The Best Drives to See Fall Colors in Michigan

Michigan is known for having some of the best fall color drives in the country. Located in the midwest of the United States, the state of Michigan is recognized for the Great Lakes, and its 3,288 miles (5,292 km) of surrounding freshwater lakeshore. Some of the best road trips in Michigan are among its pristine shorelines. Road trip along scenic routes to see the best fallcolors across Michigan. In my opinion, if you plan on visiting the state for fallcolors, you should plan your road trip routes ahead of time based on which area you’re visiting.

As a local, one of my favorite things to do in Michigan is to take fall color road trips around the state in October. The gorgeous scenery attracts people from all over, wanting to experience the bursts ofcolors in October. Make sure to check the Fall Color Map before heading out on your road trip to ensurecolors are at their peak.

Here Are The Best Fall Color Drives in Michigan!

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What is the best time to see fall colors in Michigan?

Unfortunately this year (2021) we have unseasonably warm temperatures across the state from climate change. This has changed the timing of Michigan’s fallcolors, pushing peak dates further into mid-late October vs late September. So it really just depends on which part of the state you want to see.

Michigan Fall Foliage- The best scenic fall drives in Michigan. | Her Life Adventures | #fall #drive #michigan #foliage #scenic #upperpeninsula #michigantravel #traveldestinations #vacation #roadtrip #wheretogo
The Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

Where to see fall colors in Michigan

My favorite places to see fallcolors are in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (UP): Porcupine “Mountains” Wilderness State Park in Ontonagon is so remote that you can see the colors for miles without a single building obstructing the views. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in northern UP has beautiful hiking trails with hues of yellow, orange, and red surrounding you. Peak fall colors are expected to arrive in the Upper Peninsula and far northern Lower Michigan by early October into mid-October. 

Best places to see fall colors in Michigan

When is the best time to see fall colors in Michigan

The best time to see Michigan fall colors in South-Southeast Michigan: October 9, 2021 (Partial color change) – October 21, 2021 (Full Peak). October 18 – October 30: estimated peak fallcolors on Michigan’s west coast in places like Holland, South Haven, St. Joseph, and Saugatuck on Lake Michigan.

Fall Colors in Michigan Rochester
Rochester Michigan
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M2 Along Pointe Labarbe Rd

After you drive across the famous Mackinaw Bridge you’ll arrive in St Ignace. The first exit on 75 N is on the right, make a Michigan left and follow until you see the exit for M2 W. Turn left onto Boulevard Dr as soon as you’re on M2. This will take you south to drive along the Lake Michigan shoreline with beautiful views of the lake on one side, and bright colored fall leaves. Boulevard will end and turn into Pointe Labarbe Rd which will continue along the shore.

Another option is to stay on M2 and go to the wood observation tower shown above. The tower will give you a great view of the Mackinac Bridge and the fallcolors around you. There are also restaurants, gas stations, a rest stop, and the St. Ignace KOA. These can also be reached by taking Boulevard Dr and turning right on Pointe Labarbe north. This puts you back on M2 right at the tower.

The best Michigan fall color road trip itinerary. Including W Lakeshore Drive in the Upper Peninsula. #roadtrip #michigantravel #falldrive

Lakeshore Drive UP Fall Colors

Starting in Brimley State Park of the UP eastern region:

  • Take W 6 Mile until it turns into Iroquois Road
  • Take Iroquois to W Lakeshore Dr.
  • Lakeshore turns into Lake Superior Shoreline Rd
  • Stop at Naomikong Overlook to enjoy the water views
  • Superior ends at M-123
Michigan Fall Foliage- The best scenic fall drives in Michigan. | Her Life Adventures | #fall #drive #michigan #foliage #scenic #upperpeninsula #michigantravel #traveldestinations #vacation #roadtrip #wheretogo #travelideas #northamericatravel #traveltips #usdestinations #travelhacks #travelguide #adventuretravel

Fall colors in Tahquamenon Falls State Park

Continue on M-123 until you reach Paradise. Don’t forget to stop at the Lake Superior Scenic Point in Emerson! Once in Paradise, you have two options -visit the Tahquamenon Falls State Park or continue North to Whitefish Point Lighthouse and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. If you have the time – see both! They are both beautiful and will give you the “UP experience” that draws visitors from all over.

Best places to see fall colors in Michigan | Road trips

If you decide to see the fallcolors in Tahquamenon Falls, take the scenic backroads. Just after the Lake Superior scenic point, turn left onto Tahqua Rd off of M-123. This will take you along the Tahquamenon River through brightly colored pristine forests.

  • Tahqua turns into N Club Rd; continue north
  • N Club turns into N Laurie Lakes Rd/N Preachers Rd continue North
  • Just before M-123 you can turn left down an unmarked road ending at M-123, or continue N to turn left on M-123
  • Take M-123 all the way W until you reach Tahquamenon Falls
Michigan Fall Foliage- The best scenic fall drives in Michigan. | Her Life Adventures | #fall #drive #michigan #foliage #scenic #upperpeninsula #michigantravel #traveldestinations #vacation #roadtrip #wheretogo

Tunnel of Trees M-119

Road trip to the tunnel of trees on M-119 through a yellow canopy of magic. Some types of trees that have yellow leaves in the fall include Hickory, ash, some maples, the yellow poplar (tulip tree), some oaks (white, chestnut, bear), some sassafras, some sweetgum, beech, birch, and sycamore trees.

Fall Colors in Michigan - Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Beautiful no matter which season you visit – Pictured Rocks in THE place to see fall colors in Michigan. The deep blues of the Great Lakes, sandy white beach, and trees bursting with color create a sight to behold. Take hikes in Pictured Rocks and throughout the park, you’ll find waterfalls surrounded by yellow, red, and orange bursts of colors.

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Best places to see fall colors in Michigan | Road trips

Things To Do In Munising

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Kayak Tour

Pictured Rocks Kayak Tour

Kayak along the East Channel of Munising Bay past the Historic East Channel Lighthouse. Enjoy a view of Miners Castle, Painted Coves, and Caves of All Colors before launching a kayak from the boat and continuing along the most iconic stretch of shoreline.

Pictured Rocks Boat Cruise


Pictured Rocks Boat Cruises

Visit Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore from a distance on a cruise. You’ll see the massive rock formations and caves that make up the shoreline. This view during the fall is unbeatable.

Glass Bottom Shipwreck Tour


Glass Bottom Shipwreck Tour

Take a cruise on a glass-bottom boat along the largest Great Lakes. Lake Superior is home to almost 550 shipwrecks. See them up close on this must-do tour.

Michigan Fall Foliage- The best scenic fall drives in Michigan. | Her Life Adventures | #fall #drive #michigan #foliage #scenic #upperpeninsula #michigantravel #traveldestinations #vacation #roadtrip #wheretogo

S Boundary Road in Porcupine Mountains State Park

It’s very possible that the fall-colored leaves in the Porcupine Mountains (Porkies) will be covered in snow. It’s actually quite beautiful the contrast the bright white snow has with the fallcolors. I recommend visiting the Porkies in early October. You’ll have better chances to avoid the snow on your fall color road trip

The Best Fall Foliage Road Trip

ROAD TRIP ESSENTIALS

Forest Highway 13 Michigan Fall Color Road Trip

Forest Highway 13

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63 comments

  1. I swear Chelsea if Darcee sees this post and makes me Drive all the way up from New Orleans to the “UP” so she can go cruising amid the Tunnel of Trees on M-119, I am going to be pissed cause gas is really expensive right now. HAHA. But seriously, she LOVES the Fall changing of the leaves so for me the whole Fall colors in Tahquamenon Falls State Park experience seems right up my outdoorsman alley too.

  2. Thanks for the very thorough guide to fall foliage drives in Michigan. Being an Australian, I’d love to do some of these drives! We just don’t get the beautiful autumn colours over here. The tunnel drive looks like it’d be right up there as a favourite for me.

  3. We do love to head out for drives to see the fall colours. Michigan definitely looks like a great spot. Always hard to plan travel for the colours in advance. I love all the different scenes to frame these fall colours. So many places that we may need more than one visit.

  4. Michigan keeps calling my name! Love this curated list of the best drives to see fall colors. Beautiful!

  5. I’ve been wanting to take a roadtrip to see all of the fall colors so badly! This is perfect – wish the trees stayed this way for longer!

  6. As a Minnesotan, I’ve heard a lot about these fall color destinations, especially in the UP, but have yet to make it. Your photos make it look absolutely spectacular. Hopefully I’ll make it to Pictured Rocks sooner than later!

  7. I just adore chasing the changing trees in autumn. I feel like I visited Michigan reading your great article.

  8. Wow these all look sooo beautiful. I love the tunnel of trees, like something out of a movie! These bright colours are so captivating 🙂

  9. The fall colours are truly amazing and I can’t wait to see them. Now I know exactly how to find the best spots too. Thank you!

  10. Wowza! I love all your drone photos – the views look even better from above and those changing leaves are beeeeautiful!

    I don’t think I could stop with a drive though. I’d need to get out and hike in all that prettiness.

  11. If it were any other year I would grab this guide and head across the border. But I will save this for another year. We are having a great fall colour season in Canada. But I love the different options you have presented. We would want to visit the Pictured Rocks National Park when the water was calm to catch reflections of those beautiful colours. I do love this time of year!

  12. Wow! I had no idea Michigan is so gorgeous in fall! I have only been to the lower part of Michigan – New Holland and Saugatuck – in summer, but I want to do a Great Lakes road trip next year and now I am definitely considering doing it in fall

  13. The fall foliage in this state is beyond gorgeous. I would love to do a road trip in this area next year. I also would love to experience Canada in the Fall as well.

  14. I used to think fall foliage sightseeing was only a New England thing… It’s good to see that it happens in other places too. The tunnel of trees looks amazing, and I love your drone shots!

  15. We got to Michigan for our first time this summer and I was was so impressed. Your pictures prove it, but I imagine it is so lovely in fall. I would love to get there at some point.

    1. Michigan is underrated in my opinion! Most people don’t think “midwest” when they are planning their next trip haha hopefully there are more visitors now that international travel is not as heavy.

  16. This indeed looks like the state to enjoy the fall foliage. It’s similar to Ontario with its showcase of trees and lakes. I’m sure you had the best time camping and driving those roads.

    1. It was a very special trip, and tons of fun 🤗 I’d love to visit Bruce Peninsula National Park. I’m in Detroit just 15 away from the ambassador bridge, so it’s been on my bucket list for awhile.

  17. These photos are gorgeous! I’m so jealous, our leaves don’t change colors here in Florida. We’re planning a fall foliage trip soon.

  18. I could just drive around there all day looking at those colors. So beautiful. We get some fall colors here in Vancouver where I live by nothing like this. Fall is my favorite!

    1. The entire state lights up with bright colors 😍 we have a lot of national forests plus open space the further north you go. Every year i’m reminded how beautiful they are.

  19. I am so hoping to take a fall trip to see the changing leaves. I hadn’t thought of Michigan, but I see the state has beautiful autumn colors. Wow!

  20. Incredible pictures! I’ve always wanted to experience fall in Boston but sounds like Michigan is a great option too. Autumn is definitely my favourite season now,especially after being in Japan during fall!

  21. Michigan is awesome, so is fall with the leaves foliage! Been to Michigan a few years ago but it was a bit too early and everything was still pretty green, so it seems I need to go back to catch Indian Summer in that area 😀

  22. As an East-Coaster who has basically travel up and down the east side of the U.S., I’m ashamed to say I’ve never been to Michigan! These beautiful fall leaves are telling me I have been seriously missing out. When I finally fine my way back Stateside, Michigan is now on my travel list for the U.S!

  23. So beautiful! People always underestimate the beauty of the Midwest just because they assume it is freezing always. In reality, there is no where more beautiful to see the seasons change! Great pictures!

  24. The colors are stunning! What beautiful scenery and what a wonderful time of year to go for a drive and enjoy nature and all it’s wonders. The tunnel of trees is so picturesque, love your photos!

  25. These are so beautiful! We are actually going to drive around our area today and look at the fall colors.

  26. I would love to experience fall as you have. Your photos are amazing. I felt as if I was there in real life just looking at them.

    1. Ahh these are such beautiful photos! Putting autumn in Michigan on my bucketlist! 😊🍁🍂

  27. Wow! Fall is beautiful! I would really love to experience this part of the world during this season. The photos are amazing

  28. Wow! Never knew Michigan had such beautiful places for fall. So nice that you can easily experience this splendour with a drive. Thank you for sharing.

  29. Those sky-view images are amazing, and the colours look so beautiful. It looks a bit like the UK in autumn, but just a llot bigger. This certainly looks like an epic road trip to do one day.

  30. The colors here are stunning. I’m planning to visit Pictured Rocks next August. I’m just hoping for cool weather!

  31. What a beautiful spot of a weeks of camping! I could be the set of a fairtale! We also live in part of the world with amazing autumn colours and it is my favourite time of the year.

  32. My son and his family lived in Michigan for 4 years, and I missed the fall season every visit — so sad! Your photos are lovely. I wish I could back right now! I did enjoy these trees in the spring, though. Michigan offers a lot of beauty.

  33. These are beautiful photos! We are traveling across Michigan at the beginning of November so hopefully the warmer weather this year will keep the colors later so that we can see them too!

  34. Living in Los Angeles for two decades I really missed the changing of the seasons. We used to drive down to Sedona, AZ – just so we could see that array of oranges and burnt copper … fall is just such an amazing season isn’t it?

    1. LA huh? How’d you like it? I traveled out to LA for work about 4x a year for awhile, its a busy city lol I agree, fall is magical. It’s my favorite season, and here in Michigan the colors are only out for a few weeks/month before they’re gone again. I try to take advantage of those few weeks to get as many fall shots in as I can, because they’re just SO beautiful.

  35. Oh the autumn colours are just to die for, oh so beautiful!

    I do agree with you, a roadtrip through your local surroundings really makes you see and appreciate whats around you. We did that during the summer, we re-visited our local beaches and found them truly magical. They’ve always been magical, I just forgot to look 🙂

  36. What incredible photos! I would never have considered Michigan for fall drives. Living outside the US, all i normally hear about is New England!

  37. Growing up in the southwest, I’m used to experiencing the tourists who visit Colorado to see the leaves change. Although the state has some beautiful destinations, I think Michigan may have Colorado beat! These photos prove I need to make a visit to see fall leaves change.

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