Did you know that Michigan’s M-22 was rated the #1 Best Autumn Scenic Drive in the United States? After my personal “color tour” yesterday, you can clearly see why there is all the rave. The leaves have begun to change and the air is brisk. Apple orchards, pumpkin patches, and wine tasting line the roadside. The best part? You can create your own color tour.
Below is a map of the highly-rated scenic route, M-22. It begins in Manistee and ends in Traverse City area, trekking through 3 counties. Remember that post I did on Elberta and Frankfort? M-22 runs right through the area – you can “kill two birds with one stone” on this tour! You’ll also hit the Sleeping Bear Dunes, Glen Arbor for Petoskey stone hunting, and Leland where you can head out to the Manitou Islands. This post isn’t about this specific route, however, so please visit M-22 Color Tour for more information.
Although the M-22 route is a great route, my adventure partner and I like to take the path less traveled. Some of the best spots are off in no man’s land. Our first stop on our “Color Tour” was the Manistee River High Rollaway. This particular spot is tourist attraction, however, finding it is the trick. Your best bet is to view the Manistee River map. Below I have attached a map from the trail.
As stated by the DNR:
” Rich, in beauty as well as history, this overlook towers 200 feet above the Manistee River and offers a view of up to 15 miles. Referred to locally as a “rollaway,” it was at this site in the late 1800s that thousands of logs would be stockpiled along the river during the winter months. Following the spring thaw and ice breakup, key logs were removed allowing the huge piles of logs to tumble down the bank into the river to begin their trip downstream to the saw mill.
Archeological evidence indicates this area was used extensively by Native Americans who fished, hunted and made their homes here. Because it is also the highest point on this stretch of the Manistee, its beauty must have held a special significance for them as well.”
Another interesting fact about these areas is that the DNR is trying reestablish the prairie ecosystems by using prescribed fire to stimulate natural fires of the past.
“For centuries small fires were used as a tool by Native Americans to improve hunting and promote forest growth. This practice, along with naturally occurring fires, shaped the landscape first viewed by Michigan’s pioneers. These burns produced patches of irregular shaped open prairie throughout the mature pine forest.
The large slash fires of the late 1800s were the last to alter significant areas of this countryside. The hardwood forest that surrounds you has regenerated after the logging and ensuring fires of more than a century ago. In recent times fire generally has been excluded from the environment. Today, farming and development are the products of a flourishing community and have become the predominant changing forces on the landscape.”
If you’re feeling really adventurous, a couple miles west is a locals favorite – the much raved Horseshoe. It is located just north of Manton, Michigan. However, please be cautioned that you do need four-wheel drive to get back to this destination. But, believe me, it is worth it. Like High Rollaway, this spot rests high above the Manistee River and is noted for looking significantly like…you guessed it, a horseshoe. Be cautioned, however, this is a locals spot – so do not try and set up camp, unless you want to be invaded by a bunch of hooligans at odd hours. Make this a quick stop on your color tour. If you travel all around on the back roads, A.K.A. two tracks, you’ll find many spots like this – there is not a bad spot on this river.
Of course to finish off our color tour, we hit M-22 from Cedar to Lake Leelanau. This drive was tunneled with changing colors, justifying the rave of absolute beauty. Our destination was just east of Lake Leelanau, 45 North, a winery just off of M-204 on the Leelanau peninsula. $5 for 5 pours of pure happiness. I don’t know about you, but Chardonnay is not my personal go-to wine pick. However, 45 North has an Unwooded Chardonnay that is to die for. You wouldn’t even guess it is a Chardonnay.
There you have it. Another weekend spent in Pure Michigan for minimal cost. The leaves are changing rapidly so get out there while you can. You can choose to take the M-22 route without disappointment, but I highly recommend creating your own color tour. Any back road will make your jaw drop around these northern parts. If you want to travel a little further north, next weekend would be a prime weekend to hit the Tunnel of Trees on M-119.
Comment with your favorite fall viewing spots. Please share your fall pictures with me! Don’t forget to like and follow if you found this post helpful!