Fall in Michigan: Pure Michigan Fall Color
Experience Fall in Michigan: Michigan Fall Color Beauty
Fall in Michigan isn’t just about the color and what you can see: it’s also about the sounds, the smells and a general cozy feeling.
The changing colors of a pure Michigan fall are much more than that. Think bright, clear blue skies; winds gently rustling through the trees and brilliant fall colors of bright, red and yellow leaves slowly dancing to the ground.
Add to that the sun sparkling on a quiet, deep blue lake, or the foamy tops of the Great Lakes waves as they pound the beach with their fierce fall fury: it’s autumn in Michigan.
Read on to discover trip ideas for color drives and places to visit this fall and scroll to the bottom for a handy interactive Google map. We’ve also got the latest fall colors predictions and a Michigan fall color update to help you plan your trip!
PRO-TIP: If you’ve visited Michigan in the summer, get ready for even MORE natural beauty. Michigan in the fall means taking a scenic byway during peak foliage time, visiting a local apple orchard or celebrating at a fall festival in Michigan.
Michigan Fall Tours
Why See Fall Foliage in Michigan?
It’s not just the fresh air blowing in off the lake or the deep blue waters alive with white-capped waves rolling into shore and splashing on a wide, sandy beach.
It’s a feeling in the air: brisk, brilliant and beautiful. It’s autumn in Michigan.
Whether you’re looking for a day trip, longer driving tours or simply and outdoor adventure as you travel Michigan’s scenic drives, you’ll want to plan ahead to be sure not to miss any spectacular natural autumn beauty as the leaves change color.
Michigan Fall Color Change
Michigan summers might be amazing, but fall in Michigan is something altogether different.
There’s nothing quite like autumn in Michigan: fall festivals, apple orchards, cider mills and abundant farmer’s markets teeming with late harvest treats…all set against a brilliant backdrop of spectacular fall color.
It’s a simply lovely attack on the senses: hints of pines, cinnamon and spice on the cool air, the feel of the crisp cool air on your skin and the tastes of fall harvests all coming together in one season.
Best Places for Fall Color in Michigan
If you’re near a Michigan shoreline (and just for the record, you’re never more than six miles from a body of water in Michigan, whether it’s a river, a lake, or one of the Great Lakes), you can add sparkling, turquoise water to the mix.
Come autumn time, Michigan is stunning beauty in its purest form, and you can find autumn color just about everywhere.
Whether you enjoy the fall in Michigan with friendly pumpkin patches, chairlift rides over a magnificent mountain of color or colorful train rides on a fall color route, there’s a place for everyone to enjoy autumn color in Michigan.
Read on to discover 21 spots for Must-See Michigan Fall Colors and Discover Michigan in Fall.
What Are the BEST Times to Find Michigan Fall Color?
Find Michigan Fall Color NOW
As the autumn season approaches, the leaves begins to turn from bright green to striking golds and deep reds. The fall foliage reach its peak first in Michigan’s northern regions, because the temperatures are lower in those areas.
As the season continues, temperatures begin to drop in the southern portions of the state and the trees in those areas begin to turn color as well.
Use the Michigan Peak Fall Color Map
The Michigan Peak Fall Color Map shows a general time when experts predict the fall foliage change will occur and be at its peak colors. Use the map to find beautiful fall color in Michigan at its very best.
The Interactive Fall Travel Map shows some of the stunning destinations for fall fun in Michigan. Explore these destinations and start planning your Michigan fall getaway. We’re sharing 21 amazing spots to find spectacular fall color in Michigan: Read on to discover more about these perfect fall foliage viewing spots.
Places to See Best Fall Colors in the Upper Peninsula
Porcupine Mountains Lake of the Clouds
One of the most-photographed spots in the entire Upper Peninsula of Michigan becomes even more picturesque in the fall, when the surrounding wilderness of the Porcupine Mountains are ablaze with fall colors.
Lake of the Clouds – named for the picture-perfect reflection of the clouds in the pristine, clear water is a stunning sight any time of the year. Set in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, its natural; setting was made for hiking and exploring.
In the fall, the Porcupine Mountains wilderness is almost overwhelmingly beautiful, especially when viewed from the M-107 Scenic Overlook, which is fully accessible. Plan enough time so you won’t be hurried as you explore the trails in this old-growth forest in the western upper peninsula at its most-beautiful.
Plan Your Trip: It’s a scenic half-hour trip back to the historic town of Ontonagon, where we usually stay when visiting the Porkies. Here, you can explore the lighthouse and county historical museum and pick up some local knowledge. Stay at Peterson’s Cottages, a cozy and exceptionally clean spot just a minute wak from Lake Superior. You can choose from one and two bedroom cottages, chalets or a three bedroom house. Nesteled in the woods, it’s simply gorgeous in autumn.
All the way up at the tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula – the very-tip – is Copper Harbor.
Jutting out into wildly beautiful Lake Superior, this small town in the Keweenaw Peninsula packs a ton of beauty into this relatively small area. In addition to Lake Superior, you’ve also got Lake Fanny Hooe, a favorite with fisherman, outdoorsmen-and-women, and photographers.
The deep blues of this pretty inland lake make for some amazing pictures when the leaves turn on their fiery red, orange and yellow charms. The tall, white Copper Harbor Lighthouse always appears a little brighter in the fall, in contrast with Lake Superior and the surrounding fall forest.
Plan Your Trip: We highly recommend spending a couple of days here on your fall color tour. Check out the lighthouse along with the rest of the Fort Wilkins Historic State Park and then head across the harbor to explore the nine-acre Hunter’s Point Park for an even bigger explosion of fall color. Stay in this private condo at the Lake Fanny Hooe Resort. This comfortable, beachfront room has a deck overooking the lake. You can take your own color tour right from the deck!
A visit to the village of Calumet in the Keweenaw Peninsula is like taking a step-back in time: a time when the area was the thriving hub of copper mining; providing tons of the valuable mineral to the entire world.
National Historic Park, which celebrates the rich history of the Upper Peninsula’s copper mining traditions, is a collection of historic building throughout the area which tell the story of the area’s rise to the epicenter of copper.
Plan Your Trip: Wander the historic town and buildings in the fall against a backdrop of vibrant Michigan fall color for one of your most memorable fall color tours ever. The AmericInn by Wyndham is right in calumet and is your best bet here. It’s roomy, clean and has a continental breakfast served every morning. We love the indoor saltwater pool and ths is perfect spot for exploring the northern tip of Michigan.
Muinising, Michigan in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
You can’t go wrong visiting the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore any time during the fall: it is must-see on your fall color tour.
We suggest starting in Grand Marais, meandering along the coast with a plan to spend some time in Munising. The national lakeshore, all 42 miles of it, is really spectacular in the fall around the Munising area.
The towering sandstone cliffs, topped by the bright reds, yellows, and golds, is a sight to behold from kayak or on foot during the autumn months. You all also find sand dunes, hidden beaches and waterfalls to explore. You’ll want to see Munising Falls and Grand Island, just a three minute ferry ride from Munising.
Plan Your Trip: Use our Guide to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore to explore even more and plan your fall color tour. Make sure you don’t miss any of the highlights from this beautiful area. Stay at the Pictured Rocks Inn and Suites; it’s one of my favorite spots along this coastline. Choose from a standards rooms or suites and relax in the indoor pool and hot tub, or step into the sauna for even more relaxation. Bonus? It’s just a short walk to the Lake Superior shoreline.
Hip-and-happening Marquette is growing quickly, and the natural beauty of the area has a lot to do with it.
With Lake Superior shoreline on one side, it’s surrounded by thick forests full of trails of hiking biking and any other kind of exploring you might want to do. In the fall, students from Northern Michigan University head back to campus and the whole town really comes alive.
Wander downtown Marquette and explore the local breweries and restaurants, shops, and galleries before making your way to the harbor for some truly stunning scenery.
Presque Isle Park, home to the famed Black Rocks Cliffs and McCarty’s Cove are two spots you’ll want to visit for sure. These two areas are particularly pretty during the fall: the natural beauty of Lake Superior coast is Michigan fall color splendor at its best.
Plan Your Stay: There are two top choices here, each with a special feature. The Hampton Inn Marquette Waterfront is located on the shores of Lake Superior and offers amazing views. It is very clean and has those comfy Hampton Inn pillows, too. You’ll find a nice pool, hot tub and warm breakfast every morning. The Ramada Inn is really nice and it’s dog-friendly, too. You’ll find large and clean rooms and suites, an indoor pool, hot tub, laundry facilities and a restaurant onsite.
Visit Tahquamenon Falls and you’ll get two Michigan waterfalls for the price of one: the larger and more dramatic Upper Falls and the five, cascading falls that make up the Lower Falls.
Popular Tahquamenon State Park is popular any time of the year, but we like it best in the fall, when there’s not as many visitors and we can relax as we walk along the trails, surrounded by the sound of rushing water.
Surrounded by a mix of colorful hardwoods and pine trees in the autumn months, these are the largest falls this side of the Mississippi, and is a must on your Michigan fall color tour.
Plan Your Trip: You’ll want to stay at this adorable and clean three-bedroom cottage in nearby Paradise, MI. It’s clean, roomy and airy with a full kitchen, and you’ll find a fireplace and games for those crisp autumn nights.
Find the Best Fall Colors in the Lower Peninsula
The appeal of this little town at the tip of Michigan’s Thumb doesn’t end once summer leaves us. Tiny Port Austin, with its pretty walkable waterfront, is surrounded by a mix of verdant forest and farmland. That makes it come alive with color in the autumn months, just in time for your fall color tour.
Make a weekend of it: travel into nearby Caseville walk the pier and explore the downtown area. Then, head back towards Port Austin and wander into to Port Crescent State Park. Wander the dunes and listen as the waves of Saginaw Bay crash up against the shore.
If you want to visit one town in Michigan that will completely take you by surprise, visit Alpena, MI.
Located in northeast Michigan on the shores of Lake Huron, this seemingly quiet, historic town packs a lot to do and some stunning natural scenery into it. Alpena’s shoreline contains many different public beaches and parks, where you can find a quiet bench and stare out into the beauty of Thunder Bay and the little islands offshore dotting the water.
While the quaint downtown shopping district (a fun place to wander) seems small, the surrounding area offers seven (!) Lake Huron lighthouses nearby; four state parks and recreation area and several local parks and recreation areas.
One of our favorite spots to see some breathtaking fall color is from the trails in Rockport Harbor State Park. Lace up your hiking boots and head for the trails.
Plan Your Trip: Use our guide to the BEST things to do in Alpena and start planning your fall getaway to this beautiful spot in northeast Michigan now. Stay at the Ramada by Wyndham, a clean and roomy spot just a 10-minute walk to the beach. This is a super kid-friendly spot, with a big indoor pool, arcade/game room and a fitness center. You might also want to check out the Holiday Inn Express and Suites. It’s very clean and comfortable with an indoor pool and breakfast served daily.
Ocqueoc Falls State Forest Campground
North of Alpena, just off US-23, Michigan’s northeast coastal highway, is one of the state’s best-kept secrets: Ocqueoc Falls.
Not only is Ocqueoc Falls the largest water fall in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, it also is the ONLY universally-accessible waterfall in the United States. The falls are set in the Ocqueoc River, which runs through the midst of a hardwood forest thick with towering birch and maple trees.
Age-old hardwood trees: elms, oaks and maples and quaking aspens with their electric yellow, red and orange leaves collide against the steady deep green of cedar, spruce and pine trees to create a spectacular canvas of color. Although the falls are only about three feet in height, the fresh, clear, cool water is hard to resist for many: it’s a favorite spot to play and splash in the warm summer months.
ADA- Accessible Pathway
The wide, paved walkway along the river provides ADA-Compliant accessibility to both the falls and to the ADA-accessible rock-climbing wall.
Two picnic areas, surfaced with accessible crushed limestone, are outfitted with accessible-designed picnic tables. Benches along the pathway are complete with accessible clear space, which are cement pads next to them, to allow for side-by-side seating of a person using a wheelchair and someone who is not.
It’s not just the falls themselves that are beautiful. There is a long, winding path alongside the river bank meanders through the woods and along the river bank, where you can find the most beautiful and interesting rocks, made smooth over the years by the moving water.
On a quiet autumn day, listening to the rush of the water as it traverses the falls and heads downstream is a true Michigan experience. Combine that with soft rustle of quaking Aspen trees and it’s like a hushed, outdoor concert…performed by Nature.
Plan Your Trip: The Purple Martin Inn is located just a one-minute walk from the beautiful Lake Huron beach. It’s a cozy and clean bed and breakfast that has a beautiful sun porch and delicious breakfast, too.
We can’t think of anything much cozier than wandering this tiny island that comes alive with color in the fall months. Surrounded by the fresh lake breezes of Lake Huron, you can walk the eight-mile perimeter (or take a bike ride) and see some truly unforgettable fall color.
The journey to and from the island is a highlight, too, so be sure and have your camera ready
IF YOU GO: If you go, check out our guide to the BEST Things to DO on Mackinac Island as well as our Mackinac Island Hotel Guide, complete with a map. We like The Island House for it’s clean and spacious rooms. It’s a little removed from the hustle and bustle of the downtown area, and you’ll find pretty garden, lounge and views of the beach. Located right across the from the Star Line ferry dock is the historic Murray House Hotel. The rooms are clean and pretty spacious; the beds here are very comfortable, too.
Tunnel of Trees
Okay, we’ll give it to you straight: the Tunnel of Trees is Michigan fall color at its best – and if you visit one spot all season long, make it this one.
Located north of Petoskey and Harbor Springs, this 20-odd mile long drive along scenic M-119 will have you snapping pictures the entire trip – so try for the passenger seat on your trip. Pick up the M-119 in Harbor Springs and head north on this heritage route, following the road under a tall canopy of brightly colored hardwoods.
As you head toward historic Cross Village, you’ll pass through Good Hart (DO NOT MISS a chance to visit the General Store) and take in some stunning Lake Michigan vistas where the road hugs the Lake Michigan shoreline.
Once you reach Cross Village, a dinner at the iconic Legs Inn is a must. Finish eating your meal, get in your vehicle, turn around and take in the sights all over again as you head back toward Petoskey and Harbor Springs.
WARNING: this drive is habit-forming…in the best possible way.
Plan Your Trip: Stafford’s Bay View Inn in Petoskey is a beautiful, historic property with gorgeous views of Little Traverse Bay. The mansion turned European-style boutique hotel has been a desiantion for many travelers who love the old-world charm and delicious restaurant.
As longtime fans of Fisherman’s Island State Park, we make it a point to return here every fall – just to see the bright golds and reds of the trees against the backdrop of a bright blue Lake Michigan.
Fisherman’s Island is a really unique spot. There’s enough space to feel a little secluded (the campsites are nestled in the trees) even though you’re just outside of Charlevoix.
This is a great spot to bundle up and walk along the shoreline is search of much-coveted Petoskey and Charlevoix stones…you’re almost guaranteed to find at least one, especially after a storm.
Charlevoix-the-Beautiful is no less beautiful in fall. So be sure and plan enough time to wander the charming downtown area and take in the views of Round Lake in autumn.
Plan Your Trip: Use our Ultimate Charlevoix Guide to discover even more about this charming town. You’ll love the Charlevoix Inn and Suites, with a complmentary breakfast served every morning. The rooms are quite largem even the standard rooms, and they’re very clean, too. Enjoy the pool and hot tub after a day exploring the fall colors.
North Bar Lake in Sleeping Bear Dunes
If you’re familiar with Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, you might have heard of the fabled North Bar Lake, a hidden little gem tucked away in the dunes. Or maybe you’ve caught a glimpse of it from the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.
Accessible by a winding roads that you through a forest of towering hardwoods that gives way to the sandy dunes, North Bar Lake is a sandy little inland lake separated from Lake Michigan by a spit of sand only few feet in width.
North Bar Lake is a favorite summer spot of locals and lucky visitors who are “in” on the secret and know the location of this special place. It all revolves around this small bit of sand that separates the two bodies of water: on one side is fresh, clear North Bar Lake and just a few feet over the sand is the cool, deep turquoise waters of Lake Michigan.
An entire day could be spent luxuriating in the warm waters of North Bar and then jumping over the sand and splashing into the cold Lake Michigan, and many spend long summer days doing just that.
Magic Autumn in Northern Michigan
In the fall, the area surrounding North Bar Lake takes on an almost magical appearance.
The thick surrounding forest is alive with brilliant colors of reds and gold, and North Bar Lake turns a deep, dark blue. To the west, Lake Michigan remains azure, capped with white frothy waves that roll in and lap at the shores as the weather turns cool.
Contrast all of this with the bright sand of the beach, the dune bluffs in the distance, and you’ll have a picture worth painting. Actually, many do: it is not rare to see an artist with a canvas attempting to capture the beauty of the view.
North Bar Lake is just north of Empire in the heart of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore. If you decide to visit North Bar Lake, be sure and check out the nearby towns. Both quaint Empire and Glen Arbor are a very scenic, and worth a visit on a Michigan fall color tour.
Plan Your Trip: Stay at the M22 Inn, an exceptionally clean and comfortable spot. It’s perfect location for exploring the dunes and Glen Lake. The Empire Lakeshore Inn is a favorite of mine: it’s exceptionally clean and cozy. Located in downtown, it’s just an eight-minute walk to beautiful Empire Beach.
Frankfort and Point Betsie Lighthouse
Does it get anymore New-England-y than Frankfort in the fall?
If so, it must be in New England itself because this charming spot in northern Michigan might actually have you mistaking Lake Michigan for the Atlantic Ocean. Lake Michigan just feels bigger here; the waves kick up quite fiercely along the shores surrounding in the Point Betsie Lighthouse and even more so in the fall.
It’s picturesque: the golden poplars and aspens, tall against the backdrop of the red-roofed white lighthouse and a moody, blue Lake Michigan. Bring along a sweater or hoodie; the winds always seems stronger here, and you’ll want to be comfortable enough to wander along the beach and trails for at least an hour.
Plan Your Trip: Try and stay at the Hotel Frankfort, right downtown and just steps from Lake Michigan. It’s a beautiful historic spot that is extremely clean well-kept. The beds here are super comfy, and you’ll find unique and different touches in each room, like a balcony overlooking Main Street or in-room hot tub. The rooms are a nice size, too.
There’s a few spots in Holland that you’ll want to add to your list, including Holland State Park and Centennial Park in downtown Holland. While they’re both located in Holland, they’re so different that we think you’ll want to make a weekend of it and really get to explore Holland and west Michigan fully.
Holland State Park *ADA-Accessible
Holland State Park is one of Michigan’s most-visited state parks, but you’d never know that if you visit in the fall.
It’s no wonder that crowds flock to this spot in quiet southwest Michigan: surrounded by sand dunes and set along the spot where the Black River (flowing from Lake Macatawa) lets out into Lake Michigan, this dramatic landscape is simply stunning.
In the fall, the crowds have thinned out, and it’s easy to have the park almost all to yourself, a chance to quietly awe at the sheer beauty of Lake Michigan.
Holland’s Big Red Lighthouse
Holland State Park is immediately recognizable by Big Red, the Holland Harbor Lighthouse, which has guided boaters to safety for more than 150 years.
The Lighthouse, located on the south side of the channel, is a popular spot with visitors who come to see the iconic light up close. One of the most-photographed lighthouses, the nearly-40-foot bright red structure is capped off by a twin-gabled roof and pays homage the area’s rich Dutch history.
The vibrant red of the lighthouse, set off by the deep blue of the lake, is pure Michigan, especially in the autumn months. There’s a wide swath of Lake Michigan Beach here, well-manicured with wide, paved pathways to accommodate those using wheelchairs or other mobility devices.
The surrounding low, sandy bluffs are great spots for hiking and taking in windswept fall vistas with colorful trees and Lake Michigan in the background.
Lake Michigan in Autumn
Moody Lake Michigan truly comes alive in the cool fall months.
The water reflects the sky, which can be deep, dark blue and foreboding with fierce waves hammering at the shoreline and splashing over the pier. Other times, the water can be calm and quiet with gentle swells lapping at the sand.
Either way, Lake Michigan is always a stunningly beautiful site.
The expansive beach at Holland State Park opens to sweeping views of the Lake Michigan bluffs to the north. In the distance, you’ll towering (and climable) Mt. Pisgah overlooking Holland’s Lake Macatawa.
These windswept bluffs are alive with color in the autumn: swaying in the breeze off the lake and displaying a true Michigan fall foliage extravaganza.
Lake Macatawa and L. Frank Baum
On the south side of Holland State Park the long, Black River channel connecting Lake Michigan with Lake Macatawa, is a six-mile long inland lake with a very interesting history.
It was in small cottage along the shores of Lake Macatawa that L. Frank Baum wrote the children’s literature classic “The Wizard of the Oz” more than 100 years ago. The prolific author Baum spent his summers on the shores of Lake Macatawa, where he was inspired to write the story of Dorothy and her friends.
Centennial Park: Holland’s Connection to the Wizard of Oz
If you do visit Holland State park, be sure and take a drive into Holland’s quaint downtown shopping district. A massive floral exhibit commemorating the city’s connection to the Wizard of Oz is on display in downtown Holland’s gorgeous Centennial Park, a Victorian-era park.
Arguably one of the most beautiful parks in the state of Michigan (and that’s a bold statement in a state filled with beautiful parks), this spot becomes even more beautiful in the autumn. Centennial Park is replete with brick pathways and flowerbeds that will lead you past a gazebo, a traditional Dutch fountain and a fish pond…all the way to the local library.
You’ll find brick pathways, elaborate floral displays and even a gazebo in this Victorian-ear park just blocks away from the charming shops and restaurants of bustling 8th Street.
Centennial Park is ADA-Accessible with wide, paved pathways to comfortably maneuver wheelchairs and other mobility devices.
Nearby Holland State Park is also ADA-Accessible, ranking as one of the most accessible state parks in Michigan.
The ranking is well-deserved: the paved walkway along the channel leads to paved north pier that extends its long reach into the lake, allowing users of mobility aids to enjoy a view of the shoreline from lake.
Throughout the autumn, the waves can get fierce and make the pier unsafe, so be sure to observe the weather conditions. Holland State Park has many accessibility features, including wide paved paths throughout the park that offer easy navigation for wheelchair-users, including accessible picnic tables, benches and more.
See Fall Colors in Southeast Michigan
Edwards Hines Drive
Hit it at the right time (use our Peak Fall Color Map and you’ll be absolutely amazed at the brilliant display of fall color lining both sides of the road along Hine Drive.
The 17-mile-long Edward Hines Drive, located n the western suburbs of Detroit, meanders at a pleasant 40 mile-per-hour speed limit from Dearborn to Northville and includes some historic spots worth checking out, too.
Nankin Mills was a thriving farming community in the late 1800’s, now all that’s left is a picturesque white grist mill that serves as a museum-like interpretive center.
Kensington Metro Park
Almost 5000 acres of lush, rolling hills and forest surround pretty Kent Lake, and provide a beautiful backdrop for Michigan’s autumn display of color at Kensington Metropark.
If you go, make a day of it: there’s lots to do here. You’ll find a wonderfully charming petting zoo with a chance to get up close and personal with friendly cows, horses, goats and more.
There’s beautiful beachfront on two lakes with plenty of grassy shaded areas to sprawl out under the trees and relax.
Ann Arbor’s Huron River
Argo Park Kayak and Canoe is our favorite spot in metro Detroit to get away from it all: grab a kayak, tighten up your PFD and hit the Huron River.
Take in the scenic fall colors along the riverbank and beyond from the water; it’s quite stunning. We promise that you’ll forget you’re not in a remote spot up north somewhere.
The Huron River is a 104-mile river that bends and twists as it winds its way to Lake Erie.
When you’re done, head over to Zingerman’s Deli and try some unforgettable macaroni and cheese.
Use our Ultimate Guide to Ann Arbor to discover more to do in this quintessential American college town.
Port Huron and Lexington
The Port Huron area may well be one of Michigan’s best kept secrets, and in the fall, its one of the best spots to head for some fall scenery.
The water along Michigan’s Thumb Coast, up to Lexington and beyond, is the prettiest shade of aqua blue. It makes for striking contrast against the reds, oranges and rich yellows of the autumn.
You’ll find charming little towns and picturesque harbors to explore if follow Michigan’s M-25 highway north towards Port Austin.
Find More Michigan Fall Things to Do
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