Northern Michigan’s Tunnel of Trees along M-119 is one of the area’s most iconic attractions. The magical, scenic road winds from Harbor Springs, (north of Petoskey) to Cross Village. The Tunnel of Trees, ranked among the most scenic roads in the nation, is especially breathtaking in spring when trilliums carpet the forest floor that borders the road, and in autumn when the hardwoods along it are aflame in fall color.
See fall colors in this MyNorth video!
M-119 begins at the north end of Petoskey but it doesn’t become The Tunnel of Trees until north of Harbor Springs. From Harbor Springs, M-119/Tunnel of Trees becomes a narrow road that runs 20 miles along a spectacular bluff overlooking Lake Michigan, with especially sharp twists at Devil’s Elbow (reputed to be haunted by an evil spirit and voices after dark) and at Horseshoe Curve or Bend. Along the way, you’ll find unique shops, must-try local restaurants, spectacular scenery and fascinating historical spots.
To help you make the most of your Tunnel of Trees vacation, here’s your complete travel guide. Sit back and enjoy the drive!
M-119 Tunnel of Trees
The Tunnel of Trees is named for the hardwoods and evergreens that crowd up to the edge of the road, their crowns knit into a comforting ceiling over motorists and bicyclists. But this isn’t like a tunnel through a mountain, where the view is basically the inside of a cave.
M-119/Tunnel of Trees offers glimpses into the forest and through wide openings to inspiring vistas. I have traveled this route for years, hundreds of times, in every season, and with each trip, something new catches my interest—maybe a spectacular view of the lake, or snow cloaking the dark green hemlocks in winter. In spring, the number of trilliums on the forest floor is beyond estimate. In autumn, sunlight filters through the trees, electrifying the fall leaf colors.
If you can, make the trip on a weekday, a day when you have plenty of time to let the scenery inspire (and the patience to be courteous to cyclists and pokey drivers). Allow your mind to wander to consider the area’s history—the original Native Americans and their traditions, as well as the early European settlers.
The old church at Middle Village, on the shoreline below Good Hart, dates from the 1880s and is near a Jesuit mission from the 1700s. What did the forests look like then, before logging? Where did the Civil War veterans who got land grants to farm this area come from and what did they find when they arrived?
Tourism is the main industry now, but that has changed, too. Generations ago, summer people from Chicago or St. Louis would arrive to spend the entire summer. Modern travelers zoom north on a freeway for a fast weekend getaway. And freeway is precisely what the Tunnel of Trees is an antidote for. The feel is slow, soft, curvy and intimate, a two-lane keepsake, a byway from a long gone era, a road that is itself a destination.
Petoskey to Harbor Springs
About two miles north of downtown Petoskey, US-31, turn left onto M-119 toward Harbor Springs. After a mile, there is a small mall on the right. The first store is Crooked Tree Breadworks where you must purchase a few pepper Parmesan rolls and some granola to share as trail mix.
At the other end of the same row of stores is Toski Sands Market and Wine Shop (2294 M-119, 231.347.1571), justifiably famous for its smoked whitefish spread as well as homemade beef and turkey jerky.
Lunch In Harbor Springs
Fabulous to-go sandwiches and other food finds are found at the southern end of the Tunnel of Trees in downtown Harbor Springs. Stop at Gurney’s Harbor Bottle Shop (215 E. Main St., 231.526.5472), where the Train Wreck sandwich is highly recommended and Turkey’s Cafe and Pizzeria (250 E. Main St., 231.526.6041).
North of Harbor Springs
After getting back on M-119 and continuing north from Harbor Springs, watch about four miles ahead on the right for Pond Hill Farm (5581 S. Lake Shore Dr., 231.526.3276). This family-owned operation has a market with its own fresh produce as well as homemade preserves like hot garlic pepper jelly. While there, check out the vineyard and wine tasting room. Pond Hill’s Garden Cafe makes a wonderful lunch stop from late May through October.
Back heading north on M-119, the road narrows with trees growing up to both sides of the thoroughfare. While the driver remains vigilant (remember, this narrower-than-normal two lane road lacks, for the most part, shoulders or a center line), passengers get to ogle the scenery, which includes stately hardwoods and conifers, picturesque homes and glimpses of Lake Michigan.
Take a look at the scenery and towns along M-119.
On a clear day, you can see Beaver Island from some viewpoints. About six miles beyond Pond Hill Farm is Trillium Woods Antiques (811 S. Lake Shore Dr., 231.526.6569), on the right, known for its eclectic collection.
A mile or so to the east, at 112 W. Townline Rd., is Good Hart Glassworks. Call or email in advance (231.526.7283, [email protected]) to make sure artist Lynn Dinning is available to show you around. She also offers classes and demonstrations.
Back on M-119 in Good Hart, the red building on the left is the Good Hart General Store (1075 N. Lake Shore Dr., 231.526.7661), a popular stop for touring bicyclists as well as motorists. The general store’s chicken or beef pot pies are available for purchase or shipping.
Next door is the Good Hart and Soul tea room at the rustic furnishings store Primitive Images (1129 N. Lakeshore Dr., 231.526.0276) and next to that is a collection of seasonal gifts and home accessories at A Studio Shop (1135 N. Lake Shore Dr., 231.526.7110). Call for current hours.
M-119 continues north for seven miles before ending at Cross Village and county road C-77, also known as State Road. Take State about a block to the corner of Levering Road to find Three Pines Studio (5959 W. Levering Rd., 231.526.9447). This art gallery features the work of more than 40 northern Michigan artists and offers classes and workshops. Outside is a beautiful sculpture garden. Three Pines also has a rental cottage in Cross Village. The first Saturday in October Three Pines Studio features its Great Lakes Pumpkin Patch Day (see the video below!).
Back on the main street is the iconic Legs Inn (6425 N. Lake Shore Dr., 231.526.2281). The historic inn sits on a bluff overlooking the lake so catch a sunset and visit the garden. Indoors is a blend of European and Native American decor. Authentic Polish food is the specialty. Legs Inn also has five rental cottages. (Read this Traverse Magazine feature about Legs Inn for the full story.)
Here’s a peek at Three Pine Studio’s Great Lakes Pumpkin Patch Day.
North of Cross Village
If you have time, continue on the same road about three miles north and, when it ends, turn left toward Lake Michigan. This takes you into parks, including Wilderness State Park, along Sturgeon Bay, where the long, pristine beach is great for walking and wading.
Parking is available and beach access is free. The main entrance to Wilderness State Park is about 16 miles away (903 Wilderness Park Dr., Carp Lake; 231.436.5381). Through September 30, an annual pass to the park is $11 for Michigan residents ($9 day pass for non-residents or $32 annual pass). The park covers nearly 10,500 acres, has 26 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline and includes hiking trails, campsites and nine rental cabins.
Heading Back to Harbor Springs
After the beach, retrace your route south to Cross Village. You can drive back to Harbor Springs through the Tunnel of Trees, maybe switching drivers so the previous one can rubberneck this time.
Or you can take State Road (C-77), which is a shorter and faster route preferred by locals. About 1.5 miles south of Cross Village on the right is a roadhouse-style family restaurant called the Crow’s Nest (4601 N. State Rd., 231.526.6011), where pan-fried perch is a favorite.
Dinner and Lodging in Harbor Springs and Petoskey
Head back about 12 miles on State Road to Harbor Springs, where dinner choices include Stafford’s Pier (102 E. Bay St., 231.526.6201); in good weather, you may also dine outside overlooking the marina and pick out your dream yacht. Other dining choices include the New York (101 State St., 231.526.1904) and the aforementioned Turkey’s.
Accommodations are available between Harbor Springs and Petoskey at the Best Western of Harbor Springs (8514 M-119, 231-347-9050).
Plan the perfect Petoskey, Bay Harbor and Harbor Springs Vacation with MyNorth’s free MyNorth Vacation Guide! Just click the cover.
This article was edited for the web based on a Traverse Magazine story by former Detroit Free Press staff writer Marty Hair. [email protected]