Many of you have asked, “When is the best time to plan my trip to the Upper Peninsula to see peak fall color.” At the Munising Visitor Center, we are asked this question often and the answer is always the same, “That all depends.”
The Upper Peninsula’s northern hardwood forests have a variety of tree species. The predominant ones are sugar and red maples, red oak, birch, and aspen. We also have tamarack, or larch, which are coniferous trees that drop their needles each year when they turn a golden yellow.
There are several environmental factors that influence leaf color. Most are related to weather before and during the time leaves change color, and it’s very difficult to predict what specific weather will be weeks beforehand. The general opinion when asked of those in tourism as to “When is the best weekend to plan,” the usual response is “For travel to the Upper Peninsula expect the last week of September, first weekend in October.”
2015 has brought about the change of colors approximately a week or two later than usual. This year the Upper Peninsula experienced a dry summer with above average temperatures. Recently temperatures have brought cool nights and lower daytime highs.
In an article written by Dr. Ahyre Clatterburk, where he notes conditions that generally yield specific results we found the following to be helpful:
- Warm, dry weather with extended droughts or moisture deficits, yields color that is not as vibrant, is short lived (a week or so) and the timing can be delayed a week or more.
- Adequate moisture yields a longer period of leaf color.
- Sunny days create more vibrant leaf color. Leaf color is less vibrant (more dull) with several rainy or overcast days in a row when the leaves are turning color.
- Cool nights with temperatures in the 40s and low 50s, but not freezing, with daytime highs in the 60s and 70s tend to retain leaf color longer, and the colors are more pronounced, especially if the days are sunny.
- Freezing overnight temperatures and early frost will slow color. Leaves will turn brown and drop.
Exploring the Upper Peninsula at any time of year is a treat. Hwy 13, M94, and H58 are popular color routes. These tree-lined routes provide a canvas for beautiful fall foliage.
Visit www.exploremunising.com for lodging and restaurants in Munising, Michigan and Grand Marais, Michigan.