Michigan in the fall is what dreams are made of. Come late September, the trees start turning a dazzling red, yellow, and orange, and it’s the perfect time to get out and explore the mitten state.
The state has plenty of pumpkin patches, apple orchards, and cider mills to soak in the fall spirit too. Clear your October schedule because during this month, you’re going to want to venture out and see as many Michigan fall colors as possible.
What is the best time to see fall colors in Michigan?
Most years, the best time to see the colors in Michigan is October. However, the best times for fall color in the Upper Peninsula are different than in the Lower Peninsula. There’s no set time when the colors pop – every year is different. But in general, you can expect the colors to peak in the UP by late September to early October and peak in the Lower Peninsula in mid-October. Colors can last well into early November, but it all depends on the year!
When fall colors will peak in Michigan in 2021?
2021 has been a strange year. It’s one of the warmest falls on record, and the fall colors are taking a long time to peak. By now (mid-October), the colors should be in full bloom. However, the fall colors are just starting to pop throughout much of the state.
How long do fall colors last in Michigan?
From the time you start seeing fall colors wherever you are in Michigan, you can expect the fall colors to peak for 2-3 weeks.
What’s the weather like in Michigan in the fall?
In September, it can still feel like summer throughout most of Michigan. Things get slightly cooler, but not drastically, and you can still find temperatures in the 70s.
Where to see Michigan Fall Colors
With the crisp fall air floating by, auburn trees decorating the landscape, and peak tourist crowds dissipating, fall is a great time to visit Traverse City. These precious days when it’s not too hot and not too cold are made for smaller hubs like Traverse City.
There is so much to see here, with over 40 wineries and 20 breweries to choose from. Not to mention the beautiful coastline of Lake Superior and 18,000 acres of cherry orchards. When you aren’t exploring nature or the Mission Point Lighthouse, you can experience the restaurants, galleries and shops on Front Street.
If you have time for a Michigan weekend getaway, Traverse City is one of the top places in Michigan to visit in the fall.
Isle Royale National Park
A trip to Isle Royale National Park is the perfect fall escape before the frosty winter sets in. This island, off the coast of the Upper Peninsula, is popular during the summer months. But not only will a fall trip here come with beautiful foliage and fewer crowds, but you will also avoid the pesky black flies.
In the fall, you can enjoy picturesque hiking in peace. Watch the leaves tumble down as you stroll around the remote island. Breathe the fresh air as you explore the outskirts, bays and coves on a boat. All before camping under the starry sky. Get in early, however, as the park closes November 1st.
Anyone born and raised around the Midwest knows Mackinac Island as a premier destination for tourists in the summer months. The historic town speaks for itself, but leaving your trip to the popular location until fall will not only help you avoid the busy season, but save you a fair chunk of change, especially if you want a special stay at the famous Grand Hotel.
Mackinac Island offers some great local tours, quaint boutique shops and plenty of sweet treats. But with the backing of the changing leaves, the island takes on a different vibe around Halloween.
Mackinac Island’s spooky history is placed on full display with murder mystery weekends, haunted houses, and costume contests.
The city of Detroit may not immediately spring to mind when it comes to seeing the best fall colors in Michigan, but it has all we love about this time of year in one place. Detroit has a series of metro apple orchards and cider mills. Some even come with fresh donuts and a hayride for the younger ones. The Detroit Zoo has some fabulous fall events in October including pumpkin carving and awesome spooks in the Holden Reptile Conservation Center.
Beyond apples, Detroit’s nature embraces the fall colors; explore the Dequindre Cut Greenway and the Riverwalk for Insta-worthy examples. The Detroit Fleat Oktoberfest comes to life alongside an envious collection of food trucks. While at Halloween Beacon Park hosts a Family Fun Day and the Detroit Zoo puts on an exciting trick-or-treat event.
If you’re a sports fan, Fall also marks the opening of a new season for the NHL Red Wings and the NBA Detroit Pistons.
If you are dying to get out of the big city for the weekend, then Kalamazoo presents as an excellent choice. Two hours east of Detroit, Kalamazoo blends nature and museums, so you will have plenty to do whether it is sunny or raining.
The town has miles of cycling trails, including the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail, while the kids will love the Binder Park Zoo. If you feel like staying indoors, then Kalamazoo will keep you busy thanks to the Midwest Miniatures Museum, the Valley Museum and the popular Gilmore Car Museum. For some crisp craft beer, you’ll find several local Michigan breweries.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Hiking through Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a fun activity in the warm summer months. But come fall you can do it all again but without breaking a sweat. Take away some of the traveling crowd and you have yourself a memorable fall escape.
The highlight of the park is the towering dunes that are a trek to hike up, but with beautiful lakeside views and the crisp fall air, there’s no better time of year to make the journey. Other fun activities include cycling along the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, or on a nice day, paddling on Lake Michigan.
You can also enjoy the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, which is a short seven-mile loop that is packed with everything we love about the fall.
The drive is fun with winding turns flanked by thick forests. But you’ll stop often to enjoy the views. Along the way, you’ll pass by Glen Lake overlooks, all the while surrounded by the changing leaves.
DeBuck’s Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch
Since 2009, DeBuck’s has been a must-visit for families and couples embracing fall traditions. Their amazing corn maze covers an epic 15 acres, more than enough to induce a slight panic attack. If you enjoy exploring pumpkin patches for the perfect front door ornament, DeBuck’s comes with an expansive 20 acres of endless pumpkins.
But the fun doesn’t end there, with several attractions to keep you happy. These include the Super Slide, Jump Pad and Human Foosball and so much more in the Family Fun Area. When you’re all tuckered out, stop by DeBuck’s Sweet Treats for some unforgettable donuts.
Point Pelee National Park
Although not technically in Michigan, Point Pelee National Park is a slice of heaven across the border in Ontario and makes for a great day trip from Detroit. As a stopping point for the migrating monarch butterflies, Point Pelee National Park comes to life during fall. In September and October, you can spot thousands of these beautiful butterflies on their journey from Canada to Mexico.
Better yet, at this time of year, it is much easier to explore Point Pelee. With diminished crowds, you’ll have more space to roam and the wonderful sense of quiet will make you appreciate this wilderness even more.
Charlevoix for Apple Fest
Like DeBuck’s listed above, Charlevoix comes to life in Michigan in the fall. The Charlevoix Apple Fest is an iconic apple fest that draws people from all over Michigan who come to enjoy a selection of the state’s best apples, and a town that knows how to put on a great show.
For two decades, the town of Charlevoix has been a gathering place for apple vendors and you can find up to 30 varieties of apples during the festival. Beyond that, there are events for young and old, from pony rides and the petting zoo, to pumpkin carving and even a 10k fun run.
Paddle down Au Sable
The middle of the year sees locals flock to Au Sable for some tubing and good times. The party atmosphere may slow down during the fall, but that’s all the more reason to visit. Au Sable becomes a peaceful paradise as the leaves turn orange and the days become crisp.
September and October are the perfect time of year to break out your canoe or kayak and journey down the river. Enjoy the amazing scenery, peace and quiet, along with fewer hungry mosquitoes. If you’re up for a real adventure, paddle a 55-mile stretch that comes with stunning river-side camping.
Frankenmuth for Oktoberfest
Although we mentioned Detroit’s version of Oktoberfest above, if you really want to partake in the German tradition, then there’s no better place to go in Michigan than Frankenmuth.
The epic four-day event in September is a fall tradition for many who come to Frankenmuth. Enjoy live music into the early hours, a beer or five and one of the most authentic Oktoberfests outside of Germany.
The town has a unique connection to Germany and the Frankenmuth Oktoberfest is the first in the world to operate under the blessing of the original event in Munich.
On the northern Michigan Peninsula, with access to over 200 miles of coastline, beaches, and wetlands, Escanaba offers wonderful scenery in the fall. You may not be brave enough to dip into Lake Superior once the temperatures have dropped, but nevertheless, the tree-flanked shores come with memorable foliage.
Between watersports in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter, Escanaba provides several scenic drives from downtown that show off its envious nature. You can also learn about the town’s past by driving the Maywood History Trail or by venturing down the Peninsula Point Interpretive Lighthouse Trail.
Michigan’s Sunrise Coast
One of the best road trips to do during a Michigan fall is a drive down the Sunrise Coast, which is a beautiful Heritage Route along US-23 from Standish to Mackinaw City.
Coating Lake Huron, the brilliant fall foliage will have you stopping often to appreciate the scenery. Passing a series of quiet lakeside towns, you will see colorful hardwood trees, several lighthouses and plenty of short hiking trails to explore the local nature.
Lighthouses to check out include the romantic Tawas Point Lighthouse and the classic white and red Sturgeon Point Lighthouse.
The best time of year to visit Petoskey is in the fall when the popular summer vacation town dies down, leaving behind all the time in the world to enjoy fall activities. Around Petoskey, there are charming lakeside towns, like Bay Harbor, and the short drives between each destination comes with beautiful sights and spectacular color. If you like wine you’ll have to check out the Bay View Wine Trail which comes alive during a Michigan fall.
For the adventurous soul, you can trek through the Avalanche Mountain Preserve, or hike the trails around Boyne Mountain. While Petoskey’s museums will keep you busy on a rainy fall afternoon.
Ann Arbor’s personality was made for fall. Whether you’re into college football, or independent bookstores and vintage clothing, this time of year in Ann Arbor is like a storybook. Although home to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor doesn’t feel like a typical college town. Here historic theaters and unique shops thrive.
Surrounded by farmland, restaurants here take advantage of easy access to fresh local produce to provide amazing dining from Adventura’s to Miss Kim. The university campus is also stunning at this time of year, and just walking around can be a memorable experience.
Michigan’s North Country Trail
The North Country Trail is over 4,600 miles in length and travels through eight states. But if fall has come around and you’re itching for a multi-day expedition, this is the hike in Michigan to do. The section in Michigan is 550 miles long, traversing the Upper Peninsula from east to west, where you’ll hit awesome cities like Marquette, but you can hike just some of the trail in day sections.
The trail provides an unbeatable nature experience during fall, with some of the most colorful sections occurring around West Sturgeon Bay.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Close to Munising and home to some of the best waterfalls in Michigan, the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a stunning place to visit to see the Michigan fall colors. With the immense Lake Superior contrasting with the fall foliage that hugs the rugged coastline, your camera will work overtime.
The lakeshore comes with an abundance of fall hiking opportunities, along with jaw-dropping cliffs and scenic rivers. Kick back with a fishing rod, or get the heart racing with some mountain biking through the blazing trees.
Popular all year long, Grand Rapids is one of the top cities in Michigan to visit in the fall. The beer capital of America takes on a different vibe during these months, thanks to the performing arts season, with several festivals held within September and October.
With many urban parks and nearby nature, the fall colors completely change the city’s lush forest canopies. You will also enjoy other fall traditions from apple picking to their very own Oktoberfest. Plus, it never hurts to bar hope between their 80+ breweries or go to Robinette’s Apple Haus & Winery for some delicious apple wine. If you are craving some apple donuts you can’t miss Hills Bros. Orchards & Cider Mill.
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
After traveling through Michigan you may be forgiven for asking, “where are the mountains?”. You’ll find some on the west side of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where the Porcupine Mountains rise above Lake Superior.
Here you will discover epic waterfalls, thick hardwood forests coated with orange and red colors along with the stunning viewpoint, Lake of the Clouds. This view provides arguably the best ‘fall photo’ in Michigan. Looking down at the turquoise lake, you will capture a mix of bright blues framed by the colors of fall.
The small city of St. Johns holds a special place in my heart as I traveled to Uncle Johns Cider Mill every October as a child. It’s here you can spend the entire day enjoying farm-fresh apple cider, apple picking, apple donuts, and pumpkin picking. It’s a popular place for families and young kids to get into the Michigan fall spirit.
This popular family farm has been in business since the 1970s and Michigan families travel from around the state to soak up the atmosphere.
Fall Activities in Michigan
Pumpkin Patches and Apple Orchards in Michigan
- Blake’s Orchard and Cider Mill (Armada)
- Harvest Moon Acres (Gobles)
- Heritage Farms Market (Fremont)
- Johnson’s Giant Pumpkin Patch (Saginaw)
- Higgins Pumpkin Farm (Onaway)
- The Flower Farm (Bad Axe)
- Fleming Farm (Gaylord)
- Montrose Orchards (Montrose)
- Grandma’s Pumpkin Patch (Midland)
Haunted Houses and Corn Mazes in Michigan
- Azra Haunted House Chamber of Horrors (Madison Heights)
- Erebus Haunted Attraction (Pontiac)
- Hush Haunted Attraction (Westland)
- DarkSyde Acres Haunted House (Jonesville)
- Exit 13 Haunted House (Flint)
- Awaken Haunted Attraction (Leslie)
- The Blast Corn Maze (Dexter)
- Bestmaze Corn Maze (Williamston)
- Hayes Corn Maze (Rock)
READ MORE MICHIGAN TRAVEL TIPS
I hope you enjoyed this guide on where to see Michigan fall colors! Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few relevant articles for more travel around Michigan.
- Things to do in Saugatuck
- Things to do in Ludington
- Things to do in Holland
- Things to do in Grand Haven
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