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Cruising Fall Colors on Highway 38

Photography by Gary Alan Nelson

The Edge of the Wilderness National Scenic Bywayruns up Highway 38 and through the Chippewa National Forest for 47 miles, from Grand Rapids to Effie. Originally a route for Indians and voyageurs, it became a logging road in the early 1900s, then a winding backwoods road for automobiles (locals called it the "Highway Loop-de-Loop").

Today Highway 38 is lauded as one of the best fall colors drives in the nation. It's not a fast highway—tight curves and frequent logging truck traffic make an average speed of 40 mph. But it's a treat for the eyes, with glowing deciduous foliage, dark stands of pines, and scores of lakes—many with largely undeveloped shorelines. Peak color usually hits around the third week of September, but the fall foliage show can run well into October.

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View an interactive map of State Highway 38.

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