COLORAMA—Mother Nature offers the Spectacular!

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Finding the best of the fall colorama season can be a bit elusive. If you have ever planned a fall trip, vacation, or even a day out in the colors, you know it can be a gamble.
But, when the stars line up: the right number of warm days and cool nights, the right levels of sugar produced, the right amounts of moisture, a great color season is in store for all.
2014 provided one of the best color seasons in recent memory, but its not always predictable. Sometimes, the only way to capture the best of the fall color season is to move around a bit.
In the upper Midwest, leaf color can lasts for at least six weeks — or make that eight, if you start counting with the early red sumac turning colors.
Maples are the first leaves to show color, then popple and oak. Tamarack needles offer the late season blush of yellow and gold.
Late September is peak in the inland forests — Chequamegon and Nicolet in Wisconsin, Ottawa and Hiawatha in the Upper Peninsula — and it comes a week later along the shoreline of Lake Superior.
Leaves turn later the farther south you go, except on such peninsulas as Door County, wrapped by the heat-retaining waters of Lake Michigan. There, peak may come as late as the third weekend in October.
In southern Wisconsin, oaks turn warm shades and often keep their leaves well into November.
In Milwaukee, willows along Lake Michigan can remain a glowing gold into the second weekend of November.
Serious color, those glowing orange/red hues really come into bloom in northern inland forests the last week in November. You might want to catch one of the waterfall hikes Nicolet National Forest in northeast Wisconsin, around Florence and Marinette.
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan has perhaps the best color of all; the inland trees should be vivid in the Porcupines, around Ironwood and in Ottawa National Forest east of Ironwood.
During the first week in October, the peak is usually on across the north woods.
 Cable is one of the region’s best places to see it. Pick up a map of three fall-color driving routes on marked roads.
In Michigan’s Porcupines, the Escarpment Trail from Lake of the Clouds is one of the premiere hikes.

Door County usually peaks the second week in October. The Green Bay side of the peninsula has the most color to offer.
Inland roads are also good such as the ones connecting Baileys Harbor to Ephraim and to Fish Creek.
The heavily wooded Ellison Bluff Park, just west of Ellison Bay, and the Mink River Estuary, near Rowleys Bay offer good hiking spots. Eagle’s bluff south of Ephraim is always a great place to visit.
In southwest Wisconsin the Great River State Trail, which starts in Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge and heads south to Onalaska through the bottomlands of the Upper Mississippi River Wildlife and Fish Refuge offers gorgeous views of the Mississippi River Valley.
By the third week in October, the colors will be mostly yellows.
In the north woods, most of the color will be yellow. In boggy areas across northern Wisconsin, especially in Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, tamaracks will be at peak and glowing gold.
On hiking trails, color will be found on the forest floor already blown down from the trees above.
By the fourth week of October, your best chance to see color is those places closest to Lake Michigan, as the water temperatures slow the approaching winter.
Willows will turn their colors two weeks later than other trees in the Milwaukee area. If you still want more color at that time, your best bet may be to head south. Try following the Mississippi River, where the warmer air means trees will still be turning colors.
And anywhere along Lake Michigan is a good bet — its warm waters slow the approach of winter along its shores. Try bicycling along the lakeshore around Milwaukee, where willows turn golden two weeks later than other trees.
After that, head south, along the Mississippi on the Great River Road and into Missouri, where the air will be warmer and the trees still turning.
You can catch an up-to-the-minute report on fall color progress at the Wisconsin Department of Tourism’s website.