A Picture Perfect Fall Color Tour

Jesse Land, founder of Things to do in the U.P., is back to take us on another fall color tour around the Upper Peninsula. If you missed his last two posts, be sure to check out his recommendations on tours around the Keweenaw Peninsula and the central area of the U.P. 

For more ideas on fall color tours around Michigan, see this week’s Pure Michigan fall color report on michigan.org.

So far, I’ve taken you on one fall color tour through the rugged Keweenaw Peninsula, and on another “off the beaten path” through the central U.P. Today, I’m going to lead you from Marquette to Grand Marais, via the one of the Upper Peninsula’s crown jewels, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. You’ll definitely want to bring your camera along for this one!

Before we get started, Marquette has oodles of great places to stay. A couple of my favorite are the historic Landmark Inn and newly constructed Hampton Inn, both of which are within walking distance from Marquette’s many excellent eating and drinking establishments. (The Vierling is one of my favorites.)

Breakfast in Marquette

Both of the aforementioned hotels have good breakfast options. That said, the Sweetwater Café has been woven into the fabric of the Marquette breakfast scene for as long as I can recall, and is well worth a look. According to their website, they serve “both old fashioned favorites and unique dishes inspired by flavors from around the world.” Having eaten there more than a few times, I’d say that’s a very accurate description. Drink some coffee. Eat breakfast. Leave with a smile on your face.

The Morning Drive

Now that you’ve got a full belly and some caffeine in your system, lets’ hit the road! M-28 east stretches about forty five miles east from Marquette to Munising. It’s a pretty drive full of fall color. It also hugs the Lake Superior shoreline most of the way so you’ll see “the big lake” appear through gaps in the vibrant hardwoods every now and again.

Pictured Rocks – Via Boat Tour!

To make the most of your day, get to Munising in time to catch the 10:00 AM Pictured Rocks boat tour. The “regular cruise” lasts about two hours and forty minutes, and will show you some of the most popular Pictured Rocks sites, including Miners Castle, Lovers Leap, Grand Portal, and many others! It’s the best way to see much of what Pictured Rocks has to offer in a relatively short period of time. (2012 tours run through October 21st)

The Famous Highway H-58

Highway H-58, stretching from Munising to Grand Marais, is a wonderfully curvy drive. You’ll pass by the White Birch Forest (brilliant in fall) and wind through an endless stand of hardwoods as you drive east toward Grand Marais.

If you’re up for a hike, I’d recommend the venturing off on the three mile (round trip) hike to Chapel Falls. It’s roughly midway between Munising and Grand Marais, and leads down an easy trail through a forest of hardwoods that are always full of color in autumn.

H-58 boasts several scenic turnouts, but I’d highly recommend stopping at the Logslide Overlook. Once literally used to slide huge logs down the 300 foot drop to Lake Superior, Logslide is now a gorgeous scenic overlook that offers wonderful views of the Au Sable lighthouse to the west and the expansive Grand Sable Dunes to the east.

Destination Grand Marais

A little further east lies Grand Marais, a wonderful little harbor village that fills up in the summer but offers travelers some elbow room in the fall. As far as places to stay here, I’ve heard great things about the Hill Top Cabins, though they’ve always had no vacancy when I’ve called! (I’m thinking that’s a good thing.)

I recommend checking out the one of a kind Lake Superior Brewing Company for great pizza, fresh fish and locally brewed beer. And if you end up staying the night, the West Bay Diner is a standout breakfast spot!

If you do even some of what I’ve recommended, at the end of the day you should have a good handle on what Pictured Rocks is all about, and you’ll hopefully also have filled up your camera with picture perfect memories!

Jesse Land is the founder of Things to do in the U.P., a website dedicated to helping people discover the best of the Upper Peninsula. For regular Upper Peninsula travel tips, follow Things to do in the U.P. on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/thingstodointheup.

Your Pure Michigan Fall Color Report – Oct. 4-10, 2012

Autumn in Michigan is in full swing, and peak fall color has arrived in many parts of the state. If you haven’t planned a fall color tour yet, this weekend could be the perfect opportunity! Below is a recap of this week’s Michigan fall color report. For more details, visit michigan.org.

Upper Peninsula

Most of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is at or near peak conditions; so, you really can’t go wrong with color viewing once you cross the Mighty Mac, where the Peninsula is a blaze of yellow, bronze, gold and reds. In and around Chippewa, viewers will find some of the best places to see the fall foliage at the Cut River Bridge’s forested river valley west of St. Ignace, Pictured Rocks along Lake Superior in Munising, or Tahquamenon Falls in Paradise.

A variety of colors are now showing on scenic drives in the Keweenaw among the area’s Aspens, beech, hickory, maples oaks and tamaracks. Brockway Mountain Drive offers a spectacular view of the surrounding area, where colors are grand. The most prevalent colors are red and orange, with splashes of yellow. Cruise the shoreline of Lake Superior at roadside parks or at one of the many restaurants and shops along the shore.

Northwest Lower Peninsula

Strokes of beautiful fall hues are developing rapidly throughout Charlevoix county with peak conditions a week or two away. This weekend, viewers will find the most saturation in the eastern part of the county in the Chandler Hills area. For a great color tour, locals recommend a drive along Thumb Lake Road (C-48) starting north of Vanderbilt to Boyne Falls. Continue on C-48 through the hilly country roads through East Jordan and Elsworth, ending at US-31 in Atwood.

An explosion of fall color makes everything in the Petoskey Area of northern Michigan even more beautiful, more memorable. A montage of red, orange and yellow provides the perfect backdrop for our charming Victorian towns. And somehow, makes the royal blue of Little Traverse Bay appear even bluer.

You can take in the autumn beauty with a leisurely bike ride along the lakeshore. Or hop on a chair lift and enjoy the panoramic view. From the chair lifts, you can see many of the area’s 16 golf courses. The colors that border the lush green fairways make fall golf here absolutely unforgettable.

Of course, no trip to the area this time of year would be complete without a tour of the famous Tunnel of Trees, which boasts its spectacular burst of fall majesty. 

The Old Mission Peninsula juts bravely into Grand Traverse Bay, nearly 20 miles long and in some places as little as a mile wide. A beautiful patchwork of orchards, vineyards, forests and villages, it’s the perfect place 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. Follow M-37 (Center Road) north from Traverse City. The road begins with a steep climb through pleasant residential and orchard country, descends to the shore of East Bay and gradually climbs again to a spectacular view point near the Chateau Grand Traverse winery that overlooks both East and West Grand Traverse Bays. About a mile past the charming town of Mapleton, turn right onto Smoky Hollow Road and follow it down through vineyards and orchards to the quiet village of Old Mission, the oldest permanent settlement in the region. Take a left turn onto Swaney Road and follow it back to M-37, where a right turn will have you heading north to the picturesque Old Mission Point lighthouse. On the return journey, head back south on M-37 to Mapleton. Here you’ll turn right onto Bowers Harbor Road and follow it down to the shore of West Bay. Keeping to the left, you’ll return to Traverse City by way of Peninsula Drive, a pleasant residential road that skirts the shore of the bay with wonderful views of isolated Power Island, Neahtawanta Point and the distant hills of the Leelanau Peninsula. Peak conditions are less than a week away.

Northeast Lower Peninsula

A popular Alcona route for color viewing by car is around the water. Long Lake and Grand Lake are two picturesque bodies of water that circle the area in a mosaic of magnificent fall color. Attention-grabbing side trips include stops at two historic lighthouses and a natural area that was the site of an old logging village. Hubbard Lake–the largest inland lake in Northeast Michigan–is located among the forests and hills of Alcona County and offers excellent roads that connect with US-23, F-41 and M-72, and offer miles of colorful woodlands for great views of the lake and samples of brilliant fall foliage. The area–now showcasing a beautiful canvas of bronze, crimson, gold, pale cream, purple, red, russet and yellow–is less than one week away from peak color conditions.

In Alpena and surrounding area, Mother Nature seems to be holding back on the eagerly-awaited autumnal color show. A few impatient cast members–maples with their scarlet and persimmon dressings and poplars with their vibrant yellow jackets–are putting on a little side show of their own, while the rest of the cast for the grand production waits behind a curtain of green leaves. Fall is the perfect time to have dinner at the Eagle Ridge Golf Club in Glennie then travel a little further west to catch a splendorous sunset across the Alcona Pond. Displaying a gorgeous array of fall colors, the region expects to be at peak conditions in one or two more weeks.

Heading east, in an around the Gaylord area,  are beautiful reds, yellows and golds, as beech and maples trees take center stage for the area’s fall color presentation. Now, is the perfect time to catch a glimpse of fall’s brilliance as the area is currently displaying peak color.

A bit further south, the Grayling area is predicting peak conditions this coming weekend. Although the southern part of the county is somewhat behind the northern portion, color conditions are good. Traveling along  M-93 toward Hartwick Pines State Park is particular striking against a background of rich dark greens pines, making the bronze and russet oaks, along with the area’s gold, red and yellow maples especially vibrant. For a nice circular drive, take M-93 to County Road 612, then head west into Frederic and take Old 27 south back into Grayling. Make plans to visit the area soon, as reporters are forecasting peak conditions in less than a week.


Southeastern  Michigan’s fall color route skirts three waterways to the maritime city of Port Huron and rolls through historic towns that weave through the region. October offers the best time for viewing autumn hues at a variety of region’s parks, while stopping to taste seasonal treats at cider mills , roadside markets and u-pick farms along the way.

From city scenes and sand dunes to wineries, farm markets and Lake Michigan sunsets, southwest Michigan welcomes leaf-peepers to view their color show along country roads, trails, and back roads all across the region. This region’s color is best enjoyed from early to late October.

Visit michigan.org for a complete update on Michigan fall colors – including deals, events and more in regions with the most vibrant color displays. Have you seen peak color in your neighborhood? Share with us below!

Your Pure Michigan Fall Color Report Sept 28, 2012

Peak fall color is fast approaching in Pure Michigan, which means it’s the perfect time to start planning your fall color tour! Below is a recap of this week’s Michigan fall color report. For more details, visit michigan.org.

Upper Peninsula

Yellow is making a strong showing among the Chippewa County Aspens, oaks, Tamarack, and beech species with the area forecasting 25-50 percent peak color conditions for the up-coming weekend. A full spectrum of vibrant fall color is expected to sweep across the Chippewa area in one to two more weeks.  The eastern end of the Upper Peninsula is at about 40-50 percent; but further inland, color is only about 30 percent. Looking for a fall adventure? Look no further than Sault Ste. Marie! The Sault is the perfect hub for a weekend getaway; with the Soo Locks Park filled with amazing trees that are filling with color.

Color on Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula is still a work in progress. The reds and yellows are showing up mainly in the southern portion of the Keweenaw around the Twin Lakes area, but can also be found along some of the roadsides as you head north to the tip. Color in the Copper Harbor area is very minimal at this time; however viewers can get a glimpse of red and yellow maples and some red oaks.

Northwest Michigan

Just east of Traverse City, in Michigan’s northwest region, you’ll find two watery jewels of the Michigan landscape–Elk Lake and Torch Lake– beloved by generations of cottage owners but relatively unknown to the outside world. Even less famous is the steep valley of the little Rapid River, whose forested slopes look as though they were transported from somewhere in the Appalachian Mountains. Head north from Traverse City’s eastern edge on US- 31, following the highway as it carves its way past orchards and farms along the shore of East Bay. At the lively little port of Elk Rapids, turn right at the light and follow Ames Street (which becomes the Cairn Highway) along the northern shore of Elk Lake, through the village of Kewadin and southward again on County Road 593. This road will take you along the eastern shore of the lake, across the Torch River as it empties into Torch Lake, and into the village of Rapid City. Continue east on 593 (now known also as Valley Road) as it winds its way up through the narrow valley of the Rapid River. A good stop here is at The Seven Bridges, where the river separates briefly into several braided streams. Continue up the valley past Rugg Pond– another very scenic area where Ernest Hemingway once camped during a teenage fishing trip–until the road ends at M-72. Turn right and follow the highway west to Traverse City, where you’ll pass a dramatic vista of Elk Lake and nearby Lake Skegemog.

The Traverse Bay region’s kaleidoscope is boasting crimson, gold, red and yellow maples, along with crimson and russet oaks and a splash of gold and purple on a variety of other trees.   With 25 percent saturation, peak conditions are projected to arrive in one or two more weeks.

Northeast Michigan

Alpena’s bronze hickory and red, gold and yellow maples and oaks, make a dramatic statement against a backdrop of mostly summer leaves. It is anticipated that the area will peak in coming weeks. 

The Gaylord area is currently approaching 25 percent peak with its yellow Aspens and red maples and oak; however, color throughout the area is still expected to be fairly limited for this weekend viewing.

Visitors to Alcona and surrounding communities will find a beautiful burst of yellow Aspens throughout the vicinity.  With most other trees still displaying predominately summer foliage; peak conditions are still three to four weeks away.

The Charlevoix area is reporting color change ranging from golden yellow and bronze to red crimson and purple among the Aspens, beech, hickory, maples. The color is most prevalent along the wetland areas along US-131 north of Cadillac. Good color is also visible on the hillsides east of Mancelona and in the Chandler Hills area northwest of Gaylord.

North Central Michigan

In the North Central Lower Peninsula, the season brings an abundance of violet and amethyst blossoms among the Chicory and English Aster plants, which provide a colorful welcome for the full-out gilt of the Golden Rod and the emerging yellows of Poplar and Birch trees found throughout the Alcona vicinity. This coming weekend, viewers can fill up on multi-grain pancakes at the Tin Fish Boathouse in Hubbard Lake. Then head on over to the Black Bear Festival on September 29, and discover how autumn is celebrated in Curran.

West Central

Currently reporting 26-50 percent peak conditions, the Grand Haven area rolls out a fall-color itinerary that you want to travel to view the colors at their best.  

Lakeshore Drive, just south of downtown Grand Haven, is a beautiful 40-mile round-trip drive or bike ride between Grand Haven and Holland. You’ll spot fall colors along the way at Rosy Mound Natural Area, and Kirk Park or Olive Shores parks. Downtown Grand Haven also has color along Harbor Drive, the Grand River, and Lake Michigan.

Leaving downtown, take M-104 east through Spring Lake and stop at Vander Mill Cider & Winery to grab some apple cider and their famous cider donuts. Plan enough time for a sampling of their hard cider tastings and be sure to pick up lots of yummy Michigan-made goods such as honey, jams, and more.

Take the next right (South) at 148th Avenue and follow it to Leonard Road and take a left to follow it down a beautiful stretch through the country side for a burst of red, yellow, gold,  bronze, and pale cream.

Take a right (South) at 68th towards Allendale. Follow 68th Avenue until you reach Lake Michigan Drive/M-45.

From here you can choose to go east towards the Grand Valley State University campus—absolutely stunning in fall– or back west towards Grand Haven or both. 

Follow Waverly in Grand Haven east to Mercury Drive to get on Historic River Road. You can follow it east along the Grand River all the way to 68th Avenue in Eastmanville.

East Central Michigan

The Lexington area is displaying yellow Aspens, Pale cream beech, bronze hickory, red maples, russet oaks and a splash of purple can also be spotted in the area. This charming harbor hamlet along the Lake Huron shore is anticipated length of time until peak tree color arrives is still three or four weeks away.

State parks along M-25 are a great place to see the fall colors and squeeze in a brisk a walk along the beach. Your fall color tour of these maritime communities won’t be complete without a detour to see the Fort Gratiot, Port Sanilac and Point Aux Barques lighthouses.

The area is still mostly dominated by summer foliage; but a slight showing of red, yellows, golds russet and pale cream has begun to make a presence here.  It is expected that peak will take place within the next one or two weeks.

Southwest Michigan

The locust trees lining Phoenix Street in downtown South Haven have started turning a golden yellow brightening the shopping district and inspiring everyone to declare that fall is really here. Be sure to stop for a warm cup of coffee or hot chocolate at the Golden Brown Bakery or the Chocolate Cafe.  Or, plan time to browse the Farmer’s Market (open on Wednesday and Saturday only) to stock up on locally-grown fall veggies and beautiful floral arrangements for the week.

Visit michigan.org for a complete update on Michigan’s peak colors – including deals, events and more in regions with the most vibrant color displays.