Where to capture the best fall photos in the Bays de Noc
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is renowned for its fall color. The Escanaba area is no exception. It is proudly home to a variety of wonderful fall color destinations and is perfect for nature, landscape and portrait photography. From towering old-growth trees and expansive views across the Bays to glassy lakes reflecting brilliant fall color and leaves floating down meandering streams, there are so many magical scenes to capture.
The Hiawatha National Forest is a favorite for color tours in Delta County because it is home to millions of hardwood trees which provide a rainbow of colors among the miles of uninterrupted wilderness. The inland lakes, rivers and streams, in particular, add to the appeal for photographers. The area is so vast that there are many hidden gems that few other photographers have discovered.
A must-see in the Hiawatha National Forest is the Haymeadow Creek tunnel of trees. Along the 0.9-mile loop trail, you will discover several small bridges and rapids which will add charm to your captures of the fall foliage. A little further west in the national forest, you will discover Rapid River Falls. Though not a large waterfall, its rustic beauty and photographic appeal are at their peak in the fall. This is a perfect location for focusing on fallen leaves on logs and stones and floating leaves on the water. When photographing waterfalls and rapids, be sure to bring a neutral density filter in order to take longer exposures to smooth out the water and give the scene an ethereal look.
Stonington Peninsula is another wonderful location to drive, bike and hike to discover unique image opportunities. The most well-known location is Peninsula Point Lighthouse located at the end of the Stonington Peninsula. The lighthouse offers views of the Hiawatha National Forest from the top of its tower. Not only does this location offer a spectacular view, but it is an important migratory flyway for birds, including species not frequently seen in the area.
Even more impressive is the fact that Peninsula Point is one of the best places to see the monarch butterfly migration in Michigan. In late summer and early fall when the monarch butterflies begin heading south, they follow topographical features like the Lake Michigan shoreline. The butterflies tend to congregate at points where the land juts out and, as a result, Peninsula Point is an important migration gathering area annually.
We highly recommend using a super-telephoto lens when photographing butterflies or migrating birds. This will allow you to get beautiful, detailed photos without disturbing or harming them. While you are on the peninsula, be sure to hike the Maywood History Trail and photograph its picturesque old-growth hardwood forest.
The Garden Peninsula features a lovely mix of hardwoods, evergreens and orchards. The drive along M-183 S between Garden and Sac Bay is particularly picturesque. The most famous location for taking fall color photos on the peninsula is Fayette Historic State Park. This park is a delightful mix of nature and history. The historic ghost town, a once-bustling iron smelting community, provides a very unique photographic opportunity. It is not very often that you can almost step back in time and see what the landscape looked like in the 19th-century. Autumn color makes this location even more alluring as the historic structures are surrounded by the brilliant glow of yellow and orange leaves. The limestone cliffs of Snail Shell Harbor adorned with fall color are also a delight to photograph — especially if there are sailboats or kayaks out in the harbor.
Ludington Park in Escanaba is a popular location for portrait photography featuring fall foliage. It is also a great place to photograph the Sand Point Lighthouse, marina and harbor.
From Van Cleve Park and Gladstone Beach, you can photograph the Gladstone Lighthouse with the fall color in the distance across the Little Bay de Noc. The Days River Pathway Trail is a great location for photographing mountain bikers among the fall foliage.
On your way to or from the Escanaba area, be sure to visit Kitch-iti-kipi at Palms Book State Park. This large, scenic natural spring features brilliant clear turquoise water and a pulley-raft. This gorgeous location is popular with photographers all year long. Fall color makes the location even more spectacular and has the added benefit of being less busy than during the peak summer months.
In the expansive wilderness of the Upper Peninsula, there are so many stunning locations that few have ventured out to photograph. The best way to reach the hidden gems is by biking, kayaking and canoeing. Enjoy your days exploring the glory of fall, and relax in the evening in one of our waterfront, hotels, motels, lodges or resorts.