Michigan Adventure Ideas for Fall Color Time
Beautiful fall weather continues in Michigan, and many are taking to the roadways to see the great colors in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. Michigan Back Roads author Ron Rademacher was a guest on the WBCK Morning Show to give travelers some tips.
Western Upper Peninsula
Ron says the colors are peaking in the second week of October. Travel all of US-41 from Ishpeming to L’Anse and on to Ontonagon. Take a side trip to the Sturgeon River Gorge Falls and Wilderness Area.
Sturgeon River Gorge: The Grand Canyon of Michigan
In Baraga County, just south of the Keweenaw Peninsula, the colors are “off the charts.” If you visit, Ron says you’ll be “off the grid”. “This is a difficult place, but the canyon and waterfall are worth it. This is an incredibly beautiful area but the trail down into the gorge is quite narrow and can be treacherous. The wall of the gorge is so steep that the trail uses a series of switchbacks. Even so, sections of the trail are still quite steep and very slippery when the ground is wet and or muddy. This is a rough trail make sure you have proper footwear, like no flip flops. You’ll be going down about 400 feet.”
Ron cautions that there are no facilities at the trailhead or in the gorge at the waterfall. It is a wilderness. Take water and you might want a trail snack as well. It is a long way down to the river and it takes some energy to make it back up especially if you go in the summer and have to contend with heat, mosquitoes, and black flies.
Directions: The best way to get there is to go west out of L’Anse on Route 38 toward Ontonagon. In a short distance, you will reach Baraga Plains Rd. Go south and find Clear Creek Rd. Take that road for several miles through the forest to reach the Sturgeon River Gorge Wilderness and the trailhead.
Eastern Upper Peninsula
Ron has a great recommendation for a tour that’s a lot closer to the bridge. US 2 has construction backups at the Cut River Bridge, so he’s put together a nice little 3-hour trip on an alternate route.
- Take I-75 from the Mackinac bridge north to the Rudyard Exit H-40. Take H-40 west through Trout Lake to Engadine.
- Go north on 117, turn right/east on Route 28 for a couple of miles and take Route 123 north.
- Route 123 will take you north to Paradise. Loop south back to Trout Lake and back to I-75. Just before I-75 in the town of Moran is Kings Fish Market, with amazing smoked fish.
If you’re not able to make the trip across the Mighty Mac this time, Ron says the colors are great on the “Tunnel of Trees”, on M-119 north of Harbor Springs.
And another great drive is to the Northeast Tomahawk Flooding Region, on Route 33 between Atlanta and Onaway. It’ll take you to the Sinkholes and Mystery Valley. Ron says “One lake is known to be full one day and empty two days later.”