Best time to travel to Michigan

Upper Peninsula Fall Colors

Take in the explosion of yellow, orange, and crimson

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Last updated: by Olha Savych
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The season of vivid colors comes only once a year, and this is your perfect excuse to plan a getaway, book a fall a colors tour, or take a train ride. Michigan generously offers a myriad of scenic routes. You'll be charmed no matter where you go—to the Upper or Lower Peninsula. The Upper Peninsula, or UP for short, is yet among the best fall foliage destinations in the US. The peak fall colors are observed between the last two weeks of September and the first two weeks of October.

Red Jack Lake, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, south of Munising 2020
Red Jack Lake, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, south of Munising

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

One of the most exceptional locations found on the Upper Peninsula is the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park near Silver City and White Pine. The Park's scenic hiking trails crisscross the vast area of 60,000 ac (24,280 ha). The main gem of the park is the magnificent Lake of the Clouds. This lake is the most photographed point in the Porcupine Mountains, and possibly in all of the Upper Peninsula. You must see it when it's rimmed with a riot of colors!

Another great getaway to capture breathtaking panoramas is climbing the Summit Peak. The trail can be accessed from South Boundary Road. For the best views, climb the Summit Peak Observation Tower. The top of the 50-ft (15-m) tall tower is the highest point at the state park, nearly 2,000 ft (609 m) above sea level.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Another UP fall foliage spot is Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The area boasts some of the most striking lookouts on Lake Superior. You'll be awed by the pine tree cliffs reflecting in the turquoise water. Experience the seasonal spirit on a cruise along the 40-mi (64-km) Lakeshore. Other ways to see the colors include a kayak trip, a hike, or a drive—the vibrant sceneries are assured in any case.

While exploring the wild beauty, take your time also to see the iconic Grand Island East Channel Lighthouse just north of Munising.

Tahquamenon Falls State Park

Tahquamenon Falls State Park near the town of Paradise is another top location for stunning fall photography. Besides numerous hiking trails, the park is particularly favored for the Upper Tahquamenon Falls that has an unusual chocolate color. The dye owes to the tannins leaching from the cedar swamp at the beginning of the Tahquamenon River. Locals call the waterfall "Root Beer Falls" as its brown color and foam resemble the sweet North American beverage made with root bark. The waterfall is stunning in the fall season when white pines and hardwood trees change color and make the scenery truly unbeatable.

The Lower Tahquamenon Falls are located 4 mi (6 km) downstream and consist of five falls around a small island. You can rent a boat at Lower Falls to get a closer look.

Keweenaw Peninsula

At last, if you're interested in colorful urban panoramas, the Keweenaw Peninsula has something for you. Houghton in the fall promises to be as breathtaking as the scenic drive along M-26. On the way to the city, you'll also pass Copper County State Forest, Lake Roland, and other picturesque sites.

For more admiration of the fall colors, continue the trip further northeast. Copper Harbor on the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula must be the biggest rival of other scenic spots in the area. The winning combination of different deciduous trees and coniferous varieties makes for a unique palette. Besides, US-41 coming into Copper Harbor bestows a jaw-dropping color show across “Tree Tunnel”.

Every year, the colorful fall timing is different, but typically, colors start to turn in late September and peak around mid-October.

Where to stay

If you choose to explore the autumnal brilliance of the Upper Peninsula, plan ahead, and find lodging. The area of Marquette, which is the largest town in the region, has a lot of campgrounds and RV parks. Yet, most of them close down after Labor Day, and only a handful operate throughout the year. Anyways, you can find a great variety of hotels there too. Houghton and Munising offer plenty of options to stay for a night. Additionally, you may explore the fall colors map and book a place to stay that is closest to your destination.