Summer is quickly fading to fall in Michigan and that is, in my view, our state’s most lovable season.

I think Emily Bingham, an MLive reporter who writes about Michigan’s unique features, culture and destinations, would agree. “Beautiful,” “stunning,” “undulating” and “gorgeous” are a few of her words to describe the blazing colors and endless opportunities the state has to offer in autumn.

On our Behind the Headlines podcast this week, she ran down some of her favorite destinations and things to do this time of year and offered some great advice on respecting the outdoors and fellow tourists. You can listen to the full podcast below.

Her first idea is a simple one. Take a hike.

“Hiking is always a great entry point, because it’s just walking,” Bingham said. “I think people hear the word ‘hike’ and they think it’s going to be some strenuous activity with mountains involved. But overall, it’s generally easy, you can go at whatever pace feels good to you, and you can do trails that are short – a mile or two to get your feet wet before trying longer hikes.”

A nice hike means you can bird watch too, taking advantage of the fall migration season: “A great way to spend time outside, kind of like a treasure hunt,” she said.

Of course, a mainstay activity in the summer – canoeing or kayaking – can just as easily be done in the fall. “A river you like to tube in summer, it’s going to be a completely different experience in the fall.”

For those looking to go overland, fall color tours are prime opportunities to see Michigan at its best, from the Upper Peninsula now until the end of October in lower Michigan.

“The County Road Association of Michigan releases a fall color drives guide, and this year they are releasing it by region, weekly. … If you’re antsy to see some fall colors, that’s absolutely where I’d start,” Bingham said.

A couple of my favorites make Bingham’s list, too – M-22 through Leelanau County, and M-119, the famous “Tunnel of Trees,” just north of Harbor Springs. They are so stunning that Bingham offers a pro tip: “Go with a friend who’s already done it, and make them drive. That way, you can look out the window!”

One thing we agreed upon on our podcast discussion: You can find beauty in just about any corner of Michigan in the fall. She lists Benzie County, one of Michigan’s smallest counties but one brimming with natural beauty; the Huron National Forest, on the northeast side of Michigan; and the Pinckney-Waterloo Recreation Area in the rolling terrain near of Ann Arbor.

Haven’t planned yet? Bingham says that may mean you won’t get that perfect waterfront lodging, but many options remain if you don’t mind be a short drive away. Also, the state Department of Natural Resources every Saturday posts a list of campsites and cabins via email and Facebook that are available for midweek stays.

One of the silver linings of a pandemic summer has been that more and more people are getting outside, experiencing all of the things that make Michigan great. MLive is going to make it even easier for you to do that this fall and beyond, as we launch our Lovable Michigan newsletter this week.

Click here to go to subscription page, and begin to get curated weekly updates on the best destinations, the best food and the best experiences found in the best state in the land.

And when you go, remember that we’re all sharing this bounty together, even as COVID restrictions sometimes make it difficult.

“Tourist towns thrive with your money and time, and they want you to have a great time,” Bingham said. “Be polite, abide by social distancing rules, and be kind and understanding if there’s a longer wait time. Just be a good person.”

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What’s the weather going to be like for fall travel in Michigan? Listen below to the outlook from MLive meteorologist Mark Torregrossa.

This column has been updated to reflect more exact locations for recreation areas, and to correct a reference about the size of Benzie County.

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