When will fall colors peak in West Michigan?

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The quick flip to 60-degree highs has it feeling like fall in West Michigan. The return of the chill and the shortening of days means fall color is just around the corner.

The brilliance of the display each year is dependent on many factors. Traditionally, we begin to see the first trees turn in the highest elevations of our state by the start of September. 

Summer lean ed dry for much of the area. Lingering drought is known to rush leaf drop.

However, recent rain will likely act to save the longevity of the leaves.

When moderate or severe drought exists over the area, leaves are much quicker to fall from trees, making for patchy shows. On the converse, wetter-than-average years usually delay and dull the colors considerably. 

The biggest factors in determining fall colors are ones that can change on short notice: temperature and dryness. 

Often, the most well-meaning forecasts fall short due to a sudden flip in the jet stream. A single hard freeze can completely kill a color show, rushing the leaves to brown and black overnight. 

Experts say it can be difficult to predict how spectacular fall colors will be in any given year. It is also difficult to know for certain if they will arrive early or be delayed. If you are beginning to plan, it is most safe to look at when fall colors have peaked on average each year according to Michigan’s history.


Generally, the higher elevations of the Upper and Lower Peninsula peak around mid- to late-September.

Much of the Upper Peninsula hits its peak late September into early October, along with portions of the northern Lower Peninsula.

Areas around southwest Michigan are typically most spectacular from Oct. 7 to Oct. 14.

Our lakeshore areas are on average the last to hit peak due to the temperature influence of Lake Michigan.


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