The autumnal equinox (which happens on Sept. 22 this year) is quickly approaching – but all the signs of fall are already around.
For some, autumn starts as soon as the first pumpkin spice coffee hits the local Starbucks. For others, fall isn’t really here until the leaves start to change.
Whether you’re a dedicated leaf-watcher or you’ve never done the autumn road trip thing before, we’ve got all the details of where to go for the best views of the seasonal foliage in Indiana, Kentucky and Michigan.
Let’s start here since it’s the northernmost point on our list – which means that the foliage is in peak viewing form up in that area first. According to the Fall Foliage Prediction Map, your best leaf-watching period is likely to occur between Sept. 26 and Oct. 3.
Want to plan a trip to catch all the best colors? Here are the places to start:
- Mackinac Island: Would any mention of leaf-watching in Michigan be complete without talking about Mackinac Island? If you want to feel like you’ve been transported to a simpler time or a different world, you’ll love the carriage rides and cobblestone streets – and the surrounding forest will be filled with color. (You can even get foliage-viewing flights through a private charter company while you’re there.)
- Tahquamenon Falls State Park: There are 50,000 acres of virgin woods to explore, along with gorgeous trails to hike and some amazing waterfalls. Back-to-nature doesn’t get any better than this, especially when the leaves start to turn color.
- Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore: You get the best of all worlds here, with the natural sandstone formations right along Lake Superior and miles of hiking available. The red and orange leaves in the fall make for a startling (or outright stunning) contrast against the blue waters, and is really a sight you don’t want to miss.
- Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park: Called “the Porkies” by locals, this place puts the “wild” in “wilderness,” to be sure. The Presque Isle River Waterfalls Loop is a particular favorite for hikers in the fall if you want to capture all that autumnal glory.
The best fall foliage isn’t predicted to be visible until the middle of October, at best – with colors still in full sway through the end of the month or even later.
With that in mind, you have plenty of time to plan a road trip that will let you experience the best sights. Here are the routes we’d put on our list:
- Clifty Falls State Park: You can enjoy a scenic hike through this park, which is filled with picturesque gorges and awe-inspiring waterfalls, all of which take on an otherworldly appearance when the fall colors hit. This park has long been a favorite for photographers and romantics alike in the fall, for good reason!
- Shakamak State Park: If hiking isn’t really your thing (or mobility issues have made that difficult), you’ll love the fact that this state park has a giant loop road that allows leaf-watchers to see the hickory trees and oaks as they turn yellow and gold. (There are also plenty of spots for camping, picnics and more.)
- Turkey Run State Park: Turkey Run is one of the state’s most popular natural spots, and that’s no surprise given the amazing displays of nature that can be found there. The park’s famous Suspension Bridge may be a bit of a hike to reach, but the view of the brilliant forest leaves in the fall is absolutely worth the trek.
- Monon Trail: Connecting right to Indianapolis and traveling all the way to Carmel, the Monon Trail lets you view the beauty of nature and canopies of colored trees from the relative ease of paved pedestrian pathways.
Being a bit further south than the other two states, Kentucky’s peak leaf-viewing season starts close to the end of October, but it’s over fast – by the time the first week of November is here, the best viewing time may already be over.
It pays, then, to plan your leaf-watching trip out in advance, just so you can fit all of these in:
- Lake Cumberland State Resort Park: This is a stunning place to camp, hide out in a cabin for a few days or hike at any time of the year – but it’s incredibly beautiful in the fall. There are some overwhelmingly lovely views of Lake Cumberland and all the surrounding foliage is perfect for photographers, naturalists and anybody seeking a way to reconnect with nature.
- Bernheim Forest: Dogwoods, beech trees, magnolias and maples create a riot of vibrant color in the fall throughout 100 miles of serene woodlands and mountains. There are over 40 miles of trails and freestanding displays of statuary to visit, plus flora that you just won’t see anywhere else in the area.
- Red River Gorge: Some folks think that the Gorge is – hands down – the best place to watch the leaves change in the entire state of Kentucky (and we can’t really disagree). There are dense forests here to explore and the colors are simply breathtaking to behold. Part of the Daniel Boone National Forest, this is also considered a great camping spot for families.
- Autumn Colors Express: Why walk or drive to see the leaves when you can ride, right? The Autumn Colors Express will take you on a three-hour train ride right through the heart of Southern Kentucky, including the New River Gorge National Park.
The change of the seasons can inspire changes in your home decor and design, as well. Whether you’re ready to make major changes or just need some help updating your home’s look for the upcoming seasons, there’s plenty of experienced design help available.