When you think of Michigan, two things usually come to mind – the Great Lakes and the beautiful scenery.
There are so many different types of terrain and landscapes to explore in Michigan, from forests and lakes to dunes and farmland. And what better way to experience all of this than by taking a road trip?
From the shores of Lake Superior to the picturesque forests of the Upper Peninsula, there are endless opportunities for scenic driving in Michigan.
Best Scenic Drives in Michigan
1. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area. The 35-mile-long route winds along the shores of Lake Michigan, past towering dunes and through birch and pine forests.
Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to spot wildlife, hike in the sand dunes, and take in views of the lake that will take your breath away.
There are several must-see stops along the way, including the Dune Climb, Sleeping Bear Point, and Empire Bluff. The Dune Climb is a windswept beach where you can search for agates and offers incredible views of the surrounding area (if you can brave the climb!).
Sleeping Bear Point is a beautiful spot for sunset watching and, of course, the Sleeping Bear Dunes themselves – the largest collection of freshwater coastal dunes in the world.
You’ll also want to make sure to stop at one of the many overlooks to take in the breathtaking views, including Lake Michigan Overlook. Trust me; this is one scenic drive you won’t want to miss!
2. Porcupine Mountains Scenic Byway
Not an official byway by name, the Silver City-Lake Gogebic Loop is about 120 Miles long and takes you through the heart of the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, offering stunning views of Lake Superior and the surrounding forests. The drive itself is pretty incredible, but there are also plenty of opportunities to get out and explore.
If you love waterfalls, this is definitely the drive for you. There are several of them along the way, including Little Union Gorge Falls, Nonesuch Falls, Manabezho, Manido, and Nawadaha falls.
The Upper Peninsula is known for its wild beauty, and the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is a great place to experience it. The Park covers more than 60,000 acres of forestland and over 90 miles of hiking trails that wind through the woods.
The park also offers several campgrounds, cabins, and yurts for those who want a more rustic experience. Animal lovers will enjoy the variety of wildlife, including deer, bears, moose, and bald eagles.
You’ll also want to make sure to stop at Lake of the Clouds, an absolutely stunning overlook that offers panoramic views of the area. It’s definitely one of the highlights of the drive!
3. Pure Michigan Byway M-22
This is probably one of Michigan’s most well-known scenic drives, and for good reason – it’s absolutely beautiful. The drive itself is about 120 miles long and takes you along the Lake Michigan shoreline, past forests, and dunes, with several small towns along the way.
One of the best things about M-22 is that there are so many different places to stop and explore. Some of the must-sees include Arcadia Bluffs overlook, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (mentioned above), Point Betsie Lighthouse, and the small town of Glen Arbor.
Built in 1858, the Point Betsie Lighthouse is one of the most photographed lighthouses in Michigan, and is still in use today. Situated on the shores of Lake Michigan, it offers stunning views of the water and surrounding landscapes.
The lighthouse is open to the public and features an informative museum about the area’s history. Climb to the top of the lighthouse, or there are also several nearby hiking trails, perfect for exploring the region’s natural beauty. And in the evening, visitors can enjoy a sunset cruise on one of the lake’s many scenic cruises.
Glen Arbor is a great place to stop for a bite to eat or to do some shopping. There are plenty of cute little shops, as well as art galleries, ice cream parlors, and restaurants. The town also has a beautiful beach where you can relax and enjoy the views.
There are so many different things to see and do along the way that you could easily spend a week exploring everything M-22 has to offer.
4. Tahquamenon Scenic Byway
The Tahquamenon Scenic Byway is a beautiful route that runs along the Tahquamenon River in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula through some of the state’s most beautiful countryside.
The byway is about 60 miles long and winds through forests and past lakes, offering stunning views of the river and access to several great hiking trails and picnic areas.
One of the highlights of the drive is Tahquamenon Falls State Park, which features two stunning waterfalls – the Upper Falls and Lower Falls. The Upper Falls is one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi River and is absolutely breathtaking.
The Lower Falls is a series of smaller waterfalls but is no less impressive. Both are definitely worth a visit! The out-and-back hike to the Falls is about ten miles and moderate in difficulty.
Rainbow Point is a lovely spot located just off the Byway, where you can enjoy a picnic lunch with a view. Rainbow Point gets its name from the colorful rocks that line the shore of the Tahquamenon River. It’s a great place to relax and take in the area’s natural beauty.
5. Sunrise Coast US-23
The Sunrise Coast US-23 in Michigan is a beautiful route that hugs the shoreline from Mackinaw City to Standish. From the Upper Peninsula’s rolling hills to Lake Huron’s sandy shores, this route takes you through some of Michigan’s most stunning scenery.
It’s a popular drive for locals and tourists alike and offers plenty of sightseeing, shopping, and dining opportunities.
One of the Sunrise Coast highlights is the Mackinac Bridge, which spans five miles over the Straits of Mackinac and connects Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas.
It’s one of the longest suspension bridges in the world and offers stunning views of the water and surrounding countryside. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a ship passing underneath!
Headlands International Dark Sky Park is close to the bridge on 2 miles of undeveloped Lake Michigan beach. This is one of only a handful of parks in the US that has been designated as an International Dark Sky Park, offering some of the best stargazing opportunities in the world!
The park has five miles of hiking trails and is also home to several wild native animals, including whitetail deer, bald eagles, coyotes, osprey, wild turkeys, and sometimes you may even see a black bear.
Mackinac Island is another highlight of the Sunrise Coast. This small island is only accessible by ferry, and once you’re there, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
There are no cars allowed on the island, so the only way to get around is by foot, bike, or horse-drawn carriage. The island is home to several historical sites, as well as beautiful beaches, forests, and trails.
Further south, stop at picturesque Tawas Point State Park for a dip in the warm shallow waters or to enjoy a picnic lunch while birdwatching.
Tawas Point is a sandy peninsula that juts out into Lake Huron and offers stunning views in all directions. It’s a great place to relax and enjoy the natural beauty of Michigan.
6. Tunnel of Trees
One of the most iconic drives in Michigan is a 20 miles section of M-119, also known as the Tunnel of Trees. It gets its name from the canopy of trees that arch over the road, creating a tunnel-like effect.
The two-lane road winds its way through the dense forest canopy, offering breathtaking views of the falling foliage and the bright green of the trees in the spring.
The route is popular with cyclists and has been named one of the best cycling routes in the country.
While the majority of the route is through the forest, there are also several small towns along the way where you can stop for a bite to eat or to explore. Here are four things to do along the route:
- Stop in Harbor Springs for lunch at Pond Hill Farm. This working farm has a cafe and winery on site and several fun activities, including a Gnome House Hunt.
- Take a hike at Petoskey State Park and look for Michigan’s state stone of the same name.
- Explore the General Store in Good Hart. This charming store has been in business since 1934 and is full of old-fashioned goodies like homemade jams, whitefish pate, and a wide selection of Michigan-made products.
- Finally, no trip to the Tunnel of Trees would be complete without a stop at the famous Legs Inn. The restaurant is known for its delicious Polish cuisine and its beautiful setting overlooking Lake Michigan. Be sure to try the pierogi!
These are just a few of the many gorgeous drives that Michigan has to offer. Whether you’re looking for breathtaking views, historic sites, or a chance to relax and enjoy nature, you’ll find it all in the Mitten State. Which scenic drive will you take first?
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