Best Fall Michigan Color Tour Spots Near Metro Detroit and Ann Arbor

Among fall activities in Michigan, looking at trees' leaves turn colors is sure family fun.

There are a few good reasons why the “Michigan color tour” is a thing. Every year, families head out to local parks or hit the road to experience autumn in all its glory. Mother Nature strikes foliage with her paintbrush to prompt beautiful hues and breathtaking views.

These color schemes typically peak mid- to late-October in southeast Michigan, but in 2021, some hot spots will be ablaze with fall hues as early as late-September. Check Pure Michigan’s “Fall for Michigan” updates for the latest.

In the meantime, here are some great spots, near and a little far, to plan your own fall activities in Michigan. Don’t miss out on those vibrant shades!

Addison Oaks Park

  • Address: 1480 W. Romeo Road, Leonard
  • Hours: 7 a.m.-9 p.m. during camping season, 8 a.m.-sunset late-October-April
  • Cost: $12/vehicle for non-resident, $5/vehicle for Oakland County resident (annual vehicle permits available)

A pair of lakes (Buhl and Adams) and spring-fed ponds provide a picture-perfect mirror for the vivid colors ablaze in this county park. The main park offers a 20-mile trail system guests can hike, bike or horseback ride. There will be no more cabin or yurt reservations for the 2021 season, but all existing reservations will be honored. Call to check if they’re taking reservations for 2022.

Bald Mountain Recreation Area

Nature enthusiasts go wild in this 4,637 fresh-air haven. This local Michigan color tour reflects in fishing lakes, two trout streams and sandy beach. Fifteen miles of marked biking and hiking trails keep you moving and provide a close-up view of classic red, orange and yellow foliage. The area has some of the most rugged terrain in southeast Michigan, so keep your trek tame if you have little ones. Want to go even further? There’s easy access to the Paint Creek and Pollyann trails.

Belle Isle Park

For fall activities in Michigan, this island/state park rules — and its elm, oak and hickory trees turn brilliant colors. You can drive, full-circle, around the isle or hop on your bike to experience that crisp autumn breeze. The aquarium and conservatory are back open.

Brighton Recreation Area

Oak and maple trees sway like multicolored pompoms along this park’s shoreline. Scale the hills, interspersed between lakes, for a better view of the grassy shrub marshes, where sandhill cranes strut and peck. Tackle 20 miles of biking and hiking trails (and it’s not uncommon to see horses on some of these trails). Find picnic shelters, a playground and modern bathrooms here, too.

Delhi Metropark

Your eyes get a full dose of russet reds on these 81 acres, home to mature oak trees. Nestled against a bend in the Huron River, this park’s a favorite of local canoers. Get there early enough in the season, and you may spot blue herons on the shoreline. Don’t miss a playground with a play ship, swings, slides and more. Pack a lunch for the picnic shelters, and bring your gear for the softball diamonds.

Detroit-Algonac-Lake Orion-Port Huron (Drive)

If you started at Belle Isle, why stop? On Pure Michigan’s site, you’ll find tips for pretty leaf spotting while driving north. Jump on I-94 to make your way to M-29 along the St. Clair River, which connects Lake St. Clair to Lake Huron (keep a look out for freighters, too). This Michigan color tour also touches Richmond, Armada, Romeo, Oxford and Rochester, complete with charming cider mill/orchard stops. There are also some mills and orchards along the way that may require masks at all indoor locations.

Flint-Brighton-Bloomfield Hills (Drive)

Along this 150-mile loop, be sure to circle through Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills, a historic landmark with gorgeous grounds (and attractions like an art museum and science center). Beyond fall-prime cider mills and orchards, swing by other beautiful parks including Seven Lakes State Park in Holly, Ortonville Recreation Area, and For-Mar Nature Preserve and Arboretum near Flint — and even more in Brighton, Commerce Township and White Lake. If you’d like to visit the science center, museums or arboretum while on your trip, check ahead for adjusted hours.

Hidden Lake Gardens

  • Address: 6214 Monroe Road, Tipton
  • Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays, closed Mondays
  • Costs: $5/person, free/4 and under

This 755-acre arboretum and grounds are nestled between the Irish Hills, offering fall activities in Michigan’s southern edge. Owned by Michigan State University, it’s comprised of a 500-specimen conifer garden, lush forests and manicured rolling hills. You’ll want to remain outside as the buildings and restrooms are closed during this phase of reopening. Outdoors, the deciduous trees erupt in red and gold classic hues, primarily courtesy of sassafras trees, but the trees with needles range from silver and blue to tawny gold.

Highland Recreation Area

This 5,900-acre park is one of the hottest spots to plot a Michigan color tour in Oakland County; in fact, almost every variety of tree that can be found in Michigan is thriving here. Take your pick of tamarack, cedar and beech-maple, oak-hickory and mixed hardwood forests. Other than day-use areas for picnics and volleyball and the occasional boardwalk over marshes, the area’s largely untouched. There are capacity restrictions in some areas and in buildings where you may have to wait for availability.

Hines Drive (Northville-Plymouth-Westland-Livonia-Dearborn Heights-Dearborn)

Drive this route, which is old M-14, that runs along the Rouge River from Northville all the way down and over to Dearborn. It’s lined with trees great for viewing the fall colors. You might decide to bike or walk portions, too, as there are various trails throughout. Find more information about the Hines Park Trail here. Plus, there’s a whole list of different attractions for your family to visit along or near Hines Drive, including the Nankin Mills interpretive center in Westland. Some buildings and tourist attractions may have reduced hours or restrictions, so it’s best to check the website or contact each you plan to stop at.

Holly Recreation Area

For an up-north style Michigan color tour without the drive, try this nearly 8,000-acre fall foliage extravaganza. There is 800 feet of sandy beach and tons of water, so bring a canoe or kayak and get up close to an array of color schemes. Rather walk or bike? Find beginner, intermediate and advanced trails and even technical terrain for those with extra stamina.

Hudson Mills Metropark

Cycle on the 3-mile paved lane or trek the 2-mile Acorn Nature Trail that winds through a dense forest for Michigan color tour perfection. The Huron River makes this a popular canoe spot.

Huron Meadows Metropark

Experience this queen of color — a 1,540-acre park, densely packed with oak and hickory trees — prime for your fall activities in Michigan. Manicured trails permit a leisurely look at Brighton’s picturesque park. Stop at the pier at Maltby Lake to admire foliage from a distance. Three picnic areas offer an ideal dining beneath kaleidoscopic canopies.

Independence Lake County Park

The shores of Independence Lake are a great Michigan color tour. Stroll along 3.5 miles of nature trails for a view of mature woodlands and wetlands, or opt for the nearly two miles of paved trails, where you can walk, bike or rollerblade. Colors are especially striking along the edges of the Indy and Woodcock prairies. This park also has three playscapes, disc golf and 100-plus picnic tables.

Independence Oaks Park

  • Address: 9501 Sashabaw Road, Clarkston
  • Hours: 7 a.m.-9 p.m. April-September and 8 a.m.-posted at park October-March
  • Cost: $12/park vehicle entry ($5/Oakland County residents)

Naturally maintained, this 1,286-acre county park offers fall views along more than 12 miles of nature and paved paths, including Hawk’s View Trail and the All-Visitors Trail. Catch awesome views of some of the most “wonderfully decorated hardwood forests” in the region along Crooked Lake and slices of the Clinton River. Swing by the ever-popular Wint Nature Center, too, to learn even more on your Michigan color tour.

Jackson-Ann Arbor-Monroe (Drive)

Sample the bursts of color waiting for you along this 195-mile Michigan color tour drive that stretches a bit south and west, largely consisting of scenic two-lane highways. Offering best views mid- to late-October, this journey also kisses tourist attractions like a “fudgery,” the giant Cabela’s in Dundee and charming Chelsea – along with other spots on this list. Check ahead if there are businesses you plan to visit to verify hours of availability.

Kensington Metropark

The 1,200-acre lake complements striking sunsets, and disc golfers get a 36-hole course for some unique fall activities in Michigan. See striking sunrises and sunsets and jump on the Island Queen II to take a tour of the island in the summer and fall.

Lake Erie Metropark

For a downriver Michigan color tour, follow the path along the Detroit River to watch freighters and see foliage erupting with color on the Grosse Ile and Celeron and Sugar islands. Benches and picnic tables dot scenic spaces along the river. Venture into the woods on the 1.6-mile paved trail or bring a kayak to float on the wetlands.

Lake St. Clair Metropark

One mile of shoreline and a 1,600-foot boardwalk lead you on a lovely Michigan color tour over the water. These 938 acres are a haven for boaters and inlanders alike. Walkers/bikers can explore the tangle of nature trails. The deciduous cottonwood trees have shiny green leaves that turn to gleaming golds and yellows in autumn.

Nichols Arboretum

Both native and exotic trees thrive in the artisan gardens that compose the University of Michigan’s arboretum. Peek at natural areas, trails, streams, ponds and display gardens, plus native oaks, walnuts, hickories and dogwoods to witness glistering golds, radiant reds and inky purples.

Oakwoods Metropark

One of the more popular Metroparks for color tours, this park has New England asters, goldenrod and more in bloom weeks prior to fall-foliage peaks of color, offering a striking canvas of color on the ground floor. When temps really begin to drop, the lanky birches and towering oaks and maples’ leaves begin to turn. Fall activities in Michigan here are easy to find on a 15-mile paved trail linking this park to Willow and Lower Huron Metroparks.

Paint Creek Trail

  • Address: 400 Sixth St., Rochester (City of Rochester Municipal Offices; park starts behind this building.)
  • Hours: 6 a.m.-10 p.m. daily
  • Cost: Free

This 8.9-mile paved trail connects Rochester, Rochester Hills, Oakland Township, Orion Township and Lake Orion and lures 100,000-plus walkers and bikers — Michigan fall color tourists included — each year. Admire oaks, hickories, maples and more. Check businesses along the route in advance for changes in hours and availability before you go.

Pere Marquette Rail Trail

  • Address: Seven staging areas; runs from near Main Street and Eastman Avenue in downtown Midland to near US-27 and US-10 in Clare (30 total miles)
  • Hours: No set hours; dawn-dusk daily
  • Cost: Free

Bikers begin at the Tridge in Midland. Peddle a bit, or go all 30 miles northwest to Clare via the asphalt path that parallels the former railroad corridor for a full Michigan color tour. The relatively flat route lets bikers admire forests bright with scarlet sumac over rolling fields.

Pinckney Recreation Area

This recreational paradise sports 11,000 acres and 70 miles of hiking trails. Its remoteness emulates a real backcountry Michigan color tour. Step back to take in the colorful tree line where the woods break around boardwalks over marshes. Hit the trails for a closer look at the white, red and black oaks and hickories.

River Bends Park 

A Macomb County gem, divided by Clinton River, this park is home to some beautiful trees. Find mighty eastern cottonwoods, at least five types of maple trees, and more. This wild forest escape has about five total miles of trails, plus loads of fall activities in Michigan style, like a disc-golf course, bike trails, hiking trails — and nearby, find Yates Cider Mill (off of Dequindre).

Saginaw-Bay City-Bad Axe-Frankenmuth (Drive)

Driving through the farm fields that make up the heart of Michigan’s thumb allow visitors to see striking tree lines for miles. Pure Michigan’s site maps out a 230-mile loop prime for a Michigan color tour on wheels – a good half flirting with Lake Huron’s shoreline. Why not start in Frankenmuth? Discover piles of side-trek stops too, from parks and farms to lighthouses and corn mazes.

Stony Creek Metropark

Another park that offers “up north” vibes without trekking outside the suburbs, Stony Creek boasts a 500-acre lake for kayakers and canoers, plus a total of 4,435 acres spreading across both Oakland and Macomb counties. Take a hike or bike ride to see the tons of color on your Michigan color tour. Picnic areas feature reservable shelters and grills for families to make a day of their leaf peeping.

Waterloo Recreation Area

This state park is the mitten’s largest at more than 20,000 acres of lakes, topography and 47 miles of hiking trails — along which you’ll spot russet red and blazing orange foliage. Bonfire pits, picnic tables and benches dot more open areas of the park to further your options for fall activities in Michigan; don’t miss the Gerald E. Eddy Discovery Center, which is open but with reduced hours.

Wolcott Mill Metropark

Wolcott is home to trees more than a century old that delight Michigan color tour enthusiasts who come in autumn to admire crimson reds, glistening yellows and burnt oranges. The Mother Earth Trail near the gristmill takes visitors to an old dam, where you can watch the tree’s reflected foliage dance on the water. Nestled between the north branch of the Clinton River and a working farm, spot colorful tree lines for miles from the road and shore, or stick to the in-park trails to get a better look at nature’s masterpieces.

Looking for more family fall activities? Check out our list of the best corn mazesu-pick apple orchards and haunted houses in metro Detroit and beyond.

This post was originally published in 2015 and is updated regularly.


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