As the summer winds down and the air fills with the scent of pines and cool, autumn air, Michigan transforms into a playground of vibrant hues. From fiery reds and deep oranges to glowing yellows, you’ll find landscapes washed with colors that are a feast for the eyes.
But if you’re new to the area, you might feel a little overwhelmed by the possibilities. Should you hike through the forest or settle for a scenic drive along the coast? What about exploring charming small towns with their unique foliage displays and fall festivals? In this article, we’ll discuss some of the best spots in Michigan for an unforgettable leaf-peeping adventure.
Best Places to See Fall in Michigan
Below are some of the best places in Michigan to witness the dazzling beauty of nature’s seasonal transition.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park
One of the most awe-inspiring spots to enjoy Michigan’s fall foliage is the picturesque Tahquamenon Falls State Park. Covering over 50,000 acres in the Upper Peninsula, this natural gem boasts a beautiful network of waterfalls and streams that flow through pristine forests. The largest waterfall at Tahquamenon is Upper Falls which drops about 50 feet into the river below.
As you wander through the network of trails alongside the river, you’ll notice that it’s infused with the scent of cedar, spruce, and hemlock trees. This vibrant “tea-colored” river not only enhances your leaf-peeping experience but also provides the perfect backdrop to capture some stunning pictures.
Aside from marveling at the waterfalls and colorful foliage, you can take advantage of the park’s extensive trail system, which offers both serene strolls and thrilling hiking experiences. At Tahquamenon Falls State Park, inclusivity is a priority, which is why the wheelchair-accessible Lower Falls bridge and boardwalk were installed last spring. The park even rents out electric off-road wheelchairs, making it easy to explore colorful fall scenery.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Settled in the town of Munising along the shores of Lake Superior, the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is teeming with white sands alongside azure waters, sandstone cliffs, tranquil lakes, and an array of deciduous trees.
For adventurous souls, kayaking or boating across the waters of Lake Superior provides an unrivaled viewpoint of the fall leaves. Most of the kayaking and boating tours cover the most iconic landmarks of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, including Miners Castle, Lovers Leap, Chapel Rocks, and more.
While exploring these areas, you’ll notice groundwater seeping through the cracks and trickling down the rock faces. These streaks of mineral stain contribute to a colorful pattern on the cliffs while adding to the magnificent fall scenery.
A significant portion of the park’s trail system is wheelchair-accessible, featuring boardwalks and paved paths for easy navigation. You can also visit Grand Island, which is a rocky outcropping and sea caves in the center of Lake Superior. It’s the perfect place to enjoy the last moments of the day, watching as the sun slowly sets over the horizon.
Traverse City and Leelanau Peninsula
If you’re visiting Michigan for the first time, take the scenic M-22 highway to reach the heart of Michigan’s wine country, the Leelanau Peninsula. The drive is gorgeous on its own if you like winding roads and scenic overlooks, but it’s even more beautiful when you make time to stop at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse.
This iconic structure is perched on the peninsula’s tip and offers stunning views of Lake Michigan. Once there, you can walk over the carpet of colorful leaves, take a hike through the forest, and enjoy the wineries that dot the landscape.
When in Traverse City, it’s essential to explore Benzie County—a leaf peeper’s paradise. This county is filled with dense green forests that come alive with vibrant shades of deep red, orange, and gold during the fall season. Make sure to visit the charming village of Lake Ann, also located within Benzie County. The picturesque village is filled with quaint shops, art galleries, and cafes that are perfect for a laid-back afternoon.
A trip to Traverse City is incomplete without a visit to its acclaimed wineries. Among the many options, you can visit Left Foot Charley, Mari Vineyard, and Chateau Chantal to savor exquisite wines while exploring the beauty of the lush vineyards.
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Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
If you want to experience the magic of fall in its full glory, be sure to include Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on your itinerary when you visit Michigan. Boasting over 100 miles of trails, this national lakeshore provides the opportunity to explore rolling dunes, vibrant forests, and pristine shores.
One such trail is the Bay View trail, which is an eight-mile trek. This paved hike provides you with breathtaking views of Lake Michigan beaches, historic barns, and farmhouses. You can even rent a special wheelchair designed for rough terrain to allow you to explore even more. If you plan on visiting in early October, you will be greeted by a fascinating mix of crimson maple and golden beech trees, setting the scenery ablaze with their fall colors.
Alternatively, you could visit Alligator Hill in nearby Glen Arbor. This area offers magnificent views of Manitou Island, especially from the Big Glen Lookout.
For those who want a glimpse of every landscape, including wetlands, lakes, forests, bluffs, and beaches, the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail is the one to explore. This area covers diverse terrain, offering you the warmth of the dense fall foliage one moment and the refreshing cool of Lake Michigan the next—a perfect way to enjoy every aspect of autumn.
Huron-Manistee National Forests
While there are many places to see fall colors within the Wolverine state, Huron-Manistee National Forest offers the most diversity in terms of landscape and color. The fall foliage here begins in early October but intensifies as the weeks progress.
During the first week, areas like Caberfae and Briar Hills are still full of vibrant colors, even though other parts of the forest are starting to transition toward a more muted palette. You’ll also see wildflowers in bloom, particularly around the campgrounds. The forest is full of life during the fall, and it’s not uncommon to see white-tailed deer, bobcats, red foxes, raccoons, porcupines, or other wildlife wandering through the campgrounds.
As you venture deeper into this forested paradise, don’t miss stopping at Sawmill Point Boat Launch and the many other picturesque spots along the AuSable River. The river’s waters reflect the bright colors of fall, providing a wonderful backdrop for a photo opp.
Plan Leaf Peeping Adventure with Clock Mobility
Michigan’s summer is undoubtedly exquisite, but autumn has a charm that is nothing short of mesmerizing. At Clock Mobility, we have a wide range of wheelchair-accessible vehicles that’ll keep you comfortable while embarking on the magical fall color tour, whether you’re looking to rent a wheelchair van or purchase one of your own. For more information, call us at (866) 380-3326 or visit one of our four locations in Michigan.