With travel tips from St. Ignace Visitors Bureau, here’s how to enjoy the ultimate fall weekend in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Your trip starts as soon as you cross the Mackinac Bridge.
As fall envelops Northern Michigan, the turning of the leaves and crisp autumn air beckon us north to explore the U.P.’s wild forests and shorelines. For the perfect long weekend of adventuring and leaf peeping, make St. Ignace your base camp. Centrally located as the gateway to the Upper Peninsula, this scenic coastal city is just a 1.5-hour drive from two iconic outdoor attractions that are also worthy of an autumn visit: Tahquamenon Falls State Park and Seney National Wildlife Refuge.
St. Ignace boasts a multitude of lodging options for your weekend getaway, but for those looking to immerse themselves in the outdoors while retaining some creature comforts, we recommend checking out the glamping yurts at Tiki RV Park & Campground. Situated near downtown St. Ignace, the canvas bell tents at this forested campground feature queen beds, access to private restrooms, a power strip with a heater and fan, and a fire pit on-site with a free bundle of wood for each night you’re there. Does it get any cozier?
Settle in, snuggle up with a cup of tea and get ready for a weekend of stunning Northern Michigan fall vistas like only the U.P. can deliver.
Day 1: Biking St. Ignace
One of the best ways to soak in fall color up north is biking extensive trail networks. Before venturing further into the U.P., spend a day in and around St. Ignace on a fall color tour of your choosing. Start your morning off at The Wild Blueberry Breakfast & Bakery on the south end of town, and order the blueberry pancakes to fuel your ride. (Don’t forget to check MyNorth’s fall color map for the latest forecast!)
St. Ignace is brimming with bikeable trails, ranging from easy to intermediate-level. The Gros Cap Loop, just under 2 miles long, is a moderately-trafficked loop west of town that’s great for all skill levels. While it’s a popular trail, cyclists and hikers will still find solitude during the quieter hours of the day.
Then there’s Silver Lake Mountain Bike Trail, a beginner-intermediate loop trail north of Gros Cap. At just over 1.5 miles long, the trail offers berms, jumps, rock features and gorgeous views of Silver Lake and Lake Michigan. (Come back in the winter months for some epic fat tire biking!)
The 21.5-mile St. Ignace to Trout Lake Trail is another ride suitable for all skill levels. The lightly-trafficked, point-to-point trail heads north toward Hiawatha National Forest and takes about 6.5 hours to complete, on average.
Wind down from the day’s adventures and hit Clyde’s Drive-In for an olive burger and some onion rings—you’ve earned it. Check Facebook for their new fall hours (they close for the season on November 20).
Photo by St. Ignace Visitors Bureau
Related Read: Tour the Mackinac Bridge by Kayak with this St. Ignace Guide.
Day 2: Tahquamenon Falls State Park
A beautiful tree-lined 1.5-hour drive north takes you from St. Ignace to Paradise and Tahquamenon Falls. As Michigan’s most iconic series of falls—and one of the largest west of the Mississippi River—Tahquamenon’s Upper Falls and Lower Falls still swarm with tourists on a gorgeous fall day. To avoid crowds, go during the week, preferably early in the morning or later for sunset.
The park glows with color in autumn and offers more than 35 miles of trails, accessible overlooks, campgrounds and overnight lodging. Wheelchairs are free to borrow, as well as a track chair on a first-come, first-reserved basis. Enjoy one-of-a-kind views while exploring the Upper Falls (the crest is 200 feet wide with a dramatic 50-foot drop) and the Lower Falls, which include five smaller cascades just four miles downstream.
Also located within the park is a portion of the North Country Trail. In total, this national trail stretches 4,800 miles across eight states, from North Dakota to Vermont. The section that runs through Tahquamenon Falls State Park is about 16 miles long. For those feeling extra ambitious, you could even plan a trip to hike up from St. Ignace—54 miles or so, but who’s counting.
Before heading back to base camp, stop at the on-site Tahquamenon Falls Brewery & Pub for a whitefish sandwich and a Porcupine Pale Ale or a Black Bear Stout. With any luck, you’ll catch some live music out on the patio to cap off a sunny autumn evening.
Photo by Kandace Chapple
Day 3: Seney National Wildlife Refuge
Round out the rest of your getaway with a trip to the Seney National Wildlife Refuge—a 1.5-hour drive northwest of St. Ignace. But first, stop at Lehto’s Pasties (there are two St. Ignace locations to choose from) and grab a pasty and a pop—the perfect handheld Yooper meal—on your way over.
Fall is prime bird watching (and listening) season at Seney, with thousands of birds—nearly 400 species—flying across the Upper Peninsula’s migratory route. Birders rejoice: The 96,000-acre refuge is home to large populations of trumpeter swans, common loons, osprey and nesting bald eagles, plus hundreds of other species, from sandhill cranes and American woodcock, to winter wren and magnolia warblers. Some other sought-after species—spruce grouse, yellow rail and northern saw-whet owls—can be spotted, too, but only if you’re lucky. Visitors are also likely to see some land-dwelling wildlife in the refuge’s forests, marshes and bogs, such as beavers, red fox, deer, porcupines and bears.
Head to the Visitor Center on Marshland Drive, open seven days a week through October 15, for exhibits, programs and info on guided tours. Then continue exploring the area by traveling along the 7-mile Marshland Drive by car, or trekking the 1.5-mile Pine Ridge Nature Trail loop (open dawn ‘til dusk). Most importantly, remember to stop and enjoy the cool breeze, the call of a loon and the wild scenery that surrounds you before the journey home.
Photo by St. Ignace Visitors Bureau