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Photo by Todd & Brad Reed Photography
Though we love our summers here in West Michigan, autumn comes in a close second. What’s not to love about the thousands of trees that proudly display their vivid yellows, oranges, and reds. The crispness in the air feels so refreshing, and beckons you outside to enjoy a walk through the woods or a leisurely stroll along the lakeshore.
Temperatures greatly affect fall color. When days are sunny and warm in autumn, the colors turn a vibrant red and orange. Cloudier days will produce leaves with more yellows and browns.
You can begin to see color sprouting on various maples and oaks, with many of the trees maintaining their green color. The Upper Peninsula will start to see color change.
Fall colors inland in the Lower Peninsula peak around this time, but the trees along the Lake Michigan shoreline will not be as colorful.
The last of the trees in the Lower Peninsula along the lakeshore will be peaking in the last two weeks of October.
Fall also brings its own unique events– from Harvest Festivals and hayrides to corn mazes and barn dances. This is the season to visit a pumpkin patch, enjoy the goodness of fresh apple cider, or book a charter for some terrific salmon fishing. Residents head to the local football fields for that exciting Friday night showdown. Grab a warm cup of coffee or a bowl of soup at one of the area restaurants, where the friendly staff always makes you feel welcome.
In this part of Michigan, along the Lake Michigan shoreline, the colors are most vivid from mid-late October. Temperature, soil moisture, and sunlight play a major part in when the trees begin turning. Abundant sunlight means earlier color. Heavy winds and rain will drop leaves before they turn color. Perfect conditions are a growing season with ample moisture, a dry and cool autumn, followed by warm days and cool nights.
Mason County is especially beautiful in the fall. Plan on attending Ludington’s Octoberfest or Pentwater’s Oktoberfest, plus restaurants and shops are open and ready to greet you with great bargains and warm meals.
Manistee County is a gorgeous area to take a fall color tour. You can take a day trip and drive through canopies of brightly colored trees on roads that have little traffic. Stop along the way at one of many roadside farmer’s stands and treat yourself to a local, sweet honeycrisp apple. On the way through Manistee County, you’ll come across the friendly, small towns of Onekama, Bear Lake, and Arcadia, just waiting to help you create a harvest of memories.
Traveling north on US-31 from Manistee, pick up M-22 by the Casino. Follow this leisurely route through Onekama, then be sure to stop at the lookout point at Arcadia. Continue on M-22 up to Elberta and Frankfort, where you’ll find some terrific shopping and great restaurants.
Further north you’ll find Empire, the gateway to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. You’ll want to take some time and visit the park, which offers spectacular dunes and views of Lake Michigan. Continue traveing M-22 north through the Leelanau Peninsula and the towns of Glen Arbor, Leland, Northport and Suttons Bay. Each has its own unique personality (such as Fishtown in Leland) and various wineries are found in this area. Finally, end up in Traverse City, the cherry capital. It’s a great place to end your tour, with so much to see and do in this popular northern town.
It’s well worth an afternoon drive in October to travel the M-22 route. The vibrant colors will amaze you and the towns will welcome you.