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?

 

Walking With Nature: Destination Traverse City

The spectacular landscape that embraces the Traverse City area is an ever-changing masterpiece created over centuries by the earth-moving power of ice, wind and water. No matter what the season, nature lovers will find trails and natural areas to fuel their passions. Read more on the beauty of TC, as shared by guest blogger Jonathan Schechter.

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”  — John Muir

Spring is the gateway to wildflowers and migratory birds at places like the Grass River Natural Area. Summer allows explorers to roam the Manitou Islands in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Autumn is perfect for a paddling trip down the Platte River, and in the stillness of winter, the multitude of cross-country ski pathways and snowshoe trails is proof that the outdoor lure of Traverse City is strong and growing.

Look Out

Why wait? Today is the perfect day to walk with nature.

The Grass River Natural Area is a hidden treasure of Antrim County encompassing 1,433 acres. Spring is the perfect season to view the moss-covered hummocks of land along the clear waters of Finch Creek. Sit silently on a bench under the sweetly scented cedars; nature will share her secrets. During my last visit I watched a mink bound over the boardwalk, heard a hidden grouse drumming from behind lush vegetation and found fresh bobcat tracks – all in a matter of five minutes.

The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore with its 70 miles of shoreline, magnificent sand dunes and trails for every taste, lures millions of outdoor enthusiasts.  Two of its beautiful treasures are the Manitou Islands – and a visit to these isolated spots makes a rewarding summer adventure.

Lighthouse

South Manitou Island is a perfect destination for a day hiker with its lighthouse – a stark reminder of the stormy seas and shipwrecks of the Manitou Passage – and the wreck of the Francisco Morazan, a favorite haunt for cormorants. For a more rugged adventure, North Manitou offers opportunities for backpacking treks – just remember that your visit might be extended an extra day or two if the waters are too rough for the ferry to return.

The crystal-clear Platte River is well known among anglers for steelhead, salmon and trout, but it can get busy on summer days as kayakers and canoeists paddle downstream. A much better option is to go in the autumn, when the wildlife returns and the fall foliage puts on a brilliant show. Bring your own craft or rent at Riverside Canoe Trips. Seekers of solitude and wildlife may want to paddle during the morning mist; dawn is an unforgettable moment to embrace this landscape, which defines the essence of Pure Michigan.

Kayak

In winter Traverse City has miles and miles of woodland trails for skiers and snowshoers to explore. In the Brown Bridge Quiet Area you can even witness the rebirth of Traverse City’s Boardman River, whose system of dams is being removed, returning this beautiful stream to a time when she was wild and free.  You can get a close-up look at this process at Brown Bridge, a 1300-acre nature preserve just south of town. This broad river meadow, surrounded by high hills, was once the site of a wide forest pond, but today you can hike along its former shoreline and see how nature (with lots of human help) has been healing and renewing the valley.

On my last visit it was winter, and I made my way through deep snow, warmed by the sweet scent of cedar and balsam fir and invigorated by the bounding tracks of a river otter.  It’s a wonderful wild place in the shadows of Traverse City!

bioJonathan Schechter is a Nature Education Writer for Oakland County Parks, a member of the Wilderness Medical Society and an avid hiker and trail-explorer at Sleeping Bear Dunes.  JonathanSchechter@Frontier.com

 

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.