When it comes to fall color tours, nothing beats the inspiration of a grand Northern Michigan fall color view. Here’s how to take in color panoramas filled with spectacular fall leaves from 10 of the North’s most dramatic bluffs, ridges, peaks and hilltops.
A Superior Upper Peninsula fall color view is what you get from Sugarloaf Mountain, six miles north of Marquette on County Road 550. You’ll soak in fall’s reds, coppers and golds from observation-deck vistas about 460 feet above Lake Superior; resting benches keep the half-mile climb up doable.
Follow the Cadillac area’s Color Tour No. 2—look for the arrows on signs colored with fall leaves and marked No. 2—and you’ll reach the treasure-worthy Caberfae Scenic Overlook. Along the way take in a waterfall, fish hatchery, lakeshore pull-off and snack stops for jerky and cheese. More directions at CadillacMichigan.com.
View the Northern Michigan Fall Color Map to see when and where peak color will arrive.
For Northern Michigan landscape photographers, the Buckley High Rollaways overlook—which delivers a stunning view of the Manistee River Valley—is a must-shoot location during autumn. From the M-37 blinker in “downtown” Buckley, go east on Wexford Ave. 1 mile to N-17. Turn right (south) and go a half-mile to W4. Turn left (east) on W4 about 4 miles to where it takes a 90-degree turn right (south). Follow the well-worn dirt road about another mile to park at the Road Ends sign. Look south to see the overlook.
America’s Most Beautiful
If you can take only one color tour drive, the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore may be the way to go for its 12 vista stops (overlooking inland lakes, autumn forests, open dunes and, of course, Lake Michigan), all in one 7.4-mile drive. More information at SleepingBearDunes.com.
Ride a horse to a mountain peak (well, top of a Boyne Highlands ski hill), or ride the ski lift to the summit. Either way, enjoy a stay in a cushy Highlands room afterward. More information at BoyneHighlands.com.
At Bessemer’s Copper Peak (far western U.P.), take the Adventure Ride up an 18-story elevator inside the world’s largest ski flying structure. At the top, contemplate this: that’s 2,500 square miles of colorful forest and Lake Superior you’re scoping; the Black River adds that wending line of blue. More information at CopperPeak.com.
A river runs through
Book a room at Shanty Creek, where your color tour starts on your balcony, then venture into the Jordan River Valley, about 10 miles northeast of the resort. Hike a stretch of the 18-mile-long, wilderness-protected Jordan Valley Pathway. Or just take it easy and drive to Deadman’s Hill Overlook—spectacular in fall. Get there: From Alba, go north on US-131 for 6 miles to Deadman’s Hill Rd., turn west (left) and go about 2 miles.
Another kind of color drive
You may want to take up golf just to see fall color framed by the tree tunnel at the par 3, 17th hole of Treetops Resort in Gaylord. The resort is known for the dramatic fall vistas at many points along the fairways. More information at TreeTops.com.
The Arcadia Overlook, on the shoreline route of M-22, is spoken of in nearly hushed tones, so lovely is the see-forever view of Lake Michigan bordered in fall by an unbroken stretch of colorful forest. More information at m22colortour.com.
When you go as far north as you can go and still be in Michigan, you reach the tip of Keweenaw Peninsula and the stunning overlooks of Brockway Mountain Drive. The steep and twisty 9-mile route climbs 720 feet above Lake Superior, delivering spectacular views of the world’s biggest lake (by surface area) and the vast forests inland.