States Parks to Visit This Season to see Breathtaking Fall Foliage

Autumn colors are now in their peak and provide awe-inspiring views all around the Great Lakes state. Whether you’re planning a fall color drive or want to explore the breathtaking views on foot, there is still plenty of time to enjoy the beauty of the season. We put together a list of a few state parks to enjoy the breathtaking views.

Hartwick Pines State Park
Hartwick Pines is one of the largest state parks in Michigan’s lower peninsula. You can climb the rolling hills to overlook the AuSable River and explore the forest of Old Growth Pines. Also, make sure to make a pit stop at the Hartwick Pines Logging Museum, which is about a 1/4 mile walk from the visitor center. The unique history is worth the extra steps!

Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Tahquamenon Falls State Park stretches over 13 miles and offers amazing sights all year long, but is especially magnificent in the fall. Most famous are the Upper Tahquamenon Falls, one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi. The Upper Falls have a drop of nearly 50 feet and is more than 200 feet across. Four miles downstream are the Lower Falls, a series of five smaller falls cascading around an island.  There are more than 40 miles of hiking trails, 13 inland lakes, 24 miles of the Tahquamenon River and approximately 20,000 acres of natural area, which provides plenty of space to explore.

Tahquamenon Falls - Photo courtesy of @visitthesault

Tahquamenon Falls – Photo courtesy of Instagrammer @visitthesault

Silver Lake Sand Dunes State Park 
Embark almost 3,000-acres along the Lake Michigan shoreline. This area includes both dune country and acres of mature forest. One of the park’s biggest draws is the 450-acre off-road vehicle area, so hop on and start exploring the orange, yellow and red stunning leaves.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
This Upper Peninsula gem provides towering timbers, secluded lakes and miles of wild rivers and streams covering 60,000 acres. Explore 90 miles of foot trails and camp on the shore of Lake Superior to enjoy sunsets from your site. The North Country Trail includes 23 miles within the state park and rugged trails to conquer on a mountain bike. Take in the scenic vistas, waterfalls and old growth forest. It is designated as an official Michigan Wildlife Viewing Area for its various wildlife and can’t miss views.

Porcupine Mountains - Photo courtesy of @ryandjohnson

Porcupine Mountains – Photo courtesy of Instagrammer @ryandjohnson

Seven Lakes State Park
Located in Southeast Michigan, Seven Lakes State Park offers an endless variety of topography and ecosystems form the area called Seven Lakes. Its land has a combination of farmland, rolling hills and forests. About 230 acres of water with several miles of shoreline await the park user.

Isle Royale National Park 
Isle Royale is truly unique as it can only be accessed by boat or float plane. The combination of its protected isolation, wilderness value and natural beauty provides an ideal habitat for an assortment of wildlife. You can explore a rugged, isolated island, far from the sights and sounds of civilization. Surrounded by Lake Superior, Isle Royale offers unparalleled solitude and adventures for backpackers, hikers, boaters, kayakers, canoeists and scuba divers. Here, amid stunning scenic beauty, you’ll find opportunities for reflection and discovery, and make memories that last a lifetime.

Isle Royale - Photo courtesy of @adventureguyphoto

Isle Royale – Photo courtesy of Instagrammer @adventureguyphoto

Which of these state parks have you visited?

How to Visit Pictured Rocks in One Weekend

Upon moving to Ann Arbor and becoming an adopted Michigander, there were many destinations in Pure Michigan Zak Suhar wanted  to explore. Between the rolling hills, quiet countryside and unspoiled beauty, he began curating a list of the places he wanted to visit most and settled on the Upper Peninsula. Read his story below on a weekend adventure to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Tahquamenon Falls.

For any hiker, traveler, outdoor enthusiast, camper, and road tripper, here is how to fit in the best of Pictured Rocks in just a weekend.

Twelvemile Beach Campground

Twelvemile campsite is a wonderful place to camp alongside Lake Superior, not only for its wonderful location, but also because it’s a first-come first-serve campsite. This is essential for Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore since it’s a very popular area, but you’ll still have to ensure you get there early for a beachfront campsite (ours that sat atop a small bluff). Nothing beats sitting in your hammock atop a bluff, Lake Superior waves crashing, glowing sun setting, and campfire roaring in the background.

Bridalveil Falls

Kayaking along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is something worth the experience, especially to see Bridalveil Falls. Seen best from the water, the falls can be seen from a hiking trail as well, but the 140-foot tall cascade won’t do it justice from above.

Lover’s Leap

At the end of a kayak or boat tour, the highlight of the lakeshore, in my opinion, is Lover’s Leap, one of the staple natural landscapes the U.P. offers. On a still day, you can get great reflective photos of the rock formation, the wonderful colors of the lake, and the sandstone cliffs of beautiful reddish and orange hues.

Mosquito Beach

Mosquito Beach is a wonderful place to relax after a long hike or paddle. This is a great place to stop for lunch and walk along the waterfront littered by rocks and unique formations. It’s the end of the Mosquito Beach trail, which forks with one branch heading directly to the beach, and the other somewhat longer trail passing Mosquito falls on the way to the beach. The trail passes along the lower falls, rapids, and then the upper falls which are some of the smallest in the U.P. but still worth seeing if you have time.

 

Miners Castle Overlook

Driving to the Miners Castle overlooks is something you will not want to miss when visiting Pictured Rocks, and by far the most famous formation of the area. Erosion over long periods of time has created the interesting rock formations that give this place its name. Several foot trails lead to breathtaking overlooks of Lake Superior and Grand Island from different vantage points – I recommend the top overlook to get the best combination of foliage and water. No matter the season (except maybe winter) you can expect this overlook to be saturated in color and contrasts.

Miners Falls

One of the top waterfalls in the U.P. is Miners Falls, just a 1.2 mile hike into the woods (round trip). There are two overlooks at the end of the trail, the first offering an overhead view of the  drop over sandstone outcrop. The Miners Falls Nature Trail also has wonderful views of the Miners Basin along the way. If you’re up for it, take the steps down to the lower viewing platform at the falls.

Chapel Falls

Chapel Falls is another wonderful landscape in the Pictured Rocks area. Just under a two mile hike through the woods stands the  falls cascading towards Chapel Lake. The first outlook gives an incredible vantage point, the second trail winds around where you can literally stand on top of the falls, and a third spot shows the falls barely peaking through the forest above Chapel Basin. Definitely explore all three spots and vantage points for a variety of photographs.

Upper Tahquamenon Falls

Finally, Tahquamenon Falls State Park is definitely my  favorite. One of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi, the Upper Falls has a drop of 48 feet and stretches more than 200 feet wide. The Lower Falls, a series of five smaller falls cascading around an island, can be found downstream. This is a definite must see, and be sure to visit their local microbrewery for some delicious craft beer. A flight of true Michigan beer is a great way to stay refreshed after this hike.

About the Author: Zak is a Midwest born and raised explorer and adventure photographer. He was born a Hoosier, grew up a Cheesehead, studied in Ohio and currently resides in Ann Arbor as an adopted Michigander. Zak works in advertising but his ideal weekend involves disconnecting and getting outside.

All of the photography is courtesy of Zak, check out more of his work here.

Five Reasons to Stay Out After Dark in Northern Michigan

Landscape photographer, Aubrieta V. Hope, invites us to venture north this summer and enjoy the magic of a Pure Michigan night sky.

Very few places on earth are as beautiful and melodic as Northern Michigan after sunset.  The night sky beckons us with a million, twinkling reasons to stay up late.  And, the wild creatures call us as well.  Coyotes cry out from distant hilltops, their voices joined by cicadas, frogs, and songbirds.  Unlike many parts of the U.S., where city lights outshine the stars and traffic noises drown out the sounds of wildlife, the night is naturally dark and alive in Northern Michigan.

For the most vivid night skies, visit a park or rural area near one of the Great Lakes, such as Sleeping Bear Dunes, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, or Headlands International Dark Sky Park.  Spritz on some bug spray, pack a blanket and snacks, pop a headlamp on your head (the kind with a red-light setting), and try these ideas for experiencing the night sky.

1.  Stay and Enjoy the Twilight Glow 

Many people watch the sunset and leave, missing the beauty and peace of twilight.  Stay for the encore!  That’s when the sky catches fire, glowing red, orange, and pink, the embers burning to charcoal, and deepening to blue until the stars emerge and night falls.  Listen for the music of the night, the chorus of wildlife, and the whisper of wind and water.

MI15-0705-9944 Red Barn at Twilight by Aubrieta V Hope Michigan Scenery

Red Barn at Twilight by Aubrieta V Hope

2.  Take a Walk in the Moonlight  

The sight of a full moon rising, casting a silver path across the water is mesmerizing. In open areas, such as beaches or dunes, even a waning moon shines quite brightly.  Wander at will, but bring along your red-light headlamp to preserve your night vision in case you need extra light.

MI14-0561-1792 Full Moon over Glen Lake by Aubrieta V Hope

Full Moon over Glen Lake by Aubrieta V Hope

3.  Catch the Northern Lights

What can be more memorable than seeing the northern lights sweep across the sky?  To increase your chances of catching them, spend time in a dark, open area with a clear view to the north.  If you notice the northern horizon brightening just after nightfall, stick around!  It just might be the northern lights. Many websites and phone apps provide northern lights forecasts.  I use www.softservenews.com and www.swpc.noaa.gov.

MI15-0701-9649 Northern Lights Lime Lake by Aubrieta Hope Michigan Scenery

Northern Lights Lime Lake by Aubrieta V Hope

MI14-0579-7751 Northern Lights at Miners Beach by Aubrieta V Hope Michigan Scenery

Northern Lights at Miners Beach by Aubrieta V Hope

4.  Look for Ghosts in a Ghost Town

Michigan has a surprising number of ghost towns that are spooky-fun to stroll at night (unless prohibited). The past always seems much closer after dark!  My favorite ghost towns are at Glen Haven and South Manitou Island in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  I’ve not met any ghosts there (yet).  But, I have seen beautiful night skies above each.  (Glen Haven is a great place to watch the northern lights.)

MI13-0526-1083 Starry Night at Glen Haven Historic Village by Aubrieta V Hope

Starry Night at Glen Haven Historic Village by Aubrieta V Hope

5.  Make a Wish Upon a Shooting Star

You won’t need a telescope on a clear, moonless night in Northern Michigan to see the stars.  But you will need lots of wishes: shooting stars happen all the time!  Sometimes, as in this scene, shooting stars and the Milky Way appear simultaneously.  This year, the best nights for wishing will be August 9-13 (during the Perseid Meteor Showers).

MI15-0701-9765 Shooting Stars at D H Day Barn by Aubrieta V Hope Michigan Scenery

Shooting Stars at D.H. Day Barn” by Aubrieta V Hope

MI14-0606-0758 Aubrieta Hope for Pure Michigan BlogAubrieta V. Hope is a scenic photographer and writer with a special interest in Northern and Upper Michigan.  Her images are available as prints, digital downloads, and Michigan souvenirs.  Visit her website, www.michiganscenery.com, check out her Michigan Scenery Facebook Page, or stop by Petoskey Pete’s in Glen Arbor.