A fall guide to mastering family fun in the U.P

Posted on October 10th, 2021

Planning a trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula can be daunting. There’s so much ground to cover, and so many unique activities in each of the three regions. Not to mention you want to find something everyone in the family can enjoy — from Grandma and Grandpa to the littlest of tikes and everyone in between. We’re making that all a little easier for you.

We’ve looked over each nook and cranny of our peninsula to find fall family fun activities, and we’ve also tossed in a few bucket list items that are a blast year round. All you have to do is decide which activities, traditions and events fit your family best. Then schedule a trip. It’s as easy as that!

Apple Orchards, pumpkins, farmers markets and corn mazes

Bring your fall family traditions to the Upper Peninsula! We have many apple orchards, pumpkin patches and corn mazes to choose from. Pick up something juicy for your favorite apple crisp recipe, and grab a few gourds and pumpkins for the porch and jack-o-lantern carving, too. You can also find fresh produce, baked goods, picnic supplies and more at our local farmers markets while traveling through the U.P.

Here’s a list of what we have to offer:

Sunny G. Orchard, Stephenson (apples, pumpkins, farm stand and farmers market booth)

Starz Orchard, Wallace (apples, cider)

Loud Acres Farm, Crystal Falls (corn maze, traveling petting zoo)

Halls Farms, Rock (sunflower field, pumpkins)

Bower Family Corn Maze, Bark River

Getzloff Corn Maze, Wilson

Hayes Corn Maze, Rock

Rappette’s Corn Maze, Cornell

Porath Family Pumpkin Patch, Bark River

Davis Farms 123, Moran (pumpkins and gourds)

Slagle’s Family Farm, Felch (pumpkins)

Farmer’s Markets:
Downtown Marquette Farmers Market

Escanaba Farmers Market

Iron Mountain Farmers & Artisan Market

Fall foliage viewing

Ask fall color seekers their favorite destinations and the U.P. makes their lists. Seven million acres of tree coverage, the pristine shores of three Great Lakes, picturesque historic lighthouses, mirror-calm inland lakes and roaring waterfalls make this a fall getaway no other U.S. destination can match. When USA Today asked its readers to choose their favorite destination for fall color, they even voted Michigan’s Upper Peninsula first in 2020 and second in 2021.

The leaf show begins when our daylight hours shorten in mid-September and the night air grows crisp. First, there’s a splatter painting of scarlet reds and sunny yellows amid acres of green. Then, almost overnight, the hardwood forests explode in reds, oranges, yellows, purples, browns and greens. The colors intensify and peak by mid-October. But this breathtaking show continues for a couple more weeks, especially along tree-canopied roads near the shorelines of Lakes Huron, Michigan and Superior.

Scenic drives

Photo: @garyrennisphotos

Our 10 fall color tours will take you up to mountain tops, to the edge of thundering waterfalls, along leaf-strewn trails and multi-colored rocky shores. Everywhere you turn, you will swear the vista is more beautiful than the one before.You have nearly 1,500 gorgeous, leafy miles to choose from. To help plan your trip, check our weekly color reports here for our eastern, central and western regions.

Top 10 fall color tours

Fall hikes

Driving isn’t the only way to experience the colors though. You can get up close and personal with them on foot, too! The Upper Peninsula is home to some of the best hiking trails in Michigan. Desire a short trail with a show-stopping view? Or a long strenuous hike to test your abilities? Your family can do both while hiking through a canopy of oranges, reds and coppery browns — or crunching on the fallen leaves along the trail later in the season. Here are 11 fall hikes we highly recommend for you and your family.

Make sure not to miss high vantage points for foliage such as Lake of the Clouds and Summit Peak in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park or riding chairlifts in locations like Mount Bohemia in the Keweenaw Peninsula’s Copper Country and Copper Peak Adventure Ride.

Paddling

While those colors are gorgeous from up above, paddling underneath the canopy of leaves is an entirely different way to experience this beauty up close. Nothing is more peaceful than sending ripples through the water as its surface reflects the masterpiece above. Listen for the sounds of birds chirping, squirrels leaping through the rustling treetops as they gather the season’s final harvest and other U.P. wildlife nearby. Depending on how long you’d like to be on the water, we have several different trails to paddle. Join family or friends for a short paddle out to Lake Superior on the Two-Hearted River, or plan a long adventure on the Lake Superior Hiawatha Water Trail from Munising to Marquette to Big Bay in your kayaks. Search water trails here.

Photographing fall color

You can never have too many photos of the U.P.’s stellar colors, so make sure you bring along your cameras, wide-angle lenses, smartphones and plenty of film for those of you who like to keep the art alive. Check out our recommendations of where to photograph this fall in our blog written by a Michigan-based photographer!

Capture the U.P.

Spooky events for the family

Have a spooktacular time celebrating Halloween and all things spooky, here, this year! From haunted houses to trick or treating, there is something for all age ranges. If Halloween isn’t your thing, that’s okay! We’ve also included several other events happening this fall like craft shows, film festivals and races.

  • MISH Fall 5k/10k & Kids 1 mile | Oct. 9 | Race times vary | 7146 P. Road, Gladstone | $39 Kids run/ $54 5/10k
    Enjoy the view of the fall hues along the Bluff while running along the waterfront non-motorized pathway.
  • The Dryland Dash | Oct. 9-10 | 9 a.m. | Negaunee Trail Systems
    Sled dog racing without the snow and cold! Teams race over two days on the Negaunee Park ski trail system.
  • Fresh Coast Film Festival | Oct. 14-17 | 5-7 p.m. | Marquette | $25-$150
    The Fresh Coast Film Festival is the first of its kind: a documentary film festival celebrating the outdoor lifestyle, water-rich environment and resilient spirit of the Great Lakes and Upper Midwest.
  • The Ogee Challenge | Oct. 15-16 | Start times vary | Norway | Cost varies
    This challenge features mountain bike racing for all ages and skill levels.
  • Guided Mountain Bike Beginner and Family Rides | Oct. 16 | 10-11:30 a.m. | Keweenaw Mountain Lodge | FREE
    Coach Chris is happy to provide basic mountain bike skills tips and share his extensive knowledge of the local trail system.
  • Archeology Fair | Oct. 16 | 11 a.m.-3 p.m. | Marquette Regional History Center | $2-$7
    Spend a fun afternoon learning about local and global archaeology through activities, demonstrations, artifacts and displays at a wide variety of interactive booths.
  • Fall Craft Show | Oct. 16 | 10 a.m.-4 p.m. | Great Lakes Sports Club | $2 or donation of two non-perishable items for food pantry to enter
    Handcrafted items for sale with lunch available.
  • Night of Magic and Wizardry | Oct. 16 | 6-9 p.m. | Bonifas Arts Center, 700 First Ave. S., Escanaba | $35 for adults, $25 for students
    Visit the Wolfsbane School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and be transported to a wonderful wizarding world. Stop by the wand shop, candy store and potions class! You will enjoy dinner, games and magical activities, meeting characters, learning magic spells, tasting chocolate frogs and butter beer, and so much more! Costumes are welcomed.
  • Treat Street 2021 | Oct. 16 | 4-7 P.M. | Sheldon Ave., Houghton | FREE
    Please join us for the 12th annual Treat Street in Downtown Houghton. Shelden Avenue will be closed for safe trick or treating. Free goodie bags available outside of the City Center.
  • Mackinac Island Halloween (Samhain) Weekend | Oct. 22-24 | Mackinac Island | Prices vary
    Have fun with the kids Trick or Treating downtown, Haunts of Mackinac Tour and then gear up for some great grown up Halloween parties at the downtown pubs. The Island shops work hard to clear out their inventory with great discounts and sales.
  • Kerridge’s Haunted Pines | Oct. 23 | 8-10:30 p.m. | W9522 Park Road, Naubinway | Entry by donation only
    Once a year, for one night only, Kerridge’s Haunted Pines awakens to terrorize its next victims. Parental discretion advised. Not recommended for young children.
  • Trunk-or-Treat in Historic Calumet | Oct. 23 | 7 p.m. | Historic Downtown Calumet | FREE
    Time to get dressed up and enjoy an evening of Halloween Festivities in historic downtown Calumet!
  • Harvest Moon 5K | Oct. 29 | 8 p.m. | The Northern Lights YMCA – Delta Center, 2000 N. 30th St., Escanaba | $25
    Calling all night owls! This 5K run/walk happens under a harvest moon. Participants will receive glow accessories, a long-sleeve shirt and goodie bags.
  • Rocky Horror Picture Show | Oct. 29 | 11 p.m. | Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts | $15 Adult, $10 Youth, FREE with Experience Tech fee
    The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) (R) Starring Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick. Pre-show party starts at 10 p.m.
  • Edmund Fitzgerald Memorial Service | Nov. 10 | 7 p.m. | Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, Paradise
    Attend the annual memorial service for the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, a Great Lakes Freighter that sank in a Lake Superior storm in 1975.
  • Portage Health Turkey Trot | Nov. 25 | 9 a.m. | UP Health System, Hancock | FREE
    This non-competitive event encourages the whole community to get out and be active. Part of the Portage Movement Series.
  • TV6 Thanksgiving Craft Show | Nov. 26 | 10 a.m.-5 p.m. | U.P. State Fair Grounds, Escanaba

Still haven’t found something for you and your family? Looking to add a few days and activities to your itinerary? This time of year, you can still search for migrating birds with your grandkids, take the family fishing for catch and release or dinner, kick up a rooster tail with your ATV, schedule tee times, ride hairpin turns through our biking trails, visit historical state and national parks and stargaze. It’s also the prime viewing time for the Northern Lights!
Enhance your trip routes and pit stops with unique Upper Peninsula experiences. Quirky roadside attractions make for great family photo ops, and we offer more food than just pasties (but we do recommend trying those, too).

If this is your first large family trip, or you want some pointers, check out our advice for multigenerational family trips. And of course, if you can’t make it up this season, come see us soon! Until then, you can enjoy these at-home virtual Upper Peninsula journeys with the whole family. We can’t wait to welcome you to our peninsula in all its brilliant fall glory.

For an opportunity to be featured on our social media, website or in our marketing materials, please upload your photos to our Fall Photo Crowdriff Collector below.