It’s one of the most beautiful times of the year in Michigan right now and it’s not too late for you to see it for yourself! Fall foliage is nearly at it’s peak so we decided to take a four-day road trip in our new Defender to the Upper Peninsula and explore with our dog, Watson!
If you’ve been following along since May of this year you know we bought ourselves a 1988 right side drive Land Rover Defender for our second wedding anniversary!
Ron has spent a few 100 hours remolding and custom making nearly every piece! Even though there is still a lot of work to be done, we couldn’t wait to take it on its first long road trip! It was perfect timing to take a fall foliage trip to the UP!
I consider myself an expert road trip planner so if you’re looking for the best out of your vacation with a pet look no further! I made a full itinerary route below so you can do it too! It's a lot of driving, but its worth it, I promise!
FALL ROAD TRIP ITINERARY
The fun part, driving! Except this was on a whole other level for me! I sat in the passenger seat of the Defender, AKA left side of the car. I will admit, I was quite terrified going on the freeway at first. It felt like I was going to fall out the door. It’s just a couple inches of aluminum separating me and the outside. After a couple of hours, it became normal as if it was any other car.
We drove seven hours to Hog Island Campground making it around 10pm. It could of been five hours if we didn’t get stuck in traffic. It was a great place to stop for the night since were only an hour away from Pictured Rock National Park. The campground only cost $13 for the night.
Don’t forget to stop at Bridge View Park after crossing Mackinaw Island bridge, you get an incredible view of the whole thing! We were tired and didn’t stop!
We set up our tent and fell asleep to the sound of crashing waves.
Our plan was to get up at 6 am… but we both slept till 8 am! Watson and I (rockin Happy Socks) chilled while Ron cooked us breakfast. He is the camping cooking king… but this time around was a challenge! I forgot a pan so he used tin foil. The two eggs we had, fell below! He managed to save some though!
We packed a cooler with food we had already at home. This is a cheap easy way to eat while camping.
Egg, potato, onion, veggie sausage and salsa makes for some rockin tacos!
Watson was ready to go! The campground colors were poppin! We drove an hour to Munising, had a quick snack and coffee at falling Rock Cafe before we entered the park! They have a great menu, ready to grab lunches and a book store filled with local art.
PICTURED ROCK NATIONAL PARK
National Parks are NOT very dog-friendly so we stopped at the visitor center to see where we could go. The list is not very big but we still managed to make a full day out of it! Heres a list of places below.
Its an easy half mile round trip trail to the falls.
Waterfalls and Watson kisses in this enchanted forest… check!
Ron and Watson were ready to go to the next spot!
You can hang out at the beach and picnic area with your pet. We decided to not spend time here since Watson LOVES to roll in the sand. It looks like a great spot to hang for the day though!
We were allowed at overlook platform. This view was amazing! Loving the turquoise water with yellow hues! There it is, the castle point. Look at the holes in the stone below. Water comes spewing out with the current. We took a 10-minute walk to the top of the castle.
FALL FOLIAGE SCENIC ROUTES
Let’s face it, this trip is really about testing out our new beautiful machine, the Defender! So, sorry not sorry about all the photos! It’s just so photogenic! Driving around alone was beautiful! It was full of color everywhere we looked!
Watson was only allowed to hang out in the picnic area and parking lot so we decided to leave him in the car and go ourselves. We would not have left him if it was warm out.
It’s an easy 1.2-mile round trip hike. We walked through the lush forest filled with tall trees to the falls.
Here is a view of the 40ft waterfall above…and one cool one below of us hoping rocks in our waterproof Tevas!
The trees near this trail were awesome!
We decided to head to our campground for the night. While we were at the coffee shop in the morning I saw a photo with beautiful rocks! You know how much I love my rocks! I asked the woman where the photo was taken and she said along 12 Mile Beach Campground, so we had to stay there!
Journey to 12-mile beach Campground
We were an hour and half away from the campground. The Defenders GPS took us down a dirt road. We quickly realized this is not a normal road, nor is it the best route to get to the camp ground for a normal car. It was a bumpy, swervey, branch filled route. Both Ron and I’s eyes caught an awesome opening on the trail to our left as we drove by about thirty minutes into our drive! So, we turned around!
This place looked like an off roading paradise full of the boldest colors we’ve seen yet! Ron didn’t intend to go off roading in his Defender, its to pretty! But he couldn’t say no!
Ron took Watson for some spins! Thankfully the 4 wheel drive worked!Talk about the perfect family photo op! Happy fall from The Thomas!This was the largest most beautiful birch tree I have ever seen!We had some great laughs nearly to tears from me trying to get some epic Instagram shots for Happy Socks and Teva! Oh, the things we do for Instagram…
I have perfected my headstand on non-solid ground!
I couldn’t decide which backdrop I loved more, look at that red!
After being distracted over an hour here we headed back on the trail. We had seven miles left according to the car GPS but there was a road barrier not allowing us to go down anymore! We were LOST! It was pitch black at this point! The trail got tighter, muddier and bumpy.
I tried to use my phone but there were no roads or service so we drove around around zig zagging towards a main road using the arrow satellite dot on my phone. Even though we scratched the crap out of the new paint job and got her full of mud we had a blast! Thankfully, we were in a proper machine for this terrain! After about an hour we finally hit a main road and shortly after that we made it to the campground! It only cost $14 for the night.
For dinner we had grilled salmon and delicious a freeze dried coconut mango rice left over from another trip. I LOVE freeze dried foods. There easy, cheap, tasty and filling!
The night was INSANE! It was a constant extreme wind and pouring rain on and off. Branches fell all around us. Watson and I didn’t sleep much! Our plan was to get up and search for rocks along the beach.
We walked to the beach and NO JOKE the winds were so strong they were blowing me over! Ron was guessing they were 40mph constant winds! I was super bummed because I wanted to find some rocks! I was told by a guy at the local corner store that a strong North wind like this washes up new rocks. If we had an extra day it would have been perfect! So, be on the look out for North winds if your a rock collector!
We were going to stop at Kitch-iti-kipi, Michigans largest fresh water spring. Its 40ft deep and the clearest water ever! The weather was too bad so we skipped it! I HIGHLY recommend a pit stop there! I still have yet to go!
You can not leave the UP without eating some iconic foods like smoked salmon, white fish chowder and the famous pasty!Its fun to freak people out by hanging out the left side window! No driving for meee!
Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive
It was a five and half hour drive from the campground. This scenic drive is a 7.4 mile loop with 12 stops along the way! It was later then expected so we didn’t stop at every one. Here are my favorite stops!We found the end of a rainbow with no gold in sight, smh! The view looked like the Caribbean though!Enjoying the crisp fall air after a rainfall.The quick moving clouds made it fun to photograph the changing light and shade!
Watson and I decided to go for a quick run along the dunes!
Watson was cracking me up! He would run away as fast as he could then gallop back with the biggest grin on his face.We spent about an hour driving and stopping along the scenic route then drove another three hours to Grand Haven to stay with our friends that live there.
We didn’t make it before sunset but we did the night after! We stayed an extra night because Ron had work to do. Grand Haven is my favorite beach town city in all of MI!
That’s a WRAP on our three-day road trip in our new Defender to the UP and along the West coast! Check out my trip I took in the spring exploring over 5million Tulips in Holland Michigan!
I hope this helps when planning your road trip! Let me know your thoughts! Comment below, Pin, share and subscribe!
4 day PET FRIEDNLY ROAD TRIP during fall foliage ITENERARY
PET FRIENDLY STOPS IN PICTURED ROCK NP:
COST: Gas, food, and campground sites cost no more then $300. You can make it cheaper by packing your own food and driving a better gas milage vehicle.
ESTIMATE: MILES DRIVEN: 1050 GAS PRICE AVERAGE: $2.50 MPG: 18 TOTAL COST IN GAS: $145
BEST TIME TO GO: Late September-October for fall foliage. Every year is a little different depending on the weather. Click here, for a projected color scale for MI. We went October 13-17th and was full of color!
WEATHER: You can experience all four seasons in a Day in Michigan. Be sure to check the weather before packing. It was 65 sunny for two days and then pouring rain, super windy, and cold the next.
CAMPGROUNDS: There are a TON of campgrounds along the route. We stayed at Hog Island Campground, $13 a night and 12 Mile Beach Campground, $14 a night or $16 lakeside sites. First come first serve basis.
MOE THINGS TO DO IN MICHIGAN: Check out here