fall colors, the European-America and Queen Anne-style buildings give it a quaint and old-world charm. Moreover, the island offers miles of green spaces, including parks and hiking trails perfect for your fall color tour.

 

With less than 12 kilometers of land area, you can easily explore the Northern Michigan island on a bike. There are dozens of bike trails, each offering splendid views of the lake on one side and the foliage on the other. For a different way to explore, hire a horse-drawn carriage and feel like royalty as you navigate through the streets.

11. Traverse City

Red house at the countryside in Traverse City, MI

Photo by Nianci Pan on Flickr

From the Caribbean-like waters of Torch Lake, Traverse City offers a welcome change of scenery. Think apple orchards, corn mazes, wineries, and rolling hills with views of the changing leaves. From late September to early October, head to Traverse City for an unforgettable leaf-peeping experience.

 

Traverse City boasts plenty of country roads that take you across postcard-worthy highways. Soak up the fall views at downtown Traverse City or leave the metro for small villages and towns with unparalleled views of the fall colors. You can also play a game of golf while surrounded by breathtaking trees in various shades of red, yellow, and gold.

12. Charlevoix

A house almost hidden among autumn foliage at Charlevoix, MI

Photo by ellenm1 on Flickr

Fall in Charlevoix is a gorgeous sight. The resort town in the Lower Peninsula offers unspoiled beaches along Lake Michigan, lakeside villas, and plenty of sightseeing opportunities. You can view the breathtaking Michigan fall colors on a scenic drive, bike path, or even on a boat. Since it is also the state’s shoulder season, you can enjoy all these without the hassle of large crowds!

 

Drive around Lake Charlevoix and admire the warm colors of the foliage in contrast with the deep blue waters. If you’re up for an adrenaline rush, go river rafting at Jordan River as you zip past colorful forests. For a more relaxing way of spending time at Charlevoix, visit an apple farm and get a chance to pick and taste delicious Michigan apples.

13. Ludington

A lake surrounded by autumn foliage at Ludington State Park, Ludington, MI

Photo by Bill Vriesema on Flickr

Ludington offers plenty of fall color tours and sites where you can sit back, relax, and marvel at the changing colors of the leaves. Its orchards, mills, and corn mazes have been a favorite among families visiting on weekend getaways. Moreover, the city also has different routes for road trips and scenic drives if you want to head out.

 

With unspoiled natural wonders, there’s plenty of sightseeing opportunities and adventures in store for you. Visit Ludington State Park’s sand dunes, marshlands, and forests covered in a carpet of foliage. There are more than 18 miles of hiking, biking, and paddling trails perfect for any age and fitness level. The campgrounds also provide the perfect setting for cozying with a cup of hot cocoa in front of the campfire.

14. Midland

A canoe dock by a lake at Chippewa Nature Center, Midland, MI

Photo by Christian Collins on Flickr

Welcome the month of October with a lovely trip to Midland. Located in the Great Lakes Bay Region, the city boasts lush forests, gardens, parks, and other natural spaces. Whether you want to enjoy the Michigan fall colors on water or land, there are different activities for you.

 

Start your leaf-peeping adventure at Dow Gardens and walk along its scenic paths that offer picture-perfect angles at every corner. Enjoy the views of the hardwood trees as you walk along the elevated platforms of Whiting Forest, the longest canopy walk in the country. At Chippewa Nature Center, see the muted colors of fall amidst the wetlands and woodlands.

Southern Lower Peninsula

15. Holland State Park

Holland Harbor Lighthouse AKA Big Red in autumn, Holland State Park, Michigan

Photo by Rachel Kramer on Flickr

Although you can catch the fall foliage at downtown Holland in Michigan, head west to Holland State Park for a better experience. Not only is it one of the most famous parks in Michigan, but it is simply one of the best places for fall activities like camping and hiking. The park has great views of Lake Michigan which adds to the timeless appeal of the fall colors.

 

The best place to experience the fall colors is at Mt. Pisgah Dune Boardwalk which leads to Holland Harbor Lighthouse where you can catch views of the lake reflecting the blazing hues. If you’re looking for ADA-accessible places to see the Michigan fall colors, Holland State Park is the place for you. There are wheelchair-accessible walkways around the premises and accessible campsites.

16. Ann Arbor

A grist mill at Ann Arbor, Michigan, during autumn

Photo by Julie Falk on Flickr

Ann Arbor is one of the cities in Michigan where you can last catch the foliage. From mid-October towards the end of the month, don’t miss the chance to see the brilliant foliage. Not only that, but you can also visit apple orchards and cider mills to make up a fall getaway to remember!

 

Take in the scenic views of Lake Huron and the fall colors of Ann Arbor on a relaxing kayaking trip. Drive from Ann Arbor to Dexter or along the Huron River Drive and be mesmerized as you pass through trees with various shades of gold. You may also drop by Dexter Cider Mill or an orchard and go apple picking. But if you prefer staying in the city, you can find numerous biking and walking paths like Saginaw Forest and Bird Hills Nature Area.

17. Port Austin

Golden trees along Lake Huron, Port Austin, Michigan

Photo by George Thomas on Flickr

Despite being a small village, Port Austin has several things to do in autumn. The village in East Michigan packs a lot of natural scenery and sightseeing opportunities. Since it is a relatively smaller town, it is easier for tourists to navigate around and find the best leaf-peeping spots.

 

On your fall color tour, soak in the rural views of Port Austin highlighted by the colorful hues of the trees. For those looking for hiking trails, Port Crescent State Park and Bird Creek Park have easy trails where you can spend an afternoon in. In downtown Port Austin, walk along the waterfront and take in the sight of the blue waters of Lake Huron contrasting with the red and gold leaves.

18. Saugatuck

Glorious Michigan fall colors at Kalamazoo River at Saugatuck, MI

Photo by Harrison Fitts on Unsplash

For photography enthusiasts or those looking for the next social media-worthy photo, Saugatuck offers plenty of photo spots. It is only less than an hour away from cities like Holland and South Haven. On top of that, you can also enjoy various autumn-related activities that will make your vacation in Michigan even more memorable.

 

Climb the steps along to the scenic overlook at Mt. Baldhead and marvel at the lovely fall colors that frame the Kalamazoo River. Watch the golden hues of autumn reflect off the water at Wade’s Bayou Memorial Park. Then, rent a kayak and snap photos from a different perspective. Back on land, the natural setting of Felt Mansion and Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area makes a perfect photo spot.

19. Lansing

Autumn foliage framing Michigan State Capitol, Lansing, MI

Photo by David Marvin on Flickr

While Lansing is a metropolitan city, Michigan’s capital doesn’t fall short of amazing autumn sights! You can enjoy the crisp fall air as you walk around Michigan State University’s grounds. The hues of the leaves on the ground create a lovely golden carpet perfect for photos and relaxing walks.

 

Aside from going on leisure walks, this Southwest Michigan city offers other opportunities for enjoying the fall foliage. At the Grand River Park, board a 19th-century steamboat and cruise on the Grand River as you admire the fall colors. You can also rent a kayak and follow the 15-mile River Trail that lets you see the golden-hued trees from a different viewpoint. But if you have more time, head out and embark on a road trip to its neighboring communities.

20. Frankenmuth

An old mill at Frankenmuth, Michigan during fall

Photo by Rodney Campbell on Flickr

With its half-timbered houses and structures, Frankenmuth is Michigan’s answer to Bavaria in Germany. Its romantic setting is perfect for honeymooners or couples who want to enjoy the Michigan fall colors.

 

Go on a carriage ride around downtown Frankenmuth and explore the city’s most swoon-worthy sites. See the Glockenspiel Tower and pastel-colored buildings surrounded by golden-hued trees. Then, hop on a scenic cruise and admire the riverside scenery complete with a bottle of wine and chocolates. Cap off your romantic day and have a picnic at the parks and pavilions that overlook the Cass River.

Best Time to See Michigan Fall Colors

Fall foliage prediction during the first week of October, Michigan fall colors map 2021

Photo from SmokyMountains.com

The best time to see Michigan’s gorgeous foliage depends on where you’re going to see them. But generally speaking, the leaves start to change by mid-September and continue until the end of October. From mid-September until the end of the month, cities in the Upper Peninsula like Marquette and Mackinac witness the fall colors.

 

The phenomenon works its way towards the Lower Peninsula and cities in the northern end see the foliage from late September to the first weeks of October. If you’re planning to visit areas in Central and Northwest Michigan, it’s best to plan your trip within the first week until mid-October. By mid-October towards the end of the month, the Michigan fall colors reach the Southern cities like Detroit and Pontiac.

 

However, take note that all foliage forecasts are estimates and are not a hundred percent accurate. The leaves also stay at their peak for about two weeks until they begin to fade, so it’s best to plan your color-peeping trip ahead. Since this is also a peak season for tourism, book your hotel in advance and expect crowds at state parks and other locations.

Where to Stay in Michigan During Fall

Building in Michigan framed by the fall colors

Photo from Battle Creek CVB on Flickr

  • Crystal Mountain – Crystal Mountain is Michigan’s premier resort located near Traverse City, offering a plethora of activities for all seasons. Surrounded by lush forests, this is also one of the best places to stay during the fall season. Guests can see the foliage from a chairlift, on a bike ride around the resort, or a horse-drawn wagon ride.

  • Boyne Highland – Located in Harbor Springs, Boyne Highlands has everything you need for your vacation in Michigan. The resort features rolling hills bursting with fall colors and picturesque angles in every corner. For your Michigan fall color adventure, the resort has guided tours that go to the iconic Tunnel of Trees with stops at orchards and farms.

  • Mission Point Resort – Mission Point Resort on Mackinac Island is the best island retreat during the fall months. The lush greenery surrounding the resort turns into vivid shades and creates the perfect backdrop for your photos. In addition, the resort offers luxurious wellness treatments at their lakeside spa that are sure to relax you after a satisfying day out exploring the outdoors.

  • Treetops Resort – With five courses boasting scenic views of the autumn foliage, Treetops Resort is a golfer’s dream. But aside from its picture-perfect golf courses, the resort is also a good jump-off point for your leaf-peeping adventures in neighboring cities like Traverse City and Harbor Springs.

Marvel at the Vivid Michigan Fall Colors

Michigan is without a doubt one of the best places to visit in autumn. The state has plenty of lakeside cities, charming villages, and parks to see the fascinating scenery. From camping, hiking, and picnicking, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the fall colors in Michigan. Furthermore, you can extend your adventure and head on a scenic drive from one city to another or stay overnight. For a unique experience, board a vintage train car and enjoy the views of the changing leaves.