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If you recall from middle school science class, fall leaf transformations start with a process called photosynthesis. As chlorophyll–that which allows plants to turn sunlight into energy–lessens during fall months, other compounds take center stage in plant cells, letting loose a breathtaking array of vivid color. Orange is sparked by the reflection of beta-carotenes against the red and yellow from sunlight, and as anthocyanin production kicks in, bright reds and plums appear.

Despite the cause, autumn leaves paint the landscape with bright, breathtaking hues, leading people to seek out the best times and places to take in all nature has to offer this time of year. Though tumultuous weather patterns have made fall color predictions tricky recently and warm weather has stuck around longer than expected, rich reds, oranges, and yellows will soon be visible to Michiganites everywhere.

The Smoky Mountain National Park website, an authority on autumn foliage, provides the most accurate information. While not a hundred percent fail-safe, this site’s predictions can help travelers and locals alike take full advantage of Michigan’s luscious fall season. Although peak times vary slightly from southern parts of the state to northern, forecasts are similar.

For lower Michigan, leaves peak the week of October 22nd. For northern areas, the week of October 15th showcases the best views. To maximize beauty intake potential, consider making a special road trip across the state, making beaches, campsites and waterfalls top priority. Michigan’s Upper Peninsula remains a popular leaf-spotting destination.

If state parks are more your style, Michigan boasts some of the best in the country. Check out Tahquamenon Falls State Park, stretching more than 13 miles and offering staggering views of trees and waterfalls (Tahquamenon Falls is the largest waterfall east of the Mississippi River).

Silver Lake Sand Dunes State Park–3,000 acres across the state’s shoreline–includes an off-road vehicle area and large expanses of both mature forest and dune country. Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is an Upper Peninsula favorite, with water features aplenty (both roaring rivers and quiet lakes don this massive park). For those in southern Michigan, Seven Lakes State Park boasts an eclectic topographic selection with hills, farmland, and forests sharing the limelight. For the more daring adventurers, see Isle Royale National Park, reachable only by boat or float plane. This area’s protected wilderness highlights some of the best views Michigan has to offer.

Whether planning a weekend getaway or a quiet afternoon in your backyard, autumn’s best and brightest sights are mere weeks away.

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