Upper Peninsula Fall Colors

Filed under: Fall color,Upper Peninsula |

It won’t be long till fall color is at its peak. No matter what region or area you choose you are guaranteed to see exquisite shades of orange, red, yellow, gold copper and bronze. Michigan is the perfect place to enjoy the fall color whether you are looking for a breathtaking day trip, a romantic getaway or a scenic respite of a vacation.

 Upper Peninsula Fall Colors

Fall colors in Michigan range from mid September through late October and start changing first in the Western Upper Peninsula first and then spread south and east across the rest of the Upper Peninsula. Next they are on display from north to south over the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. In areas close to Lake Superior and Lake Michigan fall colors are slightly delayed so pick your spot and get out your camera and be amazed all thanks to Mother Nature.

Fall Colors in  Upper Peninsula

The  Upper Peninsula fall color driving tours includes spectacular vistas, gentle country roads, waterfalls and a stroll along the Lake Superior shore. The forest covered area is alive with waves of red, oranges, gold and green that tint the countryside from mid-September to early October. Autumn colored rainbows can be seen around every bend surrounded by mountains, bluffs and lakes.

Ironwood – Silver City – Wakefield


Best Enjoyed: Mid-September to Early October
Approximate Length: 100 miles

To start your Fall Color tour, head east out of Ironwood on U.S. 2 towards the #1) Ottawa National Forest. For a beautiful side trip, take 513 north out of Bessemer to the Black River Parkway, an 11.5-mile paved route that winds through hardwood forests and past numerous waterfalls to a historic harbor on Lake Superior. Be sure to stop at  #2) Copper Peak, a ski flying hill. From the observation deck, nearly 1882 feet above sea level and 1180 feet above Lake Superior, the view is breathtaking.

After returning from the Black River Parkway, continue east on U.S. 2 to Wakefield. At Wakefield take County Road 519, to the beautiful  #3) Porcupine Mountains on Lake Superior. Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park’s 60,000 acres are one of the few remaining large wilderness areas in the Midwest. Towering virgin timber, secluded lakes, and miles of wild rivers and streams make a visit to the “Porkies” a trip to remember. High summits and rocky outcrops treat visitors to panoramic views of crystal blue lakes, forested river valleys and distant mountain peaks.

Porcupine MountainsContinue east to Silver City and then south on M-64 to Bergland. Bergland sits on the northern tip of the Upper Peninsula’s largest lake, Lake Gogebic, which runs 18 miles long and 3 miles wide. Want to stretch your legs? Explore #4)  Gogebic Ridge Hiking Trail, an 8-mile linear hiking trail that bends and winds through rolling hills of mixed hardwood and conifer trees.

Follow M-64 south as it runs along the western shore of Lake Gogebic. Stop at #5)  Lake Gogebic State Park which covers 360 acres and nearly a mile of lake frontage on the west shore of the lake. Recreational opportunities include fishing, boating, picnicking and hiking.

Complete your tour by continuing south on M-64 to U.S. 2 and then back west to Ironwood.


Houghton – Eagle River – Copper Harbor




Best Enjoyed: Mid-September to Early October
Approximate Length: 100 miles

Begin your tour in Houghton and Hancock, the hometowns of Michigan Tech and Finlandia Universities. For a spectacular view of the two cities and surrounding, color-splashed countryside, take the Cog Rail Tram down the steep hill at the 1) Quincy Mine in Hancock. The mine is open for tours and offers a glimpse of the mining history that gives the area its “Copper Country” moniker.

Head north on US-41, a state Historic Scenic Route where the curving roadway competes for a driver’s full attention with the tree tunnels’ canopy of color. The highway, which stretches from Florida to Michigan’s Copper Harbor, winds through small mining communities and past the giant snow gauge, a thermometer that measures snowfall by the foot–a sign of the season to come. At the old mining town of Phoenix, the 1858   2)  Church of the Assumption is open to visitors. This is where you’ll turn west on M-26 to Eagle River, a picturesque village that was a booming port during copper’s heyday. Just before you reach the town you can stop and take a short walk to see Eagle River Falls. The 1855  3) Eagle River Lighthouse is now a private residence, but just west of town the 4) Sand Hills Lighthouse Inn welcomes overnight (adult) guests.

Continue on M-26 along the rocky Lake Superior shore; you’ll find roadside picnic spots and scenic turnouts to absorb the beauty. The eight-mile stretch between Eagle River and Eagle Harbor, high along a sandy bluff, is known as the Sand Dune Drive. Just about three miles out of Eagle River watch for Jacob’s Falls, visible from the road, and 5) The Jampot, a bakery operated by monks, Brothers of the St. John Monastery.

Roadway in the Keweenaw; Photo Credit: Raymond J. MalaceIn Eagle Harbor the brick lighthouse, which dates to 1871, is part of the  6) Light Station Museum Complex and open to visitors. Follow M-26 from Eagle Harbor to Copper Harbor for some of the most dramatic scenery in the state. The section known as  7) Brockway Mountain Drive, the highest above sea-level drive between the Rockies and the Alleghenies, was a WPA project. The 9.5 mile route is a designated Michigan Wildlife Viewing Area, and offers spectacular sunsets.

Copper Harbor, the state’s most northern community, is the year ’round home to just a handful of hardy souls. But from May through fall color season you can find plenty of company, comfortable lodging, delicious meals, local art, warm hospitality and the scenic beauty of this remote and rugged spot.

Next on the list is a visit to the 1848 light keepers house and the  8). Copper Harbor Ligthouse and Museum built in 1866. Also memorable: a quiet walk through the virgin White Pines preserved at  9) The Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary and a visit to   10) Fort Wilkins State Park.

Catch US-41 out of Copper Harbor en route back to Houghton/Hancock. The Michigan Scenic Heritage Route, also called the Copper Country Trail, was recently designated a National Scenic Byway. The road will take you to the  11) Keweenaw Mountain Lodge & Golf Course, another WPA project that dates to the Depression era when unemployment in the region was 85 percent. The rustic lodge features a nine-hole course, fine dining, and sleeping in log structures with stone fireplaces.

Continuing south of Copper Harbor is the authentic  12) Delaware Mine, which yielded eight million pounds of the metal between 1847-1887. The scenic route continues through wonderful forests and through the city of Calumet, which was the cultural and commercial center of the Keweenaw Copper Range. Take time to visit the restored  13) Calumet Theater and the red sandstone buildings of the downtown business district. This is the heart of the  14) Keweenaw National Historic Park, which recognizes the importance of the mining history of this rugged and scenic region.

Iron River – Bruce Crossing – Watersmeet


Best Enjoyed: Mid-September to Early October
Approximate Length: 135 miles

Begin your tour in the Iron County seat of  Crystal Falls, a picturesque city on a hill dominated by its 1891 Romanesque Courthouse. Take a side trip down County Road-424 to the Alpha Circle Historic District, a 1914 mining village intriguingly built around a traffic circle. Travel a bit further west on 424 to 1) Pentoga Park Indian Burial Grounds, the site of an Ojibwa gathering spot on the south shore of Chicagon Lake.

Back on US-2, 2) Bewabic State Park, four miles west of Crystal Falls, is on the Fortune Chain of Lakes and ideal for canoeing or kayaking. Stone and log structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the difficult 1930s remain.

Continue west on US-2 to 3) Iron River and jog about two mile south to  Caspian and the outdoor collection of buildings of the   Iron County Museum. Exhibits include six log structures of a pioneer homestead, lumber camp buildings, a headframe used in hoisting ore, and the 1890 home of Carrie Jacobs Bond, composer of “I Love You Truly” and “A Perfect Day.” (Open through September).

Just across from the museum along the Iron River is Apple Blossom Trail, where U.S. Surveyor Harvey Mellen identified the outcropping of ore in 1851. The hike/bike trail follows the rail line that once hauled iron ore.

If you’re interested in seeing a Civilian Conservation Corps project that is on the National Register of Historic Places, take a sidetrip to see more than a dozen buildings at the 1930s Camp Gibbs, now a recreation area. Two miles west of Iron River turn north on County Road-657 and head 10 miles north.

Head west toward  Watersmeet, where the Ontonagon River flows north into Lake Superior, the Wisconsin River flows south into the Mississippi, and the Paint River flows east into Lake Michigan: it’s where the waters meet. Sports fans will know Watersmeet as home of the Nimrods high school basketball team, and those itching to try their luck will want to stop at the  4) Lac Vieux Desert Casino Resort.

This area is a blur of woods, wildlife and, of course, water, including the Cisco Chain of Lakes, with more than 270 miles of shoreline along 15 interconnected lakes. Fall color is abundant in the surrounding  5) Ottawa National Forest and 19,000-acre 6) Sylvania Wilderness Area, with its spruce, balsam, maple, birch, and aspen trees—many of them 300-400 years old. Watch for wolves, white tail deer, American bald eagles, loons, black, bear, coyotes—even the elusive moose. Stop at the Ottawa Visitor Center at the crossroads of US-2 and US-45 for information to help you make the most of your visit.

The color continues north on US-45 through Paulding, and if it’s near nightfall you may want to make a side trip to witness the “Paulding Light,” a distant glow that rises out of the forest, hovers, and disappears. Is it a ghost, gases or car lights? Theories abound. Travel about four miles north of Watersmeet, turn left on Old US-45, then left in about a half mile onto Robbins Pond Rd. Wait at the pullover on the second hill, and make your own guess about the mysterious light.

Continue north on US-45 and be prepared to brake for waterfalls — hundreds of known and unnamed falls. Most require that you drive unpaved county and forest roads, and then hike to reach them (some are extremely remote), however the lovely Bond Falls are easily accessible from the town of Paulding; take Bond Falls Road east to the natural attraction.

Back on US-45 head north to Bruce Crossing, and turn right at the intersection of State Route 28. Travel about seven miles east to the roadside park, and take a short walk to view Agate Falls.

Continue east on SR-28 through Trout Creek, an old lumber town being brought back to life by new settlers seeking a simpler life. Still heading east on SR-28 you’ll breeze through Sidnaw, another lumber settlement with Henry Ford connections.          The spectacular  7) Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness Area is just north of Sidnaw.

Follow SR-28 to Covington, a farming center that still celebrates is largely Finnish immigrant heritage. Check out the UP Made Artists Market housed in the old Covington School. Turn south on US-141, and watch for moose. You’ll pass through Amasa, another one-time logging and mining boomtown. Then it’s another 15 miles back to Crystal Falls, where the courthouse clock chime will pronounce an end to your wilderness excursion.

Marquette – Negaunee – Au Train


Best Enjoyed: Mid-September to Early October
Approximate Length: 185 miles

Begin your tour in Marquette, the Upper Peninsula’s largest city. Before heading out of town, be sure to visit the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse leased by the Marquette Maritime Museum. The lighthouse was constructed in 1866 and is the oldest significant structure in the city and more importantly, the lighthouse is one of the most historic navigation beacons on Lake Superior.

Fall road in Marquette County Presque Isle Park is also worth a visit. As Marquette’s recreational crown jewel, the 323 acre forested oval shaped park juts into Lake Superior in the northern tip of the City and is served by a number of foot trails. There are a number of scenic turnouts for those wishing to stop and travel by foot on a portion, or simply enjoy the scenery.

As you leave Marquette, head north on County Road 550 to Big Bay. The 35 minute ride is an impressive drive through cut rock harboring a beautiful array of fall color. If you’re feeling adventurous, you may want to stop and climb Sugerloaf Mountain, a 20 minute hike.

In Big Bay, you’ll find Thunder Bay Inn, a historic lumber baron inn, used as a location for the film “Anatomy of a Murder.” Stop in and visit the gift shop or restaurant and pub. Also call the Big Bay Point Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast to schedule a tour of one of the few surviving resident lighthouses in the country.

The return trip from Big Bay along County Road 510 will take you through the majestic Huron Mountains and through trees which arch over the roadway to form a tunnel of color.

Laughing Whitefish FallsAt US-41 take a right and head south into Negaunee. While in Negaunee visit the Michigan Iron Industry Museum which includes hands-on exhibits, outdoor interpretive paths and is the site of the first iron forge in the Lake Superior region. As you leave Negaunee, follow M-28 to Ishpeming, home of the National Ski Hall of Fame. Then take County Road 476 to Palmer.

From Palmer, follow M-35 south to Gwinn. The Anderson Lake West State Forest Campground offers hiking and mountain biking opportunities on six miles of rolling terrain. Continue south on M-35 to Little Lake and take County Road 456 east to US-41. Take a left on US-41 heading north to M-94. Turn right on M-94 to Chatham. Three miles north off M-94 at Sundell is Laughing Whitefish Falls, one of the Upper Peninsula’s many impressive waterfalls. The site features a mile of foot trails, picnic area with water pump and three observation decks overlooking the falls.

Continue east until you reach H-03 located between Chatham and Forest Lake. Drive north on H-03 along the AuTrain River and past scenic AuTrain Lake until you reach the junction of M-28. Travel east along the Lake Superior shoreline on M-28. For a short hike, stop at Tyoga Pathway, 12 miles west of AuTrain. Complete your tour by continuing west on M-28 back to Marquette.

Menominee – Escanaba – Manistique

Best Enjoyed: Mid-September to Early October
Approximate Length: 290 miles

The Menominee River defines a good portion of Michigan’s border with Wisconsin, anchored by the “Twin Cities” of Menominee (MI) and Marinette (WI). The Upper Peninsula city claims that Menominee is “Where the Best of Michigan Begins,” and it’s a good place to begin an early fall color tour that stretches about 290 miles, much of it along Lake Michigan waters. Autumn color is usually best enjoyed from mid-September to early October in this region, which is sometimes called the “Banana Belt” for its relatively mild weather.

The Native American tribe of Menominee (“wild rice people”) preceded by thousands of years the French voyageurs who arrived in the 1660s, and the lumbermen who established the first sawmill here in 1832. Evidence of the booming logging days remains in the grand lumber baron homes and ornate buildings, and in its Historic Waterfront District. In addition to its importance as a lumber-shipping port, Menominee became known for its commercial fishing, and the surrounding area for its dairy farms.

Enjoy Menominee’s downtown shops, interesting architecture, parks, beaches and striking red North Pier Lighthouse. Pick up provisions for a picnic stop at one of several parks along M-35, then head in a northerly direction along Lake Michigan’s Green Bay Shore.

About 25 miles out of town is the J.W. Wells State Park, named for a local lumberman and former Menominee mayor. The park boasts old-growth woods, a three-mile shoreline and seven-mile hiking trail.

Continue 30 miles along M-35 to Escanaba, a 19th century iron and lumber port that eventually received tourists who arrived by steamship. Visitors then, as today, enjoyed the waterfront Ludington Park and 1870 House of Ludington Hotel (Nelson Ludington was a prominent local lumberman). Nearby, standing sentinel as it has since 1867, is the gleaming white Sand Point Lighthouse.

Explore the one-of-a-kind shops and eateries along Escanaba’s wide main street. Treat yourself to Sayklly’s candy—the family has made it locally since 1906. Then follow US-2/41 for a breathtaking view of Little Bay de Noc to Gladstone, a quiet city on the bay that is home to Marble Arms, maker of collectible hunting knives, and Hoegh Pet Casket Company (tours are available).

Continue to Rapid River and eastward along US-2 a short distance to County Road 513. Follow that south along the Stonington Peninsula to the Peninsula Point Lighthouse. This scenic spot on the eastern shore of Little Bay de Noc is an important stop for thousands of Monarch butterflies heading south in late summer/early fall. The heaviest migration is in August, but usually continues through September when the hardwoods burst into color.

Once back on US-2, continue east through the Hiawatha National Forest to County Road 497, then head south to the former lumber company town of Nahma. A few buildings and residents remain, and varied wildlife viewing along the Nahma Marsh Trail.

Travel County Road 495 north out of Nahma to US-2 and continue east to the intersection at Garden Corners. County Road 183 will take you to one of the hidden gems of the Upper Peninsula, the Historic Fayette Townsite. En route you’ll have opportunity to slow down and see what shops are open in the village of Garden, and sample the fruits of the Threefold Vine Winery, which makes its wine from grapes grown in the U.P. If the timing is right, buy apples or pick a pumpkin from the family’s fields.

The Fayette State Park tells the story of the remote community that manufactured charcoal pig iron from 1867-1891. Scheduled tours are offered in season, but visitors can roam the grounds year round to see the ruins and restored buildings, a lovely protected harbor on Big Bay de Noc, and hiking trail.

A few miles further east on US-2, turn north on state highway M-149 where the Thompson State Fish Hatchery welcomes visitors. Continue east on US-2 to the city of Manistique, known for its nearly two-mile long Lake Michigan boardwalk, lighthouse, main street business district, landmark 137-foot high water tower, and Kewadin Casino. Just north of Manistique is Indian Lake State Park as well as the Bishop Baraga Shrine. A chapel of logs and bark marks the site the original 1832 mission. At Rainey Wildlife Area, about five miles north of Manistique, a hiking trail through maple and birch trees leads to an elevated observation platform for viewing wildlife, including the fall warbler migration.

Not to be missed is Kitch-iti-kipi, The Big Spring, at Palms Book State Park. The largest freshwater spring in the state measures 200 feet across and 40 feet deep, with more than 10,000 gallons of clear water gushing each minute.

Return westward on US-2 toward Rapid River; shortly before town turn north on County Road 509 to the Tunnel of Trees, still in the Hiawatha National Forest. A short 1/4 mile foot trail follows Haymeadow Creek. Drive across Forest Road 2236 to US-41, head south and catch County Road 428 west to the old farming community of Perkins. Turn south on M-35 and be prepared for the high bluff overview of Little Bay de Noc and the Gladstone area. Slip through Escanaba along US-2/41 through the Escanaba River State Forest. Turn south on US-41 and enjoy the peaceful farmlands of Menominee County as you wind up your tour in Menominee which, you might tell the city officials, is “Where the Best of Michigan Ends.”

Munising – Newberry – Grand Marais


Best Enjoyed: Mid-September to Early October
Approximate Length: 170 miles

Some of the most remote, yet accessible, territory in the UP is between Munising and Grand Marais in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Sculpted by wind and water and painted by mineral-rich seepage, the towering sandstone cliffs along Lake Superior are among Michigan’s most spectacular natural wonders.

Begin a tour at the Pictured Rocks/Hiawatha National Forest Interagency Visitor Center at the park’s western gateway of Munising. This harbor town of about 2,500 is the departure point for regularly scheduled, 2-1/2 hour, narrated Pictured Rocks Boat Cruises. Hikers can tackle all or a portion of the 43 mile Pictured Rocks segment of The North Country Trail (NCT), a national scenic hiking route from North Dakota to New York (this is the only major segment of National Park Service land on the entire NCT).

Motorists will want to pack a picnic before heading out on scenic county road H-58, the main driving route—portions of which are unpaved. Allow time for visits to sites such as Munising Falls, Miners Falls, and Miners Castle, the most-photographed of the park’s sandstone landmarks. The route also offers short hikes to additional waterfalls, rock hounding along Lake Superior and other scenic spots, including the Au Sable Light. Still in operation, the white conical tower with black lantern was built in 1874. Grand Sable Lake, Grand Sable Dunes and Sable Falls anchor the eastern end of the park. Note: the Grand Sable Visitor Center located here is open only until September 29.

Munising Falls; Photo Credit: Robert LawsonFrom the tiny town of Grand Marais, the eastern anchor of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, continue east to 6). Muskallonge Lake State Park, situated between the shores of Lake Superior and Muskallonge Lake. This was the booming lumbering town of Deer Park in the late 1880’s, and before that an Indian encampment. Follow county road H 37 south to the intersection of highway 123. From here you can head north for a scenic trip to the state park at Tahquamenon Falls, or turn south to Newberry. Just a mile and a half before town is the Tahquamenon Logging Museum, a complex that includes Civilian Conservation Corps buildings, a one-room school house, pioneer home, nature trail and lumberjack cookshack, where the public can occasionally enjoy bountiful breakfasts (in season).

At M-28 head west to 9) Seney National Wildlife Refuge, a safe haven for migratory birds, especially Canada Geese. The seven-mile Marshland Wildlife Drive takes you through a small portion of the 95,455-acre mix of marsh, swamp, bog, grasslands and forest habitat. Bicycling, hiking and canoeing are also permitted. Early morning and evening are the best time to spot eagles, beavers, black bears, deer and a multitude of other wildlife that call Seney home.

Continue about 34 miles west along “The Seney Stretch.” Fall color adds seasonal interest to the long, strait roadway, often recognized as the state’s most boring route. The highway leads back to Munising and two of the area’s 17 waterfalls, including roadside Alger Falls. Be sure to take a short detour to Wagner Falls Scenic Site, just west of M-28 on M-94. At 22 acres it’s the smallest park in the state system. A worthwhile, half-mile trail through virgin pine and hemlock trees takes you to an observation deck overlooking the falls—an appropriate end to a fall color tour.

Saint Ignace – Whitefish Point – Engadine


Best Enjoyed: Mid-September to Early October
Approximate Length: 170 miles

Before leaving St. Ignace, be sure to visit the Father Marquette National Memorial. The memorial includes an outdoor interpretive trail, a picnicking area and a panoramic view of the Mackinac Bridge.

Head north out of St. Igance on I75 to M123 at Exit 352. Turn left onto M123 and continue north to Paradise through the Hiawatha National Forest. The northern hardwoods and conifers of the Hiawatha National Forest offer spectacular fall colors. At Paradise, follow Whitefish Point Road north to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum & Whitefish Point Light Station. View the fury of Lake Superior at the museum and take a trip back in time on a guided tour of the fully restored 1861 lightkeepers quarters of the oldest active light on Lake Superior.

Tahquamenon Falls in Fall; Photo Credit: Thomas A. Schneider Backtrack to Paradise and head west on M123 to Tahquamenon Falls State Park, one of the largest waterfalls west of Niagra. Tahquamenon Falls consists of the Upper and Lower Falls. The Upper Falls is 200 feet wide and drops nearly 50 feet. The Lower Falls consists of a series of five smaller falls surging around an island. It can be viewed from the riverbank or the island, and can be reached by rented rowboat. The park includes more than 30 miles of trails open to hikers and has one of Michigan’s largest old-growth forest stands.

Continue west on M123 towards Newberry. At Four Mile Corner turn right on H-37 and go 4-1/2 miles to Oswald’s Bear Ranch. This complex is the largest bear-only ranch in the United States. Here you will see 24 American Black Bears in their unique and natural habitats. All of the fenced in large habitats are well maintained and safe for your viewing. The ranch is open through September 30.

Newberry offers many hiking opportunities including the Canada Lake Pathway in the Lake Superior State Forest.

Continue south on M-123 to M-28. Turn right and head west to M-117. Turn left on M-117 and head south through Engadine to US-2. Turn left at US-2 and head east back to St. Igance.

About six miles east of Naubinway you will find Garlyn Zoological Park. See live cougar, bear, wolves, reindeer and more. Feed can be purchased to feed many of the animals. The kids will love it.

As you continue east the scenery along US-2 becomes increasingly gorgeous with bay views of Lake Michigan. In one grand stretch, the lake breaks through fully, and you’re literally skimming a beachside causeway. Bordering the road are huge dunes, real sand dunes with green tufts of mixed grass sprouting amidst the golden grains.

Coming into St. Ignace along US-2, be sure to stop at a number of “scenic overlooks” west of town, all offering a chance to stretch and view the Mackinac Bridge over blue Lake Michigan.

Sault Sainte Marie – Drummond Island – Hessel



Best Enjoyed: Mid-September to Early October
Approximate Length: 160 miles

The oldest European settlements in the Midwest, and the third oldest in the U.S., are at the heart of this tour of the Eastern Upper Peninsula. As early as 1618 French explorer Etienne Brulé, looking for a route to the Orient, paddled to the land inhabited by the Chippewa (Ojibwa) Indians. Fur trappers followed in the mid-1600s and in 1668 Father Jacques Marquette founded a Jesuit missionary at Sault Ste. Marie. In 1671 he did the same at Michilimackinac, which the priest renamed St. Ignace. The historic city at the Straits of Mackinac is a good place to begin this 160-mile tour; fall color is best from mid-September to early October.

1).Straits State Park in St. Ignace is well worth a visit for the one-mile trail with views of the 2) Mackinac Bridge, and a bit of area history at the Father Marquette Memorial.

Follow US-2 (it becomes State Street) through the city of St. Ignace, and visit the excellent Museum of Ojibwa Culture and museum shop with authentic Native American art, crafts, music and books (closes for the season in mid-October). In St. Ignace you can catch a ferry to Mackinac Island for a day or several. No cars are allowed on the historic island, where the 18th century Fort Mackinac and legendary Grand Hotel, shops and private Victorian cottages are well worth exploring by bicycle, horseback or carriage. Be sure to take in the fall color along the shoreline path and interior trails of Mackinac Island State Park—Michigan’s first state park (and only the second one in the nation).

Back on the mainland Upper Peninsula, head north out of St. Ignace on I-75 for a short distance, past the natural formation known as Castle Rock. At 195 feet high, it served Indians as a lookout and offers great views of autumn hues.

At state route M-134 travel east to the area of islands and waterfront villages known as Les Cheneaux (“the channels,” sometimes referred to as “The Snows”). Fishing and boating, boatbuilding and nature are important in this area which—although it is populated with second homes for “Trolls” (people who live in territory below the Mackinac Bridge) — retains an unpretentious, laid-back feel. Antique wooden boats are regularly used as transportation between the mainland and islands, and for pleasure cruising, and hopping among the three dozen islands. The quiet waters are ideal for kayaking and canoeing as well. The pleasant drive along M-134 through areas of forests, marshlands, bays, low dunes, and nature preserves is dotted with the towns of Hessel, Cedarville, and De Tour Village. At the far eastern tip of the U.P. the De Tour ferry carries passengers and vehicles on a 15-minute crossing to Drummond Island. The heavily wooded island is a haven for hikers, paddlers, mountain bikers, hunters, boaters, fishers and observers of nature. There are cottages for rent and the Drummond Island Resort offers many amenities, including its acclaimed golf course, but it’s also nice just to take the ferry for a picnic and drive around the island.

From De Tour Village zig-zag along M-48 and M-129 north along country roads through color-rimmed farmland and the small towns of Goetzville, Raber, Stalwart, Pickford and Donaldson, to Sault Ste. Marie.

This centuries-old center for shipping shares its name with its Canadian sister city across the St. Marys River. The Michigan city is the home of the two Soo Locks, which compensate for a 21-foot difference in water levels and make possible navigation between Lakes Superior and Huron. It’s fascinating to examine the exhibits in the visitor center and—if the timing is right—watch giant Great Lakes freighters and ocean-going “salties” squeeze through the engineering marvels. The Soo Lock Boat Tours offer cruises that serve dinner (and sometimes an up-close and personal look at a 1,000-foot freighter) with a backdrop of fall color.

Get an overview of Sault Ste. Marie and the surrounding seasonal patchwork of orange, red, yellow and bronze from the top of the 21-story Tower of History, four blocks east of the Soo Locks. For another kind of colorful experience visit the Kewadin Casino in Sault Ste. Marie, which showcases top names in entertainment in addition to plenty of gaming excitement.

Follow I-75 south out of Sault Ste. Marie to M-28, and jog west for about seven miles to  14)  Brimley State Park. Established in 1923, this is one of the oldest U.P. state parks. Located on the Lake Superior shore at Whitefish Bay, this is a great spot for enjoying a fall picnic.

It’s a quick trip along I-75 south to St. Ignace and a hot cup of coffee at Java Joe’s Café.