View from Summit Peak, Porcupine Mountains
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness Park
(see details lower down this page)
Western Upper Peninsula Fall Color Scenic Drives along Lake Superior
Maps Scenic Drives Fall Foliage Color Tours
Wisconsin Fall Color Scenic Drives along Lake Superior
North Shore Fall Color Scenic Drives; Fall Color Duluth, Minnesota
Below our Overview of what to expect for the 2020 Fall Color Season.
* See our regional tourism and weather report links midway down the page.
Some of the earliest Fall Color in Late September around Lake Superior can be found away from the lake south of Ashland, WI and in the western Upper Peninsula east of Ironwood Michigan. One color trip we've enjoyed in the past and would be a great one this year is a scenic waterfalls color tour in Northern Wisconsin and the western Upper Peninsula. This route takes in Copper Falls State Park, Potato River Falls, the falls along the Black River Harbor Scenic Byway, and the water falls along the Presque Isle River in the western park of Porcupine Mountains State Park.
The earliest fall color in the Porkies can be found in the woods and trails that are away from the lake. Don't miss the view from the top of Summit Peak and from the Lake of the Clouds Overlook. Later in the season the best color is nearer the lake and in lower elevations along some of the hiking trails.
In the Keweenaw Peninsula, peak color generally arrives late September, early October.
In the central UP a scenic fall drive I'd recommend is the H58 county road between Munising and Grand Marais, Michigan. Also you'll find good fall color along the road to Miners Castle in Pictured Rocks National Park. If you take a Pictured Rocks Boat Tour, in addition to the amazing painted rocks you'll get to see some nice leaf color as a backdrop. East of Pictured Rocks, between Newberry and Paradise is Tahquamenon Falls, beautiful any time of the year but especially with fall color as a backdrop.
In Minnesota Peak Color arrives in late September away from the lake and into the first week in October near the lake. We've found the best fall color along Scenic Highway 61 on Minnesota's North Shore is generally from Silver Bay to Lutsen, with hikes or a gondola ride to tops of mountain peaks giving the best color or a drive inland away from the lake. Some years along the North Shore you get a second season of fall color in October as the birches, aspen, and tamarack turn (always later than Maples, Oaks, and Hickories).
In Wisconsin, from Superior near Amnicon Falls to Ashland peak color usually arrives the last week in September and first two weeks in October. Sometimes peak color arrives at the same time as the annual Bayfield Apple Festival (the first weekend in October); other years it is a little later.
Planning your Fall Color Tour Vacation. For indicators of fall color change possibilities, check our Fall Color Change Report Updates Archives. For example, in 2014, several areas were showing good color by September 23rd; but in 2015 color change was more modest at this time of year. In 2016 & 17 color changed slower than recent years and lasted further into October. In 2019 color changed quicker, showing more in September than in recent years.
But watch out for waiting until Peak Color because some years the leaves start falling before they completely turn.
As we predicted in our earlier color change reports (see them below this section), color change this fall around Lake Superior is coming faster than normal.
Most areas along the Minnesota North Shore is 75 - 90%. Ditto for the Western Upper Peninsula and the Keweenaw. The same for Ashland to Superior, Wisconsin.
If you go this weekend you should be able to still catch some great color.
If you can't get North for over a week from now, in Wisconsin target the Bayfield Peninsula Orchard Area and drives around Ashland. Copper Falls State Park may still have some nice color too. In the Michigan Upper Peninsula consider the Central UP from Pictured Rocks to Tahquamenon Falls.
Last week we forecasted that "color change is coming quicker than in recent years" and that forecast is holding true.
Minnesota North Shore Fall Color. Fall Color along the Minnesota North Shore is approaching peak in the higher elevations away from the lake. Now is great time to take the Gondola Ride at Lutsen Ski Area. If you enjoy hiking there are several hiking trails from the lake shore to the top of peaks overlooking the lake - Oberg Mountain and Lookout Mountain are two of our favorites. If you can't get to the North Shore until after the coming week, you'll still get some nice color from Duluth to Gooseberry Falls State Park.
Michigan Upper Peninsula Fall Color. NOW is the time to catch good color in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness Park, the Keweenaw Peninsula especially Brockaway Mountain and along the Northern end of US 41, and around Ironwood and Black River Harbor. In the first and second weeks of October further east around Pictured Rocks and Tahquamenon Falls should show some nice color change.
Wisconsin South Shore Fall Color. The best fall color this week will be along Highway US 2 West of Hurley, then south along Highway 169 to Copper Falls State Park, then North on Hwy 13 to return to US Highway 2. On route stop in Potato River Falls County Park for some nice color by the waterfalls. US 2 from Ashland to Superior, WI should be showing some nice color. Be sure to stop in at Amnicon Falls State Park, very attractive during fall color season. If you can't get north until the first or second week of October at that time the Bayfield Orchards should be showing good color. See our Wisconsin Fall Color Drive Map here.
We've just returned from a trip to Black River Harbor Scenic Area and Ashland, Wisconsin. Fall foliage color is starting to show along US Hwy 2 between Ironwood, MI and Ashland, WI and along the Black River Harbor Scenic Drive to the lake.
Ash trees are turning yellow, the Sumacs turning red, tips of Maples showing orange, and some trees showing lime green as a signal of beginning to turn color. While not peak color, a very attractive palate.
We think the color change is coming quicker than in recent years. So this coming week and weekend could be a good time to take a Fall Color Tour of the Western Upper Peninsula (see Fall Color Tour Map here).
In Wisconsin, the drive north on US Hwy 63, US Hwy 51, and US Hwy 45 should show some nice color on the way to Lake Superior.
During many Fall foliage seasons, Peak Color never comes because the leaves from early changing trees have already fallen by the time the later turning trees show their color.
In our opinion having some bright yellows, touches of red and orange, lime greens, against the regular backdrop of green hardwoods, pines, and spruces is quite attractive. And if the weather is nice, well worth the scenic color drive even though Peak Color may be a week or two away.
So NOW (September 19th) is a good time to begin planning your trip. If you go now, do the Western UP. If you go a week or so later the Minnesota North Shore or Central UP around Pictured Rocks will be a good choice. Because the Porkies have such a variety of elevations and forest environments, parts of the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness Park will show good color between now and mid-October.
For useful historical comparisons of the Rate of Color Change, see our FALL COLORS REPORT Archives covering our reports from 2011 to 2019
See weather report links (BELOW) for selected areas around Lake Superior
Have a fall foilage or color report to pass along or a question - write me
Ross Reinhold - email@example.com
Regional Tourism & Peak Fall Color Report Links:
Michigan UP Travel
Keweenaw Visitors Bureau
Bayfield, WI Fall Colors
Superior-Dougles County Fall Color Updates
Minnesota: DNR NorthShore Parks
Ontario North Shore: NorthofSuperior.org
Ontario North East Shore: Saulttourism.com
Weather Channel Links:
Ironwood, Michigan UP
Houghton, Keweenaw Peninsula Michigan UP
Marquette, Michgan UP
Sault Saint Marie, Michigan UP
Ashland-Bayfield Peninsula, Wisconsin
Grand Marais, Minnesota
Wawa, Ontario Canada
Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada
Why Do Leaves Change Color?
"A growing season with ample moisture that is followed by a rather dry, cool, sunny autumn that is marked by warm days and cool but frostless nights provides the best weather conditions for development of the brightest fall colors," - - - Learn more from this article from the PBS News Hour's website.
SuperiorTrails.com - Reinhold Development - 2021
Lake Superior Camping
& Campground Directory
Best Camping along Lake Superior.
Lake Superior Travel Directories
Outstanding Fall Color Porcupine Mountains Lake of the Clouds scenic overlook.
Fall Color & Waterfalls along Black River Harbor Scenic Parkway
Tahquamenon Falls State Park offers some of the best fall color in the eastern Upper Peninsula.
Enjoying lake breezes and views at the Duluth Canal Park Brewery Beer Garden - Canal Park.
See the lighthouses on an Apostle Islands Cruise.
See our reviews on Best Hiking and Camping Guides around Lake Superior.