Five Places in Jackson County to Frolic in Fall

Fall is almost here, and soon we will be reveling in sweatshirt weather, all things pumpkin, and watching the leaves change colors. Fall is my favorite season and I love spending as much time outside before the dreaded ‘S’ word arrives. You might not know, but Jackson County is filled with locations that transform into vibrant and colorful gems as fall progresses. As the resident Jackson County contributor here at Lansing Mom, I have rounded up my five favorite places in Jackson County to frolic in fall.

Haehnle Sanctuary

Located six miles northeast of Jackson, the Haehnle Sanctuary is a true gem. Known for Sandhill Crane viewing during the migratory season, I stumbled upon this location by accident years ago as we drove past. After doing some research, I finally visited the sanctuary and could not believe the beauty that awaited me. Haehnle Sanctuary features hiking trails, a lake overlook, an observation area with benches, multiple meadows, and gorgeous wildflowers. Furthermore, the land is protected and maintained by the Michigan Audubon Society, which means you’ll find an abundance of wildlife! There is no fee to enter, so head to the sanctuary’s website to plan your visit. 

Haehnle Sanctuary
Haehnle Sanctuary in Fall – Photograph by Elizabeth Spisich

Falling Waters Trail

Looking for the perfect place to bike, scooter, or walk? Look no further than the Falling Waters trail. This 10.5-mile trail connects Jackson to Concord, Michigan via a well-maintained paved trail that was once a railway. The Falling Waters trail also connects to the MLK Equality Trail, which runs straight into downtown Jackson. Perfect for all seasons, the Falling Waters Trail is especially scenic in autumn, thanks to all of the mature trees and foliage that line the path. There are many places to access the Falling Waters Trail, each with its own scenic treasures:

If you are looking to admire autumn foliage, I highly recommend the Teft Road Trailhead and the Concord Trailhead, as both offer scenic lake views. 

Falling Waters Trail at the Concord Trailhead
Falling Waters Trail at the Concord Trailhead – Photograph by Elizabeth Spisich

The Dahlem Environmental Education Center

Looking to get lost in the woods? Look no further than the Dahlem Environmental Education Center. Featuring a variety of well-marked trails, I promise you won’t really get lost. In addition to trails, Dahlem also features multiple ponds, wildlife galore, and a natural playground for the kids. Additionally, you will find the Nature For All Trail – which is handicap accessible. Admission to the Dahlem Environmental Education center is free, but donations are happily accepted. Visit the Dahlem Website for more details!

Dahlem Environmental Education Center
Dahlem Environmental Education Center – Photograph by Elizabeth Spisich

Watkins Lake State Park

Watking Lake State Park is both scenic and serene. You will need a recreation passport on your license plate to visit this spot, but what awaits you is pure beauty. Featuring five miles of walking trails nestled along a lake and mature woods, some trails may be unavailable at certain times of the year. This is due to the lake being a protected wildfowl refuge. Located in Brooklyn, Michigan, Watkins Lake State Park took my breath away the first time I visited (and when you see the photo, I think you can see why!) For more information on visiting Watkins Lake State Park, visit this website.

Watkins Lake State Park
Watkins Lake State Park – Photograph by Elizabeth Spisich

McCourtie Park

Looking for a unique destination with a storied, and maybe even a scandalous history? Then McCourtie Park in Cement City, Michigan is for you. Known for its 17 cement bridges created in the Mexican folk art style of Trabajo Rustico, this sprawling park has well-maintained greens, mature trees that will dazzle in the fall, and some other attractions. There is even a hidden rathskeller still located on the property – sadly it is not open to the public. If disc golf is your thing, you can play on the course at this location while going on a scavenger hunt to find all of the cement bridges! Find more information about McCourtie Park here.

McCourtie Park
McCourtie Park – Photograph by Elizabeth Spisich

From hiking to wildlife to ornate bridges, these five locations offer something for everyone! One thing they all have in common is stunning fall foliage just a short drive from the Lansing area. Have you visited any of these stunning spots before? Leave a comment below and let me know!

Elizabeth Spisich
Elizabeth lives in Jackson, Michigan, with her husband and two sons. She has worn many hats throughout the years: Elementary school teacher (so.many.apples), photographer (bride and baby wrangler), mother of two boys (more coffee, please!), and proud MSU alum (GO GREEN!). Elizabeth currently balances being a stay-at-home mom while growing her small business, Wonder and Wander - Jackson. When she's not encouraging her children to put the screens away to go outside, you can find her trying to make others laugh and doing what she can to make the world a more beautiful place.


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