Photo by Todd & Brad Reed Photography

Manistee Fall Color Tour

Manistee County is a gorgeous area to take a fall color tour. You can take a day trip and drive through canopies of brightly colored trees on roads that have little traffic. Stop along the way at one of many roadside farmer’s stands and treat yourself to a local, sweet honeycrisp apple. Feast your eyes on the beautiful orchards, overflowing with tasty in-season apples, or pick up a pumpkin at a local farm to decorate your porch. On the way through Manistee County, you’ll come across the friendly, small towns of Onekama, Bear Lake, and Arcadia, just waiting to help you create a harvest of memories.

One of the popular routes to take the fall color tour on is M-22, which begins in Manistee County, goes north through Benzie and Leelanau Counties, and ends in Traverse City, although you don't have to go the entire length to see brilliant colored leaves and magnificent views.


The Manistee area is a great place to experience fall. There are many different activities to engage in, such as grabbing a coffee to go and walking the 1.5 mile Riverwalk downtown along the Manistee River, or dare to get scared in the S.S. City of Milwaukee Ghost Ship during the month of October. There are also many fall events that happen during color season, from festivals, to 5K’s, to trick or treating. Walk downtown Manistee and enjoy a variety of small shops, restaurants, antique stores, art galleries and many things to do!


Just 20 minutes north of Manistee, with the casino being a halfway point, Onekama is the first community along the M-22 Scenic Heritage Route. The southern leg of M-22 begins off of US-31, right at Little River Casino. While visiting Onekama, you can stop at a number of restaurants, stores and antique shops, the farmer’s market, and parks and recreational areas. There are even great places to take a break and cast a fishing line, or enjoy the beautiful fall day by playing a round of golf. The Fall Festival in October is another annual event to plan on going to.


The city of Arcadia, home of Arcadia Daze every July, is less than 15 minutes north of Onekama. Halfway between Onekama and Arcadia, you’ll pass 13 Mile Rd., which heads to Bear Lake going east. Arcadia is located right along beautiful Lake Michigan on M-22. Home to Arcadia Bluffs Golf Course with Lake Michigan views, Arcadia offers sandy beaches, and excellent fishing and boating opportunities. Just outside of Arcadia, right on M-22, Inspiration Point is a special place of interest, being the highest point on the shore of West Michigan. Be sure to stop at Inspiration Point to get the best view of Lake Michigan, and climb the stairs of the deck to get an even better view of the surrounding land and winding roads. Telescopes have been added to make your view more clear, and you might even catch a glimpse of the shore of Wisconsin when looking through the telescope.

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

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 to 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.

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.

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