Planning to elope in Northern Michigan in the fall? I hope this blog post guides you to some of my favorite outdoor space for that beautiful color that Michigan is known for. I have gathered some of my favorite photos from a fall season of photographing and exploring with couples in Empire, Traverse City, Northport, and Old Mission Peninsula. Here are some scenic photos with locations for you to check out on your fall excursion up north.

If you are planning an elopement, I recommend using this page to help you choose a location that speaks to you either for your ceremony or couples adventure. But also check out my Sleeping Bear Dunes Elopement Guide for more general information and location ideas on planning your elopement at the dunes specifically.

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

If you are looking for those dune views as well as fall color, I recommend exploring one of my favorite spots Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. This section of Sleeping Bear Dunes offers a covered bridge, multiple overlooks, and gorgeous fall color in mid to late October. Drive along this seven mile loop for a variety of different backdrops within a short hike of your vehicle. This makes Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive the perfect choice if you have small children or older family members who aren’t able to hike far. Since everything is a walk from the car, it also makes outfit changes super easy.

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive Proposal Elopement Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

Trails of Empire, Michigan

The trails and beaches in Empire, Michigan are some of my favorites to capture in the fall months. The trees tend to hold onto their leaves longer than some windier sections of the dunes. For families, I suggest Empire Beach, which offers a dock, dune views, and it is not too far from Empire if you want to do some exploring downtown. The nearby Esch Road Beach is an option that tends to be less busier, and offers dune views as well as wooded trails. If you are looking for more dramatic views and fall color, I would recommend checking out the Empire Bluff Trail or sister trail that can be accessed from Treat Farm Trail for a less crowded experience. These trails offer epic views with a 15-20 minute hike one way. Check out some of these picture perfect fall views captured in Empire, Michigan.

Stormer Road Northport MichiganFall Sunset Elopement Empire Michigan Northern Michigan Fall Couple SessionFall Family Session

Sleeping Bear Point, Glen Haven

Sleeping Bear Point is one of my favorite locations to explore in the summer months, but the weather can be pretty dramatic at this spot in the fall. It does tend to be very windy here in October and so the leaves go quick. For this reason, you might want to consider other options in the dunes or else I recommend you plan a visit to Sleeping Bear Point earlier in the fall season. Most of the dunee area is covered with sand and grass, so if you’re going for that beach vibe this spot can be great. There are a few overlooks with smaller trees that require a 10-15 minute climb. Sleeping Bear Point is definitely a beautiful spot, but be prepared with warmer layers if you are planning on a mid to late fall excursion.

Proposal Northern MichiganElopement at Sleeping Bear Dunes

Slow Down in Northport, Michigan

Northport is way up north on Leelanau Peninsula and offers some gorgeous rocky beaches, a lighthouse, and forested views overlooking water. The fall weekends in Northern Michigan can get super busy. It’s not uncommon for their to be a super long line to get into Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive or to have an overflowing parking lot at the Empire Bluff Trail. Northport can be a nice escape away from the commotion of Traverse City. And you don’t have to go far for some pretty fall color either. There are plenty of  forested trails and beaches along M22 coming up from Suttons Bay. The Lighthouse West Natural Area is at the tip of the peninsula and offers some rocky beaches and dramatic views. You can also find fall color by just walking through downtown Northport and the harbor area in mid to late October.

Northern Michigan Couple Elopement Couple Walking Downtown Northport Elopement MichiganNorthport Elopement Dress HangingCouple Downtown Northport

Near Downtown Traverse City

If you are planning a visit to Northern Michigan in late fall, then you might want to consider trails closer to Traverse City. The areas along Old Mission Peninsula, Brown Bridge Quiet Area and along the Boardman River tend to keep their fall foliage later in the season compared to Sleeping Bear Dunes. One of my all-time favorite fall photo locations is Old Mission Peninsula because it offers such a variety from the beaches of Mission Point Lighthouse to the drive along M37 to the trails of Pelizzari Natural Area at the base of the peninsula. You can even enjoy some wine at one of the wineries on Old Mission Peninsula and a nice dock view at Bower’s Harbor Boat Launch. Brown Bridge is a less busy trail with a snaking river and expansive trails that is about 40 minutes from Traverse City. Or if you are looking for something closer to downtown, I would check out the trails along the Boardman River for an urban walk with plenty of fall color.

Brown Bridge Quiet Area Fall Adventure Downtown Traverse City Pelizzari Natural Area Fall Old Mission Peninsula Fall Color

Plan your Fall Photo Adventure

I hope this blog post provided you some inspiration for your fall excursion to Northern Michigan. There are so many great options that you might be a bit overwhelmed. No worries! Feel free to reach out with any questions and to plan your fall photo adventure.

See you at the trailhead!

Josh Hartman