In Emmet County, Northern Michigan, the Tunnel of Trees is a scenic heritage route that spans over 20 miles of M-119 roadway. This is a winding, narrow route through dense foliage, offering spectacular views of the Lake Michigan shoreline.
A drive through the tunnel is a popular tourist activity throughout the year, but each season provides a unique experience of its own. Let’s explore things about the Tunnel of Trees Michigan: best time to visit, what makes this experience so special and the best things to do when you drive the Tunnel of Trees.
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What is the Tunnel of Trees in Michigan?
Discovering this Beautiful Road
The Tunnel of Trees is a state highway that stretches from Harbor Springs to Cross Village. The route is a state road that is officially known as M-119, but it’s more popularly referred to as the Tunnel of Trees. The name comes from the dense canopy of trees that line the road, forming a tunnel-like effect. Exploring the winding road offers a peaceful and serene drive that delivers loads of natural beauty, which is perfect for nature lovers and those who are looking for a road trip adventure.
Where is the Tunnel of Trees Located?
The M-119 Tunnel of Trees is a drive through dense forests in Northern Michigan, located along the coast of Lake Michigan in Emmet County. The Tunnel of Trees Scenic Heritage Route starts in Harbor Springs and Cross Village is one of the end points of the tunnel. It passes through the small town of Good Hart along the way.
The winding road is easy to navigate, but visitors need to be aware that it’s narrow. The road can be challenging during peak tourist season, so it’s best to plan your trip accordingly.
Plan Your Tunnel of Trees Route Based Upon Where You’re Coming From
If you’re coming from downstate to Northwest Michigan, your route to drive the Tunnel of Trees begins in Harbor Springs north on M-119. If you’re coming from the north, you’ll make your Tunnel of Trees start going south from Cross Village, where M-119 starts.
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What Makes the Tunnel of Trees So Unique?
The Tunnel of Trees is unique because of the dense foliage that surrounds the road. The canopy of trees creates a shaded tunnel effect, and you will feel like you’re driving through a secluded forest that has views of Lake Michigan. In addition to the beautiful scenery, the route takes you along the Lake Michigan coast through small towns and past a variety of landmarks along the way.
When is the Best Time to Visit Tunnel of Trees?
Plan Your Visit for a Fall Color Tour
If you’re looking for the best time to visit the Tunnel of Trees, then plan your trip in the autumn months. Michigan’s Tunnel of Trees drive takes on a stunning new look as the hardwood trees’ leaves change color. One of the most iconic vistas is just north of Stutsmanville Road on M-119, where the tree coverage is consistently dense and colorful.
The main attraction during this time of year at the Tunnel of Trees is beautiful fall foliage. The M-119 highway delivers a vivid explosion comprised of oranges, yellows, vibrant reds, and even shades of purple. The fall season for peak color runs from September through October, so plan accordingly.
Summer Escapades Along This Scenic Route
The summer season is another great time to drive the Tunnel of Trees, which offers a cool and shaded escape from the sweltering summer heat. You’ll have the opportunity to witness the lush greenery that surrounds the road. There are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy as you make your way. Plan your stops along the way to include opportunities for hiking, biking, and visiting the nearby Pond Hill Farm.
Spring Road Trip Along M-119
Spring is another season to visit the Tunnel of Trees. The drive showcases vibrant shades of green as the foliage starts to bloom. Late spring is also an ideal time to visit because the crowds are thinner, and you’ll have the road almost to yourself with less traffic to impede you. This is the perfect season to enjoy the peace and tranquility of the area.
What are the Must-Visit Places While Driving the Tunnel of Trees?
Exploring Good Hart – Don’t Miss the Good Hart General Store
Good Hart is a small town that sits in the middle of the Tunnel of Trees Scenic Drive north of Harbor Springs, and it’s a must-visit destination.
During your trip, be sure to stop at the Good Hart General Store, which has been operating since 1934. The store offers a delicious selection of food, and it’s the perfect place to stop for a meal or snack during your drive.
Discovering Cross Village – Don’t Miss Legs Inn
Cross Village is another town that you’ll pass through during your drive along the Tunnel of Trees. The town is home to a giant white cross and the historic Legs Inn, which is a popular eatery that offers a wide selection of food and drinks. The town also has a few boutiques and shops where you can pick up souvenirs to remember your trip.
Cross Village offers a glimpse into the history of the area’s indigenous people, as well. Inhabited since at least the late 17th century, the village was an important supply stop for Jesuit priests in their missionary outreach attempts, as well as French-Canadian voyageurs transporting furs from the Great Lakes region to Montreal and beyond.
Checking out Pond Hill Farm
Pond Hill Farm is another popular destination along the Tunnel of Trees. The farm offers fresh produce and delicious food, and there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy for kids and adults alike. You can take a wagon ride or explore the farm on foot. The farm also offers an excellent selection of local wine, hard cider and beer in the Biergarten tent. This is a dog-friendly stop, as well.
What are Other Nearby Attractions?
While you’re in the area, visiting Petoskey is a must-see destination across Little Traverse Bay from Harbor Springs. Pick up US-31 from M-119 and proceed through Bay View (between Petoskey and Harbor Springs), our pick for one of the 5 best small towns in Michigan on Lake Michigan.
Things to do in Petoskey run the gamut. It is home to a beautiful marina and plenty of shopping options. There are also plenty of great places to dine in Petoskey, where you can discover the best local flavors of Northern Michigan. Try the smoked whitefish!
Savoring the Small-Town Charm of Harbor Springs
Harbor Springs is another small town that you should visit during your trip to the Tunnel of Trees. The town offers a unique blend of small-town charm and upscale dining options. You can explore the Lake Michigan beach nearby or take a stroll through the charming downtown area.
Checking out Thorne Swift Nature Preserve
If you’re looking for an outdoor adventure, one of the best places to find it is the Thorne Swift Nature Preserve on Lower Shore Drive along Lake Michigan’s shoreline outside of Harbor Springs. Part of the Michigan Land Trust, the preserve offers miles of hiking trails, stunning views of Little Traverse Bay, over 900 feet of Lake Michigan shoreline, and plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife in its natural habitat.
What are Practical Tips When Visiting the Tunnel of Trees?
Exercise Caution along the Narrow Road
When visiting the Tunnel of Trees, exercise caution and take your time. This stretch of M-119 is narrow, and there are a few sharp curves that can be challenging to navigate. Be sure to drive slowly and keep an eye out for other traffic, particularly in peak season. It is easy to get distracted by the vistas overlooking Lake Michigan!
Essentials to Pack for a Scenic Michigan Tunnel of Trees Drive
Essentials to pack for a trip to see the Tunnel of Trees include snacks, water, sunscreen, and bug spray. It’s also a good idea to dress in layers because Michigan weather can be unpredictable. The temperature can change along the Michigan coast depending on the season and where you are on the drive.
Places to Stay Close to the Tunnel of Trees
Use our handy interactive map to check and book your favorite:
Tunnel of Trees Scenic Route is an Unforgettable Experience
In conclusion, visiting the Michigan Tunnel of Trees is a great experience you won’t soon forget. Whether you plan your trip during the fall colors or choose to enjoy the lush greenery of the summer season, the jaw-dropping Tunnel of Trees drive offers a unique and awe-inspiring adventure. With so many nearby attractions and destinations, this scenic drive should be on every Michigan traveler’s bucket list.