September signals the start of Michigan’s fall color season — the brief yet spectacular few weeks each year when blazing autumn hues unfurl across the state. To help you soak up this stunning time of year, we’ve compiled a dozen of Michigan’s best scenic drives for fall color, ranging from quick urban-ish jaunts to lengthy coastal cruises, with plenty of suggestions for where to stop, stretch your legs, and sight-see along the way.
St. Ignace to Naubinway (U.S. 2) : This U. P. route skirts the narrow northern tip of Lake Michigan, curving along wild, vacant stretches of sandy beach and through the southern end of Sault Ste. Marie State Forest. Extend the trip by heading to Manistique and Palms Book State Park to see Kitch-iti-Kipi, Michigan’s largest freshwater spring. // Travel time: 45 minutes. Must-stop spot: U.S. 2′s Cut River Bridge, whose architecture makes for a lovely contrast against the scenic valley below.
Old Mission Peninsula (M-37): This finger of land in Traverse City cuts right up the middle of Grand Traverse Bay, giving you beautiful blue-water views to both the east and west. Wind your way north past hilly vineyards and orchards, stopping at the peninsula’s wineries along the way. // Travel time: 1 hour. Must-stop spot: The historic Mission Point Lighthouse sits on a beach at the peninsula’s end, surrounded by hiking trails that meander through woods and old orchards.
M-22 (Traverse City to Empire): Trace the coastal edges of the lush and lovely Leelanau Peninsula, where you’ll find wineries, galleries, farm stands, overlooks, and lots of small towns to explore. Start in downtown Traverse City, heading north on M-22 to Northport, then head south again to Empire. Take M-72 back to Traverse City, or extend your trip and drive farther south into scenic Frankfort, Arcadia and Manistee. // Travel time: 2 hours. Must-stop spot: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore; here’s our four-season guide.
Sunrise Coast (Pure Michigan Byway): The 200-mile stretch of U.S. 23 that connects Standish to Mackinaw City makes an excellent full-day fall-color drive. It hugs the Lake Huron shoreline, winds through the Black River Hills, and passes through coastal towns where you’ll find hiking trails, pristine beaches, and 19 lighthouses, among other gems. // Travel time: 4 hours. Must-stop spot: Tawas Point State Park, home of the historic Tawas Point Lighthouse, is considered one of the best migratory monarch butterfly spots in the Midwest — and coincidently, September is this spectacle’s peak season.
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The Tunnel of Trees (M-119): There are quicker ways to get to Cross Village from Harbor Springs than this twisty section of narrow two-lane, but you’d be missing out on one of Michigan’s prettiest stretches of pavement. The road runs along a high Lake Michigan bluff and frequently dips beneath a canopy of interlacing branches, which is how this drive earned its now-legendary nickname. // Travel time: 47 minutes. Must-stop spots: You can find them all here in our Tunnel of Trees guide.
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Copper Country Trail National Byway: This byway covers the length of U.S. 41, heading straight up the Keweenaw’s Peninsula’s spine through the U.P.’s wild and wildly scenic Copper Country. // Travel time: 2 hours. Must-stop spot: Take a detour for a scenic cruise up the 9-mile Brockway Mountain Drive; the view from the top is breathtaking.
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Grand Marais to Munising (H-58): This roadway connects the picturesque U.P. towns of Munising and Grand Marais — and it does so by driving straight through the stunning Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, home to waterfalls, sandstone Lake Superior cliffs, hiking trails and beautiful views galore. // Drive time: 1 hour. Must-stop spot: Chapel Rock is a Pictured Rocks landmark, accessible via a 3-mile hike through the woods. For a shorter but equally scenic hike, follow the same trail 1.5 miles in to see Chapel Falls.
River Road National Scenic Byway: This drive begins in Oscoda before diving into the Huron-Manistee National Forest, where it parallels the Au Sable River for 22 miles. There are several scenic stops and trailheads along the way (the U.S. Forest Service has a downloadable route guide here). // Drive time: 1 hour. Must-stop spot: Lumberman’s Monument, a tribute to Michigan’s logging history; and Foote Pond Overlook, an incredible spot for viewing fall foliage.
Newberry to Paradise (M-123) : This lovely stretch of Upper Peninsula roadway winds through the Newberry State Forest Area and Tahquamenon Falls State Park before ending in Paradise at the shores of Lake Superior. // Drive time: 40 minutes. Must-stop spot: Tahquamenon Falls and the Tahquamenon River, naturally; Whitefish Point for Michigan history and lighthouse views at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum.
Black River National Forest Scenic Byway (County Road 513): Chase waterfalls along this short section of highway, which heads north from Bessemer in the western U.P. and follows the path of the Black River in the Black River Harbor Recreation Area. // Drive time: 25 minutes. Must-stop spots: This route includes access to five waterfalls, including Rainbow Falls, where you can see the falls from both sides via a suspension bridge.
Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. The length of this historic scenic driving loop in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is only a little more than seven miles, but if you stop at every overlook, picnic spot and hiking trail on the map, you could easily spend a whole afternoon here. Interpretive maps (available at the park’s Visitors Center in Empire) suggest about a dozen stops along the way. // Travel time (without stops): About 20 minutes. Must-stop spot: Honestly? All of them; find our guide here.
Huron River Drive (Ann Arbor to Dexter): Hop on this twisty two-lane in Ann Arbor right before Main Street merges onto M-14 and follow it all the way to Dexter, or just beyond to Hudson Mills Metropark. The road travels alongside the Huron River the entire way, with several parks perfect for exploring or enjoying a pretty autumn picnic. // Drive time: 25 minutes. Must-stop spots: Bird Hills Nature Area for a hilly hike; Dexter Cider Mill at the route’s end for a peak autumn treat of cider and fresh-baked donuts.
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Source : https://www.mlive.com/news/2021/09/the-best-fall-color-drives-in-michigan.html1493