Fall in West Michigan is heralded by a blaze of vibrant colors lining the roads, lakes, and cities of the region. It’s the perfect time of year to enjoy cider and donuts, strolls through the woods, or lazy afternoon drives with the natural, stunning artwork of the trees as your backdrop. Read on for some of our favorite ways to experience the fall colors in West Michigan, in both traditional and unexpected ways.
South Fall Color Tours in West Michigan
The 26th Annual Blue Coast Artists Fall Tour of Studios will be taking place this year on Saturday, October 3rd and Sunday, October 4th. Enjoy the lovely views of the changing leaves as you travel from studio to studio. Over the past twenty-six years the tour has continued to be an educational and interesting experience for all, by offering a behind-the-scenes look into the studios of working artists. The tour can be completed in one day and a tour map is available at each site. The 2015 Blue Coast Artists Fall Tour includes Khnemu Studio on Fernwood Farms, which will demonstrate Raku firing and throwing on the potter’s wheel. Enjoy a Fall Festival of handmade and homegrown at the studio and on the farm, as well as many other art studios along the coast. Encompassing fall color and art from South Haven, Fennville, to Glenn, there is surely something for everyone of all ages!
Tour through the fall vineyards at Fenn Valley Vineyards in Fennville this autumn with an educational tour or a 5K! The Vine Wine’d 5K takes place on October 3rd, where you’ll “wine’d” through vineyards, meadows, and numerous forested ecosystems on a trail network created specifically to showcase the fall beauty of the property. Choose to run the 5K or take part in the one mile fun run/walk. After your run or walk, continue enjoying the fall beauty of the vineyard with a post-race cookout and wine stomping contest! Visit anytime during the fall for one of the vineyard’s picturesque Fall Vineyard Tours. You’ll travel through the vineyards on specially designed wagons with the vineyards as a backdrop for demonstrating how premium wine is made.
Allegan County, Michigan is situated among the rolling farmlands, grasslands, forests, lakes, and streams of the southwestern portion of the Lower Peninsula. It is an area of incredible scenic beauty and historical significance, with many parts of the county existing much as they did 100 years ago. The Allegan County Heritage Trail is a driving tour that touches virtually all four corners of the county. Along the 122-mile tour route, you’ll visit twenty-eight historical sights and revel in the beauty of fall in Allegan County. You can start the tour from any location on the route, which is designed to be driven in a clockwise direction, providing the best scenic vistas. At each turn along the route you will see a Heritage Trail marker sign to help guide you along the route.
While enjoying the Fall Foliage, take a break at Burgdorf’s Winery in Haslett, MI to taste some award-winning and delicious wines. Make sure to try our Spartan Blush, a lively and refreshing, semi-sweet “autumn blush.” A brilliant balance of fruit and acidity creates this lovely wine, tinted with hues of fall. You may even choose to sip wine on our patio to take in the beautiful colors in our own backyard! Burgdorf’s has crafted unique award-winning wines with over 30 years of experience. You’ll find a “Moment in Wine” within every bottle!
Started in 1980, the 3-day Annual Color Cruise and Island Festival is always the second full weekend in October at the Island Park in downtown Grand Ledge (just off S. Bridge St. on River St.). Taking place this year on October 9, 10, & 11, you can see the beautiful autumn colors by the Michigan Princess riverboat, canoe, horse & wagon, bicycle or air. This event is filled with fun for the whole family and includes cider pressing, blacksmithing, fur traders, pioneer crafts, candle dipping, pumpkin painting, music, food, and a petting zoo. Downtown will host a Car Show from 10am-3pm on Saturday only. Shuttle service available from JC Park and the parking area off River Street. Friday is “Seniors Day” with discounts available.
Take a special Color Cruise Festival one-way ride on the Michigan Princess Riverboat from Island Park to Fitzgerald Park on Saturday, October 10 and/or Sunday, October 11 at 1:30pm. Join Park Naturalist, Jackie Blanc, as she describes scenic and historic sights on the cruise and narrates the walk back along the Ledges Trail. Interested participants will board the riverboat at Island Park in downtown Grand Ledge for a 30-minute one-way boat ride to Fitzgerald Park. Once at the park, individuals will have an opportunity to explore the Nature Center and join the Naturalist for the 45 minute historic walk back along the Ledges Trail to Island Park. Cost for the boat ride us $4 per person. There is no charge for the guided walk. Tickets for this or other boat tours may be purchased at Island Park during the Color Cruise Festival weekend, October 9th, 10th, and 11th.
Explore some of the most scenic parts of Barry County by bicycle with Pierce Cedar Creek Institute on their Backroads Barry County Bicycle Tour on Saturday, October 17th! Routes cover some of the most beautiful gravel roads in the county. Longer routes travel by Michigan Audubon and Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy properties where refreshments and bathrooms will be available. All routes start and end at the Institute, and maps are available at cedarcreekinstitute.org. Riders will be able to recharge for the afternoon with lunch at the Institute. Please note: riders are expected to be self-supported through the route. Bicycle helmets are required. Bicycle tires wider than 28mm or 1.25 inches are strongly suggested. More information about the Bicycle Tour is available at cedarcreekinstitute.org.
Calling all photography buffs! Pierce Cedar Creek Institute in Hastings will be hosting a Nature Photography Workshop on Saturday, October 10th to help you learn to capture the beauty of fall. Local photographer Josh Haas will lead the workshop, helping participants get the most out of their cameras. The morning will be spent outside taking photos in the midst of the Institute’s stunning scenery, where Josh will provide coaching on composition and lighting. The afternoon will be spent inside reviewing photos from the shoot. All participants will receive an 8″ x 10″ copy of one of their photos. Lunch is included. This program is limited to eight participants, so sign up soon if you’re interested.
Central Fall Color Tours in West Michigan
How about experiencing West Michigan Fall Colors this year from the seat of a kayak or canoe on a Grand Rapids area river or lake? Consider booking an autumn trip with GR Paddling and find yourself surrounded by an explosion of amazing fall foliage as you’ve maybe never before experienced it.
Travel along some of Michigan’s most beautiful scenic drives with the 11th annual Depot to Depot, Muskegon County Fall Color Tour. You will have three Saturdays (October 3, 10, & 17) to experience the vibrant colors of the woods, dunes and water! Free pumpkins to children while they last. Drive or bike this self-guided touring route to visit historic sites, enjoy nature and get your picture taken in front of spectacular Lake Michigan. Those who participate in this FREE event receive discounts to area museums, fine fall refreshments, and coupons from area businesses. Stop at seven of the designated sites during these three Saturdays, get your map stamped, turn it in at either depot and you will be eligible to win either two round trip passes on the Lake Express Ferry, high-speed ferry service between Muskegon and Milwaukee OR two tickets to Muskegon’s own Michigan’s Adventure Amusement and Water Park to use in the 2016 season. Begin at either the Muskegon Union Depot, home of the Muskegon County Convention and Visitors Bureau, or the Train Depot, home of the White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce. Travel on Ruddiman or Giles, Scenic Drive and Southshore Drive.
Holland, MI, gets beautiful in the fall. The fall colors on Hope College’s campus are amazing and downtown 8th street is located nearby and so fun to walk down when all the colors are around. Our Brewing Company is located right on 8th street, so it is a perfect place for people to stop by when touring Hope College or just walking downtown seeing the pretty fall leaves!
North Fall Color Tours in West Michigan
The Petoskey Area is home to nonstop color! You’re invited to order a Petoskey Vacation Guide that offers information on five suggested routes that are perfect for leaf peepers. Travel through beautiful Boyne City, Petoskey and East Jordan, being sure to save time for the famous Tunnel of Trees route from Harbor Springs to Good Hart and into Cross Village. Order or download your brochures today online at www.PetoskeyArea.com and then head out for autumn color that encompasses wineries, ziplines, and farmers markets.
Fall colors occur a little later on Beaver Island because of the moderating influence of the relatively warm Lake Michigan waters. October 3-17 will likely include peak color. The Bite of Beaver Island Food Festival is October 3. For help planning an Island color tour see www.BeaverIsland.org or contact the helpful folks at the Chamber of Commerce.
When autumn arrives in Michigan, there’s no better place to see the dynamic colors of a trillion trees than Up North. Take a color tour from your balcony and enjoy nature’s finest color show at Shanty Creek Resorts. Self-guided color tours are also available. A few of our favorite color tours around the resort can be found the in the linked pdf: Northern Michigan Self Guided Fall Color Tours
Crystal Mountain in its corner of northwest lower Michigan, with dynamic colors and savory harvests, provides an autumn experience that is truly unparalleled. Embrace the beauty of fall by foot, on wheels, via chairlift or even with a paddle! Crystal offers a variety of trails for hikers, bikers, runners, and walkers, including the Michigan Legacy Art Park with a barrier free trail. From secluded wooded pathways to dazzling lakeshore vistas, outdoor enthusiasts of all ages will find trails worth exploring again and again. The Crystal Mountain on-property trail system connects to the 10-mile Betsie River Pathway in the Pere Marquette State Forest. Also, the beautiful 22-mile Betsie Valley Trail is easily accessible, stretching from the nearby village of Thompsonville to the city of Frankfort on Lake Michigan. Many of the hiking trails in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore are within a 30 minute drive from Crystal Mountain. Crystal Mountain Resort is on the iconic fall color route that takes travelers along M-22. So stay with us on your fall color tour and hop on one of our Brew Tours, learn along the way on a guided hiking tour, or relax as you ride to the top of the mountain on a chairlift with panoramic views that reach Lake Michigan.
Experience nature’s bounty while exploring a castle! Built in 1918, historic Castle Farms in Charlevoix is open year-round for tours, 9am–4pm. Stroll the grounds on a beautiful fall day while viewing unique stone buildings inspired by French castles, visiting gardens, and enjoying museum collections. Feed the fish in the Reflection Pond, visit the Enchanted Forest, and play giant chess. Home to Michigan’s largest Outdoor Model Railroad. Treasure Hunt tours available for children. One of Michigan’s top historic attractions, Castle Farms offers family-friendly fun at affordable prices.
Set at the edge of America’s loveliest inland sea, Traverse City’s characteristic landscape of rolling ridges, lush forests and wide expanses of open water is the perfect canvas for Mother Nature’s annual fall masterpiece. (TripAdvisor.com calls it one of America’s Top 10 fall foliage destinations!) At the Sleeping Bear Dunes, an amazing transformation takes place each fall, as the towering bluffs and islands burst into sheets of flaming scarlet, orange and gold — made even more dramatic because they’re set against the deep indigo blue of Lake Michigan. Another great route is along M37 on the Old Mission Peninsula in the middle of Grand Traverse Bay. Nearly 20 miles long and in some places as little as a mile wide, it’s a beautiful patchwork of orchards, vineyards, forests and villages — perfect for a morning or afternoon drive that combines fall color with beautiful views of the bay, visits to wineries and roadside fruit stands, and unforgettable meals at several charming restaurants.
In the coming weeks, the red, orange and yellow leaves of fall will begin to explode, creating a feast for your eyes, making fall a spectacular time to visit northern Michigan and Boyne Highlands Resort. Their scenic chairlift rides – free during color season – offer views of the fantastic fall foliage all the way to the bay. For a perfect way to spend an early fall day, check out the Hops ‘n Highlands Microbrew Festival on Saturday, September 26, where you can sample more than 175 Michigan brews and ciders from 44 Michigan breweries, devour tasty eats from food trucks, get free chair massages and discounted spa services, and take advantage of discounted Twin Zip Rides. To really soak in all that fall has to offer, saddle up for a breathtaking fall color Horseback Trail Ride and climb to the summit of Boyne Highlands for panoramic vistas. So as fall wraps us in its beautiful colors, make time for the things that matter, it’s right here.
Fall Color Tour Routes in West Michigan
Still looking for more? Click below to take a look at 26 of the Best Fall Color Driving Routes in West Michigan!