Each fall, the Upper Peninsula can boast that it has the best fall color in Michigan — but according to USA Today readers, it also ranks in the top three fall foliage destinations in the entire country! Hop in your vehicle or on your motorcycle this fall and see why it gets all these accolades.
Follow these 10 scenic routes for the best fall color all across the Upper Peninsula
We asked locals in the Eastern, Central and Western U.P. to direct you to the main roads with the most scenic overlooks and vistas in each region. You will swear the colorscapes compete to surpass the previous views.
But locals also confided that veering off onto less-traveled back roads can lead to even more spectacular fall scenery, so explore wherever the spirit of the Upper Peninsula takes you!
Brake to see fall colors up close
Driving under a canopy of sun-dappled red and gold leaves is gorgeous in the U.P., but it doesn’t compare to walking beneath them. So, stop your vehicle and get out to see the fiery-hued treetops overhead or reflected in mirror-still lakes. Watch the kaleidoscope of leaves swirl in the frothing waters below roaring waterfalls or as you paddle tree-lined rivers and streams. Breathe in autumn’s rich, earthy smells, listen to the honking of hundreds of geese winging their way south and feel the crisp autumn air — fall in the U.P. is an exhilarating and soothing elixir. Whatever you do, don’t rush through your time here. Let autumn seep deep into your bones.
Eastern U.P. scenic fall stops
Tahquamenon Upper and Lower Falls: Autumn paints the trees surrounding these renowned waterfalls in rich hues.
Drummond Island: Accessible by car ferry and plane, this is a recreational paradise in the fall.
Harbor Island National Wildlife Refuge: Accessible by boat only, come for the brilliant paper birch, sugar maple and red oak leaves.
Whitefish Point Bird Observatory: This is the premier bird migration spot in Michigan.
Central U.P. fall showcases
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore: Take a Pictured Rocks cruise for the best views.
Thomas Rock Overlook: The ADA-accessible trail is beautiful in the fall.
Pine Mountain Ski Jump: Climb the steps for incredible vistas.
Stonington Peninsula: Visit this stopover for migrating monarch butterflies.
Western U.P. scenic fall waters and mountains
Canyon Falls: Autumn’s beauty fills the “Grand Canyon of the U.P.”
Lake of the Clouds Overlook: When you think of breathtaking fall scenery, think here.
Copper Harbor Mountain Biking Trails: Every climb and downward twist leads to more fall glory.
Brockway Mountain: The mountaintop views are among the most scenic in the Midwest.
Russell and Miriam Grinnell Memorial Nature Sanctuary at Bare Bluff: This is an extremely tough, 300-foot climb, but so worth it in the fall.
Bond Falls Scenic Site: Have your camera ready. Photos taken here will be among your fall favorites.
The best time to plan your scenic fall drive in the Upper Peninsula
The color transformation of our hardwood forests starts when the days become shorter and the nights cooler. First, there is a splatter-painting of scarlet reds and sunny yellows amid the seven million acres of deep green forests in early to mid-September. Seemingly overnight, our wilderness landscape is drenched in bright reds, oranges, yellows, greens and deep browns.
The colors intensify between the last week of September through the first two weeks of October, gradually shifting from the tops of trees to a patchwork of fallen leaves on our forest floors and trails. The closer you drive to the shores of Lakes Michigan, Huron and Superior, the more time you will have to catch this year’s color show before the last curtain of leaves falls.
Share your favorite fall drives with other U.P. travelers
Let us know your favorite scenic fall drives in the Upper Peninsula — especially your back road overlooks and close encounters with leaf peeping! Use our hashtag #uptravel for an opportunity to be featured on our social media, website or in our marketing materials. You can also upload your photos to our Fall Photo Crowdriff Collector below.