I don’t know about you, but I have a love-hate relationship with fall. I love wrapping up in a chunky sweater on a crisp fall morning and enjoying a pumpkin spiced latte, but I don’t love that it’s a gateway to winter! Can’t we just savor the fiery colors and crisp leaves until January and then circle back to spring?
Is that really too much to ask!
Alas, if you’re a Michigander, you know winter is coming, so you better enjoy fall while it lasts! But where are the best spots to enjoy Mother Nature’s kaleidoscope of colors? Well, I am glad you asked! Check out these gorgeous spots to enjoy the fall colors in Michigan!
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When is the Best Time to See the Fall Colors in Michigan?
Well, it depends on where in the state you’re planning to visit. If you’re in Northern Michigan or the Upper Peninsula, it’s best to mark your calendar for late September through the beginning of October. The temperatures begin to drop sooner in this part of the state, coupled with shorter days, causing the leaves to become more colorful sooner.
If you’re in the mid to lower part of the state, you should expect to see fall colors peak around mid-October. All of this is very much dependent upon the weather. If it stays warmer longer, plan to adjust your timing.
Another great way to plan your leaf-peeping adventure is using a fall color map. Often you can find these by visiting various tourism websites or local news outlets like the Detroit Free Press.
11 Places to Enjoy the Beauty of Fall in Michigan
If you time your leaf-peeping adventure just right, you should be able to enjoy the brilliance of fall in the Northern part of Michigan first and then again in the lower part of the state. Timing is seriously everything, so remain flexible and pay attention to those fall color maps.
There are over 50,000 acres of dense forest in Michigan’s second-largest state park, making it an optimal spot to experience a full display of vibrant colors. The forest also surrounds the park’s crown jewel, The Tahquamenon Falls — one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi. The brilliant waterfall and fall colors make this a top photo spot in the fall!
You can enjoy the colors from one of the viewing platforms or hike one of the many trails that range from 1.5 miles to approximately 10 miles.
USA Today readers have ranked this spot as one of the best spots to enjoy fall colors in the US; with one look, you will understand why! The striking, mineral-stained sandstone cliffs and shimmering Lake Superior make for a dramatic backdrop against the bright yellows, oranges, and deep reds.
You can enjoy the colors by visiting one of the viewing points at Miners Castle Overlook and hiking the Chapel Loop Trail, but for the best experience, you need to hop in a boat! Pictured Rocks Cruises has multiple tour options throughout the fall until late October. If you decide to visit for a couple of days, the best area to stay is in Munising.
Michigan’s largest state park is home to over 59,000 acres of forest, most of which is untouched by humans! There are a couple of excellent spots for jaw-dropping fall color. First, you can hike through the extensive network of trails next to Lake Superior and through the forest of color. But, if hiking isn’t your thing, take the short stroll (about half a mile with a little incline) to the Summit Peak overlook for a gorgeous view. The last option is a second great overlook — you can hike to it via the Escarpment or Big Carp River Trail or drive right to the overlook lot. This overlook includes the shimmering lake surrounded by a thick forest of color.
If you’re scared of heights, you might want to skip this spot, but for those interested in a little thrill with your leaf-peeping, you’ve got to come here for a unique spot to enjoy the fall colors in Michigan! This 810-foot chairlift or 18-story elevator ride takes you up over 360 feet for panoramic vistas — on a clear day, you can see up to 40 miles in every direction, including Canada! The ticket price is $25 for adults and $10 for kids 5 – 14. The lift is open until mid-October, and tickets can be purchased onsite.
Michigan’s largest freshwater spring is a beautiful place to check out all year, especially in the fall! The turquoise spring is crystal clear and reflects its surroundings making for some memorable fall photos. The name comes from the Ojibwe language and is sometimes referred to as a “Mirror of Heaven” — it’s easy to see why! Visitors can enjoy the scenery for free by taking a raft ride across the spring.
This is one of the most scenic drives in the US and is iconic in Michigan! The winding highway weaves from Harbor Springs, north of Petoskey, to Cross Village through canopies of lush fall colors for approximately 20 miles. Along the way, the foliage opens up and exposes the sparkling blue waters of Little Traverse Bay. This is the perfect activity if you’re looking for a bit of nature with stops at independent shops along the way. Keep in mind that it is popular during the fall, so don’t expect to speed your way through it.
Another opportunity for those of you who don’t mind heights! Before the snow falls, Crystal Mountain fires up the chair lifts at their ski resort, taking visitors high above the surrounding 1,500-acre forest. On a clear day, you can enjoy panoramic views for miles and miles. This is popular, so make sure you purchase tickets ahead of time. Tickets are $10 for guests 6 years and older.
#8 M-22 from Leelanau Peninsula to Manistee
This scenic highway stretches 116 miles along Lake Michigan and boasts some of the most gorgeous spots in the state! The drive winds through charming small towns and beautiful farmland, but for the most scenic adventure, you have to make sure to pencil in a few stops along the way! As you make your way from the Leelanau Peninsula to The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (there are great hiking trails here for more great views), you’ll want to check out Leelanau State Park, Pyramid Point, and Empire Bluff Trail. A little farther south, in Arcadia, don’t miss a stop at Inspiration Point — the highest point on the shores of Lake Michigan.
These lovely Metro Parks are tucked outside the hustle and bustle of city life and are home to thousands of acres of protected forests. Both parks offer miles of hiking and biking trails that meander through an array of brilliant fall foliage. Kensington also offers an 8.5-mile paved path that circles Kent Lake, making for a fantastic natural setting.
#10 Nichols Arboretum
Right in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor, the Arb is a great place to relax with a picnic or wander countless trails while enjoying the colors. The Arb is home to a wide variety of trees, from Oak to Maple, that burst with color, illuminating walking paths and creating the most majestic scenery on a bright day.
Nestled on Lake Michigan’s shoreline, this state park is surrounded by a thick deciduous forest, dunes, and beaches, making for a unique fall backdrop! To enjoy the fall colors, you can hike or bike on their 18 miles of trails or hop in a boat! Kayak and canoe rentals are available at Ludington Canoe Trail and Big Sable River Paddle.
More Michigan Travel Planning Help
If you’re looking for more guidance on things to do, places to eat, and more, check out these fantastic articles and guides.
How To Spend Two Days in Traverse City as a Vegan
The Best Hiking Trails in Traverse City
The Complete Vegan Guide to Traverse City
Where to Find Vegan Wine in Michigan
Where to Stay in Pictured Rocks
7 Epic Things to Do in Pictured Rocks
Guide to Vegan and Vegan-Friendly Restaurants in Detroit
The Best Spots for Vegan Food in Grand Rapids
9 Spots for Vegan Food in Munising & Marquette
11 Fun Things to Do in Detroit
Vegan Guide to Detroit