Michigan is known for having some amazing 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 fall colors across Michigan. In my opinion, if you plan on visiting the state for fall colors, 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 of colors in October.
The best fall color tours in Michigan!
AMAZING Scenic Road Trips
What is the best time to go on a fall color tour 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 fall colors, 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.
Where to take the best fall color tours in Michigan
My favorite places to see fall colors 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.
When is the best time to take a color tour 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 fall colors on Michigan’s west coast in places like Holland, South Haven, St. Joseph, and Saugatuck on Lake Michigan.
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 colors 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.
Lakeshore Drive UP Fall Color
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-12
Michigan’s best fall color tours 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.
If you decide to see the fall colors 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 Fall
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
Best fall color tours – Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Beautiful no matter which season you visit – Pictured Rocks in THE place to see colors in Michigan. The deep blues of the Great Lakes, sandy white beach, and trees bursting with color create a sight to behold. While hiking in this national park you’ll find waterfalls surrounded by yellow, red, and orange bursts of colors.
Things to do in Munising
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.
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.
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.
S Boundary Road in Porcupine Mountains State Park
It’s very possible that the 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 fall colors. I recommend visiting the Porkies in early October. You’ll have better chances to avoid the snow on your fall color road trip.