Autumn is a special time in Michigan. The vast wilderness looks like an impressionist’s painting, and the bursts of color found throughout cities and towns pop with joyous flare. The Northwest Lower Michigan region, between Grand Rapids and the Mackinac Bridge, is abundant with color and life this time of year. Here are three fall trails worth exploring this year, particularly during peak color.
An intriguing, more urban trail to take is the 18-mile Cadillac Route in and around downtown Cadillac. The full loop takes you around Lake Cadillac and Lake Mitchell, as well as through the downtown area.
The 7-mile Cadillac Foot and Bike Path is a popular choice as it offers a chance to explore downtown – and its share of shops and eateries – and continue on to Lake Mitchell, which sits at the edge of the Manistee National Forest. Visit https://cadillacmichigan.com/in-town-fall-color/ for an interactive map of the trail to better select a route and amusements that suit your interests and physical capabilities.
A unique excursion can be had in the lakeside town of Muskegon. The Depot to Depot Fall Color Tour is a fall tradition that takes place throughout the month of October. It’s a self-guided tour that can be taken either by vehicle or by bicycle stretching from the Muskegon South Pierhead Light to the White River Light Station – two iconic Michigan lights.
There are special deals to be had along the way at local establishments, and you can also enter the annual contest by sharing a favorite photo or selfie from the tour. The winner receives an overnight stay at a local inn and round-trip passenger passes aboard the Lake Express High-Speed Ferry. During your tour, or following, visit Muskegon’s Haunted Hall if you particularly enjoy Spooky Season.
If you are looking for a more private expedition, go north to the Houdek Dunes Natural Area. It’s off of M-22 (this driving tour explores more of that gorgeous road) just north of Leland, but only marked by a small sign on the left side of the road so it’s easy to miss.
Houdek Dunes was formed from glacial sediments about 4,000 years ago, and you’ll encounter an incredible combination of dunes and wooded forests including century-old birch trees, mature pines, dense green ferns, and the Houdek Creek, a spring-fed trout stream that flows into North Lake Leelanau. The trail features 3/4 and 1-1/2 mile loops. Plan on a couple hours if you’re walking.
On the opposite side of the state…Trek the Corsair Trails near Tawas.