10 Best Scenic Drives in Michigan

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Aerial view of the Mackinac Bridge through the straights connectiong the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan.

Are you looking for new road trip destinations? You’ll find some of the most beautiful scenic drives in Michigan. So whether you’re out for lake views in the summer or a fall leaf color tour, the mitten-shaped state has you covered. Plus, it’s hard to be disappointed when surrounded by hundreds of lakes, including the Great Lakes.

Here, we reveal the best scenic drives in Michigan. So buckle up and get ready for some unique looks into the lower and upper peninsulas of the state. 

What Is Michigan Known For? 

Michigan is known for its vast freshwater coastline. It sits on the shores of four of the five Great Lakes: Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, Lake Huron, and Lake Erie. In addition, it has hundreds of smaller lakes, rivers, and waterways throughout the state’s interior. 

Michigan is also known for its forests and sand dunes. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore is just one of the places you can find dunes cascading into Lake Michigan. In addition, the state is a destination for those seeking outdoor adventure.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore has miles of breathtaking views of the turquoise waters of Lake Michigan.

Is There a Scenic Drive Along Lake Michigan? 

Michigan’s Scenic Route 31 takes you along Lake Michigan’s northernmost shore from Traverse City to Petoskey. The drive is approximately 65.8 miles.

While it hugs the coast, forests or towns often block your view from the road. But there are plenty of places to stop and take in the lake. You’ll also find charming resort towns wineries. This is a beautiful route in the fall. 

The M-22 Byway also takes you near Lake Michigan’s shoreline from Manistee, up and around Leelanau Peninsula, and to Traverse City. It also gets you to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore. And US-2 takes you along the top of Lake Michigan in the upper peninsula. Keep reading to learn more! 

10 Best Scenic Drives in Michigan

Michigan is full of beauty and unique destinations. We’ve pulled together ten of the best scenic drives in Michigan that you won’t want to miss! 

1. M-22 Byway

The M-22 Byway is one of Michigan’s most beautiful and famous scenic drives. It takes you from Manistee to Empire, close to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore.

Then you can drive it around the Leelanau Peninsula, which is full of forests, lakes, wineries, and cute little fishing towns. Many people take M-22 from Suttons Bay to Traverse City on a wine tour. 

Catch a glimpse of what you can expect to experience on your M-22 road trip.

2. Copper Country Trail

The Copper Country Trail National Byway is at the very top of Michigan’s upper peninsula. It takes you from Houghton to Copper Harbor.

The drive takes you on a historical route of the state’s mining history. Surrounded by geological wonders along the way, you’ll get the final reward in Copper Harbor when you see the majestic Lake Superior. 

3. River Road

River Road National Byway extends 22 miles into the Huron National Forest in the lower peninsula, starting from Au Sable, on Lake Huron.

The fall is a great time to drive the route, as there are a lot of scenic overlooks where you’re sure to see colorful leaves reflecting in the Au Sable River below. It’s a popular area for camping, off-roading, hiking, biking, and all kinds of outdoor recreation. 

Michigan enjoys stunning fall colors throughout the state.

4. Old Mission Peninsula

Old Mission Peninsula is a popular wine trail that starts in Traverse City and ends at the historic Mission Point Lighthouse. You’ll find vineyards and ten wineries here on the 45th parallel. There are also countless views overlooking the Traverse bays.

While the peninsula is only 18 miles, you can easily spend a day driving around. In addition, there are wine tours you can book to take you around to the wineries, so you don’t have to drive. 

5. White Fish Bay National Forest Byway

White Fish Bay National Forest Byway goes along Whitefish Bay of Lake Superior in Michigan’s upper peninsula. The scenic drive takes you through Hiawatha National Forest.

You can access Point Iroquois Lighthouse from the route, which was built in 1855. And in 1975, the lighthouse was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It’s definitely worth a stop.

Point Iroquois Lighthouse is open to the public and allows visitors to climb the spiral staircase to the top of the tower.

6. US-2 Top of the Lake Scenic Byway

The US-2 Top of the Lake Scenic Byway is one of the country’s oldest roads. And it happens to be one of the most beautiful, as it runs along the top of Lake Michigan in the state’s upper peninsula.

Starting in St. Ignace near the famous Mackinac Bridge, US-2 runs west to the Wisconsin border. You’ll find many places to pull over and take in the shoreline of Lake Michigan, as well as unique small towns along the way.

7. Sunrise Coast

Michigan’s Sunrise Coast runs from Standish to Mackinaw City, along Lake Huron. The entire route is approximately 200 miles on US-23.

You’ll find a lot of historical places along the way, including old cemeteries, railways, and lighthouses. There are also places to stop along Lake Huron for kayaking or other water recreation. And when you end in Mackinaw City, you’ll be greeted by the Mackinac Bridge in all its glory. 

The Mackinac Bridge connects Mackinaw City in Michigan’s lower peninsula with St. Ignace in the upper peninsula.

8. Hidden Coast

The Hidden Coast scenic drive in Michigan takes you from the Wisconsin border, along Lake Michigan, and to the town of Escanaba in the upper peninsula. It offers incredible overlooks along the lake, through forests, and in small towns.

You can also access destinations like Kitch-Iti-Kipi springs with clear blue water to see fish and underwater forests. 

9. North Huron Recreational Trail

The North Huron Recreational Trail takes you along the shoreline of Lake Huron in the upper peninsula on highway M134. Starting just north of St. Ignace east to Detour Village, you’ll encounter one of the most beautiful coastlines in Michigan and numerous islands.

Once you’re in Detour, you can drive onto a ferry that will take you an additional mile across to Drummond Island, where you’ll find unspoiled landscape and a small town. 

Drummond Island is the second largest freshwater island in the U.S.

10. West Michigan Pike

The West Michigan Pike Route runs along Lake Michigan from the Indiana border to Ludington, Michigan. While the road doesn’t hug the shoreline, it takes you through several beach towns, including Saugatuck, Holland, Grand Haven, Muskegon, and Ludington.

You’ll hit all of the popular beaches on Lake Michigan’s sandy shores. The entire drive is about 184 miles.

Traveler’s Tip: While driving the West Michigan Pike, take a detour further inland and visit the 5 best breweries in Grand Rapids, MI.

How Long Would It Take to Drive Around the State of Michigan? 

According to Michigan Radio, driving around Michigan, including the upper and lower peninsula, will take around 40-50 hours to complete. The distance would be about 2,098 miles.

You are guaranteed to find numerous superb attractions and vistas along the way! 

Are Scenic Drives in Michigan Worth It?

Scenic drives in Michigan are definitely worth it. If you love lakes and natural beauty, Michigan is the place to road trip.

We highly recommend going during the summer months or fall. Summer is an excellent time of year for outdoor recreation and water sports. And, driving through forests during the fall is magical, with the leaves changing color. 

When will you take a scenic drive in Michigan?

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