As the days get cooler, the autumn landscape blooms with golds, oranges, and reds of the changing leaves. From scenic drives along the Lake Michigan shoreline to winding trails through the inland forests, West Michigan celebrates the colors of the season with color tours, unique viewing experiences, and special fall stops along the way.
Driving, Biking, and Walking Color Tours
Jump into the car, onto a bike, or motorcycle and wander along the Harbor Country Fall Motor Tour. You’ll find easy stops to shop, pick a pumpkin or grapes, and ease back with great eats and an end-of-ride drink along the routes that runs between New Buffalo, Three Oaks, Union Pier, Lakeside, and Bridgman in Southwest Michigan.
The best places to view the fall colors in South Haven is on the nature trails! Hike or bike the Kal-Haven and Van Buren Trails, or kayak the Bangor/South Haven Heritage Water Trail under a canopy of fall colors.
Experience the fall colors of the Holland area as you climb Mount Pisgah, a towering dune east of Holland State Park (dune is accessible via a boardwalk and stair system). With its apex 157 feet above Lake Michigan, the boardwalk culminates with scenic views of Lake Macatawa, Lake Michigan, and Big Red Lighthouse, surrounded by a heavily wooded area in vibrant hues of orange, red and, yellow. Should you prefer to view the fall colors from the comfort of your car, there are a variety of driving routes around the greater Holland area.
Whether you are driving, hiking, biking or paddling, Ludington is a great place to explore the beauty of the fall season.
For the first three Saturdays in October, Muskegon and White Lake invite you to celebrate the vibrant colors of the area woods, dunes, and water with the Depot-to-Depot Fall Color Tour! Drive your car or ride your bike along this self-guided route that stretches from the Muskegon South Pierhead Light to the White River Light Station. Travel on some of Muskegon’s most scenic roads along Lake Michigan and the West Michigan Pike Byway. Visit historic sites, enjoy nature and snap some selfies. This tour is free and participants will receive fall refreshments and coupons to area businesses. There are also free pumpkins for the children and complimentary Visit Muskegon postcards for the grownups (while supplies last). Stamp your map at the designated stops and enter to win 2 round-trip passes for the Lake Express High-Speed Ferry between Muskegon and Milwaukee to use in the 2020 season. Check in on social media for chances to win weekly giveaways using #VisitMuskegon, #D2D19, and #LiveWhiteLake.
To celebrate the changing of the seasons, check out Mt. Pleasant Area Visitors Bureau’s list of the best places to catch fall colors in the Mt. Pleasant area.
With Fall on its way, so is the Mecosta County Fall Color Tour. The 2nd Annual Fall Color Tour is being coordinated by Jeep Freakz of Michigan in which they will be riding with the Reed City Trail Rides Off Road Group. On Saturday, October 5th, from 11:30 am to 5:30 pm, the groups plan to travel to Hungerford before exploring other local trails throughout Big Rapids and Mecosta County. Make sure to bring plenty of snacks and drinks to enjoy as you venture into this adventurous Fall Color Tour. For more information please visit their Facebook event page. You can also enjoy a Mecosta County Color Tour through self-guided canoe and kayak trips down the Muskegon River. Stop in to the Welcome Center at 127 South State Street in Big Rapids or visit BigRapids.org to pick-up/download the Color Tour brochure.
Manistee County has two fall color seasons: Inland and Coastal. Check out the latest fall color tour routes and videos for weekly fall color updates live from around Manistee County and Northern Michigan.
Great color, beautiful scenery and interesting places to stop – you’ll find it all in the Petoskey Area! Five suggested routes take you in and around Harbor Springs, Petoskey, Charlevoix, and Boyne City – some offer lake views and all are known as favorite places to enjoy fall’s splendor. Order the Petoskey Area Vacation Guide or view the Fall Color Guide online for directions to a great time and your colorful tour.
Look no further than Charlevoix to experience Northern Michigan’s fall colors. The drive around Lake Charlevoix is a great color route; this journey will take you on the Breezeway through both East Jordan and Boyne City. The surrounding countryside is full of gently rolling hills and abundant foliage that is sure to satisfy that fall color trip you’ve been waiting for. Take a scenic drive through the Tunnel of Trees and find more unique routes in the Charlevoix area.
The contrasting evergreen and hardwood forests of the Grayling area are spectacular in autumn. Nature enthusiasts will enjoy a leisurely drive down the back roads, biking or hiking through Hartwick Pines State Park, or taking in the riverside colors while canoeing down the world famous AuSable and Manistee Rivers. Local canoe liveries are open, and the weather is still warm enough for a pleasant afternoon on the water.
Set on the shores of Lake Superior, Travel Marquette is excited to announce its Trail Talks partnership with Noquemanon Trail Network (NTN), the leading trail network in the Central Upper Peninsula of Michigan, to deliver enriching and engaging trail talks and expert led tours of the region throughout the 2019 summer and fall season. On October 16 from 6:30-8:30 p.m., Travel Marquette and NTN will host a Picture This Trail Talk where expert photographer Shawn Malone shows trekkers how to capture the beauty of fall foliage with all levels of equipment including smartphones. Shawn will unveil some of her favorite locations and show how lighting, weather and perspective can dramatically affect images. Register for free to help organizers plan for the event. Location to meet the group: Marquette Board of Light and Power, 2200 Wright Street, Marquette, MI 49855.
Unique Ways to View the Fall Foliage
Watch as Benzie County transforms into a kaleidoscope of color during Fall Chairlift Rides at Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville! Fall Chairlift Rides are available select dates through the month of October.
Enjoy the beautiful fall colors from the deck of the 77′ schooner Inland Seas as she sails around Suttons Bay. Fall is a relaxing season in northern Michigan as temperatures are comfortable and traffic is light. On this sail, participants can help the crew in raising the sails and steering the ship, or just sit back and relax while taking in the wonder our Great Lakes provide us. Cost is $30 for adults and $20 for children. For more information, visit schoolship.org/buy-tickets.
Looking for a unique way to capture the beauty of the Fall colors in northern Michigan? Two of the Mitten’s premiere paddlesport rivers, the Pine and the Big Manistee, wind their way through beautiful river valleys, revealing new color palettes at every bend. The Pine River Paddlesports Center in Wellston is here to make your fall color tour on the river an absolute breeze. From kayaks and canoes, to SUPs and rafts, the helpful staff at PRPC is ready and able to fit everyone in your crew to watercraft that fits each individual’s size and experience level. PRPC is open seven days a week through the first of November. Come experience Michigan’s colorful autumn canvas from a secluded, incomparable view that only the river valley can offer.
Experience Mother Nature’s fall color show from a different perspective. Take the scenic route and hop on the Blue Chairlift in Shanty Creek Resort’s Schuss Village in Bellaire for a colorful ride to the top of Schuss Mountain. Enjoy spectacular views as you traverse the mountain, as well as fall color sightseeing and some of the best fall color photo opportunities from the top of Schuss Mountain. Just $5 per person, Shanty Creek’s Scenic Fall Color Chairlift Rides take place from noon-4:00 pm on Saturdays through October 19th.
Take a fall foliage tour via the Chippewa River by kayak or canoe and explore the fall foliage or hike to the “elusive” mountain in Mt. Pleasant, Bundy Hill Preserve, home to the highest point in Isabella County, for a color view unlike any other.
Home to more than 100 lakes including two chains of lakes, getting out on the water in Coldwater Country is the best way to see the fantastic fall foliage. Launch a boat, kayak, or canoe at one of the many public access points or rent a boat from one of the area marinas to get out on the water for a new perspective of Mother Nature’s magnificent fall color show.
Stops to add to Your Color Tour
Looking for the perfect spot to take in the fall color with a glass of wine in hand? Look no further than Aerie Restaurant & Lounge. Located on the 16th floor of Grand Traverse Resort and Spa in Williamsburg, Aerie gives you 360-degree views of Northern Michigan and Grand Traverse Bay. Best of all, Aerie is a three-time Wine Spectator Award of Excellence winner, so whether you’re looking for an Old World classic or a local favorite, you’ll find the perfect bottle.
The Courtyard by Marriott Petoskey is your perfect beginning and end to your fall color tour. Only 15 minutes from M-119, the new property offers refreshing rooms to share with family, friends, and loved ones alike. The Bistro will be your first stop to enjoy classic breakfast dishes with a twist while enjoying the view from the dining area or outdoor seating. After a day of exploring the fall beauty that Northern Michigan has to offer, enjoy cocktails, dinner, a dip in the pool, a round of games in the arcade, or simply relaxing in your luxurious room.
After a day of exploring Northern Michigan, stop in downtown Charlevoix for dinner, a craft beer, or a tasty treat. Explore downtown boutiques for amazing fall discounts and one-of-a-kind merchandise. Just before the sun sets, stroll along the pier toward the lighthouse and enjoy the sunset on Lake Michigan. While taking a fall color tour, celebrate nature’s harvest at the annual Apple Festival, October 11th-13th, where you can enjoy an art and craft show, a variety of food vendors, and family friendly events. Stop at Friske’s Farm Market in Atwood to enjoy numerous tasty treats like a slice of apple pie, you-pick apples, and apple cider. If you’re out for a drive on Charlevoix’s scenic country roads, be sure to stop by Rex Beach in Norwood for amazing lake views.
Lewis Farms & Petting Zoo in New Era is the perfect place to stop for all your fall favorite goodies along the beautiful drive up US-31 between Muskegon and Ludington. Stop in the market for apple cider and fresh donuts, pick up some delicious Michigan apples, or grab a bag of our homemade kettle corn to snack on along the way! Have a little more time – make the farm your destination and stop in to explore the corn maze, take a wagon ride, pick your own apples, or find the perfect pumpkin in their pumpkin patch.
Crane’s is a family owned, family run business that has been a treasured travel destination in West Michigan for decades. Nestled in the lush, rolling hills of their family’s fruit farms just minutes from Lake Michigan’s shore, at Crane’s Pie Pantry Restaurant & Winery you will take home with you an experience that is sure to leave a lasting impression. The Crane’s family of businesses can be found throughout the Lakeshore with locations in Fennville, Saugatuck, and Holland.
Special Events to Celebrate Autumn Colors
An annual celebration of autumn, Chrysanthemums & More, on display now through October 27th at Frederick Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, is the largest show of its kind in Michigan, featuring expansive chrysanthemum displays, fall foliage and family-friendly activities. Mum Day, October 20th will provide members and guests an opportunity to interact with horticulture staff and learn more about the fascinating chrysanthemum and fall themed plantings.
Gaylord’s Treetops Resort will be holding a Fall Color Tour and Progressive Dinner on October 5th and a Farm 2 Fork dinner on October 12th.
Celebrate the vibrant fall colors of Southwest Michigan! Maple Row Sugarhouse is one of the stops of the Three Rivers Chamber of Commerce’s Fall Color Tour, which takes place October 13th from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Tour the Sugarbush and learn how maple sap is collected, enjoy samples of many different maple products, and learn how the French colonials made maple syrup and maple sugar. The unique maple food trailer will be serving all kinds of maple products for you to purchase and enjoy. Visit the mobile Maple Store and buy a gift for a friend or yourself. Admission is free.
Otsego Resort in Gaylord will host Wine & Cheese Color Tour Saturday, October 19th, beginning at 2:00pm.