Discover Highway M-22 in Leelanau County

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.

M-22 In Leelanau County

Leelanau County is one of the most beautiful sections of the Lake Michigan Circle Tour. Home to many wineries, gorgeous terrain, Lake Michigan beaches and smaller lakes, Leelanau County is a destination you won't want to miss. While taking the M-22 Scenic Drive, Leelanau County begins shortly after Frankfort in Benzie County, before reaching the city of Empire. After visiting the Point Betsie Lighthouse in Benzie County, your scenic trip along M-22 will bring you into Leelanau County.
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The first place you will come across will be 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'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.

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Glen Arbor

Both Empire and Glen Arbor (15 minutes north of Empire) 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 to Leland, a cozy little town about 30 minutes north of Glen Arbor. Discover the history that Leland holds. Within Leland, visit historic Fishtown, a working waterfront with cute shops right along the docks. Grab a bite to eat at one of the restaurants or fisheries.


Another 20 minutes north of Leland, and you have reached the peak of M-22. Northport is an historic town known for its fine marina, beautiful parks, friendly downtown shops, scenic beaches, and the annual Northport Dog Parade and Wine Festival.

Suttons Bay

Work your way south along the Grand Traverse Bay and in about 20 minutes you'll reach Suttons Bay. And then the last leg of the trip is about 25 minutes south on M-22 and continues 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.

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

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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.

Here is a map of the M-22 route:

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.

Your Scenic Drive Begins in Manistee County

Travel M-22 to Benzie County

Also See...

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

Discover More Things to Do Near Leelanau County...

Things to Do in Leelanau County -- In addition to Fishtown in downtown Leland, be sure to visit some of the other attractions found in Leelanau County.
Things to Do in Benzie County -- In addition to sandy beaches along the Lake Michigan shoreline, the county is home of part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, lighthouses at Point Betsie and Frankfort, and the Betsie Valley Trail for hiking and biking along 22 miles from Elberta to Thompsonville.
Northwest Michigan Activities & Things to Do -- While in Northwest Michigan, visit beaches and lighthouses, antiques, art galleries, casinos and wineries and breweries, and more.
Northern Michigan Activities & Things to Do -- Northern Michigan offers many fun things to do for the entire family whatever the season, whatever the reason!
West Michigan Things to Do -- Check this site out for West Michigan activities in the towns of Manistee, Ludington, Pentwater, the Silver Lake Sand Dunes and more.

Last Updated: 08-08-2018 01:15 PM ID: 1640