Does Michigan’s Upper Peninsula Have the Best Fall Color in the Country?
Does Michigan’s Upper Peninsula have the best fall color in the country? If you’ve ever ventured north of the bridge to take in the changing colors of the leaves at places like Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Whitefish Bay Scenic Byway, or the Keweenaw Peninsula, then you know the answer is yes. The U.P. is a land of unspoiled beauty, and we now have a chance to vote and help show the whole country that when it comes to fall foliage, you can’t beat the Upper Peninsula. 10best.com’s latest round of Reader’s Choice polls has the U.P. nominated as one of 20 finalists for “Best Destination for Fall Foliage.” Head over to https://www.10best.com/awards/travel/best-destination-for-fall-foliage/upper-peninsula-michigan/, where you can “Vote once per day until voting ends on Monday, August 24 at noon ET. The winning destinations will be announced on 10Best on Friday, September 4, just in time for leaf peeping season.”
Other nominees include Bar Harbor (Maine), Asheville (North Carolina), Door County (Wisconsin), Stowe (Vermont), and the White Mountains (New Hampshire). As of this writing, the Upper Peninsula was holding down the top spot on the leaderboard, with Gatlinburg (Tennessee) and the Laurel Highlands (Pennsylvania) in the second and third spots, respectively. Last year’s contest saw Door County take home top honors, with the Upper Peninsula finishing fifth. We will make our case below for why the U.P. can’t be beat when it comes to fall color, here are 10 of our favorite places to photograph in the fall:
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore – Covering 42 miles of Lake Superior shoreline between Munising and Grand Marais, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore offers plenty of great spots to check out fall color. We’ve had great luck at Sand Point Marsh, Miners Castle, Sable Falls, Log Slide Overlook, Grand Sable Lake, and the Chapel Falls area.
Whitefish Bay Scenic Byway – West of Sault Ste. Marie, the Whitefish Bay Scenic Byway follows the Lake Superior shoreline for 27 miles. Top spots to check out in the fall include Point Iroquois Lighthouse, Mission Hill Overlook, Naomikong Point, and Monocle Lake. Check out our Photo Gallery Friday: Whitefish Bay Scenic Byway Fall Color post for more photos.
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park – Few things compare to peak fall color at the Lake of the Clouds Overlook. An already stunning view that stretches for miles is filled in with yellows, oranges, and reds as the forest changes. Other great spots in the park include Summit Peak, the Presque Isle waterfalls, Nonesuch Mine ruins, and the Lake Superior shoreline near the visitor’s center.
Copper Harbor area – Some of the Upper Peninsula’s best fall colors can be found at its northernomst mainland point at Copper Harbor. Check out the scenic views from the top of Brockway Mountain, drive through the “tunnel of trees” on US-41, or stop at any of the roadside parks on the Lake Superior shoreline and you’ll see why this area is worth the extra drive!
Top of the Lake US-2 Scenic Byway – Following the Lake Michigan shoreline from St. Ignace to Manistique, the Top of the Lake Scenic Byway offers more than a few great places for fall color. The views from the Cut River Bridge are breathtaking, and you’ll also want to check out the Hiawatha National Forest site at Brevort Lake, as well as the numerous scenic overlooks on the side of the highway.
Copper Peak Ski Flying Hill – Copper Peak is a ski flying hill in the Western U.P. that has recently been the host of Red Bull hill climb races. “The Copper Peak Adventure Ride lets visitors rise to the same heights as the athletes who have flown down the hill in years past. After an 800-foot chair lift ride to the crest of the hill — a 360-foot copper-bearing volcanic outcrop — visitors take a thrilling 18-story elevator to the main observation deck. From there, the truly fearless can walk an additional 8 stories to the top starting gate.Once at the top, 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. The Copper Peak Adventure Ride is an opportunity not to be missed!” Stay up to date with an operations schedule and more information on Copper Peak’s Facebook page.
Black River Scenic Byway – Five major waterfalls can be found in the span of a few miles, with colorful tree-line banks making them even more stunning in the fall. The North Country Trail crosses and runs parallel to portions of this byway, and amazing views await at the harbor and suspension bridge at the point where the river meets Lake Superior.
Marquette – The best fall views in the Marquette area come from up high – the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, Marquette Mountain, or the Thomas Rock Scenic Overlook are two great spots. The Presque Isle Park area has many great scenic stops, the old CR-510 bridge in the Dead River Falls area is a favorite for photographers, and the many miles of Iron Ore Heritage Trail that pass old mining sites transform with color in September and October.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park – One of the few state parks in Michigan that stays open year-round, Tahquamenon Falls State Park is also the second largest state park. The trees along the trails leading to the Upper Tahquamenon Falls and Lower Tahquamenon Falls burst with color in the fall, adding more depth to an already stunning landscape. The drive on M-123 (Tahquamenon Scenic Byway) offers many other great fall color photo opportunities, and perhaps even a rare encounter with the elusive Michigan moose!
Sault Ste. Marie – The oldest city in Michigan can’t be left out when talking about great fall color in Michigan. Some of our favorite stops here include Rotary Park, the Tower of History (which offers panoramic views from 210 feet above the city), Soo Locks Park, Sugar Island, and the nature preserves west of the city near Sherman Park.
For a deeper dive into all the Upper Peninsula has to offer, check out our previous posts: Best of the Eastern Upper Peninsula – 25 Michigan Fall Color Spots and Best of the Western Upper Peninsula – 30 Great Michigan Fall Color Spots. Be sure to vote in the