“I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne.
It is hard to disagree with Mr. Hawthorne. That ethereal autumn sunshine, a final glimpse of nature’s bold colors before the gray of winter. The kind of day you’d give anything for come February. In other words, don’t waste a sunny day in October. That perfect combo of sweater weather and sunglasses brings a kind of energy and excitement that can rival any spring day. For those fortunate enough to call Washtenaw County home, taking full advantage of fantastic Ann Arbor fall foliage is as simple as stepping out of your McKinley Ann Arbor apartment.
From Metroparks to cider mills, it’s as if the Ann Arbor area’s layout functions to be as quaint of a place as you’ll find in the fall. A stroll through Main Street or downtown Dexter will leave you feeling as if you stepped into a Disney Channel original movie from the mid-90s. Wholesome, charming, picturesque, you get the picture.
Okay, you’re sold on fall in Ann Arbor, but where to go? What to do? While the simple answer to “where’s the best place to see fall foliage in Ann Arbor?” is pretty much anywhere, for the sake of our readers, we’ll get a little more specific.
You can usually catch peak fall foliage in Ann Arbor around October 12-20th. That said, near peak when greens still complement the reds like a McIntosh apple, is arguably as stunning as peak colors. Here are our suggestions on how to make the most of the fleeting fall colors.
Go for a Walk
Whether it’s a romantic date, a fun day out with the family, or a reflective time alone, it’s hard to top a walk in the fall. Here are a few of our favorite paths, trails, and streets.
What if we told you there’s a destination located in the city’s west end that will make you feel as if you transported up north? U-M’s Saginaw Forest, managed by UM’s School for Environment and Sustainability, is a hidden gem compared to its more popular cousin-destinations, the Nichols Arboretum and Matthaei Botanical Gardens. Enjoy breathtaking fall colors among oak and Norway maples as they reflect off of the Third Sister Lake.
Parking can get a little confusing, so please follow this guide on parking at Saginaw Forest.
Bird Hills Nature Area
At 161 acres, Bird Hills Nature Area is Ann Arbor’s largest park. Enjoy the golden-brown fall foliage of beech trees and vibrant reds of sugar maples at any of the park’s five trailheads. The Nature Area ranks second in the City’s Floristic Quality Assessment of its natural areas, which means you’re enjoying an authentic “natural” experience when you visit.
Scio Woods Preserve
If your destination has “Woods” in its name, it’s probably a good spot for fall leaves. Established in 2008, Scio Woods Preserve offers a lovely trail that spans over two miles. Besides the beech and sugar maple trees, hikers can keep a lookout for the many birds that call the woods home, including the elusive barred owl.
Go for a Bike Ride
People love their bikes here in Ann Arbor. There are over 900 bike parking spaces in downtown alone. Grab your helmet and a friend and check out these areas for a fall ride.
Bluff’s Nature Area
Accessible off North Main Street, Bluff’s Nature Area offers a wooded adventure for bikers. Ride through its 39.35 acres under white ash, oak, and hickory trees. It’s not the longest biking trail, but well worth the trip to catch the autumn views.
Twenty scenic miles, what more can you want out of a bike trail? The B2B trail is part of the state’s Iron Belle Trail, “a network of trails that is over 2,000 miles long and connects Belle Isle Park (Detroit) to Ironwood (western upper peninsula).” After a long ride down the trail, treat yourself to some cider and donuts from the Dexter Cider Mill. You earned it.
Mike Levin Lakelands Trail
If you’re looking for a picturesque fall biking area near Ann Arbor, we recommend the Mike Levine Lakelands Trail State Park. With a trailhead located off of Pearl St. in Pinckney (another fall gem of a town), you’ll have 22-miles of gorgeous views to explore. If you’re not much of a mountain biker, we suggest the trailhead located in Hamburg, which offers access to the paved section of the trail. Both trailheads are worth the short drive from Ann Arbor.
Have Some Outdoor Fun
October is that time of year when you can still comfortably stay active outside without it being too cold or too hot. In addition to a pleasant walk or bike ride, you can enjoy fall foliage in Ann Arbor with several other activities.
Bandemer Disc Golf
Bandemer Park offers a wooded area for disc golfers to test their skills under the fall foliage. Established in 2007, this 9-hole course is known for its wooded views and challenging tees. The course is also along the beautiful Huron River, which leads us to our next suggestion…
Kayak Down the Huron
Odds are if you live or visit Ann Arbor, you’ll see at least one car with a kayak strapped to the roof. When you have a historic river running through your city, it’s no surprise people are going to want to break out the paddles.
The Huron River is one of 18 designated National Water Trails, which speaks to the area’s commitment to restoring, protecting, and increasing access to the river, which was once heavily polluted and underutilized for recreation. If you’re feeling adventurous, we suggest the human-made white-water run at Argo Cascades. Or if you want something calmer, launch your kayak, canoe, or tube at the Dexter-Huron Metropark.
Run a 5K at Hudson Mills Metropark
Hudson Mills Metropark is a popular place for running, biking, and walking. With a paved three-mile path and many other trails through the park’s deciduous forest and swamps, it offers runners many options. The Metropark is a popular destination for high school cross country, so you can test your 5K time by running the marked course.
Not a fan of running? Challenge your golfing skills at Hudson Mills’ 6560-yard par 71 course. Are you looking for a family activity that fits the season? Hudson Mills is hosting an outdoor Trick-or-Treat event on Saturday, October 10th. The spooky event will offer Halloween-themed stops along its pumpkin-line trail.
Make the most of Ann Arbor’s fall foliage before it’s gone! To many, there’s nowhere better to be than the midwest in October. Our Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti apartments are perfectly situated for seeing fall foliage. We are fortunate to live in a state with distinct and beautiful seasons, so get out and make the most of the fall. Want to learn more? Visit the Ann Arbor section of our blog.