We check in with Tom O’Hare, chief meteorologist at 9&10 News, for an early look at Northern Michigan’s upcoming fall color season. Plus, some of our favorite fall color tour destinations to get you excited for a weekend getaway or staycation.

If traveling, please do so safely and responsibly—remember to practice social distancing by staying 6 feet away from others, and wear a cloth mask or other face-covering while in enclosed areas or near others.

Tom’s Fall Color Update

Hey Northern Michigan, it’s hard to believe fall is just around the corner! The trees are still nice and green, but you know changes are coming and soon the countryside will be full of color. There are already hints of color in parts of the U.P., and everyone is asking the question, “When will we see color around here?”

You would think the answer is simple, but it’s not. The color change depends on a lot of things. First, the amount of sunshine is a major factor. The long days of summer sun keep the leaves green as trees make chlorophyll. However, as the days get shorter, trees stop making as much chlorophyll, and the leaves start to change. This is when things get interesting for Northern Michigan. The more sunshine we get in September delays the change. Add in a big drop in temperatures and lots of clouds and things change quickly. AND we can’t forget the amount of rainfall—if we are in a drought, plan on a quicker change.

A good example is last year. The color change started off as expected but a warm and sunny spell slowed things down by about two weeks. This means predicting the timing of the color change is not an easy task.

Since higher elevations are colder than areas along lakeshores, the change can be even more noticeable. Inland spots can be past peak while lakeside areas are still 50 percent changed. This is why the Tunnel of Trees, in Emmet County near the lakeshore, is one of the spots that generally doesn’t change until late October. The warmth of Lake Michigan keeps the trees greener just a little longer than trees tucked inland.

Want to know Tom’s favorite fall color drives? Watch for the October 2020 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine. Subscribe to the magazine or find it on newsstands.

Photo(s) by Dave Weidner