Best of the Western Upper Peninsula: 30 Great Michigan Fall Color Spots
The Western Upper Peninsula is often the first place in the state where fall color really starts to peak. High elevation vistas in the Porcupine Mountains and on the Keweenaw Peninsula give stunning views, while the Lake Superior shoreline becomes even more scenic when surrounded by oranges, reds, and yellows. USA Today/10best.com has recently taken an interest in the U.P.’s fall color, which is currently beating out 19 other finalists to be named the best in the country. Last week we took a look at 25 Great Michigan Fall Color Spots in the Eastern U.P., and now we turn our attention to the western half. Enjoy these 30 great Michigan fall color spots, and let us know if you have a favorite!
Copper Peak (Ironwood) – “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!” Open through mid-October as weather allows, find out more details at https://copperpeak.net/visit/.
Lake of the Clouds (Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park) – One of our favorite views in the entire state comes from the overlook at Lake of the Clouds. The trail is short and accessible for all, and in the fall you can expect to see a forest full of color that goes on for miles and miles. The Lake of the Clouds overlook and trail is located at the west end of 107th Engineers Memorial Highway (formerly M-107), close to 10 miles from M-64.
Presque Isle River waterfalls (Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park) – Manabezho Falls and Manido Falls, two of Michigan’s most impressive waterfalls, can be reached after a short hike from the Presque Isle Unit of the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. The tree-lined banks of this fast-moving river are even more impressive when bathed in color during the fall.
Sugarloaf Mountain (Marquette) – Some of the most stunning views in the Marquette area come from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, 470 feet above Lake Superior. A “difficult” trail has a steeper grade and takes 15-20 minutes, while the “easy” trail takes longer but has a more gradual elevation gain.
Van Riper State Park (Michigamme) – Well-known for its campground and beach on the shore of Lake Michigamme, Van Riper State Park is also home to more than three miles of trails. In the fall be sure to check out the 1.5-mile River Trail and the 1.5-mile Old Wagon Trail.
Brockway Mountain (Copper Harbor) – Rising 720 feet above Lake Superior between Eagle Harbor and Copper Harbor, Brockway Mountain boasts some of the Keweenaw’s best views. Brockway Mountain Drive is a little more than eight miles long, with both ends connecting to M-26. There are multiple pull-offs, each with its own spectacular view.
Quincy Mine (Hancock) – You still have time to visit Quincy Mine and take a tour this year (open until late October). From the top of the hill as the cog-rail tram car heads down to the mine entrance, the views of colorful trees along both sides of the Keweenaw Waterway. Find out more at http://www.quincymine.com/guided-tours-rates, and combine your fall color trip with some history!
Marquette Mountain area (Marquette) – The area surrounding the Marquette Mountain ski area has plenty of hills, trails for hiking and mountain biking, and even a few waterfalls (we love Morgan Creek Falls). Catch fall color here and you won’t be disappointed!
Black River Scenic Byway and Waterfalls (Bessemer) – The Black River Scenic Byway is amazing in any season, but fall adds to the scenery in a big way as you drive from Bessemer to Black River Harbor. Check out any of the five waterfalls – Gorge Falls, Potawatomi Falls, Great Conglomerate Falls, Rainbow Falls or Sandstone Falls – or hike one of the segments of North Country Trail that intersects this scenic drive.
Baraga State Park (Baraga) – Soak in a panoramic view of the Keweenaw Bay from the park’s day use area, or try hiking the nature trail. In addition to great fall color, be on the lookout for wildlife like bald eagles and moose in the surrounding area. You can also get some great views from the nearby Bishop Baraga Shrine.
Thomas Rock Scenic Overlook (Marquette) – A quick detour from CR-550 north of Marquette leads to one of the most spectacular fall views in the area. Thomas Rock Scenic Overlook (formerly known as Gobbler’s Knob) is located on CR-510, a mile from CR-550 and 2.5 miles south of Big Bay. A universally accessible hiking trail leads to observation areas with views of Lake Superior, Big Bay, the Keweenaw Peninsula, and more. Be sure to check out the interpretive plaques identifying the trees, flowers, and wildlife in the area.
Piers Gorge (Norway) – You won’t find nonstop rafts of people making their way over Misicot Falls like you will during the summer, but fall at the Piers Gorge Unit of the Menominee River State Recreation Area still has a lot to offer. Hike through the woods and follow the river past three sets of waterfalls, with colors popping on the Michigan and Wisconsin sides of the river.
Bewabic State Park (Crystal Falls) – One of our favorite places to camp in the summer is Bewabic State Park, a park with plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities and a lot of historic structures erected by the Civilian Conservation Corps. In the fall, the hiking trails here are beautiful, especially the one leading to the island.
Lake Gogebic State Park and Alligator Eye hiking trail – The area surrounding Lake Gogebic State Park is a great spot for fall color. Hikers will enjoy the view from the Alligator Eye hiking trail, a 20-minute trek that leads to an overlook in the Ottawa National Forest.
Mt. Arvon (Skanee) – It takes close to eight miles of uphill, winding, dirt road driving from the main road to get to Michigan’s highest point, but it’s worth it. Mt. Arvon is 1,979 feet tall and recent efforts to improve the site have opened up a bit of a view of the Keweenaw Bay and the surrounding forest – look for a great color show here in October! (Due to active logging operations in the area, us caution when driving up the mountain)
Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness Area – The Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness is a hiker’s paradise, highlighted by the wild and scenic Sturgeon Falls. The view from Silver Mountain is worth the effort (250 steps), and you might see hawks and kestrels flying here.
Hungarian Falls – With multiple waterfalls 20 feet or taller, Hungarian Falls is one of the more impressive sights in the Keweenaw Peninsula. After a short hike, you can see the tree-lined Dover Creek make its plunge over Upper Hungarian Falls (20 feet) and Middle Hungarian Falls (20 feet) before it plunges off a rock wall to form the 50-foot Lower Hungarian Falls. You also get a distant view of Torch Lake from the top of the lower falls.
Peninsula Point – Located at the end of the Stonington Peninsula, the Peninsula Point Lighthouse offers views of the Hiawatha National Forest from the top of its tower, 40 feet off the ground. This is an important migratory flyway for birds as they head south for the winter, so keep your eyes and ears open when visiting this special place.
Bond Falls (Paulding) – Only Tahquamenon Falls can rival Bond Falls for size in Michigan, and you won’t find the same crowds here. The Middle Branch of the Ontonagon River is more than 100 feet wide here, and plunges 40 feet as it forms a wild and scenic waterfall. This state scenic site is also fully accessible with a paved trail and boardwalk.
Summit Peak (Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park) – The highest point in a state park known for its mountains is Summit Peak, which offers visitors a view from the top of an observation tower that is considered the best in the park. At 2,000 feet above sea level, you’ll have the chance to view the Apostle Islands and Isle Royale on a clear day.
Presque Isle Park (Marquette) – Covering more than 300 acres, Marquette’s Presque Isle Park offers hiking trails, the famous “Blackrocks,” an ore dock that loads Great Lakes freighters, a breakwater and lighthouse, abundant wildlife, and some of the best places for viewing Lake Superior sunsets.
M-28 between Marquette and Munising – There are more than a few scenic turnouts and roadside parks on M-28 as it spans 38 miles between Munising and Marquette. Stop at the roadside Scott Falls, or see what fall color does to enhance the sculptures at Lakenenland. You can get great views of Grand Island from the Munising Tourist Park Campground, and we also recommend stops at Au Train and at the Bay Furnace State Forest Campground.
Grand Island Harbor Scenic Turnout/Roadside Park (Munising) – Just outside of the city limits on M-28, there is a roadside park and scenic turnout that offers a high vantage point and amazing views. From here you can see the fall color as it spreads across Grand Island, and as it fills in the trees above the Pictured Rocks cliffs.
CR-550 from Marquette to Big Bay – There are plenty of things to see and do on the 25 mile drive to Big Bay, as CR-550 runs parallel to Lake Superior. Check out Alder Falls or Yellow Dog Falls, climb to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain or Thomas Rock, check out Wetmore Pond or Little Presque Isle, or visit the Anatomy of a Murder film sites in Big Bay. At the end of this drive you will find the historic Big Bay Point Lighthouse, an 1896 beacon that is now open as a bed and breakfast.
H-58 through Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore – The only road that runs through the entirety of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is H-58, a curvy, close to 50 mile route that takes visitors from Sable Falls at the park’s east end to Miners Castle and other attractions on the west end near Munising. Enjoy the color of the many different kinds of trees on this route, and keep your eyes open for wildlife.
US-41 south of Copper Harbor – While the Tunnel of Trees in the Lower Peninsula might be a bit more famous, those who have driven US-41 south of Copper Harbor know that fall is a great time to check out the tree canopy that covers the road. Consider a side trip to Bete Grise and Mt. Bohemia for some great views.
Miners Castle (Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore) – One of the most popular overlooks in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is Miners Castle, where a stone turret stands atop a colorful cliff. In the fall the trees here add more color to an already stunning landscape, and you can see the cliffs on the mainland and on Grand Island from several observation areas. The main overlook here is a short walk from the parking lot, and the trail and platform are both fully accessible.
Canyon Falls (Baraga County) – An easy one mile hike from a roadside park south of L’Anse leads to Canyon Falls, a wide 15 foot waterfall located in an impressive gorge. The Sturgeon River roars through here, with two more waterfalls for those who keep hiking. Learn about the different types of trees with interpretive panels next to the hiking trail.
Fumee Lake Natural Area (Iron Mountain) – Fumee Falls is one of the easiest waterfalls to visit in Michigan, and just up the road from there you’ll find Fumee Lake Natural Area. Home to mountain biking trails for all skill levels, you’ll also find that this is a great place for hiking (and cross-country skiing) in a quiet preserve that offers great scenery and abundant wildlife.
Bonanza Falls (Silver City) – We love visiting Bonanza Falls because of its uniqueness, but we also like its location outside of Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park boundaries and away from crowds of tourists. It’s not the biggest waterfall in the state, but it is a series of complex drops over jagged rock on a wide river with tree-lined banks. After taking many friends here for the first time, not one has left unimpressed.