Falling for Michigan: Five Ways to Enjoy the Fall Foliage

Another fall color season in Pure Michigan is about to begin! When the days begin to get shorter and the crisp fall air arrives, Michigan’s 19 million acres of woods turn to shades of red, gold and orange.

The new season offers new vacation experiences, and whether you take a long weekend, or a short day trip, there is no better place to see the dynamic fall foliage colors than along Michigan’s highways, trails and coastlines.

Here are five great ways to “fall” for Pure Michigan this year.  

Take a Fall Color Tour

From the Keweenaw Peninsula to the Sunrise Coast to Southeast Michigan, there is no shortage of beautiful places to take in the fall foliage.  Starting in the Upper Peninsula in Mid-September to Michigan’s Sunrise and Sunset coasts in Mid to late October, let our fall colors report guide you toward the best time to take a Pure Michigan fall vacation.   For a listing of fall color tours, visit http://www.michigan.org/fall-color-tours/ or sign up for the Fall Color Update newsletter.

Enjoying a beautiful Fall day. Photo Courtesy of Todd Reed.

Enjoying a beautiful Fall day. Photo Courtesy of Todd Reed.

By Land…or By Lake

During the summer, boat cruises take vacationers out onto Michigan’s lakes, but many of them offer color cruises or private charters for those wanting to enjoy the fall foliage from the nation’s longest freshwater coastline.  Check out cruises and charters near you here.

Want to get in some outdoor recreation?  Bundle up and take a fall paddling trip on one of Michigan’s lakes or rivers, enjoying the peace and quiet of a fall morning or afternoon.  Michigan is blessed with more paddling opportunities than any other state.  {Related:  Michigan’s Seven Best Paddling Trips}

Peshekee River in Marquette. Photo Courtesy of the Michigan DNR.

Peshekee River in Marquette. Photo Courtesy of the Michigan DNR.

Blaze Your Own Trail

Michigan has hundreds of miles of trails and pathways, and nothing beats a biking or hiking trip than one with a colorful backdrop of fall foliage and the crunch of fallen leaves beneath your feet.

Looking for something unique? Saddle up and enjoy the beauty of fall with a horse ride.  Michigan has several horse-friendly trails and stables perfect for an afternoon adventure.

Michigan Trails Week  is September 19 – 26, which is a weeklong celebration of Michigan’s extensive trail network.  Find your favorite trail.

Trails_Info_435083_7_Trail week infographic

A View from the Top

We are often times looking up to see the fall colors, but you can get a bird’s eye view of Michigan’s thousands of trees with orange, red and yellow leaves.

Take a scenic chairlift ride at participating ski resorts throughout the state such as Boyne Mountain Resort, Mount Bohemia,  Mont Ripley and Crystal Mountain, among others.

Feeling more adventurous?  Many of Michigan’s hot air balloon companies have fall schedules that will give you the view of a lifetime.

Mt. Bohemia Lift Rides. Photo Courtesy of Katy Kass.

Mt. Bohemia Lift Rides. Photo Courtesy of Katy Kass.

Fall “Fore” Michigan Golf

Michigan is consistently named among the best places in the country to play golf with more than 650 public courses throughout the state.   The fall season is a great time to enjoy a round of golf and the fall colors with many courses offering packages and deals.

Where is your favorite place in Pure Michigan for fall colors?

 

Ten Beautiful Pure Michigan Campsites like No Other

With summer in full swing and Independence Day right around the corner, now is the perfect time to take an idyllic Pure Michigan camping trip! Escape the hectic city life, spend quality time with family and develop a new found appreciation for Mother Nature at one of these beautiful and fun campsites.

Photo courtesy of Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park

Photo courtesy of Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park

Tahquamenon Falls State Park – Take in the sights of one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi at Tahquamenon Falls State Park. The Upper Falls stretches 50 feet high and more than 200 feet wide, deservingly making it a must-see attraction. But with more than 40 miles of hiking trails, 13 inland lakes and approximately 20,000 acres of natural area, there’s more to love about the park than just its majestic waterfall.

Tahquamenon Falls – Photo courtesy of Michigan Nut Photography

Porcupine Mountains State Park – Be sure to bring a map when traveling in the “Porkies” to help navigate the state park which is the largest of its kind in Michigan, comprising 60,000 acres. Take your pick from a variety of campsites including modern, rustic and yurt lodging. Enjoy scenic waterfalls, trek across miles of hiking trails, or feel the sensation of stepping back in time as you explore the ancient Porcupine Mountains. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore – Explore the enormous sand dunes by taking a guided tour or wandering on your own. Swim at one of the park’s many beaches or take in the sweet smell of maple syrup while walking through a lush beech-maple forest. Adventurous kids can take part in a “rescue mission” of shipwreck survivors at the Maritime Museum.

SleepingBear

Sleeping Bear Dunes – Photo courtesy of Neal Weaver Photography

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore – Behold the beauty which lies in the park’s dramatic, multicolored sandstone cliffs. Hike alongside comely wildflowers and ride the waves of Lake Superior in a kayak. For another priceless view of the lake, travel atop the Au Sable Light Station towering 87 feet above ground. Wilderness State Park – Participate in a host of recreational activities including hiking, fishing and biking across 10,500 acres of campground. Enjoy 26 miles of beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline and watch amazing sunsets over pristine water. The air is so clean here that breathing is a kind of luxury.

Wilderness State Park – Photo courtesy of Pearsons Cottages

Ludington State Park – Lace up your hiking boots or grab your bike and hit the camp’s 18 mile trail for personal encounters with wildlife. Set sail across the picturesque Lake Michigan or soak in the sun along the sandy shoreline of Hamlin Lake. You also can catch folk musical artist Mark Dvorak at the park’s Amphitheater this Fourth of July weekend.

Lakeport State Park – Take pleasure in a wide variety of outdoor activities. From canoeing to shooting hoops to tossing horseshoes – there’s something for everyone. Gaze into the unbridled waters of Lake Huron and take comfort in modern amenities offered at one of 250 campsites.

South Higgins Lake State Park – Take a swim in the crystal-clear Higgins Lake or grab a metal detector and try your luck searching for hidden treasures along the shoreline. Experience tranquility and observe wildlife while traveling the camp’s nature trail.

Sleepy Hollow State Park – Watch in quiet amazement the unspoiled beauty of the park’s natural habitat that’s home to more than 228 species including the Blue Jay and Bald Eagle. Walk along trails which take you through prairie grasses, hardwood forest and stands of pine trees.

Huron – Manistee National Forest – Get lost in the peacefulness of Jack Pine trees and fall in love with miles of sparkling rivers and streams. Have a quality canoeing experience along the Pere Marquette or catch fish from the Benton Lake. Take delight in examining the forest’s remarkable ecological features including dry sand prairie remnants, coastal marshlands, dunes, oak savannahs, fens, bogs and marshes.

What are you favorite campsites for a weekend getaway? Let us know below!

3 Scenic Pure Michigan Hiking Trails Near M-22

Today, guest blogger Scott Christ describes his experience hiking along three scenic trails near M-22. For more information on hiking trails in Michigan, visit michigan.org. 

Close your eyes and imagine an idyllic place filled with vibrant, turquoise-hued lakes … powdered sand beaches surrounded by towering dunes … and pine-scented, old-growth forests.

For some people, Michigan may not be the first place to come to mind that fits this description. Yet that’s exactly what I experienced during a summer trip to the Leelanau Peninsula in northern Michigan.

Scoping Out the Hiking Trails Along M-22 Near Leland and Glen Arbor

Our destination for this trip: Lake Leelanau. Our goal: plan as many “Michigan-themed” activities as possible. I had driven up M-22 before, but after spending a week trekking up and down this infamous road, I was absolutely blown away by it’s winding roads, spectacular views, and overall magnificence.

Before leaving for our trip, I did my homework and found three hiking trails close to M-22 between Leland and Glen Arbor:

1. Houdek Dunes Natural Area

2. Whaleback Natural Area

3. Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

Here’s what each had to offer.

Experiencing the Trails

Whaleback Natural Area

Whaleback Natural Area is a 10,000-year-old playground of preserved dunes and forests. It’s within walking distance of downtown Leland and directly accessible from M-22. Plan on 1 to 1.5 hours if you’re walking the trail. There are a couple fairly intense climbs involved too, so I’d classify this one as “Moderately Difficult.”

Make sure you stop at the spectacular Lookout Point, which offers majestic views of Lake Michigan.

Houdek Dunes Natural Area

Quick disclaimer about Houdek Dunes: it’s not easy to find. A Google Maps search took us to downtown Leland and we quickly realized we were in the wrong spot. So we headed up M-22 just north of Lake Leelanau, and found it marked by a tiny sign on the left side of the road.

The troubles getting there turned out to be worth it though. Houdek Dunes was formed from glacial sediments about 4,000 years ago, and you’ll experience the amazing aftermath of geology and time with its combination of dunes and wooded forests.

Depending on which way you trek through the trail system, you’ll see plenty of hundred-year-old birch trees, mature pines, sun-kissed stretches of dense green ferns, and the beautiful Houdek Creek, a spring-fed trout stream that flows into North Lake Leelanau.

The trail features 3/4 and 1- 1/2 mile loops. Plan on a couple hours to get through it if you’re walking, but you can definitely do it in less. I’d classify the difficulty level as “moderate.”

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

The Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive turned out to be one of the coolest parts of our trip. Located in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, it’s a 7-mile drive that offers a variety of stops and lookout points.

To get there, you’ll need to head over to Glen Arbor along M-22 then take a quick detour up “Dune Highway” 109.

About halfway through the drive, you’ll reach the Lake Michigan Dune Overlook Platform stop. Park your car and walk the trail to the dune, which towers 450 feet above lake level.

Although going down the bluff is not recommended, it’s also not prohibited for those who are up to the challenge. The way down is a little unnerving at first because it’s steep, but once you get used to it it’s smooth sailing. The way up is another story. I consider myself to be in good shape and it was strenuous. But if you’re in decent shape, like a little adventure, and don’t have a fear of heights, do it. You won’t regret it.

There is an entrance fee of $10 per vehicle, which gets you access to all areas of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. It’s well worth the money and I was happy to help support these awesome parks.

Final Thoughts

As someone who comes from the ad world, my feelings about “Pure Michigan” were that it was just a clever ad campaign. But this trip changed that. Pure Michigan embodies the fact that Michigan, and particularly northern Michigan, is one of the most beautiful, unspoiled places in the world. Let’s keep it that way.

Where is your favorite spot to go hiking in Michigan?

Scott Christ is a writer, entrepreneur, and health enthusiast who helps people look better, feel better, and live longer with healthy real food recipes and motivational weight loss tipsConnect with Scott on Facebook or Twitter