Ultimate Guide to the M22 Michigan Scenic Drive
If you’re familiar with Michigan at all, you’ve heard about M22 Scenic Drive in Michigan – better known as M22.
It’s the most famous road in Michigan because of its popularity as the best scenic drive in
the entire Midwest. On M22, you’ll see Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Lake Michigan,and other natural wonders that are the essence of “Pure Michigan.”
Although M22 is technically a highway there is minimal traffic and plenty of scenery, so it feels
more like a hidden treasure than a true highway.
Think of it as a sightseeing tour instead of a roadway because that’s really what it is. If you’re doing the Lake Michigan circle tour, this part of the lower peninsula will give you a perfect Michigan “up north experience.”
Check out our driving and vacation guide to Michigan’s M22 to find out all there is to see on this 116-mile stretch of iconic highway and build your own self-guided tour. You can use the M22 Highway Guide and Map at the bottom of this page to help plan your M22 road trip!
PRO-TIP: M-22 is one of the prettiest driving tours in northwest Michigan, and it comes alive with stunning fall colors in autumn. It’s a popular spot for Michigan fall colors tours, much like the famed “Tunnel of Trees.” If you’re looking for the perfect fall color tour or scenic autumn drive in Michigan’s lower peninsula, use our Guide to Fall in Traverse City or read 6 Spots For a Perfect Northern Michigan Fall Road Trip.
Start Here on Your M22 Michigan Scenic Drive
M22 Michigan in Manistee County
Your journey begins in the heart of charming Manistee, where you’ll find a charming downtown shopping area with art galleries, an old-fashioned theater, and fun boutiques.
If you prefer to stay in the less populated and more natural areas, then Manistee still has plenty for you. Lighthouse Park is stunning (featuring the famous North Pierhead Lighthouse), Magoon Creek Park, and hiking trails throughout all of these beautiful sites. Our Guide to Manistee will tell you everything you
need to know for this part of your trip.
M22 Michigan in Onekama
Just up M22 past Manistee is Onekama, or the “Two Lake Town” which hosts Portage Lake and
a nice stretch of Lake Michigan as well as Portage Point Woods Preserve.
If you’re planning an overnight stay before traveling along the rest of M22, I recommend Portage Point Resort. This gorgeous hotel is very similar to the famous Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island (also featured in
the movie Somewhere in Time) as it has the same old-timey, charming vibe.
Onekama is a favorite town on M22, because of access to Onekama Lake and Lake Michigan, both perfect spots for swimming and boating.
Before leaving Manistee County, you’ll reach Arcadia and the Arcadia Dunes which have some
truly breathtaking views of Lake Michigan as well as incredible hiking trails. Also known as
Inspiration Point scenic overlook, this is a perfect spot to get out and practice your photography skills, since it’s hard to take a bad photo of such beautiful sites.
M22 Michigan in Benzie County
Once you cross the county line into Benzie County, you’ll find yourself between two lakes:
Lower Herring Lake and Upper Herring Lake. Take a moment to hop out of the car and walk
around the Upper Herring Lake Nature Preserve before going to the Green Point Dunes for
more views of Lake Michigan.
The next stop on this scenic drive is the town of Elberta, and the picturesque Elberta Bluffs.
Here, you can walk along Elberta Beach before finding yourself in some very high-quality tourist shops. “Huff’s Crystal Art” and “Crystal Gardens” will have all kinds of keepsakes and pieces of art to take home with you.
Charming Frankfort, MI is one of Michigan’s top travel destinations. You’ll find cute gift and T-Shirt shops, boutiques and cafes along the main street. It’s the Frankfort beach that will really grab your attention: be sure and head to this beach in the evening for one of the best sunsets in Michigan.
After these stops, M22 curves up and around Crystal Lake and the famous Point Betsie Lighthouse, a great place for rock hunting for Petoskey Stones.
At this point, you’ve reached the beginning of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and we suggest starting out on the Old Indian Trail as your introduction to the lakeshore. The Old Indian Trail is about a 2.5-mile loop that will take you through a towering Beech and Maple Forest before leading to you sweeping Lake Michigan views.
PRO-TIP: You’ll pass Riverside Canoe trips offers amazing canoe, kayak, and tubing trips down the Platte River. The best part of the trip is when the river meets Lake Michigan at Platte Point…it’s a spectacular scene of pure Michigan natural beauty.
The vast majority of Sleeping Bear Dunes is in Leelanau County, starting with Empire. Of all of the places I’ve been in Michigan, Empire takes my breath away every time. You’ll never get used to the views from the dunes or the crystal-clear water of Lake Michigan in Empire, especially on Empire Bluff Trail. Be sure to stop for some more pictures at the Empire Bluff Scenic Lookout before traipsing around the trails and beaches in the area.
If you find yourself in need of some shopping, the downtown area of Empire is very charming and has plenty of shops to choose from before making it to Glen Lake and Little Glen Lake.
This is the site for the very famous, very strenuous, M22 Challenge. It’s a run, bike, and paddle race that will truly test your endurance. Remember how hard it is to run on sand? How about trying it on a huge sand dune? The athletes who participate in this race are ambitious, to say the least, and it’s definitely on
my bucket list to try it one year.
The famous Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive is here, in Empire. The 7.5-mile trail loop winds through a hardwood forest, with 12 amazingly picturesque stops along the way. You’ll find breathtaking views of Lake Michigan, Glen Lake, North Bar Lake, as well as the famous Lake Michigan Overlook. You can pick up the Pierce Stocking Drive as you head north along M-22, watch for the old Maple Lane Resort for the turn-off towards Pierce Stocking. Use our map at the bottom of the page for more information.
Glen Arbor and Glen Haven
Even though you could easily spend an entire day in the Empire and Glen Arbor area, don’t
forget that you’re only halfway through M22 at this point and there is still plenty to see and do.
Next on the road after Glen Arbor is Pyramid Point, which was my very first hike in Michigan
and I’ve done it in every season (yep, even in the middle of winter) and it’s gorgeous every
time. I actually have a secret beach saved to my Maps app so I can always find it, and I’ve never
seen more than about 10 people there at a time. Try to find it for yourself so you, too, can have a
secret beach spot in northern Michigan.
Sleeping Bear Point is here, too, just down the road from historic Glen Haven, a restored port village with an amazing beach on Sleeping Bear Bay. Hike the 2.5 trail loop for some amazing views of the Manitou islands.
The Crystal River flows from Glen Lake to Lake Michigan through some pristine natural settings. It’s peaceful canoe, kayak, or tube trip, and one to add to your Michigan bucket list.
PRO-TIP: There are a few famous landmarks in Glen Arbor, like the Cherry Republic and Art’s Tavern, home of the popular Art’s Burger. There are some great places to eat here, but you need to plan well to make sure you get a table. Use our Guide to the Best Places to Eat in Glen Arbor for more detailed info.
Once you reach Leland (also known as “Fishtown”), you’ll be sandwiched between Lake Michigan and Lake Leelanau. Leelanau County might be the most picturesque county in Michigan, especially because of this specific area.
The Leelanau Peninsula is a great place to spend the day exploring and adventuring. The Clay Cliffs Natural Area and the surrounding beaches are beautiful. Although M22 doesn’t go north of Northport, it is worth it to take a short detour to the tip of the peninsula and Leelanau State Park where you can visit the Grand Traverse Lighthouse.
Now at the tail end of M22, you’ll find yourself passing Omena Bay and Peshawbestown
before reaching Suttons Bay. In this stretch of highway, there are plenty of vineyards and
wineries to visit, and of course, scenic stops.
Suttons Bay is a great place to stop for lunch and some fun in the sun before reaching the end of M22 and the cherry capital of the world. The popular Hop Lot Brewery, one of Michigan’s top craft breweries, is located in Suttons Bay, Don’t miss it.
The Finish Line: The End of M22 Michigan Highway
You’ve made it to the end, which means you’ve found yourself in Traverse City. Read our
comprehensive Guide to Traverse City so you can experience everything there is to see and do
in Traverse City (and trust me, there is plenty to do). Make sure you stop at the shops on Front
Street so you can get your own M22 sweatshirt now that you’ve officially seen the entirety of
this beautiful section of the mitten.
Best Places to Stay Along the M-22 Michigan Scenic Highway
Lodging can be tricky here; there are not many places to stay and those fill up fast. You’ll want to plan your visit carefully because chances are very good that you’re going to want to spend some time exploring the area. Here are some of our favorite places to stay in the area.
Located on the Manistee Riverwalk, there’s more to like than just the perfect location of the Manistee Inn and Marina. Just a short walk to the beautiful Lake Michigan beach, this is a very clean and comfortable spot. The beds are very comfy, and they serve breakfast as well. You’ll love being so close to all of the cure shops, boutiques, and eateries along the Riverwalk.
If you’re traveling with a family or group, this three-bedroom beachfront condo in Manistee is ideal. Just steps from the beach this clean and airy condo is very comfortable. There’s a balcony here too to catch the beautiful Lake Michigan sunsets and a really nice shared pool on the property, too.
Chimney Corners Resort is tucked away on the shores of beautiful Crystal Lake. With a restaurant, bar, shared lounge, and tennis courts, it’s the kind of place you’ll want to come back to year after year. You’ll find a mix of rooms, cottages, and apartments some with full kitchens.
Just a one-minute walk from the beach, the historic Hotel Frankfort is located right in downtown Frankfort, close to all the shops and eateries, including Stormcloud Brewing. You’ll find a mix of standard rooms and suites, some with balconies. It’s exceptionally clean, and the beds are comfy, too.
The M22 Inn is exceptionally clean and comfortable, and a perfect location for exploring the dunes and downtown Empire.
The Empire Lakeshore Inn is a favorite of mine: it’s exceptionally clean and cozy. Located in downtown, it’s just an eight-minute walk to beautiful Empire Beach.
This step-free condo on Glen Lake puts you right in the heart of Sleeping Bear Dunes, but in a relaxing space so you can really take in the natural beauty of the area. Located right on the water you’ll find a kitchen and living room with a DVR and games, too.
The Sylvan Inn Bed and Breakfast is peaceful, clean and comfortable, with a wide front porch for sitting and taking in your pure Michigan surroundings.
Leland/ Lake Leelanau
This clean and cozy one-bedroom East Leland cottage is a perfect location for exploring both Leland and the Leelanau Peninsula. It’s roomy: you’ll find a kitchen, living room with a pool table and extra bunk beds, too. Just a short walk to Lake Leelanau, you’ll also find a little deck area for relaxing, too.
Just steps away from Lake Michigan, this lovely lakefront cottage in Northport is roomy and clean. You’ll find 3 bedrooms and a fully equipped kitchen, too. There’s also a washer and dryer on premises if you’re staying for more than a couple of days which makes it nice.
We love this cozy Bayview cottage located close to downtown Suttons Bay. It’s a really clean and neat spot with a nice deck to relax on after you’ve explored the area. You’ll find two comfortable bedrooms as well as a kitchen and living area.
M22 Michigan Frequently Asked Questions
One of the most scenic Michigan highways, the M22 road starts just north of Manistee off highway 31. It follows along the shore of Lake Michigan through Frankfort, Empire, Glen Arbor, and Leland. It continues up and around the Leelanau Peninsula, through Northport and Suttons Bay along Grand Traverse Bay until it ends in Traverse City near Grand Traverse County.
The M22 Michigan highway is so popular because driving M22 will take you through some of the prettiest Michigan beach towns and picturesque natural areas. M22 takes you right through the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and along the Leelanau Peninsula before ending in Traverse City. It’s not just popular in the summer and fall, winter sports like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice fishing bring many visitors to the area.
The beautiful M22 Michigan Scenic Highway runs 116 miles.
Map of Things to See and Places to Stay Along M22 Michigan
More Things to Do Near M22 Michigan Scenic Highway
More Michigan Travel Spots To Explore
About the Author-
Casey Johanson is a senior at Grand Valley State University and is passionate about writing and reading. An avid traveler around Michigan, Casey enjoys gardening and running. Her favorite places are typically the hidden beaches and secret scenic overlooks throughout Michigan that most people don’t know about. She loves trying to find places that people haven’t been before and loves writing about those places even more.