Northern Michigan Vacation: Color Watch for Fall Weekends of Northern Michigan Fun

The staff and editors of Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine invite you to do a color tour in Northern Michigan this year. With some help from colleagues, friends and you, we'll keep you up to date on where you can enjoy the vermillion, copper and tawny amber of changing leaves against our cyan skies and waterways.

October 22 – 23 (posted on October 19)
 

A week of high winds in Northern Michigan has cleaned the earliest falling  leaves off their trees, revealing more water views through the foliage and adding interesting charcoal trunks to the color display. Asters are out along highway 31, with a brilliant bed of them just south of Elk Rapids and farther north along the Petoskey boardwalk, their deep purple even more showy against sable reeds and cattails in the ravines.  

Cadillac's peak color is expected this week around both Lake Cadillac and Lake Mitchell. Follow the color to Manistee and find a spot on the Manistee River to picnic among the maples.  

If the wind keeps up, travel to the Lake Michigan shore so you can be entertained by whitecaps, frothing and folding in on one another. Stop by the harbor towns like Ludington and Pentwater for great pics of spray over the piers.  

This lovely barn has a view of Lake Leelanau near Otto Rd. and County Road 641, very near Boskydel Winery, where you'll still find the father of the Northern Michigan wine industry, Bernie Rink, behind the tasting room counter, serving a semi-dry glass with his very dry sense of wine humor. His was the first winery in 1975; now more than 20 dot the Leelanau Peninsula. There are still maples turning along the way and now the oaks add a leathery burgundy to the view. Start by going west on Cherry Bend Road from its intersection with M-22 in Greillickville. Head north on County Road 641 all the way to Highway 204 (also E. Duck Lake Road). Stop for a sandwich at Trish's Dishes in the Fish Hooked building or a pizza at Dick's Pour House. Then cross the bridge over the Lake Leelanau narrows to continue your tour around Lake Leelanau on County Road 643, where you have thrilling views of the whole lake from bluffs. When you hit Cedar, head briefly west and then pick up County Road 616 south to Solon. In Solon turn east on County Road 614 (E. Gallivan Road) which turns back into Cherry Bend headed east to your starting point. Having done the inland route, you could turn north at M-22 and take the route to Northport along the coast … maybe that's your second day.

You'll want to pick up a copy of the October issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine for the article on wine tasting rooms and tips for what to taste. Leelanau locations include the Leelanau Books and Mercantile Grocery in Leland, Brilliant Books and Hansen's Grocery in Suttons Bay, Tom's Grocery in Northport, The Cottage Bookstore and Andersen's IGA in Glen Arbor and NJ's Grocery in Lake Leelanau.

October 15 – 16 (posted October 13th)

Our September rain in Northern Michigan means the trees are better suited to display color longer, says Dr. Bert Cregg associate professor of horticulture at Michigan State University. And we're seeing that phenomenon play out.  

"Once we're into the color season, good leaf color is favored by sunny days and cool nights – which we've had this year and why we've had such a great color season," reports Dr. Cregg. He goes on to say that once the maples have peaked in Northern Michigan, folks looking for a great color tour should continue to get good color from oaks as well as hornbeams and hophornbeams and sasafras along the Northern Michigan's west side.  

"Sad to say, I haven't been Up North this fall but I've gotten several reports from Cadillac and Petoskey that the color has been great," says Dr. Cregg. There's still lots of color at the tip of the mitt, especially along the shorelines where Lake Michigan is keeping things temperate with our recent spate of 75+ degree days of sunshine.  

In Bellaire, Chris Hale, vice president sales and marketing of Shanty Creek Resort, reports that several trees are still green with lots of color on the trees. He invites MyNorth readers to come visit Shanty Creek Resort on your way to enjoy the colors and enjoy the Michigan State versus University of Michigan football game on the big screen at Ivan's and a beer at Short's in Bellaire.

Gary Osterbeck shot these great photos this week when he was just west of Boyne Falls. The lake is Thumb Lake, sometimes called Lake Louise, and the photo is taken from the public boat launch ramp on the north side of Thumb Lake. The red barn is a little west of there. To get there travel north out of Boyne Falls  on highway 131 to Thumb Lake Road. The right turn is about 3/4 miles north of Boyne Falls. Thumb Lake is 6-7 miles east. Thumb Lake Road will take you to Old 27 where you can turn north to Wolverine or south to Vanderbilt.  

Leelanau Peninsula has pockets of brilliant, unbelievable color. Around north side of Glen Arbor there are some great views of Glen Lake from the high bluffs of County Road 675 or S. Dunn's Farm Rd. Lake views are bettered by some falling leaves, the absence of foliage allowing one to see  Glen Lake from the road.  

This last photo is from Omena Bay last weekend when the hills were just starting to turn. With a week's worth of warm sunshine and cool nights these hills and vineyards are now showing a vibrant patchwork of yellow and orange. M-22 will be lovely, of course. Those that turn inland, perhaps in search of a winery or two, will be richly rewarded with ruby reds, velvety ochres and eye-popping oranges. There are three kitchens in Leelanau County on the Ultimate Up North Kitchen Tour, so take a tour of the countryside while you check out trends in professional kitchen design along the way. You can get tickets at any of the homes on the tour on Saturday.

October 8 – 9 (posted October 6)

Drop everything and enjoy Northern Michigan this weekend. With afternoon temps above 75 and bright sunshine, you won't be disappointed. Color peaks are widely varied with no north or south to it. Gaylord, as an example, was in full flame. An hour and a half north, miles of green yet.  

In the Upper Peninsula, contributing writer Aaron Peterson reports that there is lots of color, "by the big water." The interior is raging color, and the highland color is starting to wane. So take a drive through Pictured Rocks or paddle Lake Superior.  

M-22 along the Leelanau Penisula has swathes of green with a single maple aflame, followed by a mile of firey maples. M-22 through Leland and Herman Road from Suttons Bay to Lake Leelanau is in full color, but the shoreline along north Lake Leelanau is just starting to turn. The vistas from all the wineries will be delicious for several more weeks, but this weekend's cyan skies will offset the oranges in ways that will make your photos look nearly impossible.  

Lisa Hoyt, Petoskey Chamber, shares these great Petoskey shots noting that they are not yet at peak and have plenty of color started. You'll want to pick up a copy of the October issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine for our feature, Splashes of Color. Contributor Kate Basset shares a colorful escape to the Chain of Lakes including Elk Rapids, Ellsworth, Central Lake, Bellaire and Alden.

Report your own color watch updates below–where is the natural world flaunting its best palette?

Color Tours to Fill the Season

Article Comments

  • Anonymous

    Friend of mine took his sports car out for a spin along the curves on the way to Fusion in Frankfort from Traverse City earlier this week and said that the color along the route left him speechless.

  • Anonymous

    Lake Leelanau narrows has been swathed in fog every morning this week. Get there by 8 to see it before the morning sun burns it off. You might try a coffee at Pedaling Beans then walk down to the bridge for a photo.

  • Anonymous

    A great place to stop on your color tour is Charlie’s Natural Food Market in Frankfort for a made to order breakfast sandwich with local Land of Goshen eggs and Gallagher’s Canadian bacon (no nitrates). Locally made bagels, muffins & scones. Think pumpkin spice cookies, apple granola scones & double berry muffins. Fresh delicious soup & sandwiches are made in-house. All fabulous. 76 Airport Rd, Frankfort. http://www.facebook.com/charliesmarket

  • WendySue

    A great place to stop on your color tour is Charlie’s Natural Food Market in Frankfort for a made to order breakfast sandwich with local Land of Goshen eggs and Gallagher’s Canadian bacon (no nitrates). Locally made bagels, muffins & scones, fresh delicious soup & sandwiches made in-house. All fabulous. 76 Airport Rd, Frankfort. http://www.facebook.com/charliesmarket

  • Anonymous

    You just can’t believe the sights from county road 643 north from Cedar, Mi to Lake Leelanau. The orange against the blue of Lake Leelanau and the skies with the sun shining is not to be believed.

  • Anonymous

    Lake Charlevoix today is gorgeous.

  • Rachel

    I can’t believe there are any leaves left on the trees after the wind this weekend, but the Leelanau Peninsula is still just gorgeous.

  • Anonymous

    What a glorious Saturday! Lime Lake near Maple City was a beautiful cerulean blue.