Friday, 29 July 2016 10:40

Michigan Road Trips: Roads worth traveling

Written by  Joe Boomgaard
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Brockway Mountain Drive in Copper Harbor Brockway Mountain Drive in Copper Harbor Joe Boomgaard

Any road trip that’s worth a damn must include roads that are fun to drive. 

And if we’re being honest, we need to drop this bombshell: Despite being the state that put America on wheels, Michigan has precious few engaging roads for the discerning driver. 

Yes, we’re looking at you, ruler-straight highways. While it’s fun to put the hammer down on the on-ramp and accelerate to highway speeds, a driving enthusiast finds little enjoyment in blythely cruising along without so much as a curve in sight. Yawn, might as well just text. (Kidding.)

But all hope is not lost. Here are three worthy and engaging “drivers’ roads” around Michigan that will get your heart racing, whether you’re piloting a capable sportscar or just a mundane family truckster. 

 

 

M-22

Route: Manistee to Traverse City (by way of Frankfort, Glen Arbor, Northport)
Distance: 117 miles
Attraction: A mix of high-speed and tight curves, great vistas of Lake Michigan, northern Michigan small towns
Avoid: Summer weekends

If ever there was a #PureMichigan road, it would be the entirety of M-22 in Northwest Michigan. Starting at the southern end near Manistee and the Little River Casino, the road travels north through some of the greatest vantage points from which to observe Lake Michigan — with arguably the best one being the highly elevated Inspiration Point just into Benzie County. The route includes a mix of intriguing small town shopping districts (Fishtown in Leland) and natural beauty (Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore). The only problem is, this route has gained popularity in recent years and is full of fudgies crawling along at 25 mph for much of the season. Take advantage of the off season for the best experiences, but keep an eye out for the Five-0.

 

M-43

Route: Hastings to Kalamazoo (by way of Delton, Hickory Corners and Richland)
Distance: 30 miles
Attraction: Sweeping high-speed corners with a handful of tight curves, rural Barry County, lake views
Avoid: Nights, as the deer are plentiful 

This route might seem unassuming, but it’s become a favorite “backroad” between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo. Leave U.S. 131 to the commuters and hit M-43 through Barry County’s lake district for some engaging curves and a mix of rural landscapes. It doesn’t hurt that one of the best automotive attractions in the state is based along the route in Hickory Corners. The Gilmore Car Museum and its expansive collection has become a mecca for car enthusiasts and history buffs alike, and it only continues to improve with new exhibits and buildings. It’s the perfect capstone to a fall color tour. 

 

U.S. 41 and M-26

Route: Calumet to Copper Harbor and back via Eagle River
Distance: 73 miles
Attraction: Dense U.P. forests, ghost towns, Lake Superior vistas
Avoid: The snowmobiling season, basically September through May (we kid)

While it’s easy to love the U.P. as a whole, there’s just something special about the Keweenaw Peninsula. It’s a microcosm of all things Yooper, with its waterfalls, Lake Superior shoreline, mining ghost towns and spectacular views. This route may not feature the best curves for apex carving, but it’s an experience nonetheless. There’s plenty of history in the dozens of stops in the Keweenaw National Historical Park or at Fort Wilkins State Park. Shutterbugs should be sure to check out the Copper Harbor Light and Brockway Mountain Drive, which offers views of Isle Royale on clear days. Stick along the shoreline on M-26 and watch for the lines of parked cars between Eagle Harbor and Eagle River. That likely means Jampot, a monastery-run bakery, is open. You’ll want to stop in for some of the best breads, baked goods and jams in the land.

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