Experience the Beautiful M-22 Scenic Drive in Northwest Michigan

Arcadia Overlook
Arcadia Overlook - Photo by KenScottPhotography.com
It's by far one of the most beautiful drives in America, and it's right here in northwest Michigan. M-22 is a 116-mile stretch of road that winds through the scenic countryside of Manistee, Benzie and Leelanau counties. Though very pretty in spring and summer, the fall season is when you really must take this drive along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Along the way you can visit wineries, art galleries, and experience small-town friendliness.


The southern-most section of M-22 starts in Manistee County off US-31. Manistee is a charming Victorian port city, best known for the historic Ramsdell Theater, the 1.5 mile Riverwalk, gorgeous beaches and golf courses, and the popular Little River Casino. Two of Manistee's biggest festivals are the Forest Festival over July 4th and Old Christmas Weekend in early December. The fall season is a gorgeous time to drive through the Manistee area, or walk downtown and browse the variety of stores and restaurants. During the month of October, dare to get scared in Manistee's very own Ghost Ship, otherwise known as the S.S. City of Milwaukee the rest of the year. After visiting the city of Manistee, follow the winding M-22 up through the villages of Onekama, Bear Lake, and Arcadia, home of Arcadia Daze in July and Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course. For more information, read our story about M-22 in Manistee County.


Inspiration Point
Continuing north up M-22 you'll arrive in Benzie County, and just inside of Benzie County along M-22, you'll come across Inspiration Point. It truly is inspiring...with one of the best views of Lake Michigan and the surrounding land, Inspiration Point will take your breath away, especially after making the climb to the top of the stairs! After taking a break and enjoying the spectacular view, head north on M-22 and you'll come across the towns Frankfort and Elberta. Visit the clean beaches along Lake Michigan, try your hand at fishing, stop at Elberta's Waterfront Park, or visit the Point Betsie Lighthouse, one of the most famous lights along the lakeshore. Follow the 22-mile Betsie Valley Trail from Frankfort through Elberta, Beulah and Thompsonville...excellent for hiking and biking. As you're enjoying your color tour, be sure to stop in Benzie County for their Fall Festival in October.


Your scenic trip along M-22 will bring you into Leelanau County and the small village of Empire, headquarters for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, named the most beautiful place in the United States by the viewers of Good Morning America. Fall is an excellent time to visit this National Park...you'll still be able to take in its magnificence, but without all the crowds. It's a place you must visit to appreciate how history and nature come together to form spectacular sand dunes. Both Empire and Glen Haven give you a glimpse into the past with their numerous museums...and you'll enjoy the quaint shops and variety of restaurants. Continue along M-22 up through the Leelanau Peninsula past Leland, Northport, and Suttons Bay...until you reach the end in Traverse City. Known as the "Cherry Capital of the World," Traverse City is one of America's Top 10 beach towns. Championship Golf Courses, world-class spas, pristine beaches and exquisite food make this the perfect ending to your M-22 fall color tour.
Photos by Advantage Marketing

Here is a sample route you can follow to see peak color in mid to late October:

Traveling north on US-31 from Manistee, pick up M-22 by the Casino. Follow this leisurely route through Onekama...then be sure to stop at the lookout point at Arcadia. Continue on M-22 up Elberta and Frankfort, where you'll find some terrific shopping and great restaurants. Further north you'll find Empire, the gateway to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. You'll want to take some time and visit the park, which offers spectacular dunes and views of Lake Michigan. Continue traveing M-22 north through the Leelanau Peninsula and the towns of Glen Arbor, Leland, Northport and Suttons Bay. Each has its own unique personality (such as Fishtown in Leland) and various wineries are found in this area. Finally, end up in Traverse City, the cherry capital. It's a great place to end your tour, with so much to see and do in this popular northern town.

It's well worth an afternoon drive in October to travel the M-22 route. The vibrant colors will amaze you...and the towns will welcome you.

Manistee Fall Color Tour
Mason County Fall Color Tour
Oceana County Fall Color Tour


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Last Updated: 11-26-2014 03:39 PM ID: 1413