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 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 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 unmissable locations found on the Upper Peninsula is the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park located near Silver City and White Pine. Its 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. The basin is the most photographed feature 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 idea to capture breathtaking panorama is climbing the Summit Peak. The trail is reached from the South Boundary Road. For the utmost view, 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.

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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 reflected 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 that is situated just north of Munising.

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Tahquamenon Falls State Park

Tahquamenon Falls State Park near the town of Paradise is another top location for stunning fall photography. Despite numerous hiking trails, the park is especially favored for the Upper Tahquamenon Falls that have 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 foliage 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 at the islands and falls.

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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 to the north-east. 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, the US-41 coming into Copper Harbor bestows a jaw-dropping color show across “Tree Tunnel”. Just keep in mind, that due to geographical location, the peak season in the area is postponed to mid-October.

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Where to stay

If you choose to explore the autumnal brilliance of the Upper Peninsula, plan for the lodgings. The area of Marquette, which is the largest town in the region, has a lot of campgrounds and RV parks. Yet most of them are closed 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.