This article was updated September 8, 2023 from a previous article.
The hills and forests of Northern Michigan have some of the best fall colors in the country and without all the crowds in the northeast and northwest of the country. With so many options for stunning color in Northern Michigan, you are sure to discover new places year after year. Whether you are planning a day or longer trip, Northern Michigan fall color is for all ages and abilities.
WHEN DOES FALL COLOR PEAK?
The websites below are great references for updated fall color information.
Northern Michigan Fall Color
Some of the best places to view fall color is in Northern Michigan. Peak color is predicted to start later than last year. Experts are suggesting that peak color will hit mid to late September in the Upper Peninsula. Color will work its way south with peak for most of the lower peninsula starting the week of October 2nd. The Lake Michigan shoreline south of Benzie County is expected to hit peak the week of October 16th ending. Plan on the entire state being past peak color by the week of October 23rd.
LOWER NORTHERN MICHIGAN
From Cadillac to Mackinaw City and Petoskey to Alpena and everywhere in between there are ample opportunities for fall color viewing. Peak colors are expected the week of October 2nd with most of Northern Michigan past peak by the week of October 16th.
ALPENA – GAYLORD – MIO
Visit the Sunrise Side of the state in early October for over 200 miles of breathtaking color. As you head toward the Pigeon River Country State Forest and Elk Range stop at designated viewing areas along M-32. To the north is Vanderbilt where you may see elk in Sturgeon Valley area. To the east in Mio you will view vibrant colors and wildlife view in the Au Sable River Valley.
ROGERS CITY – CHEBOYGAN – INDIAN RIVER
The Tip of the Mitt on the Sunrise Side of the state will off you a 200-mile triangle with the only waterfall in the Lower Peninsula and thousands of acres of Forest. Best views are early October where you will find tree-lined stretches along I-75 to the Straits of Mackinac and many opportunities for leaf peeping along the Inland Waterway near Indian River.
MACKINAW CITY – PETOSKEY – CHARLEVOIX
The Northwestern part of the state is best enjoyed early October with approximately 100 miles of stunning views along hilly and forested countryside. This area includes one of Michigan’s most spectacular drives, the Tunnel of Trees just south of Cross Village. An almost 20-mile section under a canopy of trees as it follows the cliffs above Lake Michigan to Harbor Springs.
TRAVERSE CITY – NORTHPORT – FRANKFORT
Visit the Grand Traverse Area in early October and see the Lake Michigan shore line on fire with Autumn color. The approximately 190 miles includes the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore where you can take the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive and see brilliant fall foliage for miles around you.
MANISTEE – CADILLAC – LUDINGTON
This 185-mile loop of exciting fall color is best enjoyed early to mid October. The Lake Michigan shoreline is expected to see color peaking the week of October 16th. Visit the Manistee National Forest and enjoy the color along the winding Manistee River where you can connect with the North Country National Scenic Trail. Head south to Ludington where you will find fall color in over 5,300 acres of hardwood forests and hills.
GRAYLING – TORCH LAKE – LAKE CITY
Fall color can be seen by foot, by car or in a canoe with the best time for peak color in early October. This area offers over 700 acres of forest at North and South Higgins State Parks. Head west for fall color viewing sites on Lake Margrethe west of Grayling. Just south in Lake City there is plenty of fall color with 100,000 acres of wild public land and forests. Don’t forget to head northwest to the Torch Lake area and enjoy the rich colors of autumn against the backdrop of Michigan’s Chain of Lakes. You will find spectacular color at every turn along this 70-miles of shoreline.
OSCODA – WEST BRANCH – TAWAS CITY
Back to the Sunrise Side of the state, this fall tour is best visited early October for peak color. Your 190-mile journey will include scenic drives along Lake Huron, wilderness and recreation areas and the River Road Scenic Byway along the beautiful Au Sable River.
UPPER PENINSULA MICHIGAN
The Upper Peninsula offers some of the best viewing of fall color displays in the United States. With over 10.5 million acres and about 84% of that forested land, anywhere you go you will find stunning fall color. Peak colors are expected September 11th through October 8th.
SAINT IGNACE – WHITEFISH POINT – ENGADINE
This part of the Eastern Upper Peninsula is best enjoyed mid-September to early October for the wonderful fall colors. The historic city of St. Ignace is the perfect place to start this approximately 170-mile tour. From Lake Superior back to Lake Michigan you will discover magnificent color against back drops of wildlife, waterfalls and wilderness.
SAULT SAINTE MARIE – DRUMMOND ISLAND – HESSEL
In the far eastern part of the U.P you will find De Tour Village. Take a short 15-minute car ferry to heavily wooded Drummond Island. After touring the island, catch the ferry back to the mainland and drive country roads through colorful farmland to Sault Ste. Marie. You will discover brilliant color along this 160-mile drive between Lake Huron and Lake Superior. For best viewing visit mid-September to early October.
MUNISING – NEWBERRY – GRAND MARAIS
Here you will find fall color dancing off the cliffs along Lake Superior in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The 170-mile drive has some of the most remote land in the Upper Peninsula that you can easily visit by car or on foot. Along this route stop for short hikes to waterfalls and many other scenic spots. For peak color visit late-September to early October.
MENOMINEE – ESCANABA – MANISTIQUE
If you want to be surrounded by fabulous color visit this area mid-September to early October. The approximately 290 miles along Lake Michigan is filled with the hues of fall. Make sure to visit Little Bay de Noc and maybe catch the end of the migration of Monarch butterflies heading south.
MARQUETTE – NEGAUNEE – AU TRAIN
Visit Central Upper Peninsula in late September to early October. Enjoy approximately 185 miles of colorful country roads, waterfalls and a stunning drive along Lake Superior. County Road 510 will take you through the Huron Mountains and through trees that form a tunnel of color. Watch for the many scenic turnouts that allow you to travel by foot for a portion or simply stop and enjoy the views.
HOUGHTON – EAGLE RIVER – COPPER HARBOR
First glimpse of fall color in Michigan can be views on the Keweenaw Peninsula, the state’s northernmost point. The approximately 100-mile drive will take you through hills, ridges and tunnels of tree displaying vivid reds, oranges and golds. Visit mid-September to early October for best color.
IRON RIVER – BRUCE CROSSING – WATERSMEET
Visit this area in mid-September to early October for fabulous color along approximately 135 miles of roads. With lakes, rivers and National Forest the color surrounds you wherever you go. Make sure to visit Watersmeet, here you find the Ontonagon River flowing north in Lake Superior, the Wisconsin River flowing south into the Mississippi and the Paint River flowing east into Lake Michigan. It is where the waters meet.
IRONWOOD – SILVER CITY – WAKEFIELD
Visit this area in mid-September to early October to catch nature’s colorful display in the Porcupine Mountains. Color does not disappoint along this approximately 100 mile Western Upper Peninsula fall driving tour.
Whether you choose to visit the Northern Lower Peninsula or the Upper Peninsula you will find spectacular color and vistas, great lodging and delicious places to eat throughout Northern Michigan.
Watch for more facts and adventures in Northern Michigan!