The Upper Peninsula is famous for its rocky Lake Superior beaches, towering lighthouses, and unsurpassed wilderness experiences. But the arrival of fall color adds a new dimension of beauty to the UP. Visit one of these 13 destinations for a breathtaking autumn adventure.
- Brockway Mountain, Copper Harbor
- Tobin Harbor, Isle Royale National Park
- Kitch-iti-kipi, Manistique
- The Soo Locks, Sault Ste. Marie
- Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Paradise
- Lake of the Clouds, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
- Presque Isle River Trails, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
- Dark Sky Park, the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge
- Sugarloaf Mountain, Marquette
- Whitefish Point
- Fort Mackinac, Mackinac Island
- Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Munising
- Les Cheneaux Islands
Brockway Mountain, Copper HarborBack to Top of List
The Keweenaw Peninsula explodes with color in the fall. The bold yellows and reds of hardwood trees look spectacularly vivid against the deep blue autumn sky and the Lake Superior surf. Nowhere is the Keweenaw’s brilliance better enjoyed than atop Brockway Mountain. Follow the 9½-mile Brockway Mountain Drive just outside of Copper Harbor for amazing photo ops of this UP color display.
Tobin Harbor, Isle Royale National ParkBack to Top of List
Michigan’s favorite wilderness area—and one of the nation’s most remote national parks—is famously reserved for wildlife in the winter. But Isle Royale remains open through October, long enough to reveal the island’s brilliant color display before the ferry boats stop running. Follow the easy and scenic Tobin Harbor Trail along the harbor of the same name to enjoy colorful foliage, sparkling blue water, and, with any luck, grazing moose.
Kitch-iti-kipi, ManistiqueBack to Top of List
The state’s largest natural freshwater spring is beautiful any time of year. Hop aboard the hand-cranked raft to float across Kitch-iti-kipi, or the “Big Spring,” and peer beneath the surface of this 40-foot-deep spring. There, you can peer into the crystal-clear waters to view ancient, submerged trees, giant trout, and the puffs of sand forced up by natural water vents. While you’re cruising the spring known by native Ojibwe as the “Mirror of Heaven,” don’t forget to look up. In the fall, you’ll be surrounded by the UP’s spectacular foliage.
The Soo Locks, Sault Ste. MarieBack to Top of List
There are few engineering marvels quite as mesmerizing or as beautiful as the Soo Locks, which are among the longest lock systems in the world. You can enjoy the Soo Locks up close aboard the Famous Soo Locks Boat Tours or the Original Soo Locks Boat Tours, both of which take passengers through this modern engineering wonder through the middle of October. For a Sault Ste. Marie-style leaf peeping experience, ascend the 25-story Tower of History and enjoy the eastern UP’s fall color show from a height of 210 feet.
Tahquamenon Falls State Park, ParadiseBack to Top of List
Michigan’s favorite waterfalls draw visitors to the UP all year long. Photograph the root beer-colored Upper and Lower Falls from the park’s boardwalk, or, better yet, enjoy the landscape along one of Michigan’s most beautiful fall hikes. The River Trail, which links the two waterfalls, winds through the colorful northern Michigan woods, leaves crunching beneath your feet, the air crisp and fresh, fall asters adding splashes of purple along the way. Afterward, enjoy a post-hike ice cream cone or a draft beer at Tahquamenon Falls Brewery and Pub.
Lake of the Clouds, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State ParkBack to Top of List
High above the surrounding landscape, surrounded by thick forests and rocky outcroppings, the Lake of the Clouds ranks as one of the Porcupine Mountains’ most popular attractions. And in the fall, the lake reflects the spectacular colors of the season. Admire the tranquil lake from a lookout just off Highway 107 or enjoy the Lake of the Clouds on a scenic fall hike along the park’s Escarpment Trail.
Presque Isle River Trails, Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State ParkBack to Top of List
If Lake of the Clouds is the stunning highlight of the Porcupine Mountains, the park’s Presque Isle River Trails rank as a close second. The trails form a 2.5-mile loop alongside and over the Presque Isle River, leading hikers over thick pine needles and moss, beneath hemlock and colorful hardwood forest, and past a series of three beautiful waterfalls.
Dark Sky Park, the Keweenaw Mountain LodgeBack to Top of List
Overnight in a cozy century-old log cabin, surrounded by the beauty of the Keweenaw Peninsula’s fall color. Golf, hike, or mountain bike on the resort’s 560 acres during the day, and when the sun goes down, look up. The Keweenaw Mountain Lodge is part of the Keweenaw Dark Sky Park offering public night sky viewing and photography workshops focused on stargazing and the northern lights.
Sugarloaf Mountain, MarquetteBack to Top of List
The UP’s largest city clusters along the shores of Lake Superior and offers spectacular views year-round. Walk or bike the Iron Ore Heritage Trail through town to enjoy views of Marquette Bay surrounded by fall color. Then head to Sugarloaf Mountain for a bird’s-eye view of the panorama. A well-marked trail and staircase lead up to this popular lookout just north of Marquette.
Whitefish PointBack to Top of List
This sandy spit of land is famously home to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, with artifacts relating to ships like the Edmund Fitzgerald that were lost in nearby Shipwreck Alley. But Whitefish Point is also home to one of North America’s premier birding locations. During fall migration, visitors can watch owl banding and identify thousands of warblers, finches, hawks, owls, loons, and other waterfowl through mid-November.
Fort Mackinac, Mackinac IslandBack to Top of List
Michigan’s favorite island promises a laid-back getaway, with car-free streets, Victorian-era cottages, and sparkling Lake Huron vistas. And the views are even lovelier in autumn, when the crowds thin and fall color brightens the landscape. Head to historic Fort Mackinac and its Mackinac Island Tea Room, both open through October, for incredible blufftop views of downtown Mackinac Island and the Mackinac Bridge.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, MunisingBack to Top of List
Enjoy a crisp fall walk along the Pictured Rocks’ Lake Superior hiking trails out to Miner’s Castle or explore this national park’s colorful cliff faces on board a Pictured Rocks Cruise. The popular boat trips run through mid-October and sail past rocky pinnacles, watery caves, and gushing waterfalls made all the more beautiful by the season’s colorful foliage.
Les Cheneaux IslandsBack to Top of List
Paddle a kayak, book a boat cruise, browse an art gallery, or just sit on a lakeside patio, sipping hot cider and soaking up the autumn sunshine. Life slows down in this 36-island Lake Huron archipelago east of the Mackinac Bridge. Small inns, B&Bs, and family-owned cafés and restaurants invite visitors to sit back, enjoy the quiet watery landscape, and relax.
The vivid colors of autumn in the UP never last long. Enjoy every moment.
This article was published on MLive.com.