October 28, 2020

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Just Do Travel

4 gorgeous color tours that wind through the heart of Manistee

4 min read

MANISTEE, MI – When it comes to spots where you can create a home-away-from home base for fall color treks, the Manistee area is a virtual autumn buffet of options.

Like lots of Michigan’s coastal counties, brilliant leaf colors tend to hang on longer at the Lake Michigan shoreline. Manistee’s walkable downtown, riverwalk corridor and beach spots are a great place to see that. But Manistee County is also known for its outdoor adventure options that really shine in the fall, whether your zen leans toward inland lakes and waterways, hiking or driving through a national forest, or exploring the picturesque ribbon of M-22.

The county tourism group has put together a detailed list for four separate fall color routes. They’ve included highlights not to miss for each drive, and a handy leaf-color update that visitors can check online before they set off on their trip. Tourism officials are sharing these travel suggestions and route descriptions with MLive readers:

#1 Inland Tour: This route takes you under a canopy of trees and over scenic stretches of river, through the heart of the Manistee National Forest.

Highlights: Big Manistee River, historic sites and Iron Fish Distillery.

Manistee River

Colors along this section of the Manistee River Trail are beautifully reflected on the water. Photo courtesy of @aptitudeoutdoors and Visit Manistee County.

Route description: “As you make your way north on U.S. 31, our inland route offers a variety of ways to experience fall following less-travelled paths. Try taking a winding dirt road through a tunnel of trees, slow down and appreciate the unadulterated landscape of our region and stop along the way to explore some of these terrific destinations.”

Online Inland Tour Map

Tippy Dam

Tippy Dam in the fall. Photo courtesy of @mittenstatehemp and Visit Manistee County.

#2 Coastal Tour: Great scenery and charming towns along the Lake Michigan shoreline round out this trip.

Highlights: Onekama and Portage Lake, and the Arcadia Overlook

Manistee North Pierhead Lighthouse

Just because it’s fall doesn’t mean you should skip the beach trip. Fall colors stay longer on Michigan’s coasts. Photo courtesy of @jeane.blazic and Visit Manistee County.

Route description: “Voted Best Scenic Autumn Drive by USA Today in 2015, the M-22 scenic by-way is a favorite route for the fall color tour along Michigan’s northwest coast. Starting in Manistee and traveling north, this route will lead you through charming coastal towns while serving expansive vistas and glimpses of the spectacular Lake Michigan shoreline dressed in the best of fall color. This late-season tour won’t disappoint.”

Online Coastal Color Map

Orchard Beach State Park

Whether you love hiking or strolling, Orchard Beach has your trail. Photo courtesy of @upnorthviews and Visit Manistee County.

#3 Downtown Manistee: A downtown along the water is always a great place to spend a day – or a weekend.

Highlights: Downtown’s Riverwalk, foodie and shopping stops, historic buildings.

Manistee Riverwalk

Manistee’s Riverwalk is a great in-town walk with pops of fall color along the way. Photo courtesy of @snappytrees and Visit Manistee County.

Route description: “Downtown Manistee has one of the finest collections of historic buildings in the state, and there are so many incredible shops and foodie stops to take in when you are charting your course through the downtown corridor. It doesn’t just stop at the shopping. The views of fall color up and down the Manistee River Channel from the Manistee Riverwalk are incredible and if you are lucky, you may even catch a passing great lakes freighter navigating its way through the river channel.”

Online Downtown Manistee Tour Map

Arcadia Overlook

This Arcadia Overlook at Inspiration Point is a great stop on your leaf-peeping journey. Photo courtesy of @lilliandotzlaf55 and Visit Manistee County.

#4 M-22 and Lake Michigan: This getaway meanders up the Lake Michigan coastline.

Highlights: Arcadia Overlook, Sleeping Bear Dunes and historic lighthouses.

Route description: M-22 is a gem for travel and it’s especially beautiful in the fall. “This 116-mile road will capture everything that fall color means in Northern Michigan. Foodie stops galore, quaint shops, artisan goods and so much to see and do. We can’t wait for you to chart your course along M-22, beginning with a stroll through Manistee.”

M-22 Scenic Highway Route Map

Inspiration Point

This coastal spot in Arcadia is a fabulous spot to find fall foliage colors. Photo courtesy of @jimprisching and Visit Manistee County.

For a full digital version of Manistee County’s Fall Destination guide – with maps of each route and pages packed with fun details of things to do and see – check here.

For more information on activities, events and places to stay in Manistee, visit the area’s tourism website and check its Facebook page for updates.

Heading to that area and want to explore a little further north or south? Here are some stories to help you plan your trip.

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