10 Ways to Experience Pure Michigan’s Fresh Fall Colors from Above
When Michigan’s forests burst into a kaleidoscope of colors, it doesn’t last long. Travel up into the trees and above to find breathtaking views of autumn’s splendor before it’s gone.
When the air turns crisp and the days grow shorter, Michigan’s sugar maples burst into shades of scarlet and orange. Aspen and birch trees turn yellow and gold, stately white pines remain emerald green, and the brilliant blues of the Great Lakes round out the color palette. Fall in Pure Michigan brings a riot of color. And there is no better way to appreciate the season’s beauty than from these high-altitude lookouts.
The bright reds and yellows of the Upper Peninsula’s sugar maple forest contrast beautifully with the deep blues of Lake Superior as fall transforms the Keweenaw Peninsula. And nowhere is the region’s color explosion better displayed than along Brockway Mountain Drive, the highest elevation drive between the Rockies and the Alleghenies. Ascend the lookout just outside of Copper Harbor for Insta-worthy vistas.
The views from the top of Copper Peak seem to go on forever, and never is the panorama better than in the fall. An 800-foot chairlift carries visitors to the summit of the highest artificial ski jump in the world, where athletes began ski flying in 1970. The observation deck sits 1,180 feet above Lake Superior’s surface for incredible views of 2,500 square miles, three states, and Canada.
The U.P.’s largest city unveils its unforgettable fall foliage atop Sugarloaf Mountain. Set just north of Marquette, the peak can be reached by a scenic trail that winds beneath vivid, century-old trees, over crunching leaves and across rocky outcroppings to Sugarloaf’s wooden staircase and three observation decks. Enjoy sweeping views of the Huron Mountains, Lake Superior and downtown Marquette, all awash in fall color.
Dedicated to the 350-year history of Michigan’s oldest city, the Tower of History displays a timeline of the Native American and French presence along the St. Mary’s River before whisking visitors up via elevator (or 292 stairs) to the observation deck. From the top of the 210-foot tower, view the bold colors of the eastern U.P., alongside the Soo Locks and into neighboring Ontario.
There are few views of Northern Michigan that compare to the overlook at SkyBridge Michigan, the world’s longest timber-towered suspension bridge. Spanning 1,200 feet between the peaks of Boyne Mountain’s McLouth and Disciples Ridge, the pedestrian bridge hangs 118 feet over the valley floor and offers incredible views of the landscape in spectacular autumn color.
Play a round of golf surrounded by colorful hardwoods, then grab a chairlift to view the beauty of northern Michigan’s rolling, forested hills from a bird’s-eye view. In fall, golfers and non-golfers alike ride the resort’s chairlift for fantastic views of the colorful landscape.
Some observation decks lead you above the trees. Others lead you through them. Midland’s Canopy Walk—which is ADA accessible and 1,400 feet, the nation’s longest—leads through the tops of spruce and hardwood trees at the Dow Gardens’ Whiting Forest. The Canopy Walk includes boardwalks, a rope bridge, and giant seed pods to an observation deck 40 feet above the ground, an experience that is never better than in the fall, with the trees in full color.
View Southern Michigan’s colorful foliage up close at the Reach for the Sky Canopy Walk, a ½-mile pedestrian bridge rising 65 feet above ground and leading through the treetops. The 755-acre botanical gardens are operated by Michigan State University and include a 6-mile scenic drive, 5 miles of hiking trees, and hundreds of plantings that are especially beautiful in fall, from colorful hardwood trees to burning bushes, chrysanthemums, and asters.
All of Grand Rapids lays out below you from the dining room at MDRD, set on the 27th floor of the Amway Grand Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids. Dine on an award-winning Spanish-inspired menu of steak, fish and fine wine overlooking the Grand River bordered by autumn color.
Take a ride aboard Saugatuck’s 150-year-old Chain Ferry, then climb the 302 steps up Mount Baldhead for spectacular views of Lake Michigan. The popular dune climb takes in a sweeping landscape of the Big Lake, wind-sculpted sand dunes, and brilliant yellow birch trees in autumn.
Highlands Detroit – Detroit
Ascend to the top of Detroit’s most recognized landmark, the Renaissance Center, for dinner and drinks with a spectacular view. Highlands Detroit occupies the tower’s 71st and 72nd floors, offering high-quality steak dinners, fine Scotches and cocktails against a backdrop of the Detroit Riverfront, Belle Isle, and Ontario, Canada, all dressed in their fall finest.
About the Author: Amy S. Eckert writes about travel in destinations around the world from her home base in Holland, Michigan. amyeckert.com