The M-119 corridor from West Traverse Township to Cross Village Township is one of the most well known and scenic drives in Northern Michigan. This almost 20-mile stretch is known as the M-119 Tunnel of Trees Heritage Route.
For 2023, Peak color is expected the week of October 2nd with partial changes starting the week prior.
Many begin the drive on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan at the northern city limits of Harbor Springs. From there they head north and travel through West Traverse Township, Friendship Township, Readmond Township and Cross Village Township. The drive ends at State Road in Cross Village.
This area of Northern Michigan was known as L’Arbre Croche in the 1800s and was home to a large Native American Population. The name means crooked tree. Reportedly there was a tree with a crooked top near the foot of the hill on Lamkin Road in Good Hart.
We began by exploring Harbor Springs. Harbor Spring is a small waterfront town on Little Traverse Bay. They are 4 miles from Petoskey by water and 7 miles by land. In the late 1600s Catholic missionaries came to the area to convert the Odawa Indians.
Pond Hill Farm is about 5 miles north of Harbor Springs and offers something for adults and families. Enjoy farm-brewed beer and cider, meals made with local ingredients and Fall Fest Weekends. Families will enjoy exploring the giant pumpkin patch, hayrides, donuts, and many other activities.
Devils Elbow is a spring that was believed to be the home of spirits by the Odawa Indian Bands. It is near Good Hart on M119, less than a ½ mile south of Middle Village Drive. Native American legend says that the location is where the devil scooped out a giant hollow after a rampant plague was suffered by the community. There are stories of residents hearing “voices and sounds” coming from the ravine after dark.
About 4 miles north of Good Hart is The Old Council Tree. The Native American tribes once held councils at this location. A meeting between the Chippewa, Menominee, and Ottawa Tribes in 1763 is one of the most legendary. They gathered to decide their next move against the British.
Off M-119 on Lamkin Road is St. Ignatius Mission Church. The Jesuits came to the area in the 1740s. In 1833 Bishop Frederic Baraga dedicated the first church on the site of the present St. Ignatius of Loyola-Good Hart parish. Next to the church is a Native American burial ground. Also next to the church is a pathway with an observation deck. The path will take you to Middle Village Park where this is a beach for swimming, restrooms, and boat access.
Plan to spend a little time in Good Hart. You will want to make sure you stop at the Good Hart General Store (built back in 1934) for some homemade baked goods and a wonderful selection of prepared foods. Make sure to stop by and watch glassblowing in action by Lynn at Good Hart Glass Works is just outside Good Hart. Good Hart offers A Studio Shop with its roof offering fun and one of kind finds. Less than 100 feet away make sure to stop at Primitive Images for rustic and antique furnishings.
Legs Inn is at the end of the drive in Cross Village and the perfect place to stop for a bite to eat or other refreshments. An easy walk from the Legs Inn is the Cross Village Beach with wonderful views of Lake Michigan. Make sure to visit Three Pines Studio, a working studio in the arts and crafts tradition. They offer a wide selection of work for sale in many mediums. The Museum of L’Arbre Croche History is located in the parish hall on the grounds of the Holy Cross Church at 6624 North Lakeshore Drive in Cross Village.
Scenic Heritage Route
Make the drive and you will see why it is ranked as one of the most scenic roads in the United States. The State of Michigan designated it a Scenic Heritage Route in 2003. It evens has its own Facebook page with a whopping 27,000 followers! The M-119 Tunnel of Trees Scenic Heritage Route Committee work to preserve and protect the M-119 Corridor. The four townships that the road passes through, the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Emmet County, the Little Traverse Conservancy and the Michigan Department of Transportation are all partners in the committee’s activities.
Trails and Nature Preserves
Throughout Northern Michigan there are many natures preserves to explore and visit. The M-119 corridor is no different and has many nature preserves managed by the Little Traverse Conservancy. These are a few that are open to the public and some with lake access and beaches to swim in.
The Raunecker/Leslie Nature Preserve is just a few blocks west of downtown Harbor Springs. The Thorne Swift Nature Preserve about 4 miles north of Harbor Springs has 1-½ miles of trail, and a dune and a pond observation platforms and Lake Michigan shoreline. An easy 1.5 mile hike a through a forest dominated by colorful hardwoods is the Hoogland Family Nature Preserve. Closer to Cross Village is the Woollam Family Nature Preserve, a short ½ mile trail takes you through the hilly woods to the beach. You can find out about other nature areas by visiting the Little Traverse Conservancy.
Spectacular Year Round
Although everyone knows the Tunnel of Trees for its fall color, the other seasons are pretty darn nice as well. Besides the obvious of all the cool places to stop on the way, the view is dramatically different depending on the season.
In the winter you can see the waves of Lake Michigan crashing into the shore as you drive along the bluffs or stop at one of the local beaches. In the spring you will see the trees starting to bud and catch Trilliums in the forests along the way. The mild weather is great for a hike on any of the trails you will find along the way.
The summer brings the canopy of green with sunlight creating patterns on the roadway as it sneaks through the treetops. Perfect time for a dip in Lake Michigan or a nice picnic lunch at one of the area parks.
If you have only visited the Tunnel of Trees in the fall, we strongly recommend you put the drive during the other 3 seasons on your list of must dos.