Any time of year, the stretch of Lakeshore Drive north of downtown Ludington that winds along the shore of Hamlin Lake is a gorgeous drive. This time of year, it’s absolutely striking.
In fact, it’s one of the most scenic driving routes in the state for fall color, according to the County Road Association of Michigan.
Yet, it might not even be one of the top three fall color routes in Ludington.
That’s because just a few minutes away in Ludington State Park are 20 miles of hiking trails through a forest ablaze with leaves of red, yellow and orange. At the Hamlin Lake Beach area of the state park, a four-mile canoe trail flows through lily pads along the tree-lined shore. And just a few minutes back toward town, in Cartier Park, there’s a single-track mountain bike trail that courses through the woods with views of Lincoln Lake.
Each of those routes offers a truly unique way to experience the bounty and beauty of Michigan’s fall color. And each one is better than the last.
The extraordinary mix of fall color and outdoor adventure is a big reason Michigan is one of the country’s Top 5 States to Visit in the Fall. And in no place is that combination more accessible than in Ludington, where you can take in fall colors by car, kayak, bike or hike – and still have time for dinner in town and a walk on the beach to soak in what makes perhaps the season’s best fall colors, a Lake Michigan sunset.
“Ludington offers a quintessential ‘Up North’ experience that is magical in the fall, whether enjoying it from your car on a color drive, your bicycle on a trail or your canoe on a river,” said Brandy Miller, executive director of the Ludington Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“Ludington and Mason County deliver the perfect combination of unspoiled natural resources and unrivaled outdoor recreation with quaint, small-town charm.”
Come see for yourself what makes Ludington so special in the fall. Here are six ways to experience the season like never before:
Lost Lake-Island Trail Loop – Of the 20 miles of hiking trails in Ludington State Park, the two-mile Lost Lake-Island Trail Loop that follows the western shore of Hamlin Lake and traverses a scenic boardwalk is a sure bet for a feast of fall color. It’s a favorite of Ludington-based photographers Todd and Brad Reed, who always make time for this trail in October to scope out the perfect fall photo op.
Cartier Park Mountain Bike Trail – There are picturesque bike paths and trails in Ludington State Park, including a gravel road out to the iconic black-and-white-striped Big Sable Point lighthouse right on Lake Michigan. But the four-mile single-track dirt mountain biking trail in the city’s Cartier Park on Lincoln Lake may be the best place to go on two wheels. It’s safe for beginners and intermediate bikers, yet offers the option of a more challenging stretch for experienced riders. The trail in Cartier Park also connects through brief street rides and Memorial Tree Park Trail to the Ludington School Forest, making for about 10 miles of urban single-track in all.
Hamlin Lake Canoe Trail – Hamlin Lake is one of the larger inland lakes in Michigan, yet the four-mile canoe trail along the west shore of the lake feels more like a river as you paddle through lily pads and reeds on a trip that can last one to three hours, depending on the wind. Ludington also is home to the magnificent Pere Marquette River, with many opportunities to put in a kayak or canoe for a water-level perspective on the stunning fall colors – and many chances to see wildlife.
Steelhead fishing – Speaking of the Pere Marquette River, there’s no better place to be this time of year for fishing. Not only is Ludington the top salmon port on Lake Michigan, but it’s also home to 40 inland lakes and 2,000 miles of trout streams. The Pere Marquette is a designated national scenic river that flows for 66 miles with legendary steelhead runs each fall. Come on over in your own boat or hire a charter captain to show you the ropes.
Mason County Agricultural Trail – If you don’t fancy fish, then how about fruit?
Christofferson Farms is one of several U-pick orchards and farms in the Ludington area where you can spend a couple hours taking part in the bounty of Michigan’s annual harvest. If you’re more into maple syrup, then check out Kistlercrest Farms. And if you like jam, be sure to visit the Jam Farm and try some of the 30-plus varieties of homemade fruit spreads from Ludington’s own “Jam Lady.” Those are just a few of the stops you can make along Ludington’s Agricultural Trail this fall.
Halloween Fun – Although it’s called the Haunted Village, the family-friendly trick-or-treating event at Historic White Pine Village isn’t really spooky. But there is a lot of costumes and candy! Ditto for the Haunted Hayride at Cartier Park Campground, which features apple cider, wagon rides and a scary movie. The October calendar of events in Ludington also includes the Spooky Slow Roll bike ride, downtown trick-or-treating and a West Shore Community College Theater presentation of “Frankenstein.” Plan your weekend around one or more of these unique events.
However you choose to experience fall in Ludington, be sure to take advantage of seasonal lodging specials. Many places to stay including hotels and B&Bs are offering half-off a second night’s stay Sunday through Thursday in October.