An Emmet County barn is adorned in the colors of fall.
Following are some fall color tours, listing driving directions through Northern Michigan. Sources include area Chambers of Commerce and the Traverse City Convention and Visitors Bureau and West Michigan Tourist Association.
Grand Traverse - Southern: From downtown Traverse City, drive west on Front Street crossing Division. As the residential section ends, Front Street curves and becomes North Long Lake Road. Take a left onto East Long Lake Road. Next, turn right on Secor Road, which becomes South Long Lake Road around the bend. Branches arching overhead make the road feel like a tunnel. On the right, you'll glimpse Long Lake glinting through the leaves.
At U.S. 31, continue straight onto M-137, passing Interlochen Center for the Arts on your right. Follow M-137 to Youker Road. Turn left for a more than milelong climb. At the crest, pull over and gaze back at the Pere Marquette State Forest. Youker Road becomes Hamlin Road.
At M-37, turn south. The Scurve descent to the Manistee River takes you through layers of hardwood interspersed with evergreen. At M-115, turn left toward Cadillac. Turn north on No. 29 Road, at Meauwataka sign. It becomes No. 31 Road and later No. 29 Road. You're now traveling through another section of the Pere Marquette State Forest. At the "T" with County Line Road, turn left, then right on Blackman. In Kingsley, follow Blackman through a curve that becomes Brownson Avenue. Brownson becomes Garfield. You'll dip into and emerge from Boardman River Valley. Go into Traverse City, straight through to the bay front.
Grand Traverse - Northern: From downtown Traverse City, go east on Front Street. Turn left at the traffic light on Garfield, and follow M-37 up Old Mission Peninsula, staying on the highway where it splits at the second light. An overlook of both East and West Bays is ahead on the left. Crowned with color, Power Island floats on West Bay.
Continue north on M-37. Turn right at Old Mission Road, continue straight and then turn right to visit Haserot Park, a public park and beach. Leaving the beach, stay straight on Swaney Road to return to M- 37. Turn right to visit the Old Mission Lighthouse and surrounding hiking trails. Leave the lighthouse on M- 37. At Old Mission Road, turn right, then left on Peninsula Drive. Veer right, staying on Peninsula Drive, when Seven Hills Road goes straight. To take an extra turn around Bowers Harbor, go right onto Neah-Ta- Wanta Road, or follow Peninsula to the left to return to Traverse City.
Leelanau: From downtown Traverse City, drive west on Grandview Parkway, alongside West Grand Traverse Bay. At the traffic light by Tom's Food Market, where M-22 continues north, turn left onto M-72 west. Turn right on 651 and then left on 616/651, heading for Cedar. In Cedar, continue on 616 by going west at the blinking light to Maple City. Turn right at another blinking light, then turn left a block down at the Glen Lake sign. Turn right on 675 in five miles. Continue on 675. In about three miles, watch for Miller Hill, an easy-to-miss dirt road. At the sandy top, gaze through the tiers of trees to Glen Lake below. Backtrack to 675 and turn right, then right again onto M-22. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a few miles ahead.
If you're short on time, turn right on M-204 in Suttons Bay to return to Traverse City. This takes you through the heart of the peninsula and the villages of Lake Leelanau and Suttons Bay. Then turn right on M-22 in Suttons Bay to return to Traverse City.
Otherwise, continue on M- 22 to Leland. The northern portion of the somewhat hourglass-shaped Lake Leelanau lies off to the right. In town, turn left at River to browse the shops of historic Fishtown. Rising from the Lake Michigan horizon are the Manitou Islands. Leave Leland on M- 22, en route to Northport. In Northport, turn left at the blinking light onto 201. Follow 201 as it snakes through town, then turn left on Third Street. Left again at the sign for Bramen Hill Recreation area in just over one-half mile. You'll curl around the hill, climbing to an overlook of Northport Bay and all across Grand Traverse Bay, to the mainland. Leave Northport on M-22 south, bound for Omena and Suttons Bay. Take M-22 back to Traverse City.
Antrim: From downtown Traverse City, go east on Grandview Parkway, which becomes Front Street and later Munson Avenue. Continue on Munson Avenue/U.S. 31 north toward Acme, then go east on M-72. Past Turtle Creek Casino, turn left on Hill Road at the Rapid City/Alden sign. At the stop sign, go left onto Rapid City Road, through Rapid City and Alden. Ahead is Torch Lake. Leaving Alden, the road becomes East Torch Lake Drive.
At the next fork, veer left to stay on East Torch Lake/593, driving north. Follow the curve to the right, past the Bellaire/620 sign. Turn right on Bellaire/620. In Bellaire, the road becomes Cayuga. Continue straight through the blinker and follow the curve out of town onto Derenzy.
Turn right on the unmarked road at the Alba sign. Right at the stop sign onto M-66. Left onto 620/Alba Highway. Left onto U.S. 131 at the blinker.
A geographical landmark lies ahead, the 45th parallel, designating the halfway point between the equator and North Pole. Drive about 3.5 more miles in Santa's direction, watching for the brown sign for Deadman's Hill Overlook, a left turn down a dirt road. The unassuming, even bleak entrance belies the spectacular, 180-degree view of the Jordan River Valley in store. Return on U.S. 131 south to Kalkaska, then M-72 west to Traverse City.
Starting from Elk Rapids: North on U.S. 31 to Eastport. East on M-88 toward Central Lake. North on County Road 65, east on Mohrmann Bridge Road, south on Rushtown (becomes Intermediate Lake Road). Go south on Derenzy to County Road 620 through Bellaire. South on East Torch Lake (County Road 593) through Alden (becomes Crystal Beach Road) and north to Kewadin (becomes Cherry Avenue) then south again (becomes Cairn Highway) back to Elk Rapids.
Starting from Manistee: U.S. 31 north to M-110/Lakeshore Road to Portage Lake. Turn East on Crescent Beach Road, then north on M-22 through Onekama. Turn west on Potter through Pierport, west on 13 mile Road to Lake Michigan. Backtrack 200 feet east. Head north on Lakeview, east on Shaef, north on M-22 through Arcadia (Scenic Highway) and east on Grace. Turn south on M-31, south on M-115 past Thompsonville. Head south on Yates, west on Nine Mile, south on Highbridge. Turn west on M-55, and south on U.S. 31 back to Manistee.
Starting from Petoskey (including Cheboygan): Take U.S. 31 north to M-119, go north through Harbor Springs to Cross Village. Turn left on Lake Shore to Lakeview (which becomes Gill at Sturgeon Bay). Turn left on Cecil Bay, right on Wilderness Park Drive north to Mackinaw City. Pass under I-75 at the base of the Mackinac Bridge. Head south on U.S. 23 through Cheboygan. South on M-27 through Indian River. Turn east on M-68 to U.S. 31 south to Petoskey.
This route includes the Tunnel of Trees between Harbor Springs and Cross Village on M-119. The scenic shoreline drive was originally a footpath carved over centuries by Native Americans.
Starting from Gaylord: Take M-32 west to East Jordan. Turn west on Ellsworth Road/County Road 626 to Ellsworth. Go west on Atwood Road/County Road 48 to Atwood. Take U.S. 31 north through Charlevoix, Bay Harbor and Petoskey on to Alanson. Turn east on M-68 to Indian River. South on I-75 back to Gaylord.
Note: The Pigeon River Country elk herd is the largest free-roaming herd east of the Mississippi River. The best time for a sighting is actually during September's mating season. For a chance at a close-up view, stop at the elk-viewing area in Gaylord, just east across South Otsego Avenue from Wisconsin Street.