How to Get Smack In the Middle of Michigan Fall Colors: 9 Thrilling Adventures for 2020

9 Thrilling Ways to Experience Fall Colors with Your Family in 2020

9 Exciting Ways to Experience Michigan Fall Colors

You Will Want to Get Out of the Car

Michiganders know that fall colors are worth stopping for.

Yes, we’re lucky to have beautiful scenic drives all over the mitten state for our motoring enjoyment.

But, if you’re tired of looking out the car window and want to take your fall color tour adventure up a notch, here are some adventurous Michigan fall color tour ideas that will get you out of the car and into the action.

We suggest using the Smoky Mountains interactive color finder map to help with timing your fall color adventures.

michigan fall colors maps


The big questions are, who will you invite to join in on your fall color adventures?

And which one to do first??!

Take a look at this map to help you decide:

michigan fall colors adventure tours

And then hit the road for your fall foliage adventure!

1) Saddle Up and See the Colors on Horseback

Swap the car for a horse and you’re ready to off-road your way through the color-changing forests of Michigan.

Even novice riders can take in the beauty of fall on a guided trail ride.

Many places offer one-hour rides and will coach you through what you need to know for a successful horseback experience.

Where to Find West Michigan Fall Color Trail Rides:

michigan color tour horse trail ride

2) Take a $5 Chairlift for Maximum Color Views

On select Fridays and Sundays in September and October, you can ride the chairlift at Crystal Mountain to panoramic views of three counties during the peak of the fall color season.

Maybe even better than the view is the price: It’s just $5 per person. Ages 8 and under ride free with a paying adult. Free to houseguests.

And… a cash bar available at the top of the mountain!

Tickets are available for purchase at Crystal Mountain at the base of the Crystal Clipper.
*Dogs and beverages are not permitted on all chairlifts.

» Details

Crystal Mountain
12500 Crystal Mountain Dr. Thompsonville, MI 49683
crystal mountain chairlift rides

Photo: Crystal Mountain Resort

3) Make it a Double with the Autumn Color Train & Riverboat Tour Combo to Tahquamenon Falls

Get yourself to the Upper Penisula for this double delight.

The Toonerville Train and Trolley is special in the summer, but it’s even more divine come fall.

Because the colors in the U.P. change sooner than in Michigan’s lower peninsula, the tour dates only go into early October. This is one trip you’ll want to book ASAP.

When you go, be sure to plan to be gone for the whole day. This wilderness tour is 6.5 hours long.

You’ll start with a 35-minute narrow-gauge train ride, followed by a 2-hour riverboat cruise to Tahquamenon Falls, where you’ll dock for 75 minutes. Take this time to make the short hike to the Upper Tahquamenon Falls overlook.

After the stopover, rejoin the group and ride the riverboat and train as they retrace their route back to Soo Junction, MI.

You may see wildlife like bears and deer along the way.

Toonerville Trolley & Riverboat Tours
7195 Co Rd 381, Soo Junction, MI 49000

Fall Colors Tahquamenon Falls Riverboat Tours & the Famous Toonerville Trolley

Fall Colors Tahquamenon Falls Riverboat Tours the Famous Toonerville Trolley 3

Fall Colors Tahquamenon Falls Riverboat Tours the Famous Toonerville Trolley 4

Toonerville Trolley Tahquamenon Falls Riverboat Tours the Famous Toonerville Trolley

4) Rodger, We’re Going Up for a Scenic Airplane Tour

Orchard Beach Aviation in Manistee will take you high in the sky for super fall color views – starting at just $30 per person.

Manistee is home to the far-reaching (over a half-million acres) Manistee National Forest, as well as miles and miles of beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline. This sweet pairing makes for vivid lake views punctuated by endless acres of fall color.

When seen from a bird’s point of view, it’s unforgettable.

Orchard Beach Aviation at Manistee Blacker Airport
2323 Airport Rd, Manistee, MI 49660

manistee scenic airplane ride 1

9 Thrilling Ways to Experience Fall Colors with Your Family in 2020 1

orchard beach aviation manistee fall color flights

Photo: Orchard Beach Aviation

5) Off Road it Through a Colorful Canopy

Big Bear Adventures in Indian River, Michigan is opening up their ATV tours for fall colors this year and we think that’s a good thing.

Up to 12 riders can be accommodated for each fall color tour using their complete fleet of vehicles.

They have (1) 4-seat ATV, two side-by-side ATVs (2 seats), and two 2-up quad riders (2 seats).

Passengers must be 12 years or older to ride on a 2-up vehicle and 6 years or older to ride in a side-by- side.

Big Bear Adventures
4271 S Straits Hwy, Indian River, MI 49749

ride atv fall colors

big bear atv

6) Hike to the Empire Bluff Boardwalk

The boardwalk at Empire Bluff Trail in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a sight to behold at any time of year.

But in autumn? It’s otherworldly.

The 1.5-mile round trip trail starts by winding up and over forested hills and valleys until you reach the top of the dune.

It’s at this point you’ll find a lengthy boardwalk with dune-soaked views stretching for miles in all directions.

Plan to arrive for sunset and the color dial turns up in intensity even more.

Empire Bluff Trail, Honor, MI 49640

Sleeping bear dunes traverse city hike 3 1

7) I’d Rather Be River Rafting

If you’re prone to tipping, floating a river in the fall might not be at the top of your idea list – especially if I told you there’s a river in lower Michigan with a little whitewater.

Well, there is such a river – the Pine River – and I have a solution for you: fall river rafting.

The Pine River has a section of Class I rapids that will definitely test your canoeing abilities but are easily handled by a river raft.

If you put in at Peterson and get out at Low Bridge, you’ll experience the rapids. It’s about a 3.5 hour float time for that trip.

» River Map

Work with the good people at Pine River Paddlesports to hook you up with equipment, drop-off, and pick up.

Pine River Paddlesport
9590 M-37, Wellston, MI 49689

pine river canoe sports

Photo: Pine River Paddlesports

pine river rafting

8) Find Yourself a Cabin Up in the Trees

Make it a multi-day fall color adventure by booking yourself a stay in a cabin surrounded by woods -like this high-up Airbnb in Saugatuck.

Not only do you get to experience treetop views here, but the cabin also is perched high enough to see the harbor, too.

The wrap-around deck is pretty amazing, too.

It’s a pretty big place at 4000 square feet. The 5 bedrooms make this a pretty perfect multi-family fall retreat.
michigan tree house for rent

9) Zip Line Through a Colorful Canopy

Running through mid-October, the Boyne Mountain Adventure Center is another adrenaline-pumping way to experience the Michigan fall colors.

This 2.5-hour tour takes you from the top of the mountain down the hill and through the canopy.

If you’re looking for fresh air, speed, and big views, this is a must-do.

Zipline Adventure Tours are available now and through fall 2020, hours of operation are Friday-Sunday with departures at 10 am, 1 pm, and 4 pm.

The full rate is $66, and you can save $13 off available if you book a tour more than 21 days out.

Here’s more on what you can expect at Boyne when you visit.

Boyne Mountain Adventure Center
1 Boyne Mountain Road, Boyne Falls, MI 49713

Photos courtesy of Boyne Mountain Resort

Photo: Boyne Mountain Resort

BONUS IDEA: Take a Horse-Drawn Elk Viewing Carriage Ride Through the Colors

The Northeast side of the mitten is home to Thunder Bay Resort.

Most people don’t realize that, in addition to their popular golf course, this resort is also home to a 160-acre Elk preserve.

Thunder Bay offers Elk Viewing Carriage Rides (and sleigh rides) most any time of the year, but they are extra special in the fall when the colors are most vibrant.

You can even book a package getaway that includes a fall color Elk Viewing Carriage Ride, Gourmet Dinner & Wine Tasting if you’re so inclined!

Thunder Bay Resort
27800 M-32, Hillman, MI 49746

michigan color tour carriage ride elk viewing thunder bay trip advisor photo

michigan color tour carriage ride elk viewing thunder bay trip advisor photo 1

Photos: Tripadvisor

Know of Any Other Fall Color Adventures?

Leave a comment and let us know – we’re always on the hunt for more fall fun!


1428 Plainfield Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505

Artist: Evas’ve, LLC led by Elyse Flynn

Central District Cyclery

1309 Plainfield Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI, MI 49505

Artist: Elliot Chaltry

Murals Central District Cyclery

River North Public House

2115 Plainfield Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI, MI 49505

Artist: Mark Rumsey

I Love You

2458 Plainfield Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI, MI 49505

Artist: Erick Picardo

I love You Picardo Creston Mural

Lions & Rabbits

1264 Plainfield Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI, MI 49505

Creston has already snagged the title of Hottest ZIP code in the country, and it’s got the highest concentration of murals in the city, thanks in no small part to being the home of Lions & Rabbits.

This multifaceted space described itself as an art-driven, event space. Their gallery isn’t limited to inside the building. Along their eastern and northern walls, as well as all along the surrounding cement walls you find dozens of tableaus by various artists.

Murals Lions and Rabbits 1

Murals Lions and Rabbits 2


1 thought on “How to Get Smack In the Middle of Michigan Fall Colors: 9 Thrilling Adventures for 2020”

  1. Recommendation please for a Sunday day trip, I live in Lansing. Within 3 hours will stay 3 hours and head home. Hidden treasure would be great…water beach hike? Is that asking to much?

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