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When to see fall colors in Northern Michigan

Hey northern Michigan, fall is just around the corner!

But, you know changes are starting, and soon the trees will be bright with red, orange, yellows, and browns.

Those typical early changing trees already have yellows, browns and even some red!


But the majority of the region is still green and will stay that way for a few more weeks.

So the question is when will we see color around here?

You might think the answer is simple, but it’s not. Color change depends on a lot of things.

First, sunshine is a major factor. The long days of summer sun keep the leaves green as the tree makes chlorophyll.  However, as the days get shorter, trees stop making chlorophyll and the leaves start changing.


This is when things get interesting for northern Michigan. The more sunshine we get in September delays the change. But if there is a big drop in temps and lots of clouds, then things change quickly. And we can’t forget the amount of rainfall, if we are in a drought, or there was a notable dry period during the summer, (which there was) plan on a quicker change.

So far, September 2022 is starting with lots of sunshine, some cool nights but warm days… something to think about.

What you see here is the average peak color across our local regions. Typically, the U.P. has peak color 1st, but parts of the Northern Lower aren’t far behind.

In this case, temperatures are the big factor and the higher elevations of the L.P. can be colder than parts of the U.P.


Since higher elevations are colder than the lakeshores, the change can be even more noticeable in October. Inland spots are generally past peak while lakeside areas are only at 50%. This is why the Tunnel of Trees, near the lakeshore, is one of the spots that generally doesn’t change until late October. The warmth of Lake Michigan makes a big difference!

I’ve been asked so many times when to check out the fall colors. This happens a lot especially when hints of color start.

My answer is mid-late October. The reason is, that there’s almost always good to great color somewhere in the area. Higher elevations are at peak or past peak (as well as the U.P.) and lower elevations are 50% changed or approaching peak.

If you want to check out early peak color I recommend taking a trip across the U.P. Western areas are incredible in Late September but it’s not a quick day trip.


In mid-late October, there are many areas to go see color in northern Michigan. Heading north on I-75 is a good start, with waves of orange and red around every bend. Traveling South along US-131, you’ll find incredible color from Petoskey to Kalkaska along the hills to the east. The key is finding multiple elevation changes to see color near and far.

If you can’t make a trip until late in October, plan on heading to places like Traverse City, Ludington or the Tunnel of Trees near Harbor Springs.

Please submit your favorite fall color photos from this year .

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