Todd and Brad Reed’s Favorite Spots in Michigan for Fall Color

Todd and Brad Reed are a father-son outdoor photography team based in Ludington, Michigan. Today, they tell us why fall is their favorite time of year to take photographs of Michigan’s beautiful scenery and fill us in on the best places to go around the state to see the colors change.

Be sure to check out the infographic below with Todd and Brad’s top 10 scenic spots for fall foliage across the state, and let us know if you plan a fall color tour in Michigan this season.

Autumn is our favorite time of year to photograph our beloved home state of Michigan. The quality of light during October, fall color, wind, waves and dramatic cloud formations combine to make it a most spectacular time to be on Michigan highways, byways, hiking trails, waterways and shores.

When it comes to photographing fall color, Brad and I know our own backyard of Ludington best. We love driving the country roads east of Ludington in autumn, especially Conrad Road, which boasts what I find to be one of the most picturesque tunnels of trees in Michigan. It is a short but splendid tunnel with farms on each side of the roadway. Further east on Conrad Road are more farms and impressive barns, Amber Elk Ranch and another short tunnel of trees.

Another of our favorite Ludington places to experience fall color is the Lost Lake Trail at Ludington State Park. Toward the end of October, the shores of Lost Lake are usually resplendent with fall color and reflections of fall color. Shooting at the water’s edge near sunrise can be a photographer’s dream.

A float trip down any stretch of the Pere Marquette River between Baldwin and Custer can be one of life’s most relaxing experiences and a great way to see fall color and wildlife. We love floating by stable drift boat with an expert river guide manning the oars. Guides can also help you catch fish or can cook you a gourmet dinner on the river.  For those who prefer staying ashore, driving through the Manistee National Forest in this region is a visual treat.

Further north, Pierce Stocking Drive off M109 in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore features gorgeous mature hardwoods but the real gems here are the scenic lookouts that provide glorious panoramic views of an area that Good Morning America has named “The Most Beautiful Place in America.”

One of our favorite inland color-touring highways is M37 between Baldwin and Mesick.  These forests are loaded with brilliant sumac and gorgeous ferns as well as towering maple trees mixed with green pine trees.

When traveling on the east side of Michigan during the fall, be sure to check out the Price Nature Center near Saginaw.  You won’t be disappointed.

When we travel to southeast Michigan in the fall we always make it a point to stop by the Kensington Metropolitan Park near Milford.  The park is filled with white tail deer and other fun animals and birds to photograph as you meander amongst beautiful fall leaves that fill the forest floor.

Take time to explore some side roads during your travels to find Michigan’s hidden visual fall treasures. Don’t be afraid to ask locals for tips on their favorite fall color places and how to get there.

Finally, a highlight of our fall photography expeditions is seeing the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore aboard one of the cruise boats out of Munising. Between the peak fall color and the evening magic light striking the rocky sandstone cliffs, the Pictured Rocks area views last October were breathtaking. We also found great fall color hiking at waterfalls, inland lakes and woodlands in the Hiawatha National Forest in the Munising area.

All of these places and countless more are Pure Michigan in the fall. Get out there!

See the image below for Todd and Brad’s top scenic spots in Michigan for fall foliage. Click here to download a full-sized version.

Todd and Brad Reed are a father-son outdoor photography team based in Ludington, Michigan. Visit their website to learn more about the duo and see some of their work.

A Welcome Stillness in the North Woods

Peggy Dolane is a digital writer who lives in Seattle and shares each summer, and her heart, with Antrim County Michigan. Today, Peggy shares with us a recent experience she had at the Glacial Hills Pathway Natural Area, where she was able to quietly enjoy the beautiful Michigan landscape.

Read about her experience below, and tell us in the comments section some of your favorite places to enjoy a peaceful afternoon in Pure Michigan.

There’s a stillness in the woods that you can’t find on any mediation retreat. Walking along a quiet path the trees stretch up into the sky and embrace you in their canopy.

It’s easy when summer finally arrives in Antrim County to sit all day long on the shore of a sparkling, aqua lake and never venture into the forest. But on grey days when the North wind blows, a hike deep into the woods is a welcomed outing.

For years I’d driven by Glacial Hills Pathway and Natural Area near the Village of Bellaire without giving it a second thought. This summer I heard Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy has partnered with Antrim County and Forest Home Township to develop a series of hiking and biking trails in this 763 acre upland forest. So on a grey July day I decided to check it out.

You’d hardly guess that these woods were logged off more than 100 years ago by Maine investors looking to grow their riches out “west”.  After the lands were logged clear and the lumber barons gone, nature took care of reforestation.

Eventually maples, beech and oak grew up into a high canopy. You’ll also find random groves of red pine evenly spaced like soldiers in their rows. These trees were planted in the 30s by the Civilian Conservation Corp, bringing depression-era jobs to this impoverished region as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Farm houses and back-road single wides have changed little over the past 50 years, and the quiet forests of one of the nation’s most beautiful regions have been left untouched.

Trail designer, Brad Gerlach of Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, expects the 20 miles of trails — featuring rolling hills, wild flower meadows, brilliant fall colors, and stunning territorial vistas — will make this local treasure a mountain biking destination.

It’s easy to get lost in the quiet of the place even with well-marked paths and despite it being just a quick ride down the road from Bellaire. Not having my bike with me, I was happy to wander awhile and listen to the sound of the wind in the tree tops. Drinking in the lush green surroundings, for one precious moment, I sat alone, in the presence of the woods.

Peggy Dolane is a digital writer who lives in Seattle and shares each summer, and her heart, with Antrim County Michigan. You can follow her @PeggyDolane.

The Beauty of Sleeping Bear Dunes

After 34 years as a resident of Traverse City, writer Mike Norton has come to love his adopted hometown’s natural beauty, its many opportunities for outdoor recreation and its generous array of tasty things to eat and drink. But most of all, he loves the big sprawling national park just a few miles west of town: the Sleeping Bear Dunes.

The dream is always the same. It’s evening, and I’m standing at the edge of the great dune, looking out over Lake Michigan. The sun is low in the sky, the distant water like a sheet of beaten brass, and the sand-warmed wind makes the leaves hiss in the cottonwoods behind me. Far below, a single tiny gull wheels over the beach. Everything is as it should be, nothing is out of place, and when I awaken I am always refreshed.

All too often, places and things that once impressed me with their size and power seem sadly diminished when I visit them later in life — larger in memory than they are in reality.

The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is not one of them.

Thanks to my job, I get out to the Dunes pretty regularly (lucky me!) and if I was ever going to get tired of the place, I’m sure it would have happened by now.  But it hasn’t. Whether I’m wandering around in the pine barrens near Platte Bay or getting lost on South Manitou Island, walking the long beach by Pyramid Point or cruising the Pierce  Stocking Scenic Drive for the umpteenth time, there’s always at least one moment when I’m rocked back on my heels by the beauty of it all.

There are a lot of ways to enjoy this magnificent landscape. Visitors often get their first overview on the Scenic Drive, a 7.1-mile self-guided route that offers great views of the surrounding dunes and lakes.  But some people can’t resist the famous Dune Climb at the west shore of Little Glen Lake. (It’s a hard climb, but the view from the top is worth it!)

Others visit the nearby “ghost port” of Glen Haven, where there’s a working blacksmith shop, a boat museum and a well-preserved Lifesaving Service station that’s open for tours, and the once-thriving German settlement at Port Oneida, where 19th century farms are being rescued from the ravages of time.

Me, I like to hike – and Sleeping Bear is full of hiking trails. My personal  favorite? The 2.8-mile Dunes Trail, which takes you out along Sleeping Bear Point through a landscape of wind-scoured dunes and vegetation. One of its strangest features is a “ghost forest:” a stand of huge bleached cedars that were buried by sand and then uncovered by the winds. Walking through them, especially at dusk, is an eerie experience — like being stranded on another planet.

I think one of the best things about my job is that it gives me the opportunity to introduce other people to Sleeping Bear for the very first time. I love to watch the light come into their eyes as they step out onto one of those high overlooks above the lake, where you’re so high above the sand and sky and water that you might as well be flying.  Ninety percent of the time, the first words out of their mouths will be “I had no idea!”

That’s right, I think. But now you do.

Sometimes I wonder if we Traverse City folks get so caught up in all of our town’s great food and wine, entertainment and shopping that we start to forget what brought most of us here in the first place: the sheer beauty that surrounds us on every side.

That’s the true value of things like the recent vote by viewers of Good Morning America who named Sleeping Bear the “most beautiful place in America.” People can quibble with the results (there are lots of beautiful places, after all) and people can talk about how much good such things do for the local economy. But I think the best part of it is to serve as a reminder that we’re all — visitors and residents alike — members of a privileged group and custodians of a very special part of the world.

Some people seem to think we can best protect these wonders by keeping them a secret, known only to the privileged few. For my part, I want to do what I can to let the world know about them. I’ve come to believe that when other people see what an amazing place this is, they’ll be motivated to guard and protect it — just as I was when I first stepped out on that overlook above the lake.

Mike Norton, a native of Grand Rapids, spent 25 years as newspaper writer and columnist before starting a second career as media relations director at the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau. An avid hiker, cyclist and kayaker, he lives in the village of Old Mission.