11 Scenic Fall Hikes Show Off the U.P.’s Brilliant Colors

Posted on August 26th, 2021

Choose your path from easy forest walks to rigorous mountain climbs.

Autumn is our cool breezes, gorgeous leaf-peeping, no pesky bugs time of year! That is why hikers choose this season to lace up their boots and hit the trails. So where should you go to explore Nature in the U.P.’s breathtaking 16,377 square miles? Here are 11 easy-to-extreme hiking trails. But before you cinch your boots, remember to pack these 10 essentials. Because, no joke, it’s a wilderness out there.

Easy to Moderate

  1. Bond Falls Loop, Watersmeet
    Easy • 0.9 miles • Loop
    One of the most popular U.P. waterfalls year-round, Bond Falls is easy to get to and especially beautiful in the fall. There are six viewing locations on its accessible boardwalk. Or for an adrenaline-rush hike, go rock scrambling. 🙂
  2. Estivant Pines, Copper Harbor
    Easy • 1-2.5 miles • Loops

    Photo Credit: @decompressu

    Although this virgin white pine forest isn’t dressed in lots of colors, it’s hard to forget the scent of pine wafting on the fall breeze. These two trails are a great place to spot hawks, woodpeckers and other migrating birds.

  3. Seney National Wildlife Refuge, Germfask
    Easy to Moderate • 0.5-10+ miles • Varies
    This wildlife refuge has a multitude of marked paths, plus visitors can also make their own trails (unless otherwise posted). Keep your eyes peeled for Trumpeter Swans, Common Loons, otters, beavers and other wildlife that are known to frequent the area.
  4. Fumee Lake Natural Area, Norway
    Easy to Moderate • 1.5-4.45 miles • Loop
    This preservation area in the southeastern U.P. is a nice place to take in the season’s changing colors, spot some wildlife and enjoy autumn’s reflections in the mirror-calm lake. 
  5. Chapel Basin/Mosquito Area, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Munising
    Easy to Hard • 2-10 miles • Varies
    This collection of routes is easily some of the most popular hikes of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. They offer beautiful views of fall foliage, Lake Superior and the iconic sandstone cliffs that give the park its name.
  6. Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park, Ontonagon
    Photo Credit: @decompressu

    Easy to Hard • 0.8-17.1 miles • Varies
    As the quintessential U.P. fall hiking spot, this park features many trails to take in the season’s resplendent views. The Escarpment Trail is one of the park’s most popular hikes. It is a true mountain climbing experience, especially as you stop again and again to take in the grandeur of the Upper Carp River Valley and Lake of the Clouds.

  7. Mission Hill Outlook, Brimley
    Moderate • 4 miles • Out & Back
    Just 20 minutes west of Sault Ste. Marie, this hike has wonderful leaf-peeping views – some of the best in the eastern U.P.! The overlook of Whitefish Bay and Lake Superior is quite spectacular. You may even spot a giant ore freighter out on the big water!

Hard to Extreme

  1. Clark Lake Trail, Sylvania Wilderness and Recreation Area, Watersmeet
    Hard • 8.2 miles • Loop
    This trail loops around Clark Lake which sits on the edge of the 18,327 acres of Sylvania Wilderness. As you travel through this vast wilderness – the beachy shoreline, grassy open meadows and old-growth forests of hemlock, maple and pine – take in autumn’s beauty.
  2. Trap Hills Loop, Bergland
    Hard • 6.2 miles • Loop
    Although rarely traversed (by humans at least), the views from the hilltops are breathtaking in the fall. This 6.2-mile route combines a section of the North Country Trail with the one-mile Hacking Site Trail.
  3. Greenstone Ridge Trail, Isle Royale National Park
    Extreme (Multi-Day) • 40 miles • Point to Point
    Remote and rugged, this hike spans the length of Isle Royale and is one of Michigan’s best examples of pristine natural beauty. Plan your trip carefully before starting out though; this will take backpacking gear and multiple days to hike, even for experienced hikers.
  4. North Country Trail, The entire length of the U.P.
    Photo Credit: @brixhikes

    Extreme • 547 miles (in the U.P.) • Varies
    This trail system is 4600 miles long and extends across eight states. Of those eight, Michigan holds the prize for the most mileage! If you really want to take your hiking to the extreme, check out the nearly 550 miles of trails that Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has along the North Country Trail and experience a whole new level of outdoor fall fun. A spot along the trail that you may not want to miss is Tahquamenon Falls State Park.

There are so many more places with fall colors to visit in the U.P.! Check out our 7 Great Fall Photography Spots for more trip inspiration. And keep an eye on the U.P. Fall Color Reports. The 2020 peak colors have almost arrived so plan your trip now!