Best Ways to Enjoy Fall Colors in Michigan


by Sheri Frey

Fall colors in Michigan can be breathtaking.  If the bright and ever-changing colors of fall give you peace and joy, there is no better place to live or visit than Michigan. The entire state brightens up with an amazing range of colors from mid to late September through the month of October. Different areas reach their peak beauty at different times of the short season, so you will have to plan your fall adventures according to where you would like to visit.

Michigan fall colors

Late September Michigan Color

The Upper Peninsula starts the color show most years. If you don’t want to wait until October to catch the beauty of autumn, you can head to these locations toward the end of September, or some years more toward the middle of September.
fall colors in Michigan

  • Thunder Bay Island –Alpena. Hit the island three miles north of the city to view the trees, the water, and the lighthouse. Best color time is late September through the middle of October.
  • Otsego Lake State Park – Gaylord. More than 60 miles of large color-loaded trees, plus a beach along the shoreline. Color starts late September and extends into the middle of October.
  • Hartwick Pines State Park – Grayling. Thousands of acres to wander through the trees. Nearly 50 acres of old growth white pines lighting up autumn. View the trees toward the end of September and into October.
  • Kirtland’s Warbler and Jack Pine Wildlife Viewing Tour – Mio. There is never a better time to view the wildlife of this region than in late September and early October.
  • Ottawa National Forest – Ironwood. Rolling hills, lakes, mile after mile of beautifully lit woodlands, and many locations for viewing the color of autumn. Color starts toward the middle of September and dies out by the end of October.
  • Gogebic Ridge Hiking Trail – Bergland. Immerse yourself in the changing color for eight beautiful miles.

Early to Late October Michigan Color

October is the heart of the color season in Michigan. Here are the best places to find trees lit up throughout this month:

  • Detroit– Beautiful color can be seen all throughout October.
  • Algonac State Park – Marine City. 1,500 acres of beautiful color, prairie wildlife, and shoreline along the river. Plan a longer trip, camp out, enjoy a bit of archery along with your color.fall colors in Michigan park
  • Bald Mountain Recreation Area – Lake Orion. More than 4,000 acres of natural beauty, all lit up with color. Camp out, swim, picnic, and enjoy a variety of other outdoor amusements.
  • Stony Creek Metropark – Shelby Township. Thousands of acres of brightly colored trees. Suitable area for camping, swimming, and enjoying the outdoors with the family.
  • Pontiac Lake Recreation Area – Waterford. Nearly 4,000 acres of woodlands beautifully lit with changing color. Visit throughout October for a colorful camping trip or a fun day in the woods.
  • Drayton Plains Nature Center – Waterford. Ponds, streams, the prairie, and tons of trees changing colors. This is a beautiful area for a day trip.
  • Holly Recreation Area – Holly. Beautiful area with scenic overlooks perfect for snapping pictures or just basking in the beauty of the season.
  • Seven Lakes State Park – Holly. Smaller state park with an interesting ecosystem, plus more trees.
  • Lakelands Trail State Park – Pickney. Abandoned railroad corridors have been turned into a stunning park perfect for catching the color.

This list could go on and on, but this will get you started planning a color trip in October. The entire state is lit up with color during this month, so you can go virtually anywhere you like to catch the beauty. Plan a regional tour or look up any state park.

Planning Your Color Tour

If you live in Michigan, get outdoors and make every day a color tour. You probably have amazing color on trees in your neighborhood, and if you live near a park or recreational area you have tons of beauty right at your fingertips.

If you are planning to visit Michigan to see the fall season at its best, try to plan a tour of a given area at the most appropriate time of the season. Rather than visiting one state park, you may spend a week touring one region of the state to see what all sites have to offer. You will see different types of trees of different ages, so the intensity of color will vary dramatically.

There are a variety of factors that can vary the arrival of fall colors in a given area, or affect the brilliance of color displayed. It is a good idea to call ahead to places you may want to visit, just to make sure the colors are not showing early or disappearing earlier than expected.



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