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The Definitive Handbook to the M22 Michigan Scenic Drive

If you have any knowledge of Michigan, chances are you’ve heard about the renowned M22 Scenic Drive, also known as M22.

M22 is the most famous road in Michigan, celebrated as the ultimate scenic drive in the entire Midwest. Along M22, you’ll encounter the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Lake Michigan, and other natural wonders that epitomize the essence of “Pure Michigan.”

While M22 is technically a highway, it boasts minimal traffic and abundant picturesque landscapes, creating an ambiance more akin to a hidden gem than a typical highway.

Think of it as a sightseeing expedition rather than a mere roadway because that’s precisely what it offers. If you’re embarking on the Lake Michigan circle tour, this stretch of the lower peninsula will provide you with an authentic “up north experience” in Michigan.

Explore our comprehensive driving and vacation guide to Michigan’s M22, which unravels the myriad attractions along this 116-mile iconic highway. Use the M22 Highway Guide and Map provided at the bottom of this page to plan your self-guided M22 road trip!

Expert Advice: M-22 ranks among the most scenic driving tours in northwest Michigan, and it transforms into a captivating display of vibrant fall foliage during autumn. It has become a popular destination for fall color tours, much like the renowned “Tunnel of Trees.” If you’re seeking the perfect fall color tour or a scenic autumn drive in Michigan’s lower peninsula, consult our Guide to Fall in Traverse City or peruse our suggestions for a perfect Northern Michigan Fall Road Trip featuring 6 stunning spots.

m22 michigan manistee

Embark on Your M22 Michigan Scenic Drive

M22 Michigan in Manistee County

Your journey commences in the heart of the charming Manistee, where you’ll discover a delightful downtown shopping area adorned with art galleries, an old-fashioned theater, and captivating boutiques.

For those inclined towards less populated and more natural settings, Manistee still offers an array of attractions. Lighthouse Park is breathtaking, featuring the renowned North Pierhead Lighthouse, while Magoon Creek Park and the various hiking trails scattered throughout the region provide access to stunning natural sites. Our Guide to Manistee will furnish you with all the necessary information for this part of your trip.

M22 Michigan in Onekama

Just a short distance up M22 from Manistee lies Onekama, known as the “Two Lake Town” due to its proximity to Portage Lake and a picturesque stretch of Lake Michigan, as well as the Portage Point Woods Preserve.

If you plan to spend the night before continuing your journey along M22, I recommend staying at the Portage Point Resort. This splendid hotel bears a striking resemblance to the famous Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island (featured in the movie “Somewhere in Time”) and exudes an old-fashioned charm.

Onekama is a beloved town along M22, celebrated for its access to Onekama Lake and Lake Michigan, both of which are perfect for swimming and boating enthusiasts.

Before leaving Manistee County, you’ll encounter Arcadia and the awe-inspiring Arcadia Dunes, which offer breathtaking views of Lake Michigan and feature incredible hiking trails. Also referred to as Inspiration Point scenic overlook, this location presents the perfect opportunity to practice your photography skills, as it’s nearly impossible to capture a bad photo of such magnificent landscapes.

m22 michigan frankfort

M22 Michigan in Benzie County

Once you cross into Benzie County, you’ll discover yourself nestled between two beautiful lakes: Lower Herring Lake and Upper Herring Lake. Take a moment to step out of your vehicle and explore the Upper Herring Lake Nature Preserve before venturing to the Green Point Dunes to enjoy panoramic views of Lake Michigan.

The next destination on this picturesque drive is the town of Elberta, adorned with the enchanting Elberta Bluffs. Stroll along Elberta Beach before immersing yourself in a collection of high-quality tourist shops. “Huff’s Crystal Art” and “Crystal Gardens” offer a variety of exquisite keepsakes and art pieces to bring back as mementos.

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Frankfort

Charming Frankfort, MI, stands as one of Michigan’s premier travel destinations. Along the main street, you’ll find delightful gift shops, boutiques, and cozy cafes. However, it is the captivating Frankfort Beach that will truly captivate you. Make sure to visit the beach in the evening for a breathtaking sunset, considered one of the finest in Michigan.

After these stops, M22 winds its way around Crystal Lake, leading you to the renowned Point Betsie Lighthouse—an ideal location for hunting Petoskey Stones.

At this point, you have arrived at the beginning of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. To begin your exploration of this natural wonder, we recommend embarking on the Old Indian Trail. This scenic 2.5-mile loop will guide you through a majestic forest of towering beech and maple trees, ultimately revealing sweeping vistas of Lake Michigan.

PRO-TIP: Along the way, you’ll pass Riverside Canoe Trips, offering an extraordinary experience of canoeing, kayaking, and tubing down the Platte River. The highlight of this adventure is witnessing the meeting point of the river and Lake Michigan at Platte Point—a truly spectacular display of Michigan’s pristine natural beauty.

m22 michigan Leelanau County

Leelanau County

Empire

The majority of Sleeping Bear Dunes can be found in Leelanau County, starting with the charming town of Empire. Each visit to Empire leaves me breathless, as the views from the dunes and the crystal-clear waters of Lake Michigan are simply unparalleled. Don’t forget to capture more picturesque moments at the Empire Bluff Scenic Lookout before embarking on a journey through the surrounding trails and beaches.

If you’re in the mood for some shopping, downtown Empire offers a delightful array of charming shops to explore before reaching Glen Lake and Little Glen Lake.

This area serves as the renowned and demanding site for the M22 Challenge—an endurance race that involves running, biking, and paddling. Imagine the difficulty of running on sand, now picture doing it on a massive sand dune. The participants of this race are undeniably ambitious, and it remains on my personal bucket list to attempt it one year.

m22 michigan pierce

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

Located in Empire, the famous Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive awaits. This 7.5-mile loop traverses a hardwood forest, featuring 12 breathtaking stops along the way. Marvel at the awe-inspiring vistas of Lake Michigan, Glen Lake, North Bar Lake, and the iconic Lake Michigan Overlook. As you head north on M-22, keep an eye out for the old Maple Lane Resort, which marks the turn-off towards Pierce Stocking Drive. For more information, consult our map at the bottom of the page.

glen haven mi

Glen Arbor and Glen Haven

While a full day can be easily spent exploring the Empire and Glen Arbor area, it’s important to remember that you’re only halfway through M22 at this point, and there’s still a lot more to discover.

Continuing along the road from Glen Arbor, you’ll come across Pyramid Point, which happens to be my very first hiking experience in Michigan. I’ve hiked it in every season, even in the midst of winter, and it’s breathtaking every single time. I have a hidden beach saved on my Maps app, ensuring that I can always find it, and remarkably, I’ve never encountered more than ten people there at once. Seek it out for yourself, and you too can have your own secret beach spot in northern Michigan.

Within this vicinity lies Sleeping Bear Point, not far from the historic Glen Haven, a restored port village boasting a magnificent beach on Sleeping Bear Bay. Embark on a 2.5-mile trail loop for awe-inspiring views of the Manitou islands.

Flowing from Glen Lake to Lake Michigan, the Crystal River offers a tranquil experience for canoeing, kayaking, or tubing. It’s an absolute must-add to your Michigan bucket list, as it passes through pristine natural settings.

PRO-TIP: Glen Arbor is home to several renowned landmarks, such as Cherry Republic and Art’s Tavern, famous for its delectable Art’s Burger. While there are fantastic dining options here, it’s essential to plan ahead to secure a table. For more detailed information, consult our Guide to the Best Places to Eat in Glen Arbor.

Michigan fall leland mi

Leelanau Peninsula

Upon reaching Leland, also known as “Fishtown,” you’ll find yourself nestled between Lake Michigan and Lake Leelanau. This specific area makes Leelanau County one of the most picturesque counties in Michigan.

The Leelanau Peninsula is a fantastic destination for a day of exploration and adventure. The Clay Cliffs Natural Area and the surrounding beaches are breathtaking. Although M22 does not extend beyond Northport, it’s worthwhile to take a short detour to the tip of the peninsula and visit Leelanau State Park, where you can explore the Grand Traverse Lighthouse.

As you approach the end of M22, you’ll pass Omena Bay and Peshawbestown before reaching Suttons Bay. Along this stretch of highway, you’ll encounter numerous vineyards, wineries, and, of course, scenic stops.

Suttons Bay is an excellent place to pause for lunch and enjoy some fun in the sun before reaching the end of M22, the cherry capital of the world. Don’t miss the popular Hop Lot Brewery, one of Michigan’s top craft breweries, located in Suttons Bay.

The Finish Line: The End of M22 Michigan Highway

Congratulations! You’ve reached the end of M22, which means you’ve arrived in Traverse City. Make sure to read our comprehensive Guide to Traverse City to make the most of your experience and explore everything this city has to offer (and trust me, there’s plenty to do). Don’t forget to visit the shops on Front Street and grab your very own M22 sweatshirt now that you’ve officially traversed this beautiful section of the mitten.

where to stay in marquette

Top Accommodation Options Along the Scenic M-22 Michigan Highway

Finding lodging can be challenging in this area, as there aren’t many options, and they tend to fill up quickly. It’s crucial to plan your visit carefully, as you’ll likely want to spend some time exploring the surroundings. Here are some of our favorite places to stay in the area.

Manistee

The Manistee Inn and Marina

378 River Street, Manistee, MI 49660

Located on the Manistee Riverwalk, the Manistee Inn and Marina offers more than just a perfect location. It’s a clean and comfortable spot, just a short walk from the beautiful Lake Michigan beach. The beds are exceptionally comfortable, and breakfast is served as well. You’ll love being in close proximity to charming shops, boutiques, and eateries along the Riverwalk.

Manistee Beachfront Condo

Manistee, MI

Ideal for families or groups, this three-bedroom beachfront condo in Manistee is just steps away from the beach. It’s a clean and airy space, providing great comfort. The condo features a balcony where you can enjoy stunning Lake Michigan sunsets, and there’s also a lovely shared pool on the property.

Frankfort

Chimney Corners 1602 Crystal Drive, Frankfort, MI 49635 Nestled along the shores of beautiful Crystal Lake, Chimney Corners Resort is a hidden gem. With a restaurant, bar, shared lounge, and tennis courts, it’s the kind of place you’ll want to return to year after year. The accommodation options vary from rooms to cottages and apartments, some of which come with full kitchens.

Hotel Frankfort

231 Main Street, Frankfort, MI 49635

Situated just a minute’s walk from the beach, the historic Hotel Frankfort is located in downtown Frankfort, close to shops and eateries, including the renowned Stormcloud Brewing. The hotel offers a mix of standard rooms and suites, some of which feature balconies. It’s exceptionally clean, and the beds are comfortable.

Empire

M22 Inn Empire

8720 South Dorsey Road, Empire, MI 49630

The M22 Inn in Empire provides exceptional cleanliness and comfort, making it the perfect base for exploring the dunes and downtown Empire.

Empire Lakeshore Inn

11626 Sunset Drive, Empire, MI 49630

The Empire Lakeshore Inn is a personal favorite, offering exceptional cleanliness and coziness. Located downtown, it’s just an eight-minute walk to the beautiful Empire Beach.

Glen Arbor

Step-Free Condo on Glen Lake

Glen Arbor, MI

This step-free condo on Glen Lake places you right in the heart of Sleeping Bear Dunes while providing a relaxing space to appreciate the natural beauty of the area. Situated right on the water, the condo includes a kitchen and a living room with a DVR and games for entertainment.

Sylvan Inn

6680 W. Western Ave, Glen Arbor, MI 49636

The Sylvan Inn Bed and Breakfast offers a peaceful, clean, and comfortable stay, with a wide front porch where you can sit back and enjoy the pure Michigan surroundings.

Leland/Lake Leelanau

East Leland Cottage

Lake Leelanau, 49653-9708

This clean and cozy one-bedroom cottage in East Leland is an ideal location for exploring both Leland and the Leelanau Peninsula. It provides ample space, featuring a kitchen, a living room with a pool table, and additional bunk beds. A short walk will lead you to Lake Leelanau, and there’s a charming deck area for relaxation as well.

Northport

Northport Cottage

Northport, MI

Just steps away from Lake Michigan, this lovely lakefront cottage in Northport offers a spacious and clean retreat. With three bedrooms and a fully equipped kitchen, it’s perfect for a comfortable stay. If you’re planning an extended visit, there’s also a washer and dryer on the premises.

Suttons Bay

Bayview Cottage

Suttons Bay, MI

We adore this cozy Bayview cottage, conveniently located near downtown Suttons Bay. It’s a clean and tidy spot, featuring a nice deck where you can unwind after exploring the area. The cottage offers two comfortable bedrooms, a kitchen, and a living area.

traverse city breweries

M22 Michigan Frequently Asked Questions

Where Does the M22 Michigan Highway Begin?

One of Michigan’s most scenic highways, M22 starts just north of Manistee, off Highway 31. It follows the Lake Michigan shoreline, passing through Frankfort, Empire, Glen Arbor, and Leland. It then continues along the Leelanau Peninsula, through Northport and Suttons Bay, alongside Grand Traverse Bay, until it reaches its end in Traverse City, near Grand Traverse County.

Why is M22 So Popular?

M22 Michigan Highway is immensely popular due to its route through charming beach towns and picturesque natural areas. Driving along M22 allows you to experience the beauty of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and the scenic Leelanau Peninsula before reaching Traverse City. It’s not only a favorite during the summer and fall but also attracts winter sports enthusiasts for activities like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice fishing.

How Long is the M22 Michigan Scenic Drive?

The enchanting M22 Michigan Scenic Highway spans a distance of 116 miles.

Map of Must-See Attractions and Accommodations Along M22 Michigan

map of m22 michigan