Good show: Fall colors may peak early this year

When and where we expect to see the most vibrant leaves in Michigan

(Courtesy Thurston De Vos, file)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Fall is on the horizon and a few trees in West Michigan are already starting to turn. Don’t wait to schedule your fall color tour this year, because experts say peak colors in the Mitten could come a bit early.

According to the Foliage Network, low color spots are already starting to pop in the Upper Peninsula.

Sept. 11, 2017 color report courtesy of the Foliage Network

The weather we’ve seen in Michigan this August and early September has been perfect for ideal colors. Sunny days and cool, clear nights help coax our trees into transformation. The forecast through the rest of September should help move the change along, too. Here is an excellent tool to help estimate when fall color will peak across the country. 

Keep in mind that color forecasts can change on weekly weather. An extensive hard freeze in September or October could kill a color show completely, turning the leaves immediately brown. Forecasters will also be watching for wind storms. A series of windy days can rob trees of their leaves sooner than usual, shortening the show.

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Mid-September to early October: Higher elevation areas in the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula are expected to turn and peak. Plentiful rainfall through the summer could mean for low leaf drop.

Late September to mid-October: Most of the Upper Peninsula and the heart of the northern Lower Peninsula is expected to peak. Colors may cling to the trees a little longer than usual due to healthy trees and decent summer rain.

Early to mid-October: Most of the Lower Peninsula is expected to hit peak color. Leaf drop may limit the colors to only a week in some areas. Drier areas will be the first to shed their leaves.

Late October: Lakeshore areas will be the last to hit peak color thanks to the influence of Lake Michigan at night. Rainfall has been generally good in lakeshore areas which means trees could hang onto their leaves.

The fiery reds, rustic oranges, and blazing yellows will likely hang on the trees a bit longer in the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula. The National Weather Service in Gaylord says summer rain was good enough to keep trees healthy in that area. That should extend how long the colors last.

But here in lower Michigan, it was drier than usual east of US-131, which could affect how long we get a good show.

Current drought monitor showing abnormally dry conditions in the lower peninsula

Last year, Michigan’s fall colors came late with many trees turning at different times. This limited the brilliance of the show.

Still, experts say color watchers are usually guaranteed to have a good year if they head north of Grand Rapids in the first or second week of October.

You can send your photos of the fall colors to Be sure to include when and where the photos were taken, as well as the name that should be used when giving credit.