The 5 Best Spots for Leaf Peeping in Michigan: Peak Dates, Top Driving Routes, and More

Mackinac Island in Autumn
© iStock.com/Bywriter

Written by Kirstin Harrington

Published: October 24, 2022

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Nothing compares to October in Michigan. At this time of year, the state literally bursts with color, revealing all of its splendor in hues of yellow, red, and orange. When is the greatest moment to view these stunning colors, this is the true query. Autumn lasts a long time, although the peak leaf season is only a few weeks long. 

This is your opportunity to go on day vacations, weekend getaways, or extended trips in the woods if you’re planning any fall-themed adventures. Fortunately, this guide to fall foliage in Michigan will let you know precisely when to visit the Great Lakes State this year. 

Check out when and how you can see the most vibrant fall foliage in your area, whether you’re a leaf-peeping addict or you’re just itching to don your favorite sweater and take a stroll in the woods. It’s an excellent resource for both residents and visitors. Considering taking a hiking trip? It’s ideal! Would you rather have a picnic beside the water? Let’s go! 

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

The Miner’s Castle Trail and the Chapel Falls Loop, which both lead to well-known vantage spots over the lake, are the greatest hiking routes for seeing the spectacular scenery.

©iStock.com/Kenneth_Keifer

A section of Lake Superior’s shoreline under protection is called Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The distinctive sandstone rock formations, gushing waterfalls, and breathtaking hiking trails are its most famous features. However, fall is arguably the greatest season to go because the vivid leaves bring out the red tones of the sandstone cliffs along the coast. In contrast to the enormous lake’s deep blue waters, the colors really pop.

The greatest ways to take in the fall foliage along the lakefront are to go for a scenic drive, sign up for a guided boat excursion, or go kayaking on your own. Famous sites including Chapel Rock, Lover’s Leap, and the Grand Island Lighthouse are viewable from the ocean. The Miner’s Castle Trail and the Chapel Falls Loop, which both lead to well-known vantage spots over the lake, are the greatest hiking routes for seeing the spectacular scenery.

Porcupine Mountain Lake of the Clouds

Lake on the Clouds

Fall brings out the nearly overpowering beauty of the Porcupine Mountains’ true nature, particularly when seen from the completely accessible M-107 Scenic Overlook.

©iStock.com/Melissa Kopka

One of the most popular photo locations in all of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is more attractive in the fall when the Porcupine Mountains’ surrounding wildness is ablaze with autumnal hues. 

At any time of year, Lake of the Clouds is a breathtaking sight because of the stunning reflection of the sky in the crystal-clear water. Its natural setting, located in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, is perfect for trekking and exploration. 

Fall brings out the nearly overpowering beauty of the Porcupine Mountains’ true nature, particularly when seen from the completely accessible M-107 Scenic Overlook. When exploring the trails in these thick trees in the western upper peninsula, allow yourself enough time and don’t rush.

The return ride to Ontonagon, a historic town, takes a lovely half-hour. You may learn about the area and visit the lighthouse and county historical museum here. Relax at Peterson’s Cottages, a charming and immaculate location within a short stroll from Lake Superior. You can pick from cottages with one or two-bedrooms, chalets, or a three-bedroom house. It’s stunning in the fall, nestled in the woods.

Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island in Autumn

Mackinac Island is a beautiful ancient town with cobblestone streets and impressive architecture, and you may frequently see

horse

-drawn carriages cruising through the streets.

©iStock.com/Bywriter

To go to Mackinac Island, you’ll have to travel by ferry, but the trip is worthwhile in the autumn. This island retreat is halfway between upper and lower Michigan on Lake Huron. It’s a beautiful ancient town with cobblestone streets and impressive architecture, and you may frequently see horse-drawn carriages cruising through the streets.

Climb the Bare Bluff Trail to get some exercise. Despite being one of the island’s hardest trails, it offers an excellent vantage of the surrounding fall foliage. Exploring the island on a rented bike while traveling the Mackinac Island Inner Loop is a fantastic additional option. 

Along the eight-mile trip, you’ll journey through vibrant woodlands, beautiful beaches, and picture-perfect meadows. Great Lakes Air offers flights that last around 20 minutes that allow passengers to observe the fall leaves in Michigan for the brave.

Tahquamenon Falls

Tahquamenon Falls, Michigan

These are the biggest falls on this side of the Mississippi and must be included on any Michigan fall color tour.

©iStock.com/DougLemke

When you visit Tahquamenon Falls, you get two waterfalls in Michigan for the price of one: the Lower Falls, which has five cascading falls, and the Upper Falls, which is larger and more dramatic. 

Tahquamenon State Park is loved throughout the year. We prefer going in autumn, there are fewer visitors and we can unwind while strolling along the paths and listening to the sound of water rushing. 

These are the biggest falls on this side of the Mississippi and are a part of any Michigan fall color tour. They are among a mixture of vibrant hardwood and pine trees in the autumn.

This charming and spotless three-bedroom house in nearby Paradise, Michigan is where you should stay. You’ll discover a fireplace and activities for those cool autumn nights in this spotless, spacious, and open home with a full kitchen.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes, Lake Michigan

One of the best places to watch colors is along the Empire Bluff Trail, which provides access to a great vantage point with a lake view. 

©iStock.com/Gary Ennis

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a magnificent park with sand dunes, coastlines, and charming hiking paths that comes to life in the fall along the northern shores of Lake Michigan. One of the best places to watch colors is along the Empire Bluff Trail, which provides access to a great vantage point with a lake view. 

The Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive is a wonderful place to spend some time inside the park’s limits. For the greatest lake and autumn foliage views, stop at overlooks 9 and 10. By the way, the lookouts are really stunning at sunset.

Traverse City, which is nearby and has a ton of additional fall activities, is close by. Make time to enjoy some freshly brewed apple cider, visit a pumpkin patch, and indulge in some delicious spiced doughnuts. The renowned Cherry Republic gift shop, which sells Michigan beers, wines, and other delights, is located in the little port town of Glen Arbor, which is also close by.

Honorable Mention: Alpena

Alpena, Michigan

The shoreline of Alpena is home to a variety of popular beaches and parks where you can sit quietly and admire Thunder Bay’s beauty as well as the small islands lining the horizon.

©iStock.com/Roberto Galan

Explore Alpena, MI if you want to go somewhere in Michigan that will totally amaze you. This ostensibly peaceful, historic town in northeast Michigan, on the shores of Lake Huron, is home to a wealth of things to do as well as some breathtaking natural surroundings. 

The shoreline of Alpena is home to a variety of popular beaches and parks where you can sit quietly and admire Thunder Bay’s beauty as well as the small islands lining the horizon. There are seven Lake Huron lighthouses accessible, four state parks and recreation sites, and numerous local parks and recreation spaces, despite the appearance of the charming downtown business center. 

If you want to shop during your trip, this is a charming area to meander through. The trails in Rockport Harbor State Park are one of the visitors’ favorite places to catch some gorgeous fall colors. Put your hiking boots on and start walking the paths.

Sleep at the Ramada by Wyndham, a setting that’s tidy and spacious that’s only a 10-minute stroll from the beach. With a sizable indoor pool, a game room area, and a fitness facility, this place is quite kid-friendly. Consider looking into the Holiday Inn Express and Suites as well. It has an indoor pool, is quite cozy, and offers daily breakfast.

Fall in Michigan

Michigan Autumn

With little to no dryness in many portions of Michigan as autumn approaches, the length of the fall foliage is expected to be longer.

©iStock.com/BobPalosaari

Fall color peak and brilliance predictions are seldom 100% accurate, but in some areas of Michigan, a fair estimate can be produced. With little to no dryness in many portions of Michigan as autumn approaches, the length of the fall foliage is expected to be longer. 

The Thumb region is still experiencing low-end drought conditions due to the very dry summer, making Central Lower Michigan an outlier. In Michigan, temperatures in September (until the 20th) have been significantly higher than average, which often denotes a longer transition to peak color. For most of the rest of the season, lower temperatures that are almost below average are predicted, which will start the color shift.

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About the Author

Kirstin is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering animals, news topics, fun places, and helpful tips. Kirstin has been writing on a variety of topics for over five years. She has her real estate license, along with an associates degree in another field. A resident of Minnesota, Kirstin treats her two cats (Spook and Finlay) like the children they are. She never misses an opportunity to explore a thrift store with a coffee in hand, especially if it’s a cold autumn day!

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