Keweenaw Fall Colors Challenge

Keweenaw Fall Colors Challenge

The Bracket | Contestants | The Schedule | How to Vote | Round 1 | Round 2 | Round 3

September 30, 2020

Championship Round: Brockway Mountain vs Covered Drive (US-41)

This one’s for all the marbles!  We have two amazing destinations, selected by the voting public, ready to square off for the crown of the Keweenaw’s favorite spot to view fall colors. Unlike a lot of major sporting competitions, there aren’t any underdogs here.  Two blue-bloods will duke it out and take home the ultimate prize. Which one is going to be? The poll opens on October 1st at noon!

Round 3: The Final Four

Keweenaw Fall Colors Bracket

The stage is set for an elite Final Four for the Keweenaw Fall Colors Challenge. We’re down to the best of the best (no more pretenders here) and after several close votes, we’re set up with two iconic match-ups:  Brockway Mountain vs Mount Bohemia and Covered Drive (US-41) vs South Shore Drive.  Whether by luck, or incredibly meticulous design (who knows?), we’re going have an epic view vs a scenic drive in the Championship.

September 28, 2020

Match 14: Mount Bohemia vs Brockway Mountain

In the battle for the Keweenaw’s most impressive Fall Colors viewing spot, we’ve got two heavy-weight contenders.  First up is Brockway Mountain, this competition’s top seed and betting favorite. Located just outside of Copper Harbor, this impressive view offers incredible views of Lake Superior and the vast Keweenaw wilderness.  Looking south, you’ll see countless acres of northern hardwoods that take on breathtaking fall color hues.

Not to be outdone, Mont Bohemia provides equally impressive views. Located in Lac La Belle, visitors get a birds-eye view of Bete Grise Beach, South Shore Drive and landscape full of fall color.

So which one moves on to the Championship? You have 24 hours to decide!

September 24, 2020

Match 13: Covered Drive (US-41) vs South Shore Drive

Round 2

September 20, 2020

Match 12: Covered Drive vs M-26 Scenic Drive

Match 12 of the Keweenaw Fall Colors Challenge

Today’s head-to-head match-up between two of the Copper Country’s favorite scenic drives will determine the last spot in the Keweenaw Fall Colors Challenge Final Four! Both winding drives take you north through loads of natural beauty, but which one dominates fall color? Its time for you to decide!

September 18, 2020

Matches 10 & 11: We’re Catching Up!


Well fell a bit behind this week, so today you’re getting double the fun with TWO KFCC matches!  Let’s get to it! Remember, polls will run for 24 hours before closing, so cast your votes for both matches by 5 pm on September 19!

Match #10: Mount Bohemia vs Isle Royale National Park

Match #11: Bare Bluff vs South Shore Drive

September 13, 2020

Welcome to the Second Round of the Keweenaw Fall Colors Challenge!  We started with 16 Copper Country favorites and only 8 remain in the competition. Now that the pretenders have been sent packing, let’s take a look at the current bracket.

Second Round Bracket for the Keweenaw Fall Colors Challenge

Looking at who advanced to Round 2, it looks like the scenic drives fared well and so did big-time views like Bare Bluff and Brockway Mountain. Unfortunately, scenic areas like Estivant Pines and Hungarian Falls didn’t show up this season. They’ve got some work to do if they want to make any noise next year.  With that said, let’s get Round 2 started!

Match 9: Brockway Mountain vs Covered Road (Freda)

It’s an epic view vs an amazing scenic drive. Who’s moving on?

Round 1

September 10, 2020

Match 8: M-26 Scenic Drive vs Churning Rapids

Match 8 of the Keweenaw Fall Colors Challenge

Tale of the Tape

Today we’re closing out the first round of the Keweenaw Fall Colors Challenge.  Our match follows a familiar pattern pitting a beautiful scenic drive against a Copper Country scenic site. With fall color blossoming throughout the Keweenaw, who’s moving on?

M-26 Scenic Drive

Scenic drive along Lake Superior Coast

M-26 runs along the shores of Lake Superior on the north shore of the Keweenaw between Eagle River and Copper Harbor and encompasses parks, beaches, waterfalls, lighthouses and miles of unsurpassed beauty.  Popular stops along the way include The Jampot Bakery, Jacobs Falls, Great Sand Bay and The Eagle Harbor Restaurant.

Churning Rapids

Trail through forest during fall color at Churning Rapids

The Maasto Hiihto and Churning Rapids trails feature The Swedetown Creek Gorge. The scenic beauty here throughout all the seasons is breathtaking…but fall especially the area comes alive. A popular site for hiking and mountain biking enthusiasts, this 770-acre natural area consists of a unique mosaic of mixed hardwood, aspen, spruce-fir, and lowland swamp forests interspersed with open fields, successional edge areas, and wetlands, over a rolling topography.

The Vote

Let’s get those votes in!  So far “scenic drives” are dominating these matches. Will M-26 keep the streak alive?  Voting opens today at noon!

September 8, 2020

Match 7: Covered Drive (US Hwy 41) vs Hungarian Falls Nature Area

Tale of the Tape

Today’s matchup brings two titans of fall color: Hungarian Falls Nature Area and the scenic drive on US Hwy 41 known as “Covered Drive”.  Both are big-time favorites all year round, but during autumn, they really shine.  Who’s taking home bragging rights and moving on to the second round?

Hungarian Falls
Hungarian Falls in autumn

Hungarian Falls in the fall. Photo credit: Keweenaw Land Trust

The Keweenaw Land Trust’s Hungarian Falls Nature Sanctuary is a beloved scenic site for locals and visitors.  Located eight miles east of Hancock, this 10-acre attraction is known for its series of gorgeous waterfalls, easy hiking trails, and beautiful views of Torch Lake.

Visitors are treated to an awesome spectacle year-round but fall is truly a spectacular sight. The uppermost falls are located on the Keweenaw Fault, a billion-year-old geological feature that helped shape the Keweenaw and now stands strong against the erosive forces of Dover Creek. Cascading over the tough conglomerates and basalt’s for about 30 feet, the creek then flows through a short gorge formed out of the softer Jacobsville sandstone layers below.

Downstream of the dam and pond are 3 more waterfalls. The lowermost falls are truly a sight to behold. Dropping over 100 feet into the gorge below, the lowermost falls are only visible in their entirety from the base of the valley, but it is a very treacherous and challenging hike down. Most visitors are more than happy to stand at the top of the falls and view them from above.

Covered Drive (US Hwy 41)
A scenic road during fall colors in the Keweenaw

Covered Drive during fall colors. Photo Credit: UPTRA

Covered Drive (US-41) is a breathtakingly beautiful canopy of colorful trees along the way to Copper Harbor.  The stretch of road is frequently the muse of photographers and scenic drive enthusiasts thanks to is foliage, rolling hills, and winding curves.  


Time to get that vote in!  The poll will close on September 9th at high noon!

September 6, 2020

Match 6: South Shore Drive vs Mont Ripley

Keweenaw Fall Colors Challenge Match 6

Tale of the Tape

Happy 906 Day!  Coined after the only telephone area code in the Upper Peninsula (906), we celebrate all things “yooper” on September 6th (9/06) each year.  And we can’t think of anything more connected to the U.P. this time of year than fall colors. By the way, did you hear that the Upper Peninsula was named the best place for fall colors this year according to USA Today?  It was never really a question, but its nice to hear it from others 🙂

South Shore Drive

Fall colors along South Shore Drive

Today’s first contestant in the Keweenaw Fall Colors Challenge is the South Shore Scenic Drive on the eastern side of the Keweenaw Peninsula. This scenic stretch between Lac La Belle and Gay has it all: flowing waterfalls (Haven Falls), incredible beaches (Bete Grise Beach), gorgeous inland lakes (Lac La Belle), and loads of a amazing fall color.  Along the way, you’ll come across plenty of places to park and take photos or simply enjoy the ride along the back country road.

Mont Ripley

View from Mont Ripley looking down on the Keweenaw Waterway

Today’s second contestant is also our second Keweenaw Peninsula downhill ski destination: Mont Ripley. Located across the canal from Houghton, Mont Ripley is owned by Michigan Tech and the oldest ski area in Michigan. But today, we’re not focusing on the downhill scene. Instead, Mont Ripley is a competitor because its  peak color chairlift rides. You’ll get a skier’s view of the Keweenaw Waterway, the city of Houghton and majestic fall foliage. Can’t make it up this year? Take advantage of Tech’s Mont Ripley webcam to check in on the fall color progress.


Lets get those votes in! The poll opens today at noon and runs for 24 hours.  Who’s making it to Round 2?

September 3, 2020

Match 5: Bare Bluff vs McLain State Park

Match #5 of the Keweenaw Fall Colors Challenge

Tale of the Tape

Welcome back folks!  Today we’re finishing up the left side of the Keweenaw Fall Colors Challenge Bracket with a match-up between two Copper Country favorites:  Bare Bluff and McLain State Park.

Bare Bluff – Russell & Miriam Grinnell Memorial Nature Sanctuary
Woman on top of Bare Bluff in the Keweenaw

The view from the top of Bare Bluff – Photo credit: @hikingmichigan

The view from Bare Bluff is absolutely breathtaking. Perhaps the most photographed hike in the Copper Country, the trail to Bare Bluff is located near Lac La Belle on the Eastern side of the Keweenaw Peninsula at the Russell & Miriam Grinnell Memorial Nature Sanctuary.  Reaching the scenic site, which stands nearly 600 feet above Lake Superior, is no easy feat. Hikers must make a 300-foot climb over uneven terrain to reach the impressive views. But during the fall, visitors are treated to a spectacular display of color with views of Manitou Island, Point Isabelle, and Bete Grise.

McLain State Park

A trail in McLain State Park in the fall

One of three Michigan state parks located in the Keweenaw, McLain is a favorite with locals and visitors alike. Located on the upper entrance of the Keweenaw Waterway and offering easy access to Lake Superior shorelines, fall visitors come for the excellent rock hounding, autumn colors, fishing and sunsets.  Walking trails crisscross the park grounds which are used for Nordic skiing in the winter months.  Mature hardwoods are scattered throughout the park which burst with color during the fall.

The Vote

Get your pick in before noon, September 4th using the poll below.

September 1, 2020

Match 4: Mount Bohemia vs Estivant Pines

Tale of the Tape

September is finally here! For fans of pumpkin spice, earlier sunsets, and s’mores, it’s a time to rejoice. And while we might not be getting in much tail-gating this fall, there’s still plenty of competition to go around.  Today’s Keweenaw Fall Colors Challenge match-up features two unlikely fall gladiators: Mount Bohemia vs Estivant Pines.

Mount Bohemia

Passengers take a chair lift up Mount Bohemia during fall color season

We get it. Visions of epic snowfalls and downhill daredevils come to mind when you think of Bohemia. And that reputation is well deserved. But don’t pass on the fall color in the Lac La Belle area, because of its truly a magnificent spot for leaf-peeping.

Here’s the hook: If you want the birds-eye view from atop a mountain, but you’re not feeling a four-hour hike, why not glide up Mount Bohemia’s chairlift instead? The experience offers incredible views of Lake Superior, Lac La Belle, and thousands of acres of the Keweenaw’s best fall color!

Estivant Pines Nature Sanctuary

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Nature Association

Much like its competitor, Estivant Pines probably isn’t the first Keweenaw scenic site you think of when planning a fall colors tour. But this ecological gem has a few things going in its favor:  First, those 300-year-old white pines are stunning no matter what time of year you visit them. Stand in awe as the reach toward the heavens. Second, while the pines get a lot of attention, the sanctuary isn’t a one-trick show.  Northern hardwoods like red oak, sugar maple, yellow birch, and white birch are scattered throughout and offer gorgeous autumn color.

The Vote

Voting starts today, today at noon and will close tomorrow at 12 pm. Check back in tomorrow to find out who’s moving on to Round 2!

August 30, 2020

Match 3: Isle Royale National Park vs Pilgrim Community Forest

Keweenaw Fall Colors Challenge

With just two days left if August, we’re beginning to see a hint of fall color in the Keweenaw. Nights are a bit cooler and the sun is setting earlier each day.  As we eagerly await the return of autumn, the Keweenaw Fall Colors Challenge has another David vs Goliath match-up today:  Isle Royale National Park vs Pilgrim Community Forest.

Tale of the Tape

Isle Royale National Park

Aerial view of Isle Royale National Park

Yes, Isle Royale National Park is a world-renowned environmental paradise featured in major publications like the New York Times and National Geographics. And yes, the park attracts travelers from across the globe each year despite being the least visited of all U.S. national parks. But is it really a great place for fall colors? It gets a little chilly in the middle of Lake Superior, right?  Plus, Isle Royale is dominated by conifers so the color isn’t all that special…

Wrong! For those who are willing to go the extra mile(s) to see gorgeous color, Isle Royale is a spectacular destination. But for the best experience, it’s important to know where to look.

Compared to the island’s rugged coastline, its west-end interior has the warmer/drier conditions and deeper soils perfect for Northern hardwoods. In the fall, hikers along the Greenstone Ridge Trail are privy to colorful sugar maples and yellow birch. In fact, one location on this part of the island, Sugar Mountain, was once home to an Ojibwe maple sugaring camp in the 1840’s.

Pilgrim Community Forest

Pilgrim Community Forest in the fall

Playing the role of “David” today will be the Pilgrim Community Forest. Located just outside Houghton, this scenic site contains gently rolling hills, mixed forest, and well-trodden trails. Rarely will visitors cross paths with another human despite its proximity to the Keweenaw’s largest metro. But don’t let that deter you from exploring the Pilgrim Community Forest. Winding trails thread visitors through open forests and down to the Pilgrim River.

Visitors are welcome to hike, bike, snowshoe, or cross country ski on the single track trail that leads through the beautiful forests and riparian corridor. The Pilgrim Community Forest is enrolled in the Michigan Commercial Forest Program and is open for fishing, hunting, and trapping.

The Vote

Voting starts today, August 30th, at noon.  You have 24 hours to submit your vote and to get your friends in on the action. Can the underdog pull off the big upset? Check back in tomorrow to find out!

August 27, 2020

Match 2: Mount Baldy vs Covered Road (Freda Area)

Keweenaw Fall Colors Challenge Match 2

Welcome to Day #2 of the Keweenaw Fall Colors Challenge!  After some early technical difficulties on Tuesday, we have the bugs worked out and today should run a bit smoother 🙂  Brockway Mountain walked away from Match #1 with a resounding victory and moves on to Round #2. Thanks for sticking with us through our first Match jitters!

Today’s match-up is sure to be closer than Tuesday’s because we have two incredible fall scenic sites going toe-to-toe: Mount Baldy vs Covered Road Scenic Drive. Who’s moving on to Round 2? Will it be one of the Keweenaw’s most beloved hikes or will it be the picturesque roadway near Freda? You get to decide!

Tale of the Tape

Mount Baldy

Mount BaldyMount Baldy is located in the Helmut and Candis Stern Preserve near Eagle Harbor.  Visitors can take the 6-mile roundtrip hike to reach the top of Mount Baldy which rests 730 feet above Lake Superior.  As its name suggests, the top of Mount Baldy is relatively free from thick vegetation creating the perfect environment for viewing fall colors in the surrounding area.

Local wildlife includes black bear, snowshoe hare, peregrine falcon, ruffed grouse, golden-crowned kinglet, black-throated green warbler, and yellow-rumped warbler. A steady uphill climb makes this trek a bit challenging, but the rewards are worth it!


Covered Road Scenic Drive

Covered RoadLocated west of Houghton, off the Houghton Canal Road, the “Covered Road” is a scenic road with a tunnel of trees that make it look like it was a scene taken straight out of a movie.  Especially beautiful in the fall, this off the beaten path drive leads visitors to the ghost town of Redridge, the historic Redridge Dam, and Lake Superior.

Don’t let the dirt road fool you, it’s well maintained allowing travelers to cruise through breathtaking scenery with plenty of space for two-lane traffic.  In the fall, expect to see wildlife, especially deer and wild turkeys.

The Vote

Use the Poll below to submit your vote.  The Poll opens at noon (ET) and will close tomorrow at noon.

August 25, 2020

Match 1: Brockway Mountain vs Lake Gratiot Overlook

Welcome to Day 1 of the Keweenaw Fall Colors Challenge! While summer is still in full swing, there’s a hint of change in the air that has us looking forward to autumn.  And what better way to celebrate the joys for fall than a month-long, winner-take-all contest to crown the Copper County’s top leaf-peeping location! We’re going to get this party started with a marquee match-up between one of the Keweenaw’s biggest attractions and another tip-top scenic that’ll take your breath away!

Tale of the Tape

Brockway Mountain 

Brockway Mountain

Our first contestant needs no introduction (but we’ll offer one anyway). Brockway Mountain comes into the Keweenaw Fall Colors Challenge as the projected #1 overall seed. No matter the season, Brockway draws visitors from far and wide to take in incredible views of Lake Superior, Copper Harbor, surrounding inland lakes, and miles of Keweenaw wilderness.  At 728 feet above lake-level, visitors can easily view Mount Baldy and look down upon Lake Bailey and Lake Medora.

Accessible by vehicle, mountain bike, or foot, explorers have plenty of opportunities to view the Keweenaw’s epic color change during late September and into October.  Brockway Mountain Drive, which is a County-maintained road, begins just east of Eagle Harbor and takes travelers along the mountain range with several turnouts for viewing and photography.

Gratiot Lake Overview

Gratiot Lake OverlookLocated near the small town of Central, the Gratiot Lake Overlook provides impressive views of the 100 acre Lake Gratiot Nature Sanctuary. The overlook is only accessible by 1.5 round-trip hiking trail (an ascent of nearly 400 feet), but the view is well worth the effort. Hikers can expect a steady climb through red oak, red maple, sugar maple and other hardwoods which make for great fall scenery. Just off the main trail, visitors can take a spur to view the Eister Creek waterfall! Nearby Gratiot Lake is the largest of Keweenaw County’s inland lakes at just over 1,400 acres.


The Vote

We’ll launch the voting poll on our Facebook page today!  You’ll have 24 hours to pick your favorite and encourage your friends to do the same.  Let the fun begin!

Everyone who’s anyone knows that the Keweenaw Peninsula is the greatest place in the world to experience vibrant fall colors.  Autumn’s crisp air combined with our poplars, maples, oaks, and other northern hardwoods, makes for a stunning display as luscious green foliage shifts to a dazzling array of red, orange, and gold.

Despite the obvious consensus on the Keweenaw being the champ of fall colors, the question has to be asked: Where in the Keweenaw is the most iconic spot to go leaf-peeping?  Sure, just about anywhere north of Kenton (at the southern border of Houghton County) offers impressive views.  But which is the best?

Well, it’s time to figure it out.  And like any good debate, the only way to settle it is through an intense, hotly contested, winner-take-all voting competition. Welcome to the 2020 Keweenaw Fall Colors Challenge.

What’s the Keweenaw Fall Colors Challenge?

A few of you may remember a little competition we had this spring called the Keweenaw Pasty Challenge.  We had so much fun, despite the hacking, we thought we’d do it again. So, we’ve selected 16 of the Keweenaw’s best spots to experience fall colors, and we’re asking you to help us pick the winner!

Styled after “March Madness”, our competition pits our “contestants” in a series of head to head matchups. The winner of each match, determined by voters like you, move on to the next round until a champion is crowned.

The Bracket

Every great tournament needs a bracket. Here’s ours.  It was tough narrowing the field down to sixteen, but we feel like we got a good mix of favorites and sleepers.  Did we miss a spot?  Probably not, but there’s a first time for everything.

2020 Keweeenaw Fall Colors Challenge Bracket

Your official 2020 Keweenaw Fall Colors Challenge Bracket!

The Contestants

Our 16 contestants are hand-picked by a panel of top-notch experts!  From scenic drives to breathtaking overlooks (and everything in between), our field is ready to rumble.  Click on the map below to see which spots made the cut!


The Schedule

Be sure to check out the schedule below so that you don’t miss the opportunity to vote for your favorite!

Round 1

  • August 25: Match 1: Brockway Mountain vs Gratiot Lake Overlook
  • August 27: Match 2: Mount Baldy vs Covered Road (Freda Area)
  • August 30: Match 3: Isle Royale National Park vs Pilgrim Community Forest
  • September 1: Match 4: Mount Bohemia vs Estivant Pines
  • September 3: Match 5: Bare Bluff vs McLain State Park
  • September 6: Match 6: South Shore Drive vs Mont Ripley
  • September 8: Match 7: Covered Drive (US 41) vs Hungarian Falls
  • September 10: Match 8: M-26 Scenic Drive vs Churning Rapids

Round 2

  • September 13: Match 9: Winner of Match 1 vs Winner of Match 2
  • September 15: Match 10: Winner of Match 3 vs Winner of Match 4
  • September 17: Match 11: Winner of Match 5 vs Winner of Match 6
  • September 20: Match 12 Winner of Match 7 vs Winner of Match 8

Round 3

  • September 24: Match 13: Winner of Match 9 vs Winner of Match 10
  • September 28: Match 14: Winner of Match 11 vs Winner of Match 12

Championship Round

  • September 30: Match 15: Winner of Match 13 vs Winner of Match 14

How to Vote

We’ll post an online poll on for each match so you cast your ballot (one vote per match). But, like any good campaign, voter turnout is the key to victory.  So encourage your fellow Keweenaw fans to get in on the fun, and engage in some lighthearted debate on our Facebook Page.

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