Lansing - Alma - Ionia

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In Michigan's State Capital City of Lansing and neighboring East Lansing, fall color means equal parts green and white-at least on football weekends. The home of the Michigan State University Spartans, the pioneer land-grant institution was founded in 1855 and boasts an arboretum-like campus that bursts into an autumn palette of vibrant reds, oranges, bronze---even maize (but no blue). It's a good place to begin a 175-mile mid-mitten fall color tour that is best viewed throughout October.

Best Enjoyed: Early to Late October
Approximate Length: 155 miles

Visitors are welcome to enjoy the MSU Horticulture Gardens and 4-H Childrens' Garden, and the Clarence E. Lewis Landscape Arboretum. A student learning arboretum at the site of the campus nursery, it has many mature specimen trees. Also at MSU, the W. J. Beal Botanical Garden was established in 1873 by Professor William James Beal as an "outdoor laboratory" for student learning, conservation and research, with emphasis on plants of the Great Lakes region. It is the oldest continuously operated university botanical garden of its kind in the United States.

Leave the city behind on US-127 north to Round Lake Road, which curves past Round Lake. At Hollister Road turn north to Sleepy Hollow State Park. A river snakes through this 2,600-acre recreation area in Laingsburg, where you can stretch your legs and take in the fall foliage on 16 miles of hiking trails through prairie and forested areas. Watch for some of the 228 species of birds that have been sighted here, including waterfowl that favor the park's Lake Ovid during fall migration.

Continue north on Hollister Road and at the crossroads at Ovid make a detour west on M-21 to US-127. Turn north to Uncle John's Cider Mill, a family farm for over 120 years. Enjoy fresh pressed cider, baked goods from the Pie Barn, and a variety of amusements at this St. John's attraction. Take home just-picked apples, apple and dessert wines, and hard cider.

Pick up Hollister Road and continue north to M-57, then turn east and roll through pleasant countryside to South Hemlock Road. Turn north and, after crossing several rivers, turn west on M-46 at the hamlet of Hemlock. Follow M-46 west to the neighboring cities of St. Louis and Alma, on the Pine River.

Continue west on M-46 through Edmore a couple of miles to M-66 (not that one!); head south on M-66/Sheridan Road, and plan a stop at Anderson & Girls Orchards, cider mill, farm market, and gift shop. Continue south to Stanton and follow Stanton Road west as it passes Dickinson and Clifford Lakes. Jog north on Lake Road then west on Route 522 to Langston and Route 91. Follow 91 south past Turk Lake to Greenville, on the Flat River and surrounded by lakes. Continue on 91/Greenville-Storey Highway to M-44. The pretty town of Belding, also on the Flat River, is just east of the intersection. Follow Route 44/Belding Road west to Lincoln Lake Avenue. Turn south and take the country road south to one of Michigan's treasures, Fallasburg Covered Bridge in Fallasburg County Park. The 100-foot, single spanning the Flat River was built in 1871, and is one of the oldest covered bridges in the state.

From the turn-of-the century village of Lowell, take M-21 east, a scenic route that parallels the Grand River. Cut across the river at Saranac, and take David Highway east to the Ionia Recreation Area. Hiking trails, designated mountain bike trails and equestrian trails criss-cross the 4,500-acre mix of meadows, forested areas, rolling hills, highlighted by Sessions Lake.

M-21 leads to Ionia, with its historic downtown. Hit M-66 again, heading south to Grand River Avenue. Follow that to Portland, where the Looking Glass and Grand Rivers meet. Enjoy the parks and pedestrian pathway. Continue on Grand River Avenue east to Lansing. Wrap up your color tour with a visit to Fenner Nature Centeron Mt. Hope Road at Aurelius Road. The 130-acre park has three ponds and four miles of trails through a variety of habitat including a mix of brilliant hardwoods and green pine trees, a peaceful place to relax and take in a taste of country in the city.
Michigan State University - Horticultural Gardens and Butterfly House
Bogue Street
A288 Plant & Soil Science Building
East Lansing, MI 48823
Phone: (517) 355-5191
The Michigan State University Horticultural Demonstration gardens surround the Plant and Soil Sciences Building and its teaching greenhouses for students and visitors to learn about gardening and be inspired by beautiful plants. Annuals, perennials, roses, herbs, vegetables, trees and shrubs growing in the garden illustrate horticulture which is the art and science of gardening. We also have a butterfly house with several species of free flying butterflies showing the interaction between flora and fauna. The Gardens offer a unique and beautiful experience for any occasion. Nestled within the beautiful campus of Michigan State University is a garden wonderland. You may chose from several different sites within the garden to host your private event. Call to schedule a private tour for groups of 10 or more.
Michigan 4-H Children's Gardens
Bogue Street
East Lansing, MI 48824
Phone: (517) 353-6692
Designed especially for children and completely accessible, this delightful garden features a tree house built out of twigs and limbs, a garden house, an amphitheater and themed gardens, such as pizza and Peter Rabbit.
W.J. Beal Botanical Gardens - Michigan State University
West Circle Drive
adjacent to the library, MSU Campus
East Lansing, MI 48824
Phone: (517) 355-9582
Founded in 1873, an outdoor botanical garden with over 5,000 species organized in economic, systematic, landscape and ecological groupings. Collectibles include flowering plant families, economically imported plants (fruits, vegetables, medicinals, fibers, dye, perfume, etc) and rare and endangered plants of Michigan. The oldest continuously operated garden of this type in the United States. The W. J. Beal Botanical Garden is an outdoor laboratory for the study and appreciation of plants with more than 2,000 different taxa.
Sleepy Hollow State Park
7835 East Price Road
Laingsburg, MI 48848
Reservations: (800) 447-2757
Phone: (517) 651-6217
Sleepy Hollow State Park contains over 2,600 acres including a river winding its way through the woods, fields and trails. Lake Ovid nestled in the middle of it all was developed by damming the Little Maple River and covers 410-acres. The park offers year-round opportunity for recreation with 181 modern campsites. Trails that take you through prairie grasses, hardwood forest and stands of pine trees: 16 miles of hiking/biking, and 6.5 miles for horseback riding and dog sledding. Metal detecting area.
Uncle John's Cider Mill
8614 N US 27
Saint Johns, MI 48879
Phone: (989) 224-3686
While at our farm, visit our bakery and enjoy fresh baked pies, breads, cookies and pastries. Before you leave, be sure to check out our gift shop and sample our wines in our tasting room, and take a leisurely stroll through the over 1.5 mile groomed nature trail. Open May - December with weekend activities in Sept. and October.
Anderson & Girls Orchards/ Gift Loft
2985 North Sheridan Road
Stanton, MI 48888
Phone: (989) 831-4228
A farm market surrounded by 200 acres of orchards with cherries, peaches, pears, plums and apples. We feature a cider mill and bakery with fresh pies, cookies and donuts as well as a gift loft stocked with Victorian items, Christmas decorations and more. Open May to December 15.
Fallasburg Covered Bridge, Pioneer Village & School
13944 Covered Bridge Rd
Lowell, MI 49331
Phone: (616) 550-3885
Completed at a cost of $1500, Fallasburg Bridge stretches 100 feet long and stands 14 feet wide and 12 feet high. The Fallasburg Bridge is one of only three covered bridges open to vehicle traffic in Michigan. Historic Fallasburg Village, past the 1871 covered bridge on beautiful Flat River, was a bustling nineteenth-century village until the railroad era. The one-room schoolhouse and the Misner house museum are open to visitors on most summer Sundays from 2-4pm (May thru Oct); reservations may be made for other days.
Fallasburg Park
1124 Fallasburg Road
Lowell, MI 49331
Phone: (616) 336-7275
One of only a few remaining covered bridges in Michigan is located here and supports auto traffic. This park is also the site of the Fallasburg Fall Festival. This juried arts and crafts festival is sponsored by the Lowell Area Arts Council and is held every year during the last weekend in September. Park activities and facilities include: baseball diamonds, fishing, hiking, nature trails, an open shelterhouse, picnicking, playgrounds, an enclosed shelterhouse, and restrooms.
Ionia State Recreation Area
2880 West David Highway
Ionia, MI 48846
Reservations: (800) 447-2757
Phone: (616) 527-3750
Ionia Recreation Area offers you 149 campsites (100 modern and 49 rustic), 4,500 acres that offer a swimming beach, good fishing in Sessions Lake, camping, hunting, 3.5 miles of hiking trails looped within the park, nine miles designated for mountain bike trails, 15 miles of horse trails and a boat launch. We also have three designated trail loops for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling when there is four inches or more of snow. Additional amenities include a dog trail area and metal detecting area.
Fenner Nature Center
2020 E. Mount Hope Road
Lansing, MI 48910
Phone: (517) 483-4224
Fenner Nature Center features 130 acres of mixed habitat with approximately four miles of trails, through maple groves, pine forests, swamp forests, old fields, and three different ponds. Fenner Nature center is an ideal place to hike, view or photograph wildlife, picnic, or just relax. The Visitor Center houses an exhibit room, library/ classroom, gift shop, restrooms and staff offices. Fenner Nature Center is in a convenient location and offers free entry to visitors so that they may enjoy the beauty of nature. Our building is handicap accessible. Two main trails have a blacktopped surface for easy use for strollers, wheelchairs and those with mobility impairments. Benches are also located around the trails for rest and relaxation. Picnicking is permitted.