10 Amazing Places for Fall Color in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is a land of mostly unspoiled beauty, with large tracts of wilderness and stunning scenery. While it is a beautiful place to visit in any season, fall is a favorite for many as the vibrant colors of the changing leaves on trees helps paint a landscape that is quite different than summer’s green and winter’s white. The best views come from higher elevations, so this list shows off a few noteworthy mountains and man-made structures in “God’s Country.” If you’re planning on heading north of the Mackinac Bridge for peak color, early estimates have it arriving in the first two weeks of October this year. Here is Travel the Mitten’s 2015 list of 10 great places to view fall color in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula:
Copper Peak – It may no longer be an active ski flying hill, but Copper Peak near Ironwood continues to operate and adventure ride chair lift that travels 800 feet up to where “visitors can enjoy the highest, most awe-inspiring, unobstructed vista in the Midwest overlooking over 2500 square miles, 3 states and even Canada on a clear day.” Head over to http://www.copperpeak.com/activities.html for more information, hours of operation and pricing. While you’re in the area, check out the waterfalls of the Black River: Gabbro Falls, Rainbow Falls, Gorge Falls, Potawatomi Falls, Great Conglomerate Falls and Sandstone Falls.
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park – Home to one of the largest stands of old growth hardwoods in the United States, this park features 59,000 acres of largely undisturbed wilderness. Add in stunning scenery like Lake of the Clouds, Manabezho and Manido Falls, or the Lake Superior shoreline and you’ve got all the components in place for amazing fall photographs. The views from Government Peak and Summit Peak (1,958 feet) are truly breathtaking.
Sugarloaf Mountain – A 20-minute hike (you choose the “easy” or “difficult” path) leads to the top of this mountain, 470 feet above Lake Superior. Panoramic views allow visitors to take in the Marquette Harbor, Little Presque Isle, the Huron Mountains, Big Bay and other notable sites. Get there by taking Front to Washington. Turn west on Washington and go to Fourth Ave. Turn north onto Fourth, which becomes Presque Isle Ave. At Hawley, turn west. Hawley becomes CR 550. A sign that reads “Sugarloaf Mountain” marks the parking area and is easily visible from CR 550.
Brockway Mountain Drive – The Keweenaw Peninsula is full of spectacular scenery and a deep history, and there is no better view of it than the one that comes from the top of Brockway Mountain. The scenic drive up and down the mountain stretches from Copper Harbor (east) to Eagle Harbor (west) with a lookout at the top that is 720 feet above Lake Superior and 1,320 feet above sea level. The surrounding area is heavily forested which makes it a great spot to take in fall color.
Castle Rock – Three miles north of St. Ignace, this limestone sea stack is open as a tourist attraction that charges a small fee to reach the top. Created by glacial erosion, it provides views from 195 feet above Lake Huron, with views including the shoreline, surrounding forests, and the Mackinac Bridge to the south.
Tower of History – There are many things to see in Michigan’s oldest city, Sault Ste. Marie, and few places let you see them all at once the way the Tower of History does. We recently ran a post about this tourist attraction, built in the 1960s as a shrine to area missionaries but now open to the public to provide views from 210 feet above the Soo Locks, Museum Ship Valley Camp and more. From here, you’ll not only be able to take in Michigan’s fall color, but Canada’s as well.
Seney National Wildlife Refuge – The beauty of this wildlife refuge in the fall lies in its undisturbed nature and the presence of abundant wildlife. The Marshland Wildlife Drive remains open until Oct. 20, and passes by numerous habitats full of trees and plants that will be ripe with fall color. Rare sightings include moose, bear, wolf and coyote while more common are geese, swans, eagles, osprey, beavers, otters and other small mammals.
M-123/Curley Lewis Memorial Highway – Michigan highway 123 heads north from Newberry, Michigan’s Moose Capital, and winds through forests and swamps on its way to Tahquamenon Falls State Park (see below). From there it continues east to Paradise, then heads south/east and follows the Lake Superior shoreline to Sault Ste. Marie. There are numerous scenic turnouts on this drive, and popular stops include Point Iroquois Lighthouse (pictured), Mission Hill Overlook, Pendills Fish Hatchery and Whitefish Bay.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park – A visit to Michigan’s largest waterfall is a thrill at any time of year, but in the fall the background for this 50 foot by 200 foot drop. As you can see in the photo above, the trails to the Upper Falls and Lower Falls come alive with color during the fall, and the 4 mile hike between the two sets of falls becomes an even more engaging trek through the woods.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore – The sandstone cliffs, watefalls, beaches and other attractions at Pictured Rocks take on an additional layer of beauty in the fall, as colorful leaves add to the already vibrant landscape. Some spots we recommend are: Au Sable Light Station, Log Slide Overlook, Grand Sable Lake and Dunes, Sable Falls (pictured), Munising Falls and Miners Castle.