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Michigan natives already know that Northern Michigan is a special place. This is especially true in the fall when the millions of acres of forests of the Upper Peninsula and the Northern Lower Peninsula burst into a blaze of brilliant color. You don’t want to miss these spectacular views! There are many great color tour options to choose from.

To help you choose, we have highlighted four of the best color tours in Northern Michigan. These routes offer spectacular views of brilliant fall foliage as well as interesting attractions and dining stops along the way. For your best leaf-peeping experience, you’ll want to plan your trip at the peak of color. See each tour description for the best time to go.

1. Eastern Upper Peninsula – Saint Ignace – Whitefish Point – Engadine

Begin in Saint Ignace and drive north on Interstate 75. Take exit 352 to get on state Route M-123. Take M-123 north to Paradise through the Hiawatha National Forest. At Paradise, follow Whitefish Point Road to Whitefish Point. Return to Paradise and get on M-123 heading west, then south to Route 28. Turn right on Route 28 and go west to State Route M-117. Turn left on M-117 and go south to Engadine to pick up U.S. 2. Head east on U.S. 2 back to Saint Ignace.

Interesting stops along the way include the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum & Whitefish Point Light Station in Whitefish, Tahquamenon Falls State Park with a 200 ft wide waterfall, Oswald’s Bear Ranch, and Garlyn Zoological Park with a live cougar, bear, wolves, and reindeer.

Peak Color: Mid-September to early October.

2. Central Upper Peninsula – Marquette – Negaunee – Au Train

Begin in Marquette and drive north on County Road 550 to Big Bay. Head back down County Road 550 and turn right on County Road 510. Merge onto County Road 502 and continue to U.S. 41. Take a right onto U.S. 41 and head into Negaunee. Take state Route M-28 to Ishpeming and then follow County Road 476 to Palmer. From Palmer, travel south on State Route M-35 to Gwinn, then continue on M-35 south to Little Lake. From Little Lake, head east on County Road 456 and turn left on U.S. 41.

Drive north to state Route M-94 and make a right to Chatham. Continue east on M-94 to Au Train Forest Lake Road. Follow Au Train Forest Lake Road north to state Route M-28. Turn left on M-28 and head west back to Marquette.

Along the way you can check out Marquette Harbor Lighthouse in Marquette, Thunder Bay Inn in Big Bay for a great meal, Michigan Iron Industry Museum in Negaunee and the National Ski Hall of Fame in Ishpeming.

Peak Color: Mid-September to early October

3. Western Upper Peninsula – Houghton – Eagle River – Copper Harbor

Start your tour in Houghton and Hancock. Take U.S. 41 north to Phoenix, then turn left onto state Route M-26 and head west to Eagle River. Continue west on M-26 to Eagle Harbor. Continue on M-26 to Copper Harbor. Take U.S. 41 south back to Houghton/Hancock.

Some great attractions on this tour include Quincy Mine in Hancock, Sand Hills Lighthouse Inn in Phoenix for an overnight stay, the Light Station Museum Complex in Eagle Harbor and the 1866 Copper Harbor Lighthouse and Maritime Museum in Copper Harbor.

Peak Color: Mid-September to early October

4. Northern Lower Peninsula – Grayling – Torch Lake – Lake City

Begin in Grayling and head south on I-75. Take U.S. 127 south to pick up state Route M-55 west to Lake City. Head north on State Route M-66 and turn left on State Route M-42 to Manton. Head north on U.S. 131 to Fife Lake. From Fife Lake, take State Route M-186 west and turn right on State Route M-113. Head west on M-113 to state Route M-37.

Turn right on M-37 and head north to Traverse City. From Traverse City, take U.S. 31 to Elk Rapids. Take Ames Street and continue north on Cairn Highway through Kewadin. Continue southward on County Road 593. Take a right onto Rapid City Road NW and head south to state Route M-72. Continue on M-72 to Kalkaska. Head west on M-72 back to Grayling.

Some great stops on this drive include North and South Higgins State Parks and Wellington Farm Park USA near Grayling and the Monroe Achers Bed & Breakfast near Manton. In Traverse City, you can sail on the schooner Manitou or enjoy a hot air balloon ride with Grand Traverse Balloons.

Peak Color: Late September to Mid-October

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