Seven Scenic Color Drives for Fall in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
Let’s face it: you can drive just about anywhere in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the fall and be rewarded with the rich reds, yellows, and golds of Michigan’s changing fall foliage.
As the leaves change color in autumn, the U.P. comes alive. From the Iron River area of the western Upper Peninsula to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, from Tahquamenon Falls to the Les Cheneaux island, the entire Upper Peninsula is just a giant fall color show waiting to be explored.
It’s nice, though, to have an idea of where to find some of the most spectacular fall color, and what to do and see.
We put together a list of seven of our favorite scenic fall color drives in the Upper Peninsula to help you plan your fall foliage tour. Enjoy and happy leaf-peeping!
Find Upper Peninsula Fall Color Change in the Eastern U.P.
Les Cheneaux Islands: M-134 from Hessel to Cedarville
Definitely one of the most underrated parts of Michigan, this route hugs the northern shore of Lake Huron. It takes you on a tour of Les Cheneaux Island region, spectacularly lit by the brilliant golds and red of the fall foliage as it changes color.
It’s quiet in the fall, and that adds to the spectacular beauty. You can really feel like you’re getting away from it all here without being in the wilderness
Located just 30 miles east of the bridge, you’ll find more than 36 small islands in this popular vacation area, as well as marinas, small resorts, restaurants, and shops. It’s worth spending some time visiting this unique area. Boating and kayaking are big here, you might want to plan some time to explore the area by water.
In Hessel, home of the largest antique boat show. Be sure and stop at Wendi’s Runaway bar for some of the best barbecue in Michigan. In Cedarville, the Applecore General Store is home to a fun and eclectic mix of Michigan-made gifts, home goods, treats, and more.
IF YOU GO: This cozy, stylishly-updated cabin in Cedarville is just a short walk to Lake Huron. Exceptionally clean, you’ll find one bedroom, a king daybed and twin trundles to accommodate you, along with a fully equipped kitchen and smart TV. This is a perfect location for exploring the area.
This is a highlight of the eastern Upper Peninsula and one of the top travel destinations in Michigan. The largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi, the Tahquamenon Falls are a set of two falls, the Upper Falls and the Lower Falls, along the Tahquamenon River.
Located in Tahquamenon Falls State Park, it’s 50,000 acres of forest filled with hiking and biking trails. In the autumn, the entire area is beautifully-lit by the colorful leaves changing colors. Whether you approach the area from the north, south, east, or west, you’ll be treated to an explosion of red, yellow, and orange foliage that is quite breathtaking. This is one of my favorite destinations in the fall.
IF YOU GO: 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.
Northern Lake Michigan Shore: M-2 from Brevort to Naubinway
The northern shore of Lake Michigan is seriously underrated: you’ll find some beautiful, pristine beaches here, perfect for swimming, in the summer. The autumn though, is when the area really comes alive. You’ll want to start your Michigan fall tour here. You can access the M2 highway simply by crossing the Mackinac Bridge and heading west.
The whole drive is pretty in the fall, but just after Brevort, you’ll come to the Cut River Bridge. This cantilevered steel bridge spans the Cut River Valley.
This is one of the prettiest scenic overlooks in Michigan you want to pull over and take a few pictures. continue on through toward Naubinway. Just passed the town of Epoufette, you’ll find a scenic overlook with some of the most stunning fall foliage in Michigan.
IF YOU GO: The Baymont by Wyndham Waterfront in St. Ignace is a really lovely spot, located right on the water and offering beautiful views. You’ll find large, clean, and comfortable rooms, as well as an indoor pool, workout room, and complimentary breakfast.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore: H-58 Hurricane River Campground to Twelvemile Beach
One of two national lakeshores in Michigan, the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is one of the best fall color drives in the Upper Peninsula. The 42-mile national lakeshore is located along the southern shore of Lake Superior. It is home to dramatic, painted sandstone cliffs, waterfalls, sand dunes, forests, and more.
You can pick up H-58 in Grand Marais and follow it west as it meanders through the national lakeshore.
Once you reach the Hurricane River Campground, you’re in for one of my favorite color drives in Michigan. Be sure to stop at the Au Sable Lighthouse, one of the many picturesque Lake Superior lighthouses, and the Lake Superior Overlook.
You’ll want to be sure and pack some hiking shoes, because you’ll find a hiking trail or two that you’ll find irresistible.
IF YOU GO: The Comfort Inn & Suites Munising – Lakefront is one of my favorite spots to stay when I visit the Pictured Rocks, because I always get a good night’s sleep. Whether it’s the mattresses, pillows, or both, it works. It’s also very clean and the waterfront views are quite pretty. There’s a good, free warm breakfast here, too.
Peter White Drive in Presque Isle State Park, Marquette
Presque Isle State Park is a peninsula surrounded by Lake Superior just north of Marquette. With more than 300 acres of beautiful forested land, this is one of the most popular destinations in Marquette.
Here’s the best part: surrounded by the forest and cliffs overlooking Lake Superior, it never feels crowded.
Visit the fall and you’ll be shocked by the sheer beauty of the area. Marquette’s Black Rocks cliffs are location here, and that adds to the drama of the area.
This mix of gleaming black rock, bright blue Lake Superior, and electric gold, red, and yellow leaves is just amazing.
You’ll want to get out and hike here a bit. Be sure and see the Presque Isle Lighthouse, one of the prettiest Lake Superior Lighthouses.
IF YOU GO: 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.
Iron RIver Area: Black River National Forest Scenic Byway
Located in the Western Upper Peninsula, this pure Michigan byway is one of the most peacefully beautiful fall color drives in Michigan. Whether it’s time for peak colors or at the beginning or end of the fall colors change, the Black River National Forest Scenic Byway never disappoints.
Halfway through the ride, you’ll come to Copper Peak, a 300-foot former ski jump. It’s one of the highest peaks in Michigan. The surrounding observation deck offers breathtaking views of Michigan in the fall; this is Michigan fall color at its best.
You’re just southwest of the Porcupine Mountains here, you might want to drive up and take a peek at the Lake of the Clouds.
IF YOU GO: Continue on to Ontagaon. 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.
Copper Harbor: Brockway Mountain Drive
Located way up at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula in Copper Harbor, Brockway Mountain Drive is one of the most celebrated color drives in the Upper Peninsula. The 9.5-mile drive will take you along the highest above-sea level drive between the Rocky Mountain and the Allegheny Mountain ranges, and offers stunning views of Lake Superior and the Keweenaw Peninsula.
IF YOU GO: This comfortable and picturesque spot is a best-kept secret in Michigan. Stay in this private condo at the Lake Fanny Hooe Resort. This comfortable, beachfront room has a deck overlooking the lake. You can take your own color tour right from the deck!