Autumn is a stunning season no matter where you live–there’s no arguing that. However, some states have fall colors that blow all others away…and Michigan is one of them!
If you’re dying to experience the wonder of a Michigan autumn but you can’t figure out where to start, don’t worry. We’ve put together a list of our favorite places to take in Michigan fall foliage right here!
Best Fall Foliage Destinations in the Lower Peninsula
Have you ever heard of “Petoskey stones?” If you haven’t, you might want to visit the city that provided their name!
If you visit in the fall, you not only can track down some of your own fossilized treasures–you can also admire the local fall colors!
The best place to visit in Petoskey to see Michigan fall foliage on full display is a bit different. Instead of one location, it’s a bit of a road trip.
If you look up the “Tri-County Tour,” you’ll start and finish in Petoskey, but you’ll get to take in three counties’ worth of fall colors in between.
Try to visit Petoskey closer to the middle of October.
Traverse City is one of Michigan’s most popular tourist destinations all year round. However, autumn is by far the best time to arrange your visit!
Traverse City has plenty of opportunities for you to observe Michigan fall foliage, but our favorite requires a bit of driving.
To witness the most spectacular fall views Traverse City has to offer, you can drive through Old Mission Peninsula. By following one of the provided tour maps from Traverse City, you can ensure you don’t miss a drop of autumn glory.
You can even make stops along the way and taste some of Traverse City’s famous wine!
Sleeping Bear Dunes
Sleeping Bear Dunes has several trails you can use to explore the dunes themselves. However, to experience Michigan fall foliage in this area, you’ll actually want to avoid the more popular dune trails.
Instead, you’ll want to trek Pyramid Point Trail, Bay View Trail, or Windy Moraine Trail to enjoy the beech and maple trees decked out in their fall colors.
Best Fall Foliage Destinations in the Upper Peninsula
Pictured Rocks is a destination packed to the brim with vivid color any time of year. Its brilliant turquoise water, colorful stone features (hence, “Pictured Rocks”), and verdant forests are worth visiting in any season.
You can imagine exactly how jaw-dropping this location becomes when the trees put on their best pigments!
Hiking Pictured Rocks is a great way to take in the trees. However, the very best way to experience Michigan fall foliage here is by boat!
Taking a boat tour will not only get you an unbeatable view of the autumn-touched trees, it will also give you the best view of the painted rocks themselves.
Pictured Rocks is one of the rare Michigan fall foliage destinations that is best visited in late September to early October rather than mid-October. The colder temperatures can cause the leaves to drop a bit earlier.
Welcome to one of Michigan’s most unique spectacles: Kitch-iti-kipi Springs!
“The Big Spring” is surrounded on all sides by flourishing forests. Its deep blue water clashes beautifully with the fiery fall colors, coming together to make a view that can’t be captured properly with anything but the human eye.
The best way to experience Michigan fall foliage at Kitch-iti-kipi is by taking a trip on the observation raft.
Try to plan your trip for early to mid-October. Expect crowds whenever you choose to visit; this is a popular place to be in the fall!
The Porcupine Mountains (also known as the Porkies!) offer one of the most well-known opportunities to catch Michigan fall foliage.
People flock to the Porcupine Mountains from all over to experience the views they offer this time of year.
The number-one most recommended place to take in the fall color of the Porkies is the lookout over Lake of the Clouds. We recommend bringing along some phone-adaptable binoculars for this one–trust us, plain old phone pictures won’t do the view justice!
Brockway Mountain is another early bloomer when it comes to Michigan fall colors. You can visit as early as the end of September and expect to see some brilliant views!
It’s also a driving destination, so make sure you gas up your car!
Brockway Mountain is also a “Michigan Wildlife Viewing Area,” so make sure you have your camera on hand to capture any cool critters that show up!
Copper Harbor offers several opportunities to experience Michigan fall foliage as well. But by far, its most famous autumn attraction is the Tunnel of Trees!
The Tunnel of Trees can only be experienced by driving through. If your ultimate destination is Petoskey, you can even choose to take this route all the way there. You can double up on Michigan fall color destinations, no problem!
If you want to catch some pictures, you’ll have to do so in the car. The Tunnel of Trees doesn’t leave much room for people to pull over and park, and it can be dangerous to try!
No matter where you end up staying in Marquette, you can’t go wrong. Fall colors explode to life everywhere in this area.
However, your best bet to get the most bang for your buck–or rather, the most color for your climb–is to hike up Sugarloaf Mountain.
The Sugarloaf Mountain trail will lead you to a lookout where you can fully take in the majesty of the mountain in autumn.
There are actually two trails–one family-friendly, one suited for the more experienced hiker. Both will get you to the lookout; just make sure you pick the right one!
(Don’t worry–they should be marked.)
Sault Sainte Marie
However, you think you’re supposed to pronounce this Michigan fall foliage destination…you’re probably wrong.
(We’ll help you out: It’s “Soo Saint Marie.”)
Sault Sainte Marie (also known as the Soo) may not be the best city name to use in a spelling bee, but it one of the best fall color destinations in Michigan!
Located in Chippewa County, this city touches both Lake Superior and Lake Huron. If visiting all five Great Lakes is on your bucket list, a visit to the Soo can knock off two at once!
The best place in Sault Sainte Marie proper to soak in the glory of Michigan fall foliage is Soo Locks Park. You can find this beautiful park nestled in the heart of downtown Sault Sainte Marie.
You can walk the paths and trade between admiring the colors and admiring the canal nearby.
If you get tired, you can even sit by the fountain and enjoy the fall air for a while!
The best time to visit Sault Sainte Marie is late September to mid-October. If you come later, you might still catch some color, but the leaves won’t be as plentiful.
Tahquamenon Falls (we’ll be honest–we don’t know how to pronounce this one) is another popular destination for campers and hikers all year round. However, the prime time to visit is mid to late October.
While there are plenty of driving tours you can take in the area to see fall colors, trust us…you want to prioritize seeing the falls themselves.
If you take one of the shorter trails, try to hike up to the falls just before sunset. The setting sun on the water and the gorgeous fall colors melding together creates a breathtaking picture.
Just make sure you start heading back before the sun fully sets–you don’t want to be hiking in the dark!
Best Unique Fall Foliage Destinations in Michigan
This is another tricky one for non-Michigan natives–it’s pronounced “Mackin-AW,” not “MackinACK.” But however you pronounce its name, you simply can’t beat Mackinac Island in autumn. Michigan’s fall foliage is at its absolute best on the island.
Honestly, you can enjoy the fall colors anywhere on the island–in fact, you can’t really escape them! But there are a few different ways you can take them in after riding the ferry over.
One of the best ways to explore the island is via bike. You can rent bikes and ride around the whole island. This will allow you to take in all the fall colors you can stand!
If you’re in search of some truly mind-blowing views, however, there are two locations you should visit on Mackinac: Arch Rock and Fort Mackinac.
Both locations offer a bird’s-eye view of the island, allowing you to see the full spread of autumn brilliance.
October is the best time to visit Mackinac Island. While it will be bustling with tourists–it’s not exactly Michigan’s best-kept secret–it’s well worth it to experience the views. (And the fresh Mackinac Island fudge! Try the dark chocolate salted caramel…you won’t regret it!)
Isle Royale National Park
Last but not least is Isle Royale National Park!
This is the most difficult Michigan fall foliage destination to get to–you’ll have to take a ferry across, and you can’t bring your car with you.
You also need to make sure you don’t miss the last ferry back unless you’re planning to camp! Mackinac has plenty of hotels, but Isle Royale doesn’t offer the same amenities.
However, there is plenty of hiking, and any route you take will provide some gorgeous fall views.
Falling for Michigan Fall Colors? Us Too!
Narrowing down your choices for Michigan fall foliage stops is going to be difficult–they’re all so tempting!
The good news is that many of these destinations are within driving distance of each other. So if you want to dedicate a longer trip to catching the autumn colors, you can hit a few different places on this list!For more fall destinations to add to your Michigan trip itinerary, check out the best pumpkin patches and the best apple orchards to visit in Michigan!
- About the Author
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Cassidy Eubanks is a proud Michigander, an avid reader, a lover of colorful gardens, and a writer for Minneopa Orchards.
After earning her bachelor’s in Creative Writing (partially through virtual learning, thanks to the pandemic), gardening gave her an excuse to get outside and get away from all the screens. With a particular love for decorating with colorful flowers, using herbs grown in her own garden, and finding creative ways to build big gardens in small spaces, Cassidy enjoys helping others learn about growing their own food, flowers, and trees through Minneopa Orchards!