36 Hours on Road M-119, Tunnel of Trees
If you want to see the beauty and history of northern Michigan up close, there are few better places than the famous Michigan highway, M-119, nicknamed “The Tunnel of Trees” for the dense canopy of foliage covering the road.
M-119 is a haven for a wide variety of wildlife. Springtime visitors are treated to the sight of wide swaths of Trillium blooms alongside the road, while birders enjoy year-round sightings of birds like the Pileated Woodpecker. The area is also rich in history, with small towns and quaint cabins dotted throughout the route.
Scenic outlook on the Tunnel of Trees, Google Maps
This highway corridor begins between Petoskey and Harbor Springs on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. It then goes inland over rolling hills and curves back around, crossing creeks and springs along the way and ending at Cross Village. The M-119 Tunnel of Trees Scenic Heritage Route, the section of the road officially designated “The Tunnel of Trees”, begins at the north city limits of Harbor Springs and heads north to Cross Village, ending at County Road 77, also known as State Road.
If you want a straight shot, driving from one end of M-119 to the other will take you roughly 30 minutes, and will certainly afford you some beautiful views. However, we recommend you have a little more fun with it and make M-119 the focus of a weekend away. Your time, care and curiosity will be rewarded with delicious crepes at morning farmers markets, afternoons hiking in rich lakeside forests, and nights watching the milky way under a clear, star-filled sky.
Table of ContentsWhere to Stay
Where To Stay
You’ll find a variety of lodging options near M-119, but here are our favorites:
Petoskey: Stafford’s Perry Hotel
Located in central Petoskey, Perry is steps away from main shops and restaurants, like Kilwin’s Chocolates, Populace Coffee and the charming Pennsylvania Park. Built in 1899 and featuring historic architecture, Perry’s doesn’t sacrifice quality for convenience. Guests will enjoy tastefully decorated bedrooms, complimentary wifi, and access to a cozy community library.
Harbor Springs: Birchwood Inn
Initially built as a corporate retreat for New Era Potato Chips in the early sixties, this cozy little inn will let you get a taste of that Northern Michigan charm. As its famous sign advertises, it is “surprisingly affordable” given the cozy atmosphere of its rooms and hospitality of the staff! Perfect if you like lodge décor, stone fireplaces, and heated pools.
Walloon Lake: Hotel Walloon
Located on the shores of Walloon Lake, this hotel has all the amenities of a five star hotel with the views of a lakeside cabin. Be treated to heated bathroom flooring, cocktail hours with hors d’oeuvres, hot tubs, and more. In fact, you could probably skip the rest of this travel guide and still have a wonderful weekend spent entirely at this hotel (we recommend you read on, though).
For Camping: Wilderness or Petoskey State Park
Petoskey State Park, photo by Heather Daisy @daisy.roux.mitten.adventures
For those wanting to sleep under the stars, you can’t go wrong with Wilderness State Park. As a designated Dark Sky Preserve, it’s a great place for stargazing, and has over 20 miles of trails for those looking to get a little morning hiking in. Likewise, Petoskey State Park has its own range of beautiful hiking trails, and a coastline perfect for beachcombing.
7pm Arrive in town
After a long drive, there’s nothing like finally putting the car in park, loading your bags into a comfortable hotel room, and flopping onto the bed. If you’re planning to have dinner at your destination rather than on the road, you can’t go wrong with any of the restaurants attached to the hotels and inns recommended above, like the Perry’s Noggin Room Pub. Turkey’s pizza in Harbor Springs is also a great, low-maintenance choice, perfect after a long day of driving or flying. Plus, pizza pairs well with the ice cream from Yummie’s down the street.
The Harbor Springs Farmers Market and the coffee shops nearby offer a pleasant breakfast experience. Nibble on coffee and donuts from Johan’s or Cochon down the street while you peruse the stalls, or order a crepe from Charlevoix’s That French Place, who often rent a stall for the Harbor Springs markets.
While you’re there, make sure to swing by a few other vendors and pick up some delicious snacks and picnic add-ons. Robert and Sherri recommend the locally famous whitefish dip from Ken’s Fish and Tails’, the savory crackers from My Sister’s Bake Shop, and the Prairie Breeze cheddar cheese from The Cheese Lady. If you have time after, explore downtown Harbor Springs for a bit of window shopping.
11:30 am Lunch
Option 1: By Picnic
Northern Michigan is known for its beautiful natural surroundings, so take advantage of the scenic views with a hike along one of the many trails in the area! Hiking is a great way to work up an appetite, so pack a picnic with a few sandwiches from Gurney’s Harbor Bottle Shop. Build your own sandwiches at the back counter. There is usually a line, but it goes fast, thanks to the speedy sandwich makers. Get their deli sauce, but don’t ask for tomatoes (they don’t have them). If you have a sweet tooth, swing by Tom’s Mom’s Cookies for a few extra treats. Robert recommends the original (chocolate chunk), while Sherri recommends Caramel and Pretzel or Oatmeal Butterscotch (a close tie).
Once you’ve stocked up, stake out a good hiking route at one of the many Nature Preserves in the area. Here are our favorites.
This 30-acre wildlife sanctuary has 300 feet of public beach and three hiking trails. Take the half-mile-long Balsam Trail to the Dune Observation Deck and do a little bird watching for chickadees and gulls. The Cedar Trail provides a closer look at the local cedar swamps. Finally, at a quarter-mile, the Beech Trail is suitable for a shorter hike and leads to the public beach.
Directions: Located along Lower Shore Drive off of M-119, approximately 3.8 miles northwest of Harbor Springs.
The main event for this 100-acre preserve happens in mid-May when the site erupts in springtime trillium blooms. Trout lily, spring beauty, and other classic spring ephemerals also make their appearance along the 1.5-mile trail loop. The beginning part of the trail is perfect for a leisurely walk – as soon as you see the picnic table, it starts to get pretty hilly and shoes with traction are recommended. Walking sticks are often provided at the main entrance to the trail.
Directions: From Harbor Springs, drive north on M-119 for 7.7 miles. At the base of the big hill you have just descended, you will turn a sharp corner to the right, and the parking area will soon appear on the right. Look for a small parking area and sign.
Option 2: By Pond
If you’re more interested in a sit-down lunch, take a drive up to Pond Hill Farm in Harbor Springs. This farm’s attached restaurant and Biergarten tent is nothing to sneeze at, with homemade pasties, brisket sandwiches topped with horseradish aioli, and local ales and IPAs that will excite craft beer enthusiasts. After lunch, take some time to stroll around the grounds and explore the farm store, where handmade soap (Sherri’s favorite) and spicy pickles (Robert’s favorite) are sold. There’s no shortage of things to do at Pond Hill: take your kids to the playground or livestock barn, visit the trout pond, take to the hiking trails, or go on their famous gnome house hunt!
1:30 pm Afternoon Sightseeing
You can’t ride the Tunnel of Trees without at least a little sightseeing! Take your time to drive up M-119 and enjoy the beautiful views of Lake Michigan and the thick stands of native tree species like pine, oak, and birch. Watch for the many historical signs along the way, like Devil’s Elbow. As you travel up the tunnel, keep an eye out for other landmarks like Angell Farm and the Five Mile Schoolhouse.
2 pm Explore Good Hart and Middle Village
As you travel north up M-119, take a moment to stop in Good Hart. Start at the Good Hart General Store, a shop that has been the center of the local community since 1934. Take a look through their deli and bakery, and pick up one of their famous pot pies if you’re feeling peckish. Then stop by A Studio, the local art gallery and crafts shop, to take a look at a wide variety of locally-made creations, from seasonal flower arrangements to jewelry and flannels. Primitive Images also offers a selection of crafted furniture and antiques, in addition to a tea room stocked with green, black, and herbal tea, and even lavender lemonade and frozen tea lattes.
Once you've finished visiting downtown Good Hart, take a left onto North Lamkin Road and drive south. Stop by the Good Hart Artist Residency between 10 am and 2 pm for their open studio Saturdays, and chat with the resident artist while you peruse their work. Driving further south on Lamkin, you’ll see what looks like a small log cabin. This is known as the King House and is one of the last original Odawa hand-hewn log homes.
Travel a bit further and you'll notice a small white church. This building is the Saint Ignatius Catholic Church, which was initially built several hundred years ago, rebuilt in 1823, and is still running regular services. These two buildings are part of Middle Village, a section of Good Hart that is known for its rich history and connection to the local Native American community.
3 pm Visit Cross Village
Travel up M-119 from Good Hart for a few minutes, and you’ll arrive at Cross Village proper. Once you pass the post office, you’ll come to “downtown” Cross Village, home of the famous restaurant, Legs Inn. Built in the 1930s by Polish immigrant Stanely Smolak with the help of the local Odawa community and constructed with locally-found timber and rock, the building is undoubtedly a sight to behold. Read the historical plaque and count the stove legs adorning the roof, which the restaurant is named for.
Once you’ve had an eyeful, make sure to cross the road and visit us at Peninsulas a visit! We’ll be happy to see you. Don’t forget to take a photo in front of our Cross Village mural!
Visit the bear statue located in the pavilion across from Legs, and the large white wooden cross further up the road, sandwiched between Stone Church Rd. and the Shurtleff Nature Preserve. Then, double back down North Lake Shore Drive, turn right on State Rd. / Chippewa Drive (the corner with the post office), take the second left to Waterfront Drive, stay to the right, and visit the local beach.
Once you’ve done your fill of beachcombing and wet your toes, make sure to visit Three Pines Studio on Levering, just two blocks east of Lakeshore Drive. Owned by Joann Condino, Three Pines showcases beautiful works of art exclusively from Northern Michigan artists. Take a look at their hand-printed towels and napkins, or study the porcupine quill boxes made by quillworker Yvonne Walker-Keshick. You may even get the chance to say hi to the resident studio dog, a friendly puppy named Carina.
Three Pines Studio @3pinesstudio
5 pm Dinner
Option 1: Legs Inn in Cross Village
If you’re looking for a night to remember, definitely head across the street from Peninsulas to enjoy a delicious Polish dinner at one of Northern Michigan’s most famous restaurants: Legs Inn. Whether you sit inside with the eclectic sculptures carved by the restaurant founder or outside on their gorgeous patio, you’ll have a wonderful time. Word to the wise: show up very early. Legs does not take reservations, and the line can be out the door and down the street on busy nights (but if you love Polish food, it’s worth the wait).
Option 2: Moose Jaw Junction on the way back to the hotel
If you’re looking for a tasty option on the way back to your hotel in Petoskey or Harbor Springs, Moose Jaw Junction is an excellent choice. Located on Van Road, Moose Jaw has all the charm of a log cabin with food to match. Snack on their bavarian pretzel sticks while you wait for dinner (which could be anything from their bacon cheeseburger to their pizzas to their Moose Jaw salad), and wash it all down with a cold beer from the bar.
Option 3: The Keyhole Bar or Clyde’s in the UP
Take your time to stop and dip your toes in at Sturgeon Bay Beach, and take a look at the McGulpin Point Lighthouse on your way up, and then get ready for some of the best eating in Northern Michigan.
If you’re looking for a trip up to the UP or at least a chance to get a look at Mackinac Bridge, set your sights for the Keyhole Bar in Mackinaw City. Their fish has been named some of the best in the state.
10 pm Late-Night Stargazing
Being so far from the bigger cities makes Northern Michigan a perfect candidate for stargazing! After letting your dinner settle and watching the sunset, make your way over to the nearest public beach, nature preserve, or state park, and set up. If you want to go all out, Wilderness State Park is a designated Dark Sky Preserve and an excellent choice for those inclined to stargaze then spend the night at a campsite. Be sure to bring a blanket, some midnight snacks, and a reliable star chart guide.
Milky Way shimmers overhead at Wilderness State Park. Photo by Marybeth Kiczenski, @shelbydiamondstar
To get the best experience, check out our Top 6 Tips for Stargazing in Michigan.
10 am Sunday Brunch
Enjoy a tasty mid-morning brunch at Sam’s Graces in Petoskey, where the food is homemade and locally sourced with pride. Try their Eggs Benedict, made with locally smoked ham, or the Mushroom Frittata that comes topped with a fresh arugula salad.
State Road Provisions in Harbor Springs is also an excellent choice. They serve classics like blueberry pancakes, biscuits and gravy, and eggs with toast or grits in true rustic style. Mimosas and Bloody Marys are also available if you like a little morning wake-up call with your brunch.
11:30 am Lunch for the Road
After packing up the car, make a pit stop at one of the delis in the area for a road trip sandwich. Cormack’s Deli in Petoskey and Gurney’s Harbor Bottle Shop in Harbor Springs have everything from BBQ pork to veggie sandwiches that will make sure your stay ends on a delicious note.
Our Tips For the Area
Get friendly. Northwest Michigan is brimming with fascinating history, and local folks who love to talk about it. Ask a shop owner for the history of their building and be ready for a good story.
Rely on a paper map. Cell phone and GPS coverage is spotty the further north you go. Be sure to stop in our shop to pick up a local map! Our updated version includes the back roads route to Mackinaw City from Cross Village.
Bring your binoculars. Northern Michigan is a hotspot for beautiful and rare wildlife. Be sure to pack your favorite nature guide, whether for birds, butterflies, or blossoms. If you’re a nature enthusiast, download the inaturalist or Audubon app so you can catalog your findings.
Watch where you’re driving! M-119 and the towns around it are busy with wildlife and visitors. Keep an eye out for deer, pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists.
The Tunnel of Trees is a tight squeeze. Do not take a large RV or camper down the tunnel – you could hit some of the lower branches and its very narrow with switchbacks that will be VERY difficult to maneuver, especially with traffic. We’ve seen more than once an RV show up in Cross Village with scratches or torn off antennas.
Bring cash. Plenty of shops in Northern Michigan, no matter how popular, are cash-only establishments. So whether you’re out souvenir shopping or just looking for some lunch, you’ll want to have a good amount of cash on hand.
Spring: Trillium Blooms
M-119 between Harbor Springs and Cross Village
Mid to late May is the peak blooming season for trilliums, one of the most famous Michigan wildflowers. Take a drive along M-119 and enjoy the sight of broad swaths of white flowers cropping up beside the road. The best place along M-119 to see Trillium in masses is between Stutsmanville Rd. and Robinson Rd. (Good Hart). To walk amongst the Trillium blooms, visit the Hoogland Nature Preserve. If you take a (gentle!) poke around, you’re likely to find plenty of beautiful wildflower species, and if you’re lucky, maybe even a morel or two.
Summer: Petoskey Brewing
What better way to spend a sweltering afternoon in July than sipping some crisp local beer? The Petoskey Brewing building has been around and brewing various types of beer since 1898 and now has several signature blends. Have lunch and a cold glass at their restaurant before heading across the street to Petoskey State Park for an afternoon of beach bumming and rock hunting.
Fall: The Pumpkin Barn
1510 W Sturgeon Bay Trail
M-119 is famous for lighting up in flaming orange and gold in autumn, but a lesser-known gem of the fall season exists just a short drive from Cross Village: The Pumpkin Barn.
This farm is a scene straight out of a children’s book: a large farmyard, charming red-painted barns, and barrels overflowing with pumpkins and gourds of every shape and size. Pick out your favorite and head over to the shophouse to purchase them (note: they are cash-only). Be sure to grab some locally-made jam while you’re at it!
Winter: Nub’s Nob Ski Resort
Winter in Northern Michigan is perfect for winter sports fans, especially skiers! Nub’s Nob is just a short drive out of Harbor Springs and is consistently rated as one of the best ski resorts in Michigan. Founded in 1957, Nub’s Nob has a rich history of passionate skiers and an excellent reputation for well-groomed hills. Take your pick from slopes with a wide variety of skill levels, and enjoy a steaming hot chocolate afterward at their ski lodge. There are also private lessons for newcomers to the sport and a daycare center for your little ones.
It's also worth mentioning that during some cold winters in Michigan, the ice on the Straits freezes blue! Its a gorgeous site and definitely worth visiting. Winter in Michigan can be so beautiful!
If you come up the Tunnel of Trees, we do hope you stop in and see us at our shop! (Our Cross Village location is open May-October.) And be sure to tag your photos @mipeninsulas. We'd love to hear about your adventures. Travel safe and see you soon!