With thousands of people flocking north for a Northern Michigan fall color tour, the Manistee County Visitors Bureau is making it easier to see peak colors in a region that boasts two distinct fall color seasons. Check out these driving routes and events on your Manistee fall color tour.

“We are so fortunate to have two distinct phases that extend our season—our inland region shows earlier signs of fall color, and our Lake Michigan coastline stays green longer with warmth from the lake,” says Kathryn Kenny, executive director of Visit Manistee County. “We want to make it easy for visitors to find everything they need at their fingertips to have a wonderful autumn getaway while enjoying the longer color season here.”

Northern Michigan Fall Color Map 2019: Where to See Peak Colors

Self-Guided Fall Color Drives

Visit Manistee County highlights three primary fall color routes, which can also be combined with the Manistee County Self-Guided Tour Series (historic sites, bridges, artisan markets, shopping and M-22). These drives offer the best chance to see fall colors:

  • Inland Fall Color Tour – This 175-mile scenic inland loop takes visitors east into Manistee County toward higher elevations and dense hardwoods in the Manistee National Forest. (Can be combined with the Bridges and Dams Tour and Quilt Trail Tour.)
  • Coastal Fall Color Tour – This scenic route traversing 130 miles of Manistee County’s shoreline along both Lakeshore Drive and the start of M-22 passes through coastal towns like Onekama and Arcadia, offering expansive views of Lake Michigan at Arcadia Overlook. (Can be combined with the Natural Wonders Tour and U-Pick & Farm Markets Tour.)
  • Lake Michigan Coastal Tour/M-22 Scenic Drive – Manistee County is the gateway to scenic Michigan Highway M-22. This 150-mile route follows M-22 from Manistee County north along Lake Michigan past 21 points of interest and through 11 communities, all the way to Northport and down to Traverse City. (Suggested in conjunction with the above-mentioned Coastal Fall Color Tour.)

Visit Manistee County is offering free fall planning tools to help visitors plot their autumn visit, along with a host of seasonal events and attractions.

Manistee County Fall Events and Attractions

  • Little Manistee River Weir – Fall Egg Harvest: Tours scheduled in the fall and group tours by appointment. (Call 231.775.9727, ext. 6072 to check tour dates.) This occurs once a year when the DNR Fisheries Division harvests chinook salmon eggs from the weir, which is used to block fish on the Little Manistee River. The eggs are sent to state fish hatcheries to be reared and stocked across Michigan and other states. During the fall egg take, visitors can tour the operation and view salmon from a platform.
  • Onekama Fall Festival: This annual tradition features live entertainment, arts and crafts, scarecrow and pumpkin decorating contests, pet parade, hayrides, food wagon and other family-friendly activities on October 12.
  • Manistee Ghost Ship: The historic 1931 S.S. City of Milwaukee car ferry transforms into the Manistee Ghost Ship, where visitors explore five decks of thrills, scares and ghostly beings. Admission fee. October weekends. 
  • Scenic Airplane Tours: Enjoy a bird’s-eye view of Michigan’s fall colors on a scenic flight over Manistee County. Orchard Beach Aviation conducts two scenic flights—one over downtown Manistee and the Lake Michigan shoreline, and one of the M-22/Portage Lake area—for $30 per person (two person minimum) departing from Manistee County Blacker Airport. October weekends. 
  • Sunset Cruises: Go on a privately chartered cruise on Lake Michigan. Inn Fun Cruises offers day trip and two-hour evening sunset cruises on its 28-foot Bayliner where guests are treated to light snacks and beverages from local restaurants. Guests can bring alcoholic beverages as well. Guests meet on the dock behind Taco ‘Bout It and cruise around Manistee Lake, Manistee River channel and out to Lake Michigan (weather permitting) to see the sun set. Groups of up to six are welcome, with pricing for the sunset cruise ranging from $250 for one to two people, to $450 for five to six people. Daily through mid-October. 

Photo(s) by 22North Photography