Fall Color Destinations around Great Lakes

Fall is approaching fast and some people begin to think – where would be the best place to enjoy fall colors around the Great Lakes… For those of you, who are planning a vacation to appreciate the cooler season and colorful scenery, below is the list of popular spots in states and provinces surrounding the Great Lakes.

Fall Color Destinations around Great Lakes
North Shore, Minnesota. Photo credit: northshorevisitor.com


Root River Valley

The Root River Valley, in southeast corner of Minnesota, is considered one of the great spots for fall colors. Especially, the stretch between Lanesboro and Houston is quite scenic and allows visitors to enjoy the scenery in few different ways. There is the Bluff Country National Scenic Byway (State-16) running parallel to the river allowing people to enjoy the scenery from a car. There is also the paved Root River State Trail for hikers, cyclists and others to explore the area. The prime time is usually between late September and mid-October.


Stillwater is located east of Minneapolis, on the St. Croix River right on the border with Wisconsin. It is another popular fall destination in Minnesota. One of the best ways to enjoy fall colors is from a replica of an 1890’s paddleboat, that cruises the river.

Discover Stillwater

North Shore

Minnesota’s North Shore is a 150-mile section of Lake Superior north shore from Duluth to Grand Portage. It’s lined with forest covered mountains, waterfalls, and small towns. The North Shore Scenic Drive (State-61 – from Duluth to Grand Portage) allows for 150 miles of great scenery. Furthermore, there is a number of state parks along the way that provides you with more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.

North Shore Visitor

Great River Bluffs

Yet another great location for fall scenery are Great River Bluffs along the Mississippi River. The scenic section stretches between towns of Red Wing and La Crescent along the route 61. Stop at scenic overlooks at two state parks – Frontenac and Great River Bluffs State Parks.

Great River Bluffs

Fall Color Destinations around Great Lakes
Fall around Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Photo credit: visitlakegeneva.com


Lake Geneva

Lake Geneva, located not far from the Illinois border, is another popular fall destination. Enjoy the lakeshore surroundings from the 21 -mile path that is dotted with Gilded Age mansions. The autumn colors can be expected from early September through October.

Lake Geneva Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

Travel Wisconsin – Fall Color Report

Door County

Door County is often called “Cape Cod of the Midwest”. In the fall, many of the quaint villages in the area look more like New England towns.

Travel Wisconsin – Fall Color Report


Starved Rock State Park

One of the most popular state parks in Illinois, Starved Rock is located along southern bank of Illinois River not far from town of Oglesby. The park has miles of hiking trails, some along the river, offering magnificent views of surrounding hills covered by forest. Expect peak colors from late October to early November.

Starved Rock State Park


Galena, located in northwestern Illinois, is another popular fall tourist destination. The town offers many different ways to enjoy the season. From stroll in the park, to trolley bus tours, to hiking, biking and kayaking – there are many ways to enjoy the area. Also, there is Chestnut Mountain Resort, offering some amazing views from high above the river. Expect peak colors in mid-October.

Visit Galena

Fall Color Destinations around Great Lakes
Covered Bridges in Parke County, Indiana. Photo credit: coveredbridges.com


Brown County

Brown County with Indiana’s biggest state park is considered by many to be the state’s best spot to enjoy autumn.  It is located about 10 miles south of Indianapolis.

Brown County – Fall Season

Parke County’s covered bridges

You find Parke County about 50 miles west of Indianapolis in the Wabash River Valley.  This is an area with the nation’s highest concentration of covered bridges. All thirty-one of them! You can get information about the area in the visitor’s center in Rockville.

Parke County Convention & Visitors Commission

Fall Color Destinations around Great Lakes
Fall scenery In Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan. Photo credit: Pure Michigan.


Upper Peninsula

Most of Upper Peninsula is covered by forest and therefore you can enjoy fall scenery almost anywhere there. However, the areas along Great Lakes will offer the most spectacular views. The best spots are considered to be in the northern Keweenaw Peninsula extending into the Lake Superior. The best time to enjoy the fall colors in the Upper Peninsula is mid-September to mid-October, with the peaks in October.

Keweenaw Peninsula – Fall Colors

Copper Harbor – Fall Colors

 Porcupine Mountains State Park

Porcupine Mountains, or “The Porkies” are considered another great spot in the UP to enjoy spectacular views of autumn landscape. Enjoy the hiking trails, dozen of waterfalls, and the views of the Lake of the Clouds.

Porcupine Mountains State Park

Porcupine UP – Fall

Tunnel of Trees

The “Tunnel of Trees” is the route 119 in northwestern part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. It begins in Harbor Springs and winds for 20 narrow miles along impressive bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan and ends in Cross Village. But don’t stop just there, unless only to enjoy lunch at Legs Inn. Then, you might as well continue east along the tip, all the way to Mackinaw City and then take a ferry to Mackinac Island.

Visit Petoskey – M119 Fall Color Tour

Highway M-22

Another great option for fall color tour by car is the highway M-22. It stretches from Manistee, generally following the Lake Michigan shoreline, to Sleeping Bear Dunes. Then it goes into Leelanau Peninsula, and finally turns south and ends at Traverse City. The area is beautiful in the autumn and also a lot less crowded.

M22 Color Tour

Fall Color Destinations around Great Lakes
Sunny day during fall in Brown County, Ohio. Photo credit: browncounty.com


Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which is just about 20-minute drive south from Cleveland, provides a great natural environment to enjoy fall. You can stroll along the 20-mile Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath or take a ride on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad train.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Hocking Hills State Park

Probably the most popular state park in Ohio. Spectacular in any season. Very unique landscape for the state of Ohio. The deep gorges, vertical cliffs, caves and waterfalls provide for some incredible scenery. All this looks even more scenic when surrounded by golden, orange and red plumage of the fall trees. Expect peak time to be towards the end of October.

Hocking Hills

Hocking Hills


Pocono Mountains

Located in eastern Pennsylvania and covering about 2,400 square miles, Poconos provide beautiful landscape to enjoy fall season. The region is so vast that you have some flexibility when to come to see peak colors.

Pocono Mountains – Fall Foliage

Fall Color Destinations around Great Lakes
Fall in Lower Peninsula, Michigan.

New York

Adirondack Mountains

The Adirondack Mountains are well known for their fall colors. In the fall, the colorful trees stretch along the Olympic Trail scenic byway, providing a picturesque show of colors. You can also enjoy the nature’s show from a train by taking the Fall Foliage tour on the Adirondack Scenic Railroad. Expect peak colors in early to mid-October.

I Love NY – Fall Foliage Report


Located on the northeast side of New York’s Finger Lakes, Skaneateles is a favorite spot to enjoy fall colors in the region. Expect fall plumage to appear in late September and running through mid-October.

Finger Lakes – Fall

Ontario, Canada

Algoma Country

When you go far north in Ontario, on the east side of Lake Superior you find Algoma Country. The terrain is hilly and mostly covered by forests. The area is very scenic in every season, so then you can imagine how spectacular it looks in the fall. One of the great attraction of the region is the Agawa Canyon Tour Train from Sault Ste. Marie.

Agawa Train

Rich S.
Rich S.http://www.greatlakesexplorer.com
Rich S. is a lifetime photographer and traveler based in Metro Detroit area. He has been traveling the Great Lakes area for over 30 years. Follow his blog about his trips, interesting activities and destinations in the Great Lakes region.

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