For the most part, all of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is experiencing good color. Thundering waterfalls and hushed cathedrals of old-growth forest define the untamed landscape ofPorcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in Michigan’s western Upper Peninsula, where color is unmistakably breathtaking this time of year. Hike, bike, or drive through the area to experience its golden aspens and crimson maples splashing across a canvas of deep green conifers. Silver City, just 3 miles east of the park, makes a great base from which to explore the vast region. Foliage along the Lake Michigan shoreline of the Escanaba is still mostly green with splashes of color. Just outside of town, maples are beginning their transition to bright reds, with some oaks exhibiting yellow hues. Maples along US-2 west of St. Ignace are showing good color and a variety of other trees along I-75 north of St. Ignace are displaying an impressive show of both light and dark red colors. Area Tamaracks have graced the region with a bright golden tone. Approaching 75 percent saturation, locals anticipate prime color conditions for the entire region in less than two weeks.
Heading south, fall color transition is about a week behind the Upper Peninsula. Any drive in Cheboygan County will display some of autumn’s stunning bronze and deep jewel-like crimson —especially along the shoreline. A frost advisory for the area is likely to advance the splurge of color in local forests, although peak color is still about two weeks away.
Colors in and around Charlevoix and Harbor Springs are absolutely beautiful--possibly the most vibrant they have been in years. This weekend is the perfect time to bike the Little Traverse Wheelway from Charlevoix to Harbor Springs, as the maples are ablaze in red against the green of the pines. Golf courses are still open and in great shape, with stunning views of the rolling hills and lakes. A drive around Lake Charlevoix, crossing the historic Ironton Ferry will surely delight those in search of gorgeous fall countryside and panoramic lake views. While in the area, get a bird’s-eye view of the region's color from a chair lift or a zipline soaring some 1,320 feet above the trees at Boyne Highlands in Harbor Springs. Head north from Harbor Springs on M-119--a designated scenic byway--where the narrow road winds as it cuts through a hardwood forest that opens to give glimpses of Lake Michigan. The leaves are not quite at peak yet, but it is estimated peak conditions are only about a week away.
Autumn color is slowly making its way across the Traverse City area, and the local maples (superstars of our color season) are starting to show brilliant flashes of red, yellow and orange in what is still largely a green landscape. As with past weeks, leaf color in the area at this stage is largely confined to highlights of crimson, gold and scarlet from early-turning vines. Virginia Creeper and bittersweet are particularly colorful, and many Virginia Creeper vines are turning their host trees into brilliant scarlet and pink pillars. Check out M-37 near Mapleton on the Old Mission Peninsula for some great examples of this beautiful phenomenon. There's also purple and orange from low-growing shrubs like chokecherry and sumac. They're a lovely accent, seen against the still-green foliage of larger trees, the darker greens of our conifers, and the striking blue of Lake Michigan and Grand Traverse Bay.
The highlands to the south of Traverse City are dotted with dozens of small lakes, sturdy farm towns and dense forests of evergreens and hardwoods – as well as the majestic Boardman Valley. Much of this intensely varied landscape is contained in the Pere Marquette State Forest, and it is best explored by heading out into the maze of twisting roads that wind through the forests, around lakes and along the tops of high wooded bluffs. One place to start is by circling Long Lake, whose islands and coves provide a pleasant fall backdrop for a drive to the village of Interlochen, home to the renowned Interlochen Center for the Arts. From here, it’s an uncomplicated trip east through rolling farmlands to Kingsley and the even smaller hamlet of Mayfield on the Boardman River, where a traveler must choose whether to follow the river valley (which broadens dramatically just beyond this point) or ascend the steep bluffs above the river to the Forest Lakes region. Of course, you can always do both! The entire Grand Traverse region is estimated to have peak color in one to two more weeks.
In Northeast Michigan, the drive up US-23 north from Alpena to the New and Old Presque Isle lighthouses is breathtaking with jewel tones dusting tree tops along the roadway. Park the car and explore Tawas Point and Rogers City state parks, which offer stunning vistas for fall hiking and biking. The region is near 75 percent color saturation with peak conditions fast approaching.
During the fall color season, the biking trails heading into Clare from Midland are some of the prettiest. Sprinkled with wetlands and dotted with red-blazing sumac giving way to neat Amish farms, the landscape seems far too perfect to be utilized for active farm operations on a regular basis. While in Clare, you’ll want to make time to browse antiques and shop for Amish wears, quilts and furniture. Traditionally, peak conditions sweep over the area mid-October.
The Mt. Pleasant area is ablaze with yellow, red, gold, bronze and pale cream. Locals report that the area is currently experiencing peak conditions, so you’ll want to definitely plan a color tour to the area soon.
For Southwest Michigan’s Saugatuck-Douglas area, color is still sparse; however, bright reds and yellows are making an impressive showing along the Blue Star Highway. Locals suggest a scenic drive from Saugatuck toHolland, or Saugatuck to South Haven, to see the emerging color show.
For the communities near River Country, residents recommend a drive along Coldwater’s country roads or abroad the Little River Railroad steam train to see the striking evolution of the trees getting ready for their fall color debut. Kayaking and canoeing the county’s two chain lakes also offer spectacular views of the magnificent transformation of Branch County into a stunning fall panoramic showplace. Peak conditions are three or four weeks away.
To take in the early hints of crimson, yellow and deep orange in the maples and oaks of Detroit and surrounding areas, take a drive through the 13 parks that make up the Huron-Clinton Metroparks system. This coming weekend, you’ll find some of the most striking color at the Huron Mills, Huron Meadows and theOakwood parks. While green still predominates in most of the Southeast region’s trees, the open fields burn with the deep russets of sumac and dogwood and the brilliant lemon yellows among area shrubs—particular the dogbanes. Peak conditions are three or four weeks away.
In southeastern Michigan, many of the trees are just starting to transition while the ground cover is bursting with fiery reds, golden yellows, and royal purples. Revelers at Oktoberfest in downtown Ann Arbor this weekend (October 3 & 4) will enjoy the beginning stages of fall color along the tree-lined streets. Visitors checking out the Ghoultide Gathering--a Magical Bazaar of Halloween Art in Chelsea this Saturday-- will see some color saturation in the tree tops that border the Washtenaw County Fairgrounds. Overall, color change remains in the preliminary stages but all indications point to a breathtaking and vivid season ahead. Peak conditions are three or four weeks away.