A first-hand look at autumn’s beautiful color can sometimes be much better than driving along a scenic route in your car. It gives you the chance to take your time and take it all in – well, if the weather allows that is. Whether it’s a short walk or even a hike, it certainly makes it worth it for the viewpoint you can enjoy.
SkyBridge Michigan – Boyne Falls
Although you must pay for a ticket, visiting SkyBridge Michigan is a unique stop to put on your list (make sure to buy online to save a bit of money). From the chairlift ride to the views from the bridge, this is sure to be a stellar way to see the autumn display in the Boyne Valley from the peak of Boyne Mountain Resort. Don’t want to walk across the bridge? No problem, you can still enjoy a chairlift ride to the top (at less of a cost), visit the Eagle’s Nest for a warm beverage or bite to eat, and then take the walking path around the mountain top.
Old Baldy Trail – Petoskey State Park
This half-mile loop located at Petoskey State Park has a staircase to help you reach the top and get a great view of Little Traverse Bay and the treetops. Although this is a short trail there are quite a few steps to climb, but keep in mind there is a small sitting area part of the way up if you need to take a break. Want to keep hiking along this wooded dune trail? Check out the Portage Trail at the state park too.
Avalanche Mountain Preserve – Boyne City
Just outside of downtown Boyne City, you can find Avalanche Mountain Preserve with a beautiful overlook of Lake Charlevoix at the top of a 462-step hike. Although it is quite a climb up the stairs, the view of red, orange, and yellow treetops surrounding Lake Charlevoix is certainly worth it on a clear day. There is a bench if you need a short break amid the many steps as well. If time allows, at the top you can walk on further within their expansive trail system meant for hiking and mountain biking!
Deadman’s Hill Overlook – Elmira
Just 10 miles south of Boyne Falls, the Deadman’s Hill Overlook is a short walk to have a beautiful view of fall color overlooking the Jordan River Valley. Although named after a sad story, don’t let the name scare you, as it is not named after a treacherous hike. A sign is posted with a story of Stanley Graczyk, a young lumberjack in the early 1900s, in memorandum of how he met his fate while driving a team of horses hauling lumber on the steep ridges of the Jordan River Valley. Read more about him there at the viewpoint and the land of yesteryear.
Today it has trailways that make exploring the land easier. This well-marked trail can be explored further than the scenic overlook by following maps posted at points along the trail – this also links up with the North Country Trail. There is a loop that I would recommend and try to make it out to each year… it is a moderate 3-mile hike that has beautiful fall foliage all along the trail. Great trail to bring a leashed furry companion too!
Offield Family Viewlands – Harbor Springs
This now natural area called Offield Family Viewlands hosts paved pathways around the beautiful countryside of Harbor Springs along what was formerly Little Traverse Bay Golf Club. There are a few spots along the trails that offer great viewpoints. Along with peeping those fall colors, this is a great spot to view the night sky on a clear night too.
Pond Hill Farm – Harbor Springs
If you’ve ever been to Pond Hill Farm during the fall you may have ventured to the top of their vineyard hill to do a little pumpkin bowling. Labeled as a Vineyard Overlook, this offers a beautiful view of the Harbor Springs countryside and glimpses of Lake Michigan. This is a pretty steep walk up, to be honest, but it is most definitely worth the trek up. A view of their farm map can be found on their website. While you’re visiting Pond Hill (hopefully during one of their Fall Festival Weekends if you have kiddos), make sure you check out their other fall offerings and pick out a pumpkin too!
Local tip: A visit to Pond Hill Farm is a great time to combine it with a drive along the Tunnel of Trees to get there. So, if your GPS doesn’t originally route you through the Tunnel of Trees on M-119, blaze your trail and take this narrow scenic route for Lake Michigan views atop this winding road.
Sunset Park – Petoskey
A great stop in the fall is also Sunset Park in Petoskey just off of US 31 is a quick detour while you’re on your way to your next fun activity in the area. Easy stop for the whole family! This view overlooks Little Traverse Bay towards Harbor Springs so you will see the fall colors blanketing Harbor Springs trees. A small gazebo, a coin-operated binocular for a closer look, and quite a bit of parking. Not enough parking here for you? Drive around to Bayfront Park and walk up the stairway to get this spectacular view. Want to explore a little further? The park offers a staircase that takes you down to Bayfront Park’s waterfall area.
This list is a great starting point of options but don’t let it stop you! Petoskey Area has so many great hikes, golf courses, and places to stay that boast glimpses and even breathtaking views of fall color unlike anything you’ve seen.
About the Author
Ellen Auten is a native of the area and loves to promote the next fun thing to do in the Petoskey Area – but also loves giving out information on her local favorites and learning opportunities for all. She hopes to help in your planning process for your next trip to the Petoskey Area of northern Lower Michigan.