Fall is one of the shortest yet most spectacular seasons of the year in Northern Michigan. And if steamy summer days stretch on through September and biting winds start blowing ahead of schedule in early November, you might just blink and miss this glorious time of year! All the more reason to be purposeful about squeezing in autumn activities while you can.
To help you stay ahead of these fleeting fall days, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite autumn adventures. Pick one or two, or better yet, give them all a try one of these crisp, sunny days. Come winter, you’ll be glad you did!
Hike Sleeping Bear Dunes
You really can’t go wrong in choosing a hiking path through our stunning National Lakeshore. Some trails are quite easy, others a bit more challenging, and all will take your breath away! The newly extended Heritage Trail, which runs 22 miles from Bohemian Road in Maple City to Empire, is popular with locals and visitors alike and winds through the park. A hike to the top of Pyramid Point is not to be missed. Visit the National Park Service website for trail information.
Bike through Leelanau County
If you’re an avid cyclist, there’s nothing like hitting an on- or off-road trail in the County. Road bikers gravitate toward the 116-mile M-22 — the most celebrated stretch of highway in Michigan — that meanders along the Lake Michigan shoreline, through the Sleeping Bear Dunes, and across the narrows of Big and Little Glen Lakes. Mountain and fat-tire bikers will find plenty of challenging hilly and rugged terrain on local trails. Michigan Trail Maps has dozens of meticulously detailed maps that can be downloaded for a nominal fee.
Visit an Apple Farm
What could be more quintessentially ‘fall’ than getting a bushel of apples straight from the farm? If you drive to Northport, you’ll experience apple Nirvana at Kilcherman’s Christmas Cove Antique Apple Farm. Open 7 days a week through November 1, this historic farm grows 250 varieties of apples — with antique varieties dating back to the 1600s! (The fact that Kilcherman’s has the word’s largest pop bottle collection on display is just a bonus.) Choose from perennial favorites like the Paula Red and Northern Spy, or be adventurous and try a Esopus Spitzenburg — reportedly one of Thomas Jefferson’s favorites. Bring cash or your checkbook as they don’t accept credit cards.
Go Wine Tasting
As popular as our wineries are in the summer months, fall is really the best time to visit. The harvest is underway, the vines are turning shades of gold and red, and there’s usually not much of a line to get up to the tasting counter. (Although be forewarned that weekends can still be quite busy with folks on color tours.) Late fall is also a prime time to tour the wineries production areas and spend some quality time with the resident vintner. The Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail has more than 20 wineries divided into three loops: Sleeping Bear, Grand Traverse Bay and the Northern loop. The Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula boast nine wineries — many with dramatic hilltop views.
Visit a Microbrewery
In addition to its burgeoning wine scene, Northern Michigan has become quite the up-and-coming microbrew destination. Many area breweries take advantage of locally sourced ingredients including Michigan malt and hops, as well as local tart cherries, honey, lavender, and more. One Suttons Bay brewery in particular has become a true destination in Leelanau County. Hop Lot Brewing Company has 12 beers on tap, great food, and a fantastic beer garden that’s open year-round. Sit around a roaring campfire or join friends (and meet new ones) at a communal table and raise a pint to fall in Northern Michigan.
Take a Color Tour
As detailed in last week’s blog, you can’t go wrong with just jumping in the car and seeing where it leads you. Check out some of our favorite spots, and don’t be afraid to explore and find your own!