5 top sites for Michigan’s best fall color

5 top sites for Michigan’s best fall color

Travel Marquette by Travel Marquette

There are trees near where you live, maybe even as close as the backyard. And they’re probably very pretty when the leaves change color.

But there are some places where fall color is just, well, more colorful. Where it’s bigger and brighter. Where you can see entire forests of crimson maples and yellow birches. Where golden leaves contrast with the deep blue hues of the mother of all lakes.

Where you can combine the sight of fall colors with the sound of rushing waterfalls, and where you can literally climb a mountain to an incredible scenic overlook that will take your breath away.

people standing at an overlook, viewing water and autumn trees

Sugarloaf Mountain in Marquette offers a stunning vantage point for the season’s fall colors. (Photo credit: Pure Michigan)

As beautiful as this looks, fall color in Marquette is so spectacular that pictures don’t do it justice. You have to come see for yourself!

There are countless places in Marquette County with incredible views, and lots of ways to find them – driving, hiking, biking, paddling and more. To get you started with a plan, here are five top sites to see Michigan’s best fall color this year:

  • Marquette – Not to be confused with the Marquette Mountain ski area, Mt. Marquette offers a sweet vista overlooking the entire cityscape alongside the Lake Superior shore. It’s a steep drive up the 1,200-foot-high mountain, so a 4-wheel drive vehicle is advised. You can also park down below and hike or mountain bike up to the top.
    person walking on a wooden trail through a forest

    The Iron Ore Heritage Trail that winds through Marquette County is perfect for a walk or bike ride through the heart of Michigan’s best fall color.

  • Iron Ore Heritage Trail – A 47-mile multi-use trail that runs (bikes, hikes or walks) mostly east and west across Marquette County along U.S. 41, the Iron Ore Heritage Trail has it all – from the dense forests of the Marquette Iron Range through historic towns to the Lake Superior shoreline. While there’s gorgeous fall color the whole way, you could start at the Jackson Miners Park Trailhead in Negaunee where there’s about 2.5 miles of asphalt path ideal for a color tour on foot, bike or inline skates.
  • CR 510 bridge – An old bridge makes great pictures. So does fall color. Combine the two and you have the makings of something really special. The CR 510 Bridge west of Marquette toward Negaunee presents a quaint scene over the Dead River. The historic truss span is the longest of its kind in Michigan and is now open only to pedestrian traffic. A modern bridge just to the west offers a great spot for viewing and photographs.
  • Thomas Rock Scenic Overlook – About 25 miles north of Marquette on an impressive drive through cut rock on CR 550, or 25 miles north of the CR 510 Bridge on a gravel road through the Huron Mountains and tunnels of fall color, you’ll find a trail to the underrated Thomas Rock View near Lake Independence in Big Bay. It’s a relatively easy hike along a dog-friendly, wheelchair-accessible path to a rock outcropping that’s a natural lookout. Nearby, about six miles south of the CR 550 junction on CR 510, there’s a parking area near the bridge over the Yellow Dog River where you can hike a trail to Yellow Dog Falls. A large boulder splits the water as it flows over the impressive 20-foot drop on its way to Lake Superior.
  • Harlow Lake Recreation Area – From the shore of Lake Superior to one of the highest
    Harlow Lake view, Marquette MI

    Harlow Lake Recreation Area offers a wide variety of trails for hiking and biking with panoramic scenic overlooks.

    points in the Upper Peninsula, Harlow Lake Recreation Area has a diverse geography with a variety of fall color experiences. There are nearly 40 miles of trails for hiking and biking including some of Michigan’s best single-track mountain bike trails. Avid hikers can try to summit Hogback Mountain, from where you can see all the way to the Keweenaw Peninsula on a clear day. Other visitors might prefer relaxing by the peaceful, serene Harlow Lake.

RELATED: 4 fall color tours by car in Marquette

person carrying a kayak at Preque Isle in Marquette, MI

From driving through tunnels of trees to biking along a trail through the woods to paddling across a lake, there are many ways to take in Marquette’s beautiful fall colors. (Photo credit: Pure Michigan)

The warm sunny days and cool, clear nights of autumn in the Marquette area are perfect for turning out the best fall colors. And with a heavily forested landscape that features many miles of rivers and waterfalls, too, Marquette has a beautiful canvas from which those striking colors emerge. It’s no wonder USA Today readers voted Michigan’s Upper Peninsula the best place in the country for fall foliage.

Plus, Marquette County offers your first opportunity to see fall colors this year. While trees in most parts of Michigan stay green well into October, you can find leaves starting to change around Marquette by the end of September. And you can find peak color somewhere in Marquette County pretty much throughout all of October.

“If you go inland out to the west end of the county, the colors tend to change a little sooner there than in Marquette where it takes a little longer along the shore of Lake Superior,” said Susan Estler, executive director of Travel Marquette.

waves crashing against the shore

Lake Superior makes a magical setting for fall colors in Marquette County. (Photo credit: Pure Michigan)

“There’s so much more dense forest than anywhere else in the country, and to get all those colors to turn with the lakes, rivers, waterfalls and Lake Superior as a backdrop, it’s absolutely breathtaking.”

Find a place to stay in Marquette and start planning your ultimate fall color tour this year!