Your Michigan Fall Bucket List: 10 Must-See Spots for Color Change Take a Michigan Fall Roadtrip
It’s Autumn – and we’re as excited as you are anout fall in Michigan.
The reason is simple, and let’s keep it between us. As much as we love our Michigan beaches, we LOVE fall in Michigan even more.
There’s so much to do in Michigan during the autumn season. The options for outdoor adventures are endless:
Try taking a day trip to see the fall color in Michigan and visit cider mills and pumpkin patches.
How about visiting west Michigan for some scenic fall train rides?
Or travel Michigan’s Picture Rocks National Lakeshore, stopping to awe at the bright reds, oranges and yellows of the leaves.
Maybe take a driving tour along the Lake Michigan shore through a tunnel of trees as the road hugs the lake.
When Does Fall in Michigan Start?
Fall in Michigan officially begins on September 22, according to the calendar. That’s the date of the start of autumnal equinox.
The autumnal equinox is one of only two days—the other is the spring, or vernal, equinox—when the Sun is directly above the Equator, dividing night and day into equal portions.
According to us, fall starts in Michigan the day after Labor Day holiday.
That’s when it’s back-to-school time for the kids and the crowds start to thin out a little around some of the popular tourist destinations.
We’re sharing 10 amazing spots to see fall color, along with an interactive map to help you plan your trip.
Take a Michigan Fall Color Tour
Visit Michigan during the fall months and you’ll agree: it’s as if everything comes alive in one giant burst of autumn energy.
The foliage turns from green to vibrant reds and yellows colors and the clear lake water turns a rich blue that is picture-perfect against the bright Michigan sky.
It’s a perfect time for a Michigan Fall Color Tour.
10 Top Ideas for Your BEST Michigan Fall Getaway
Looking for the perfect place for an autumn road trip?
Fall is the perfect time for a quick weekend getaway or road trip. The summer tourists have thinned out as kids head back to school. This leaves the popular tourist spots uncrowded and eagerly awaiting visitors.
It’s a great time to explore all those spots that you’ve been waiting to visit all year.
There’s nothing quite like a view of a sparkling lake against a backdrop of a wide-open blue sky and brilliant fall foliage.
If that doesn’t have you yearning for a scenic autumn drive, we’re not sure what will.
We’ve identified 10 spots throughout the state of Michigan that make a great fall road trip and give you an opportunity to savor fall in Michigan.
These are spots that we find ourselves returning to year after year, discovering something new with each visit.
Read on to find 10 great places to visit in Michigan this fall.
Michigan Fall Road Trip Guide
It’s hard to chose only 10 Michigan fall destinations.
You could pretty much go anywhere in the state during September through October and find beautiful, striking fall colors.
If you’re looking for a chance to get out and explore during autumn, here are some spots you’ll want to check out:
- Hungarian Falls in the Keweenaw Peninsula
- Hancock, MI to Copper Harbor
- Lake of Clouds in the Porcupine Mountains
- Crisp Point Lighthouse in Newberry, MI
- Mackinac Island
- Lake Huron’s North Coast
- Fort Gratiot Lighthouse in Port Huron
- Presque Isle north of Alpena, MI
Hungarian Falls in the Keweenaw Peninsula
Located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the heart of copper country, this is a quiet, pristine spot to take in fall color.
Hungarian Falls is in the middle of the Keweenaw Peninsula, and is really a collection of waterfalls of varying heights (one with a 50-foot drop) within a two mile hike along Dover Creek.
Surrounded by the thick forest of the Keweenaw Peninsula, you’ll find spectacular fall color and the peaceful sound of the rushing water as it heads down into Torch Lake…a truly lovely spot in all seasons.
Where to Stay: We like to stay in Houghton, about 15 minutes south. You’ll find a collection of mom-and-pops as well as several large chains. Michigan Tech University is here, and they offer overnight accommodations, too.
Where to Eat: Lots of good dining choices in the Houghton-Hancock area. Don’t miss Roy’s Pasties.
Drive US-41 from Hancock to Copper Harbor
It’s remote, but it’s also one of the prettiest routes to drive during fall.
As you travel from point to point, you’ll find yourself surrounded by thick, dark forest, teeming with natural life. You’ll drive through some small towns, like Calumet and Ahmeek.
Don’t rush: it’s a peaceful drive and these little towns have a rich history worth exploring and savoring.
Here’s how to start your drive:
On your way to the Keweenaw Peninsula’s Hungarian Falls, you’ll cross the scenic swing bridge from Houghton (home to Michigan Technological University) into Hancock.
Take a little time to explore this historic city on the shores of Portage Lake settled by the Finnish in the 1800’s.
Their descendants remain and you’ll see signs of unique customs from their ancestors throughout the city: check out the Finnish American Heritage Center at Finlandia University.
Next, head north along US-41 through the heart of the Keweenaw Peninsula and enjoy the quiet serenity of the drive.
Be sure to stop and explore the village of Calumet, once at the center of the mining industry of the Upper Peninsula. Calumet has some stunning architecture; you can learn more about these historic buildings at the Keweenaw Heritage Center.
Continue north to Ahmeek, MI. It’s a very small town but was the home to the largest-producing copper mines in the area, and has some beautiful homes to see.
When you reach the town of Phoenix, head west toward Eagle River and pick up M-26.
You can marvel at the breathtaking vistas of Lake Superior as you continue on to Copper Harbor at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula.
Copper Harbor is just breathtaking. From wide vistas of both Lake Superior and Lake Fanny Hooe, the views here are amazing.
You’re at the top of Michigan here, so take some time and enjoy it.
Where to Stay: We like the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge: it’s cozy, clean and comfortable.
Where to Eat: You’ll find lots fresh fish and pasties, the homemade and hand-held meat pies that are a favorite “*Yooper” dish.
*Yooper is a friendly nickname for residents of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (the U.P.).
Lake of Clouds
At the northwestern edge of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, more than 60,000 acres of stunning scenery.
We guarantee that once you see it, you’ll never forget it.
The Porcupine Mountain range rises almost 2000 feet, covered by an old-growth freest of pines and hardwoods. In the fall, the entire area is alight with reds and golds as the foliage turns for the season.
A highlight of this spectacular area is Lake of the Clouds, accessible by both hiking trails and car from a scenic overlook. The viewpoint from the scenic overlook is wheelchair accessible, as well.
This pristine lake, set in middle of lush, virgin forest, is a simply amazing sight – especially when set against the backdrop of rich fall foliage. The lake reflects the clouds above, and the effect is pure Michigan natural beauty.
Lake of the Clouds is truly a place that you’ll have to see to believe – it’s really that stunning.
Where to Stay: We like to stay in Ontonagon, about a half-hour west on the shores of Lake Superior. You’ll find clean, comfortable, independently-owned cabins and a chain hotel.
Where to Eat: There’s some solid choices here; make it a point to try Syl’s Cafe. In addition to consistently excellent food, they also offer some delicious baked goods.
Crisp Point Lighthouse
Set on shores of Lake Superior just west of Whitefish Point, the Crisp Point Lighthouse sits at the end of a lonely country road.
It’s remote location only adds to beauty.
You’ll drive through miles of primeval forest- simply alive with color in the fall months – until it opens to the beautiful old lighthouse against brilliantly blue Lake Michigan.
If you’re lucky enough to visit on a windy day, you’ll be astounded at the force of the waves fiercely pounding on to the Lake Superior shoreline.
You might also want to visit picturesque Tahquamenon Falls, located just an hour southeast of Crisp Point.
This set of two waterfalls on the Tahquamenon River is a popular tourist destination. It is even more beautiful in the autumn.
Learn more about visiting Crisp Point Lighthouse here.
Where to Stay: We usually stay in Paradise, MI (and who doesn’t want to stay there?). You’ll find some clean, comfortable independently-owned spots. We like the Magnuson Grand Hotel Lakefront.
Where to Eat: Don’t miss the Tahquamon Falls Brewery and Pub.
Lake Huron’s North Coast
Along the southeastern edge of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula are a collection of small towns and quiet little islands…spots where you can revel in true relaxation against the backdrop of the seemingly never-ending blue of Lake Huron.
The towns of Hessel and Cedarville, along with the 36 small islands that make up the Les Chenaux Islands are just a short drive over the Mackinac Bridge.
Surrounded by the sparkling blue Lake Huron from almost every angle, these are beautiful places to visit in the fall and take in the colors of autumn.
Once the summer visitors have left the island and fall settles in, Mackinac Island takes on an other-worldly quality.
Cut-off from the mainland save for the less-frequent ferries, it’s quite possible to find yourself transported to a simpler time…without cars, cares or worries.
While we love to visit Mackinac Island any time of the year, autumn is our favorite time to be on the Island.
The vibrant colors of fall are all condensed on this tiny bit of land surrounded by both blue skies and blue water and we find it quite heavenly.
Without the crowds, its easy to get around and you’ll have more time to explore the island in a leisurely fashion.
Most of the stores and services remain open, so you’ll have an opportunity to explore those as well in a less-crowded fashion.
Two of our favorite shops are Little Luxuries of Mackinac Island and Canvas and Paddle.
Take the a ferry over for the day or stay longer…either way, you’ll view some amazing Michigan colors.
Find more about Mackinac Island here.
Where to Stay: We love to stay at Mission Point Resort, a beautiful lakefront property that’s both family-friendly and pet-friendly. Lovely accommodations in a peaceful setting.
Where to Eat: Don’t miss the Pink Pony, inside the Chippewa Hotel and the Boxwood Cafe at Mission Point. We’re also big fans of Murdick’s Fudge.
Petoskey takes on a certain “coziness” come autumn, and the picturesque town is a fun spot for catching Michigan’s fall colors.
Petoskey’s Little Traverse Bay is a sight to behold in the fall, when the waves whip into a fury and kick up foaming whitecaps on the deep blue water.
Bundle up in a sweater and explore the shops Gaslight Village or head over to the park to take in the brilliant foliage of Harbor Springs across the bay.
Better yet, take the drive north along M-119 through northern Michigan’s famed “Tunnel of Trees,” a winding road along Lake Michigan that takes you under miles of colorful hardwoods.
Where to Stay: You’ll find a wide ranges of accommodations in Petoskey, at a wide range or price points. Stafford’s Bay View Inn offers a laid-back elegance in a comfortable setting.
Where to Eat: The historic City Park Grill was a favorite haunt of Ernest Hemingway; the stunning bar here is a work of art.
Beautiful Frankfort – the gateway to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore – is gorgeous in every season, but in the autumn, the beauty seems magnified.
The fall gales on Lake Michigan mean huge waves rolling into shore, creating gorgeous shades of blue topped with white caps.
Wander the charming downtown and then head to waterfront at Frankfort Beach to watch the waves crash along the Frankfort Light. Cozy benches along the Lake Michigan beach were made for watching this spectacle, so grab a spot on the beach and enjoy the show.
Later, head north to Point Betsie and catch a glimpse of the iconic Point Betsie Lighthouse.
Wander the beach a bit here: it’s a perfect spot for finding one of Michigan’s famed “Petoskey Stones.” Petoskey Stones are pieces of fossilized rock known by its hexagonal pattern, and are a true Michigan gem.
Where to Stay: Historic Hotel Frankfort is a comfortable boutique hotel just blocks from the Lake Michigan beach.
Where to Eat: Stormcloud Brewery in downtown Frankfort is a must-visit. We’re also big fans of L’Chayim Delicatessen. Grab some sandwiches and head to the beach to watch a fall Lake Michigan sunset.
Fort Gratiot Lighthouse
Fort Gratiot Lighthouse in Port Huron is a perfect starting place for a gorgeous journey along Lake Huron.
You’ll find it hard to look the bright turquoise of the water and the reds, greens and gold of the changing leaves.
Michigan’s oldest Lighthouse, Fort Gratiot is located at the spot where the St. Clair River opens into Lake Huron.
You can catch a glimpse of the international Blue Water Bridge between the United States and Canada.
After checking out the lighthouse, head north along the Lake Huron shoreline on M-25 and you’ll encounter the quaint and inviting Michigan beach towns of Lexington and Port Sanilac.
Where to Stay: You’ll find many solid choices here, along with many chain option in the mix. We like the Doubletree located just next to the Blue Water Bridge to Canada.
Where to Eat: Be sure and visit The Vintage Tavern, a unique spot in downtown Port Huron. Located in a historic building, this eatery offers really good food and a large drink menu, too.
Presque Isle is located in Michigan’s northeast corner near Alpena and is a must-see destination for lighthouse-lovers.
You can catch a glimpse of the international Blue Water Bridge between the United States and Canada.
After checking out the lighthouse, head north along the Lake Huron shoreline on M-25 and you’ll encounter the quaint and inviting Michigan beach towns of Lexington and Port Sanilac. Find more about Lexington, MIAn easy drive from metro Detroit, this is a Michigan fall don’t-miss drive.
With two lighthouses within a mile of each other, it’s easy to visit these spots and enjoy the pretty views of Lake Huron: the shallow bays in the area give the water a pale turquoise look.
Set against the strikingly bold fall foliage, the effect is just beautiful.
After you’ve explored Presque Isle, head into Alpena and stroll the streets of this friendly city, lined with historic buildings now housing shops and cafes.
Learn more about visiting Alpena HERE.
Where to Stay: Be sure and look into the Presque Isle Lodge, a charming historic spot that will take you back in time. In addition to the chain hotels located around Alpena, you’ll also find private rentals through VRBO or Airbnb.
Where to Play: Alpena has some really unique dining options. Don’t miss Mango’s or the Hungry Hippie for fast casual. The Nineteenth Hole, located on M-23 on the way to Presque Isle.
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