Home to vast farmlands, several national parks and sandy beaches, Michigan is one of the best places in the country to see fall colors.
While you can go almost anywhere in the state and find beautiful views and seasonal activities, some destinations stand out more than others during this colorful season. That’s why today we’ve created a list of our favorite destinations that you should visit this fall! From small towns to waterfront cities and state parks, these Michigan destinations will have you swooning all season long—not to mention that the car trips themselves are pretty spectacular too. Have fun!
Incorporated in 1871, the lovely city of Alpena, which is home to around 10,000 residents, overlooks Lake Huron’s picturesque Thunder Bay. Their main claim to fame is their position in the 45th Parallel, the halfway point between the North Pole and the Equator.
In the fall, Alpena truly comes alive with bright orange, red and yellow trees dotting the landscape. To make the most of the season in this adorable town, rent a kayak and paddle down the Thunder Bay River and tour the 80-foot-tall Alpena Lighthouse. And don’t miss the Alpena Shipwreck Tours or the chance to explore fall foliage in over two dozen local parks.
We couldn’t make this list without including our hometown! Ann Arbor is a stunning college town that draws people to Southeast Michigan all year long. As the home of the acclaimed University of Michigan, A2 has become a destination for those who love learning, reading and exploration.
During September, October and November, Ann Arbor is even more popular. Not only is school back in session, but the area is aglow with changing leaves and other fall activities! We have an abundance of opportunities for autumn fun in Ann Arbor from pumpkin patches and apple orchards to cider mills, fall hikes, and corn mazes.
Originally a logging community named Clam Lake, Cadillac is a perfect getaway for a nature lover. Venture outdoors for hunting or fishing at Mitchell State Park or explore the hiking and biking trails. If outdoor exploration isn’t your thing, Cadillac still has plenty to offer you. Take a stroll around the downtown shopping areas or visit the Wexford County Historical Society and Museum.
Due to the bright blue lake that lights up with bright orange, red and yellow trees every year—Cadillac has become a destination for fall color seekers here in Michigan. Not to mention that there are several fantastic farms where you can pick pumpkins, apples and get lost in a corn maze nearby. Click here for updates on the local fall color and visit during the peak in early October for a truly amazing sight!
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One of the most beautiful places in all of Michigan, Copper Harbor claims to be the town located the furthest distance from any U.S. Interstate Highway of any other town in the country. Off the beaten path, Copper Harbor is a five-hour drive from any major highway—but we promise the views are definitely worth the drive! The community, which is home to only 100 year-round residents, is nestled on the shores of Lake Superior on the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula.
Often cited as “one of the best places in Michigan to see fall colors,” Copper Harbor is breathtaking in the fall. For the best view, head to Brockway Mountain, where you can enjoy a panoramic view of Lake Superior and the surrounding peninsula more than 700 feet below.
The Grand Haven area is one of the most historically significant areas in the state of Michigan, with its history dating back over 300 years ago. Here, you’ll find a 1.5-mile boardwalk that spans from downtown Grand Haven to Lake Michigan, several lighthouses, incredible museums and, of course, plenty of fantastic scenery.
There are so many things to do in Grand Haven during the fall from hiking to pumpkin picking and everything in between. But for the perfect fall afternoon in the area, be sure to check out one of the many fantastic breweries or wineries in the area before catching a beautiful sunset on the beach.
The place where white, sandy beaches meet the Lake Michigan coastline, Holland is a fantastic place to visit any time of year! The area—which Forbes Magazine dubbed one of “America’s prettiest towns”—offers a small-town charm as well as big-city amenities from delicious waterfront dining to sand dune hiking and windmill exploring.
As the gateway to the Keweenaw Peninsula and Isle Royale National Park, Houghton is a wonderland of outdoor activities all year long. In fact, the area is home to world-class hiking and biking trails and surrounded by numerous lakes and streams you can explore by kayak, raft, boats and more.
A four-season scenic wonderland, it isn’t surprising that Houghton is absolutely gorgeous in the fall. Offering some of the best fall foliage in the Keweenaw Peninsula, the best way to enjoy the season in the area is to simply drive around! But if you’re looking for a unique attraction to explore while you’re there, don’t miss the chance to tour the historic Quincy Mine.
Leelanau State Park
Located at the tip of Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula, Leelanau State Park offers more than 1,550 acres for visitors to explore! Here, you’ll find the famous Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum, a rustic campground, mini cabins, an interactive playground and more.
While visitors flock to the park year-round, there’s just something about fall that brings out the best of Leelanau State Park! Drive beneath a blaze of autumn color as you enter the park and enjoy hiking miles of colorful trails, walking barefoot along the beach and catching a view of the entire area from the top of the lighthouse.
Nicknamed the “all-natural theme park of America,” Mackinac Island has been an ideal vacation spot for centuries. No cars, no chain hotels and a plethora of outdoor activities. From incredible wildflower views to unmatched rock formations off of the coast, Mackinac Island is a dream!
While most think of Mackinac Island as a summer destination, we have a secret. It’s equally as beautiful in the fall! The island gets lit up by a swath of red, yellow and orange with the leaves peaking in early October. There are also several iconic fall events in the area like Macktoberfest, the Great Turtle Trail Run and more. But you just can’t go wrong with a bike ride along the island to see the fall colors!
Nicknamed “The Emerald City,” Manistique is a small town that lies on the north shore of Lake Michigan at the mouth of the Manistique River. The most famous attraction in this adorable city is the Kitch-iti-kipi, or The Big Spring, a forty-foot-deep spring full of over 10,000 gallons of crystal clear water.
Self-proclaimed “the most livable community in mid-Michigan,” Mt. Pleasant is a quaint town offering a true hometown feel. The area is home to Central Michigan University and surrounded by lakes, rivers, forests and healthy farmland, this community makes for a perfect place to live and visit!
We love exploring the area during fall—especially the historic downtown area. Just blocks from the university, the bustling downtown blocks feature fabulous shopping, dining and entertainment, all highlighted by the local fall foliage. We also highly recommend spending time in the 1,000+ acres of parkland in the area, where you can enjoy hiking, biking, kayaking, and fall color seeking.
The Petoskey Area
The communities of Alanson, Bay Harbor, Boyne City, Harbor Springs and Petoskey are favorites for Michigan outdoor enthusiasts. The area offers a blend of northern Michigan beauty, Victorian charm, beach vibes and a touch of class—offering adventures great vacations are made of!
Fall is a spectacular time to visit the Petoskey area. We can’t rave enough about The Pumpkin Barn, Uncle Frank’s Apple Town, Coveyou Scenic Farms and all the other classic Michigan farms in the area. You can also spend the day exploring the Petoskey Wine Region among the changing leaves. But for a truly spectacular fall adventure in the area, don’t miss the Tunnel of Trees. This iconic drive starts just north of Harbor Springs and runs up to Cross Village, offering the best fall foliage view in all of Michigan.
As for fall activities, Saginaw has so much to offer! Hike the Saginaw Valley Rail Trail, explore the Japanese Cultural Center and gardens, book a custom boat tour with Johnny Panther Quests and more. If you have time, we also recommend driving down to Frankenmuth, a tiny German-inspired town, to see the beautiful architecture, covered bridges and local businesses surrounded by fall foliage.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Tahquamenon Falls State Park encompasses close to 50,000 acres stretching over 13 miles. Most of this is undeveloped woodland without roads, buildings or power lines. The centerpiece of the park, and the very reason for its existence, is the Tahquamenon River with its gorgeous waterfalls.
If you find yourself in the area during autumn, going to see the Tahquamenon Falls is an absolute must. One of the most beautiful sights in all of Michigan year-round, the falls are exquisite when flowing past vibrant fall leaves. Click here for more information on visiting the park and to play your trip!
What did we miss?
Did we miss your favorite Michigan fall destination? Let us know in the comments below!