The U.S. is full of secrets, with hidden gems scattered throughout the country. Perhaps you’ve experienced fall in the Mid-Atlantic region, where the Appalachians burst into fiery hues. Now it’s time for the Midwest, where peak season generally arrives in early-mid October.
This expansive countryside features lush forests, gleaming lakes, and seas of meadows that stretch on as far as the eye can see. Here’s our Midwest roundup of fall activities including scenic drives, hiking trails, and water routes for exploring the beauty of this colorful season by boat!
Scenic Fall Drives
Tunnel of Trees/M-119
M-119 is a winding lakeside route in northern Michigan near Petoskey, and well-known to locals as the Tunnel of Trees . This well-marked stretch begins in the city of Harbor Springs, Michigan, and weaves through lakeside forest for a scenic one-hour drive. Mature trees envelop the road, creating an explosion of color during fall. Best of all, glimpses of Lake Michigan peek through the foliage as you hug the coast.
The Tunnel of Trees will carry you 20 miles north to Cross Village. The scenic route ends here, but the adventurous can continue on M-119 to Wilderness State Park. This preserve features miles of shoreline, extensive hiking trails, and kayaking and canoeing on Big Stone Bay.
Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive
On the other side of Lake Michigan is Wisconsin. Natural beauty abounds and the Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive is a prime example. This route extends for 115 miles through astonishing swatches of orange and yellow.
The scenic stretch begins in Elkhart Lake, then winds south through golden hues and glacial rock formations through the Wisconsin forest. At the end of your drive, you’ll reach Whitewater Lake, a perfect place to relax at the beach. If you’re looking for hiking trails, the lake is adjacent to the Kettle Moraine State Forest.
John James Audubon State Park
Nestled near the Ohio River is John James Audubon State Park, a retreat in Kentucky that’s just one hour away from Santa Claus, Indiana.
For a family-friendly jaunt, try out the Woodpecker Trail and loop back around using the Kentucky Coffee Tree Trail. For a longer route, take the Wilderness Trail, which can be accessed from Warbler Road. The trail connects to the 1.3-mile Back Country Trail, offering even more hiking.
Be sure to check out the renowned museum and nature center. You can view original artwork from John James Audubon and a personal view of nature in the wildlife observation room.
Geneva State Park
A perfect spot to take in Ohio’s breathtaking fall color is at Geneva State Park, located along the shores of Lake Erie! A two-mile hike and bike trail follows the coast, with vivid fall colors on one side and the rolling waves of Lake Erie on the other. The park contains six miles of hiking trails in total.
While you’re in the area, visit the wineries that surround Geneva-on-the-Lake. Harvest season strikes in the fall and the wineries will be in full swing.
Kayaking and Canoeing
A paddler’s paradise, Grand Haven, MI, sits at the meeting point of the Grand River and Lake Michigan. This spot is perfect for kayaking or canoeing, and is less than an hour away from downtown Grand Rapids.
The best way to find a route is to use the interactive map of the Grand River Water Heritage Trail. We suggest starting at Bruce Bayou or Indian Channel and paddling downstream.
This route will carry you through Grand Haven, past the Musical Fountain, and all the way to Lake Michigan. Just make sure you have someone to pick you and your boats up at the end of your adventure!
If you don’t own a boat, give Lakeshore Kayak Rental a call. They offer kayak, canoe, and paddleboat rentals with two trip options that include transportation.
As you can tell, there’s plenty to do during fall in the Midwest. But there’s even more that we haven’t talked about yet. Stay tuned for more posts with fall activities to try!
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