Fall Color Tours in Michigan

By Brandi M. Seals

AAA has predicted a normal fall color season for Michigan due to information provided by the National Weather Service. The National Weather Service has projected a fall with below average precipitation throughout most of the Lower Peninsula. That means there will be more sunlight to help produce those fall colors Michigan is so well known for.

Above average temperatures are also supposed to be in the forecast for the Upper Peninsula and Northern Lower Peninsula. That combined with cooler evening temperatures could help generate good colors.

Beginning September 15, fall color watchers looking can call Travel Michigan at (888) 78-GREAT for color updates provided by AAA Michigan each Wednesday through October.

Michigan’s vibrant natural color can be seen many ways. There are over millions of acres of forest land, two national shorelines, close to 100 state parks and recreation areas, several local parks, national forests and state forests in both peninsulas. However, one of the best ways to see the fall colors is to do a driving tour.

With the price of gas falling, it is anticipated that more than 1 million travelers will set out to see the state’s gorgeous color display. See them along a driving tour. Try one of these routes and enjoy the colors, fresh air, and amazing sights:

1.) Alpena – Gaylord – Mio
Starting in Alpena, travelers will want to head southwest on M-65. Near Curran turn west on M-72. When you hit I-75 head north to Gaylord. Once there, continue east back to Alpena along M-32.

Along this route, travelers will see the Thunder Bay Island Lighthouse, Thunder Bay, the Island Park & Wildflower Sanctuary, Pigeon River Country State Forest (which is great for elk viewing), Otsego Lake State Park, Hartwick Pines State Park, Kirtland’s Warbler and Jack Pine Wildlife Viewing, and a few cider mills.

The route is approximately 200 miles long and is best enjoyed from late September through Mid-October.

2.) Detroit – Algonac – Lake Orion – Port Huron
Starting in Detroit, head north on I-75 to 102. Head east on 102 to M-53 and continue north. Leave M-53 and head west to Rochester. Once there continue northwest up to Oxford. From Oxford head east to M-19. Once there, head north on M-19 to Emmett. In Emmett head east on I-69 to Port Huron, then head south on M-29. When M-29 meets I-94 head along the St. Clair shoreline back to Detroit.

Travelers will be impressed with the Lake St. Clair shoreline, Belle Isle Park, Algonac State Park, Bald Mountain Rec Area and the cider mills.

The route is approximately 195 miles and is the best in October.

3.) Grand Ledge – Hastings – Battle Creek – Eaton Rapids
Starting in Lansing, head south on M-99 to Albion. From there head west Marshall, then go northwest to Battle Creek. From the Battle Creek area, hop on M-89 and go over to M-43. M-43 can be taken all the way back to Lansing.

There is a lot to see along this route. As you enjoy the colors, think about visiting Fitzgerald Park and the Ledges, the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary, Kellogg Forest, Fort Custer Rec Area and either the Whitehouse or Woldumar Nature Center.

This trip is approximately 150 miles and the best colors will be seen from mid to late October.

4.) Grand Rapids – Grand Haven – South Haven – Kalamazoo
From downtown Grand Rapids head south on Division Ave (it runs beside US-131). Take that down to M-43 near Plainwell then head west. Take M-43 to the Lake Michigan lakeshore near South Haven. Hope on I-196 north to Holland. Leaving I-196 head north on US-31. Once you hit Grand Haven, begin working your way back to Grand Rapids on I-96 east.

Drive along the spectacular Lake Michigan shoreline on part of this route. And, see the Grand Haven State Park, Holland State Park, Saugatuck Dunes State Park, the De Graaf Nature Center or Mt. Baldy Overlook. The route is also lined with several wineries and cider mills.

It is approximately 195 miles long and will have the best colors from early to late October.

5.) Menominee – Escanaba – Manistique
From Menominee set out heading northeast on M-35 to Escanaba. In Escanaba continue heading east on I-2. Take I-2 over to Manistique before turning around. On the way back consider leaving the main path to head town to Fayette State Park on US-183 or do a loop from Rapid River up and over to Perkins and back down to rejoin the route at Gladstone. You can also take a north route back from Escanaba. Continue on I-2 over to US-41 then head southwest on US-41 back to Menominee.

See the Lake Michigan shoreline from the Upper Peninsula. The route features the Menominee River Lighthouse, the Fayette State Park, the Indian River Lake State Park, and the Kitch-iti-kipi Spring. There also a few waterfalls along the way.

This route covers approximately 290 miles and will be the best from mid-September through early October.

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