Although the fall colors in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula peak anywhere from late September to late October, you have to travel the Lower Peninsula to reach the Upper Peninsula where the peak fall colors arrive mid-September. A trip up the western edge of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula is worth taking this time of the year, however. You still may glimpse the turning of the trees, but you also get the chance to visit the lovely beaches and parks on your way.
Start your fall trip in Grand Rapids. This city has been rated tops for recreation and fun for the whole family. A favorite pastime is to take a chartered boating trip and do some salmon fishing on Lake Michigan. There is a children’s museum if you have kids with you, a beautiful sculpture park (Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park) and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum to explore. Everyone loves the John Ball Zoo for an afternoon of visiting with the animals.
But you want to get on your way up the coast along Lake Michigan. First stop will be Duck Lake State Park where you can hike or fish all day. All kinds of great adventures await you here. Traverse the terrain at the edge of the lake, climb the towering sand dune, or explore the hardwood forests. The Duck Lake Paved Trail is a half-mile hike worth taking. Five miles north you will come upon the White Lake area and you may find some great gifts when shopping in the fine gift shops.
Continuing your trip, you will reach Silver Lake State Park where the family will want to get out into nature, fit in some more hiking time and enjoy the lake in the autumn sun. The weather might even permit a dip in the lake, and there is a beach house where you can change. If you brought an off-road vehicle with you, there are trails to ride. Be sure to stay aware of the changing colors. This should be starting about mid-September.
Charles Mears State Park is the next stop. You can fish, hike, swim or have a picnic along the shore of Lake Michigan. You will find RV camping here with electric service and a playground for the kids. Hike Old Baldy Interpretive Trail for one mile and see what sights there are to see.
Off to the east is Manistee National Forest and if time allows, you must venture into the forest and discover all the recreation opportunities. Wildlife viewing is one activity you will want to do while here. You can fish in any of the lakes, ponds or streams and hopefully make a trophy catch. Bird watching is the best in Manistee National Forest. There are more than 400 species of birds that make their home here. The Kirtlands warbler is an endangered species that lives in the forest and you can get a guided ranger tour so you can view these gorgeous birds.
Remember, you are actually headed north to the upper peninsula to catch the peak fall colors, but as you go, be sure to stop at Ludington State Park with some great RV camping, and the Arcadia Marsh Nature Preserve farther north so you can experience the coastal marshes.