One of the top reasons for vacationing in the Upper Peninsula this fall is not having to pull out your wallet to have fun. There is so much spectacular FREE fall-color wilderness to explore, FREE adrenaline-rushing adventures to try, FREE music and culture to soak up and FREE places to truly relax that you will have a free-wheeling good time every day you are here. 

FREE fall things to do all across the Upper Peninsula

  • 10 fall color tours and weekly fall color reports take you along some of the best routes when our hardwood forests put on their acclaimed foliage show. Those side roads you see on your way — take them. You will find more spectacular vistas around every curve. Read more.

  • Comb thousands of miles of beaches on three Great Lakes and hundreds of inland lakes. Fall is a prime time to rock hunt, climb towering dunes or surf Lake Superior’s enormous waves. Read more.

  • Visit 40+ historic, lifesaving lighthouses steeped in heroic stories. Read more.

  • Paddle on 12,000 miles of streams and rivers surrounded by gorgeous fall colors. Look for our wildlife along the banks as you glide by. Read more.

  • Lace-up your boots and choose how far you will hike today along thousands of miles of wilderness and in-town trails. Immersing in nature will send every one of your senses soaring this fall. Read more

  • Whether you take a leisurely bike ride along our freshwater bays or test every ounce of your white-knuckle grit on our renowned mountain bike trails, you will find your level of adventure throughout the Upper Peninsula. Read more.

  • Enjoy the spirit-lifting fall decorations, farm markets and fall festivals in St. Ignace, on Mackinac Island, in Sault Ste. Marie, Munising, Marquette, Houghton, Hancock, Calumet, Copper Harbor, Menominee, Iron Mountain, Escanaba, Gladstone and Manistique. Fall events.

Eastern Upper Peninsula

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  • Gaze out and see the “8th wonder of the world,” the Mackinac Bridge, from Bridge View Park. Read more.

  • Be awed by the ancient limestone Arch Rock on Mackinac Island. Read more.

  • While visiting Mackinac Island, climb to the island’s highest elevation where Fort Holmes (circa 1814) still stands. You will love the view! Read more.

  • Take a walk through history on the St. Ignace Huron Boardwalk. St. Ignace is the long-time home of Native American families and the site of Michigan’s second-oldest city established by Europeans. Read more.

  • As you take Fall Color Tour #8, stop to see the foliage colors drenching the forests around the Upper and Lower Tahquamenon Falls. You will need a Michigan Recreational Passport for free entry to the state park (Passport details are at the end of this blog.) Read more.

  • Watch with awe as gigantic Great Lakes and international freighters ease through the Soo Locks just inches from the observation deck. This is a must-see destination. Read more.

  • Head west 25 miles from St. Ignace and cross the Cut River Bridge. The bridge’s State Roadside Park provides a beautiful view of Lake Michigan and the mouth of the Cut River Gorge plus hiking trails through forested dunes. Read more.

Central Upper Peninsula

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  • Explore from dawn to dusk the Seney National Wildlife Refuge, home to a wide variety of wildlife, birds and plants. You can do a self-guided vehicle tour along Marshland Drive or walk the Pine Ridge Nature Trail to see what lives in the refuge pools. Read more.

  • We highly recommend visiting the popular Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. You can enter free this fall on National Parks Days, Sept. 24 and Nov. 11, 2022. Along Pictured Rocks' 42-mile-long lakeshore nearly 15 miles of mineral-stained, sandstone cliffs tower over Lake Superior. Read more.

  • Add Lakenenland Sculpture Park near Marquette to your fall Upper Peninsula bucket list. This beloved stop is home to over 100 whimsical sculptures that showcase how imagination can transform junk metal and scrap into art. Read more.

  • Six miles north of Marquette, Sugarloaf Mountain offers the perfect combination of a short hike with a tremendous view of fall foliage. From 1,000 feet above lake level, you will see a vista that will have you clicking your camera in every direction! Read more.

  • One mile south of Marquette is Alger Falls. A small roadside park gives you a quick look at the tumbling water before continuing your leaf peeping in the region. 

  • Dead River Falls is a short drive from Marquette, too. You can hike to three water drops, but the first is the easiest to reach. Seeing the water plunge into the large pool will be one of your fall vacation highlights. 

  • Vacay early in September to watch hundreds of migrating monarch butterflies flutter around Stonington Peninsula. This takes your fall color tour to a whole new level! Rockhounds, this is also the place to hunt for fossils that are up to 500 million years old. Read more.

  • Visit two free museums in Escanaba: the Webster Marble: Inventing the Outdoors Museum and the U.P. Military Museum. Many say Webster Marble put the Upper Peninsula on the map — the museum exhibits will explain why. The Military Museum is a fascinating tribute to the Upper Peninsula men, women and animals that have protected our freedoms. Read more.

Western Upper Peninsula

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  • Boast that you have stood at the highest point in Michigan when you stop at Mount Arvon on your search for the best fall colors. Read more.

  • There are 300+ waterfalls in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, many of them in the Western U.P. One free must-see is Canyon Falls. Read more.

  • Visit the city of Houghton as you make your way up the Keweenaw Peninsula. A free and relaxing scenic activity is to walk or bike along the Waterfront Trail. Then drive your vehicle across the historic Portage Lake Lift Bridge and head north to some of the most stunning fall views anywhere in the U.S. Read more.

  • When copper was king on the Keweenaw Peninsula, thousands of immigrants and U.S. fortune-seekers came to work in the mines and mining towns. You can explore the sites of abandoned mines and ghost towns at no cost than the gasoline it takes to drive to them. Read more.

  • Two top free places to visit on the Keweenaw Peninsula are Brockway Mountain in Copper Harbor and the Russell and Miriam Grinnell Memorial Nature Sanctuary at Bare Bluff. As you ease your vehicle up Brockway Mountain to 735 feet above lake level, you will see unparalleled views of thousands of acres of changing colors. Bare Bluff, also overlooking Lake Superior, is frankly for the sure-footed and gutsy — but well-worth the 300-foot, rugged climb. From the clearings on the top of the bluff, a popular 180-degree spectacular view opens from Manitou Island to Point Isabelle to Bete Grise. Both destinations are wow experiences.  

  • Fall is also one of the best times to stargaze in the Upper Peninsula. We are very excited that we have one of three designated International Dark Sky Parks in Michigan! The Keweenaw Mountain Lodge opens its property to the public for some of the best star viewings anywhere in the world! But the lack of light pollution and proximity to the North Pole also make for excellent stargazing and Northern Lights viewing all across the Upper Peninsula. Read more.

  • While exploring Copper Harbor and the northernmost tip of Michigan, drive to Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary. There you can immerse in the beauty of the old growth of White Pine growing along with a mixture of northern hardwoods and other boreal species. Read more.

  • If you have a Michigan Recreational Passport (see details below), another must-add to your fall color itinerary is the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park and the bluff view of the picturesque Lake of the Clouds. Southeast of the state park near Ewen is another highly rated free, hiking experience along the 2.7-mile loop of the Norwich Bluffs Trail. Read more.

  • If you want to visit one of the most photographed falls in the Upper Peninsula, use your Michigan Recreational Passport to see Bond Falls Scenic Site near Paulding. Then, near Bessemer, get on the 14-mile long Black River Road or National Black River Byway. Stop along the way for free hikes and views of the Great Conglomerate Falls, Potawatomi Falls, Gorge Falls, Sandstone Falls and Rainbow Falls. Read more.

Make a small investment in a Michigan Recreational Passport and instantly multiply your FREE opportunities all across the Upper Peninsula.

Spend a few dollars upfront for a day pass or annual Michigan Recreational Passport and you will immediately have FREE, year-round access to all the Upper Peninsula:

Plus, you can access all the state parks, etc., in the Lower Peninsula, too. 


Use this Upper Peninsula map to find FREE destinations

This interactive map highlights some of the most loved places in each of the Upper Peninsula’s three regions. Many of the ones pinned, but not all, are FREE. They will be your jump-off points to more FREE places to stop along our Great Lakes shorelines, in our untamed wilderness and in our fun-loving communities. It will make planning your visit that much easier.


Plan your free fall fun within a day trip of where you are staying.

In the Upper Peninsula, your lodging will rarely be more than a day trip away from hours of free adventures, sightseeing and relaxation. And while we can’t offer free hotels and resorts, you can find rates and amenities that fit your vacation budget. 

Because our fall colors are among the best in the country, more and more leaf-peepers are making this their fall destination, so book your stay now. And if you need more ideas of free things to do nearby, we are ready to give our insider’s advice. Contact us today. It’s free, too. 


Share the best of fall with other U.P. travelers

Let us know your favorite free fall destinations and adventures. 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.