From the October 2019 issue

3 Leaf Peeping Season Highlights in Michigan and Beyond

Fall is here and the trees are starting to change colors. Get a great view this leaf peeping season in Michigan and New Hampshire.

A line of trees changing colors
Photo of Red Arrow Highway by Joshua Nowicki

October is the time of year when the trees put on a show. And there’s plenty of opportunities in Michigan and beyond to see the leaves change color this leaf peeping season.

Here are three options – two in Michigan and one in New Hampshire – for those looking for a color tour and other family fun. Take a gander at the activities each spot has to offer and then make a day trip (or vacation) out of it.

 Close to Home: Thumbs Up for Autumn

 Let Michigan’s unique mitten shape inspire your fall drive. On this trip, it’s all about the Thumb, which sticks out into Lake Huron and offers a fall fireworks show this time of year – bursting into displays of yellows, reds and amber.

Start at Port Huron and work your way along M-25. Feel free to make stops along the way, like at Fort Gratiot, Michigan’s oldest operating lighthouse – or try Port Crescent State Park or Sleeper State Park.

For the ultimate finale, take an extended pit stop to Dow Gardens in Midland. “There is such an array of things to do and see at the gardens year round,” says Carolynn Paten, assistant director of guest operations. “But in the fall, these experiences are heightened by the natural beauty of our impressive trees in peak color.”

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The 110-acre display of Mother Nature’s finest includes a children’s garden and access to Whiting Forest, which houses the longest canopy walk in the country. Your kids can stroll their way right into the trees to be fully immersed! The 1,400-foot long canopy rises to 40 feet (have your smartphone ready for pictures).

For fall visitors, Paten suggests coming to some of Dow Gardens’ special events. “Fall Walk is a local favorite. On this special evening, guests enjoy the beauty of the season enhanced with fresh doughnuts and cider, locally crafted hard ciders, a festive band and great company.”

It’s followed by an outdoor showing of the 1984 film Ghostbusters. The event takes place Friday, Oct. 11 this year.

A Day Trip: Fall for Red Arrow Highway

On the other side of the state, meander along Michigan’s southwest corner for another splash of fall color. Red Arrow Highway hugs Lake Michigan’s shoreline, winding through cozy towns that offer plenty of cool stops.

Follow the highway from St. Joseph and down the coast through Grand Mere State Park, Warren Dunes State Park and the town of Union Pier.

“It’s dotted with orchards and vineyards,” says Dave Lorenz, vice president of Travel Michigan. “Visitors can sample wines at tasting rooms along the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail and stop at U-pick farms like Nye’s Apple Barn.”

While you’re in St. Joseph, Lorenz encourages visitors to spend time lakeside.

“Fall is actually a great time to catch surfers at Silver Beach, which is a surprising sight to many – but surfing the Great Lakes is a growing pastime.”

Even Farther Away: Chugging Through the Leaves

New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest is well known for stunning views any time of the year. But in the fall, the 800,000-acre forest, which also includes parts of neighboring Maine, is blanketed with color.

Besides driving, consider riding one of three sightseeing trains, including the Hobo Railroad, the Conway Scenic Railroad or the Mount Washington Cog Railway.

Another option? A sky view. Several area ski resorts open up their chairlifts for visitors to ride up the mountainsides and see the fall colors.

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