Best time to travel to Michigan

Upper Peninsula Fall Colors in Michigan 2024

Take in the explosion of yellow, orange, and crimson

Best time: late September–early October

Upper Peninsula Fall Colors
Upper Peninsula Fall Colors
Upper Peninsula Fall Colors
Lake of the Clouds, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

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. Lower Peninsula also boasts a number of scenic destinations, which include Traverse City and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

When to see fall colors

Every year, the colorful fall timing is different, but typically, colors start to turn in late September and peak around mid-October. First fall colors arrive in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, followed by the Lower Peninsula, mid-Michigan, and southern regions along the border with Ohio and Indiana. The Upper Peninsula peak fall colors are observed between the last week of September and the first two weeks of October.

Upper Peninsula Fall Colors

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”.

Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island, located in the Eastern Upper Peninsula region, is another great fall destination. A car-free island is a perfect place for a bike trip through the gorgeous Mackinac Island State Park forest. or a leisurely ride around Mackinac Island on M-185. The island also boasts over 70 miles of hiking trails. Best hikes in the fall include the Tranquil Bluff Trail on the eastern shore. From there, you can continue your hike to Eagle Point Cave, take the Swamp Trail, and finish at British Landing Road.

Lower Peninsula Fall Colors

Traverse City

Traverse City, located at the head of Grand Traverse Bay in the Lower Peninsula Region, is an excellent idea for a leaf-peeping excursion. Home of beautiful cherry orchards, picturesque vineyards, and lush forests, Traverse City boasts many scenic spots, like Old Mission Peninsula, known for its Wine Trail and cozy inns. Stop by the Mission Point Lighthouse and enjoy views of the Grand Traverse Bay.

To explore the area further, take a ride to the quiant village of Lake Ann, located in scenic Benzie County. Next stop — the Sleeping Bear Dunes Lakeshore. The park spans the South and North Manitou islands as well as the northeast shore of Lake Michigan. Picturesque bluffs, pristine forests, and high dunes, which allow panoramic views across the lake, make Sleeping Bear Dunes a unique destination for a fall adventure.

Practical info

What are some of the highly-recommended fall color hotspots in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan?

Some highly-recommended fall color hotspots in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan include the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Tahquamenon Falls State Park, and Keweenaw Peninsula. There is a burst of vivid yellow, orange, and crimson hues that makes these sites perfect for a foliage tour, a getaway, or a train ride. Each location provides spectacular panoramic views, scenic drives, and hiking trails for a memorable autumnal experience. Show more

Which location is the most photographed point in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park?

The Lake of the Clouds is the most photographed point in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, situated near Silver City and White Pine. The magnificent lake is encompassed by a riot of colorful trees, and every view is scenic, no matter the perspective. Besides, visitors can snap breathtaking pictures of the fall colors panorama from Summit Peak Observation Tower, which provides a 360-degree view. Show more

What causes the Upper Tahquamenon Falls to have a unique color during the fall?

The Upper Tahquamenon Falls have a distinct chocolate color during the fall. The color results from tannins that leach into the water from the cedar swamp that the Tahquamenon River originates from. Locals refer to this fall color as Root Beer Falls due to its resemblance to the sweet North American beverage made from root bark. The Upper Tahquamenon Falls are located near the town of Paradise and provide a unique and stunning viewpoint of Michigan's fall colors. Show more

What is the name of the Tree Tunnel that showcases stunning fall colors near Copper Harbor?

The Tree Tunnel is a brilliant fall display along US-41 while coming into Copper Harbor. Various deciduous trees, as well as coniferous ones, line the tree-covered road, producing a unique blend of fall colors. Houghton, Copper Country State Forest, and Lake Roland nearby are also good locations for autumnal color photography. Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula is not to be missed for its lively urban panoramas and breathtaking fall scenery. Show more

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