The beauty of fall in Michigan is legendary. From our peaceful, reflective shorelines to our misty inner forests, the entire state erupts in a celebration of color as soon as the season begins. Non-Michiganders truly don’t know what they are missing. Sure, they can look at pictures, but fall in Michigan is much more than sight. It’s the feeling, the smell. It’s watching colorful leaves flutter this way and that as they leave the branch and land upon the soft waters of a crystal-clear lake. It’s about sweaters, long socks and cozy cardigans – about welcoming change and understanding that it is inevitable. In Michigan, autumn is to be appreciated and there are some great places and drives in the state where you can do just that. All you need to do is make the time.
Here are 10 of the Most Scenic Adventures for Michigan Fall Enthusiasts.
Holly State Recreation Area
How about some local flavor to start? Holly State Recreation Area offers some of the region’s best fall scenery. The view around Heron and Valley Lakes is stunning and the trail system up to and around McGinnis Lake is a can’t-miss. If your idea of appreciating fall is getting out in it, Holly Recreation Area is one of the best places to make it happen.
Metamora-Hadley Recreation Area
Just a skip to the east, the Metamora Recreation Area is a breath of fresh air. The trail that follows the coast of Lake Minnawanna is perfect for a quick afternoon jaunt and offers a dazzling display of autumn color. On the right day, the lake reflection is magnificent.
Starting in Standish, this trip follows US-23 as it winds north along Michigan’s coast to Mackinaw City. The roughly 200-mile drive has long been considered one of the country’s more beautiful drives, especially in fall. Lined with colorful foliage, the route is studded with pristine trails, beaches and lighthouses. Not to mention the cozy, little towns to stop in and have a bite – such as Au Gres, Oscoda, Alpena, Rogers City, Cheboygan, etc.
It’s no surprise that one of our state’s best attractions is one of its most beautiful when the seasons change. Michigan’s largest waterfall is world-renowned for its autumn splendor. The majesty of crashing water surrounded by nature’s fall brilliance is breathtaking. In this circumstance, the lower falls steal the scene as they offer a much more personal and possibly spiritual encounter with the season.
A winner! In autumn, the view from the escarpment trail overlooking Lake of the Clouds is one of the most amazing on earth. Every hue of red, yellow, orange and green are represented in one gorgeous sight of the lands surrounding the lake. It’s a Bob Ross painting come to life (and every tree has a friend). The display is one of the best this planet has to offer and that’s not all … each trail through the Porkies holds its own magic.
Cut River Bridge
Located on Highway 2 in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, this bridge spans 641 feet over the Cut River. The historic bridge is a popular overlook for autumn thrill-seekers and offers a view akin to that of the escarpment trail in the Porcupine Mountains. Sight-seers can stop at the bridge park and walk out to the middle to get the best view of seasonal nature.
Tunnel of Trees
One of the prettiest drives in the nation during the warmer months, the Tunnel of Trees (M119) runs from Harbor Springs in the south to Cross Village in the north. This narrow, two-lane road twists and bends its way through a fall display unmatched by any other drive in Michigan. Start at Harbor Springs, see the beauty and then, have dinner in Cross Village at the iconic Legs Inn – you won’t be disappointed.
Starting just north of Manistee, the Gold Coast Drive (M22) follows the west coast all the way to the Leelanau Peninsula, just north of Traverse City. Moving through the forests of Frankfort and flashing through Sleeping Bear Dunes, the entire drive is saturated with autumn color. The vineyards of the peninsula are that perfect slice of Americana that inspires. When finished with your drive, why not head past Traverse City to Old Mission Peninsula for even more fall splendor?
Blue Star Highway
Running from Holland to just south of South Haven, this roadway offers marvelous rural landscapes and scenic lake views. For added fun, visit Holland State Park or carry on down highway 63 to St. Joseph. Cap your journey with a stop for lunch or dinner in the quaint city of South Haven.
Lake Superior Circle Tour
The granddaddy of all foliage trips, this route spans 1,300-miles around the coastline of Lake Superior through Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Canada. The tour comes complete with its own guide (superiorcircletour.com) that highlights campgrounds, restaurants, breweries, scenic outlooks and trails. This is an adventure for Michigan autumn celebrants who only want to experience the best and greatest of the season.