It’s generally well understood that the annual peak fall color in the Upper Peninsula hits the last week of September and the first two weeks of October.

It’s a lesser-known fact how the explosion of color spreads and how it keeps the vast 10 million acres of land a viable place to explore throughout that timeline, said Adonia Finendale, of Upper Peninsula Travel & Recreation Association.

Fall color changes from west to east, hitting interior portions of the land first and then moving out toward Lake Michigan to the south, Lake Superior to the north and Lake Huron to the east, Finendale explained. The colder temperatures inland transition forests to the reds, oranges, yellows that visitors love. With the Great Lakes acting as insulation of sorts, trees along and closer to shorelines hang on to their green until later in the season.

“What it means is that there’s really not a bad time to visit, and that there’s no right or wrong answer when people ask about the fall colors,” Finendale said. “You just have to plan the location and where you want to experience the fall.

“What you’ll find is an incredible kaleidoscope of colors that are truly amazing and incredible.”

It’s no longer a secret that the U.P. is the place to be for fall colors, with USA Today polls naming the sprawling wilderness the best place fall color destination in three of the last five years. The news site’s readers’ polls recently named Tahquamenon Fall State Park the second-ranked destination in the country. Additionally for 2023, Country Living magazine honored Munising and Ontonagon as being among the best towns in the U.S. for fall foliage.

"The bragging rights have been incredible, and it’s always nice to be recognized for something we’ve known: People who want to get out and experience nature at its finest should head for the U.P.,” Finendale said.

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW: Plan your trip using resources and information curated for all visitors.

While out on her own hiking, Finendale has taken note that this fall season’s display is different than in past years, something she attributes to some unusual weather this summer. While some were initially worried that shift could negatively affect the colors, it appears to have done the opposite.

“I’ve noticed different depths of colors this year with crimsons, scarlets, golds, ambers, oranges and almost a peach color standing against green backdrops,” she said. 

There are a number of ways to get outside and enjoy the colors, including the top 10 driving routes and ideas on the best things to do that suggest visiting more than 300 waterfalls, 40 lighthouses and playing by the water. There’s also a rundown of where to eat and stay on your visit.

The U.P. also offers some one-of-a-kind fall experiences with chairlift rides to the top of the Mont Ripley Ski AreaCopper Peak Adventure Ride and the Porcupine Mountains Ski Area, or alternatively an Isle Royale seaplane tour that departs from Hancock.

The panoramic and high above the land views are rare, unique and a special way to see the colors from different perspectives, Finendale said.

“These are opportunities that you can’t get elsewhere,” she said. “It’s completely different from higher vantage points.”

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