Grayling - Torch Lake - Lake City
1. Wellington Farm Park
6944 S. Military Road
Grayling, MI 49738
A historical, environmental, educational complex set on 60 acres. A working replica of a typical mid-American farmstead during the 1930's. Many farming activities are conducted daily using vintage equipment, tools and practices. The park has a sawmill, blacksmith shop, grist mill, summer kitchen, farm market and pavilion. In addition there is a nature trail to explore. Open weekends Memorial Day to Father's Day and Labor Day to Halloween. Open daily Father's Day to Labor Day, except Tuesdays.
2. North Higgins Lake State Park
11747 N. Higgins Lake Drive
Roscommon, MI 48653
174 modern campsites, picnicking, swimming, two mini-cabins and a boat launch. Over 8 miles of trails are available for hiking, cross-country skiing and biking. Features include on site CCC Museum, nature and fitness trails and a forest nursery interpretive area.
3. South Higgins Lake State Park
106 State Park Drive
Roscommon, MI 48653
1000 acre park with almost one mile of shoreline along Higgins Lake. 400 modern, hardwood-shaded campsites, a mini-cabin, sandy beach, fishing, boat launch, picnic area. Self-guided nature trail. Ungroomed trails for cross-country skiing and hiking. Rowboat, canoe, paddleboat, small motorboat and pontoon rentals. Ice fishing. Metal detecting area.
4. Lake Margrethe State Forest Campground
M-72 & McIntyres Landing Road
6.3 miles West of Grayling
Grayling, MI 49738
Phone number indicated is for the Grayling Management Unit. Sites available on a first-come, first-serve basis. No reservations. 37 sites for tent or small trailer use. Located on Lake Margrethe with fishing and boating.
5. Pere Marquette State Forest
8015 Mackinaw Trail
Cadillac, MI 49601
The Pere Marquette State Forest campgrounds encompass lands in the upper lower peninsula on the western side of the state. Campgrounds include hike in sites, horse campsites and site accessible by water. Biking, hiking and groomed cross-country ski trails. ORV scramble area at Long Lake and Carrieville campgrounds.
6. Huron-Manistee National Forest
412 Red Apple Road
Manistee Ranger Station
Manistee, MI 49660
The Huron-Manistee National Forests comprise almost a million acres of public lands extending across the northern lower peninsula of Michigan. The Huron-Manistee National Forests provide recreation opportunities for visitors, habitat for fish and wildlife, and resources for local industry.
7. Monroe Achers Farm Co. Bed & Breakfast
7039 North 41st Road
Manton, MI 49663
All the comforts of home with spectacular view in directions. Our guests enjoy old country farmhouse decor where they can experience life as it used to be.
8. Spring Lake State Forest Campground
.5 miles of SW of Fife Lake via US-131
Manton, MI 49663
Phone number indicated is for the Cadillac Management Unit. Sites available on a first-come, first-serve basis. No reservations. 32 sites for tent and small trailer use. Located on Spring Lake with access canal to Fife Lake, both offering good boating and pan fishing. Rustic campground includes vault toilets and potable water from well hand pump.
9. Traverse Tall Ship Co.
13258 S. West Bay Shore Dr.
Traverse City, MI 49684
Toll Free: (800)678-0383
Sailing out of Traverse City, the 114-foot long, 59-passenger schooner Manitou offers three different 2-hour cruises every day of the week with specially catered picnic meals included during the evening sail. Join us for our Moomers Ice Cream sails! Enjoy the best ice cream in America (voted #1 scoop on "Good Morning America") on EVERY Afternoon Sail! Sunday evenings enjoy our Microbrew & Pizza Cruise featuring local favorites Short’s Brewery & Crusted Creations Pizza. Wine Tasting Cruises, with wine from Leelanau Cellars and Left Foot Charley, as well as savory cuisine from Silver Swan Homemade Foods, are offered on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Entertainment with "Song of the Lakes" takes place on the Wednesday evening cruise in July and August. Spend the night on our “Floating Bed & Breakfast,” Tuesday through Saturday.
10. Grand Traverse Balloons
225 Cross Country Trail
Traverse City, MI 49686
Hot air balloon flights over the beautiful Grand Traverse Bay area in the early morning or early evening, seven days a week – four seasons, weather permitting. We meet just before sunrise for our morning flights and three hours before sunset for our evening flights. Floating effortlessly above the tree tops for panoramic views of the magnificent lakes and surrounding countryside of Northern Michigan. These seven-story multi-colored balloons accommodate up to 10 passengers. Be sure to bring a small camera or hand-held video camera, as you will see some beautiful scenery while you're in flight. Upon landing, the experience continues with the traditional Champagne Celebration. You will also receive a Certificate of Ascension, Color Photo and a Cloisonne Balloon Pin. Perfect for birthdays, anniversaries, wedding parties, family reunions and other special events. Tethered rides include a 150-foot static "up & down" ride. Hotel packages and gift certificates are available. Reservations are required, often you can fly the same day you call.
11. Traverse City State Park
1132 US-31, North
Traverse City, MI 49686
Traverse City State Park is a completely developed, 47 acre, urban park that features a quarter mile of beautiful beach on the East Arm of the Grand Traverse Bay. The Park has 343 sites in a completely wooded mix of hard and soft wood trees, a short drive to all major attractions in the area like Sleeping Bear Dunes, casinos, The Grand Traverse Resort and numerous outstanding golf courses.
12. TART Trail
Between Bunker Hill Road in Acme & M-22/M-72 Intersection in Traverse City
PO Box 252
Traverse City, MI 49685
The ten mile long paved TART trail currently runs between Bunker Hill Road in Acme Township and the M-22/M-72 intersection in Traverse City. The trail runs along Grand Traverse Bay through downtown Traverse City neighborhoods and includes the Mitchell Creek watershed. TART Trail is a favorite of families, visitors, bicyclists and in-line skaters and is part of a network of four trails located in the Grand Traverse and Leelanau County areas developed for walking, biking, running, in-line skating, and commuting. The four trails include the Boardman Lake Trail, Leelanau Trail, TART Trail and the Vasa Pathway.
13. Chateau Grand Traverse
12239 Center Road
Old Mission Peninsula
Traverse City, MI 49686-8558
Toll Free: (800)283-0247
With stunning views, a modern wine making facility, and over 120 acres of estate vineyards, this is the oldest and largest winery on the Old Mission Peninsula. Owned and operated by the O’Keefe family, this pioneering winery is internationally known for producing outstanding Rieslings of consistent high quality and value. Offering guided winery tours, a well-appointed tasting room, and a friendly and knowledgeable staff, visitors will enjoy a complete winery experience. The Winery Inn offers six guest rooms overlooking the vineyards and Grand Traverse Bay. Offering complimentary wine tasting and guided winery tours.
14. Mission Point Lighthouse
Old Mission, MI 49673
Built in 1870, this light is now maintained by Peninsula Township and short-term keepers are allowed to live in the lighthouse. It is half way between the North Pole and the Equator exactly on the 45th parallel. It was decommissioned in 1933. Hours are 10am to 6pm, daily, April - October and weekends only November - December. Self-guided tours are available seven days a week from which includes access to the tower. To confirm these times call first. Available at no charge is the Hessler Log Cabin, a restored turn of the century log cabin on the lighthouse grounds. Adults - $5, Children - $3, Children five and under - free. Grounds open, dwelling/tower open in season.
15. Friske Orchards Farm Market
10743 US 31 N. Atwood
Ellsworth, MI 49729
Friske's Farm Market is celebrating 50 years...the tradition continues! The family-owned Orchards and Farm Market is open year around, bringing you their "finest quality fruit" and handcrafted specialty food products. When you visit you'll find the Fruit Stand, Orchard Cafe, Old World Bakery, General Store, Country Haus Gift Shop and seasonal children's Orchard Playland and Barnyard Animal Petting Zoo offering something for everyone. Whether it's a quick stop to fulfill your craving for some of their world famous donuts, or a family outing, it's sure to be a "Bushel of Family Fun"!
16. Grass River Natural Area
6500 Alden Highway
PO Box 231
Bellaire, MI 49615
1,125 acre preserve with boardwalk trails, bridges, observation platforms, providing easy access to river, stream, lake and wetlands. Guided tours available by request. Nature topic classes offered year round. Special cross-country ski and snowshoe events are scheduled during the winter season as well.
17. Sand Lakes Quiet Area
Williamsburg, MI 49690
This serene site is part of the Pere Marquette State Forest. Motorized vehicles are prohibited, making this area a great place to watch wildlife, hike, bike, or cross country ski.
18. Guernsey Lake State Forest Campground
8 miles West of Kalkaska via Island Lake Road
and Campground Road
Kalkaska, MI 49646
Phone number indicated is for the Traverse City Management Unit. Sites available on a first-come, first-serve basis. No reservations. 36 sites for tent and small trailer use including some walk-in sites for hikers. Located adjacent Sand Lakes Quiet Area, ideal for nature observation, hiking, and camping. Rustic campground includes vault toilets and potable water from well hand pump.
Enjoy this area's fall color by car, on foot, or in a canoe. The winding Au Sable River is the perfect waterway to paddle and enjoy the splashes of vibrant color against towering evergreens.
Best Enjoyed: Late September to Mid-October
Approximate Length: 170 miles
You can enjoy Grayling's fall color by car, on foot, or in a canoe. The winding Au Sable River is the perfect waterway to paddle and enjoy the splashes of vibrant color against towering evergreens.
The 60-acre Wellington Farm Park USA, "Where It's Always 1932," is located on S. Military Road off US-27, near Grayling. Step back in time with family and friends for a little cider and donuts, a corn maze and a look at rural America during the Great Depression. Take a free hayride to enjoy the autumn color show every weekend in October; test your catapulting skills during the annual Punkin' Chunkin.'
Grayling is a popular stop on I-75 with the North and South Higgins State Parks just south of the city between US-27 and I-75. The clear water of the spring-fed Higgins Lake is the backdrop for 700 acres of maple, oak and pine trees at the south park. Both parks have nature trails and a combined total of 13 miles for hiking. Another beautiful fall color viewing site is on Lake Margrethe, west of Grayling. Take M-72 west to McIntyres Landing Road and follow the state campground signs. This is a picnic area, boat launch and rustic state campground.
Leave the Grayling area on US-27 south to M-55 west to Lake City. Enjoy a slower pace with an area dotted with 4,800 acres of inland lakes filled with trout, walleye, perch and more. Lake City rests on the eastern shore of the beautiful Lake Missaukee where visitors flock every summer. There's plenty of fall color with 100,000 acres of wild public land and forests in which grouse, woodcock, turkey, ducks and white tail deer reside.
Continue on M-55 west to M-43 to the town of Manton. Manton is within three miles of both the Pere Marquette State Forest to the north and the Manistee National Forest to the southwest. The spring time offers morel mushrooms and fall offers colorful scenery. Lake Billings is within the town of Manton and perfect for canoeing, camping and fishing. Stretch your legs and enjoy a visit to the Manton Pathway and Garden, a 1-1/2 mile nature walk with bridges and benches to linger and gaze on an abundance of wildlife. Just a couple miles north of downtown Manton is the Monroe Achers Bed & Breakfast where you can enjoy farm charm, a great breakfast and plentiful baked goods served in the "old" farmhouse kitchen.
Head north on M-131 that travels through Pere Marquette State Forest for a stop at Fife Lake and Spring Lake Campground, just 1-1/2 miles southwest, Michigan's first state forest campground. This resort community swells with visitors in the summer with an assortment of watersports and fishing; snowmobiles arrive for winter trails. Enjoy a fall picnic lunch in Lakeview Park located in the heart of the city, or on the edge of Fife Lake.
Just 25 miles northwest is Traverse City. Enjoy this short ride that is filled with scenic landscapes that will keep your camera clicking. With 250 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, the Grand Traverse area offers unmatched fall color viewing. It's a great time to climb aboard the twin-masted schooner Manitou for a sail across Grand Traverse Bay. Take advantage of the Fab Fall Packages to enjoy a getaway weekend with plenty of options for charter fishing, cycling, gaming, golf, shopping and luxurious spas. Golfers get a great bonus with spectacular vistas of fall color on area fairways. Soar up, up and away (sometimes more than 3,000 feet) for the most dramatic views of East and West Grand Traverse Bay, Michigan's Chain of Lakes and colorful northern Michigan landscapes by booking a hot air balloon flight with Grand Traverse Balloons. Rest a spell at the 47-acre urban Traverse City State Park overlooking the east arm of the bay. Bring your bike for a leisurely ride on a paved trail, hike the TART trail, rent a kayak or hydrobike, or reserve one of nearly 350 campsites just 3 miles from downtown Traverse City.
For an optional side trip, follow M-37 (Center Road) north from Traverse City. The road begins with a steep climb through pleasant residential and orchard country, descends to the shore of East Bay and gradually climbs again to a spectacular view point near the Chateau Grand Traverse winery that overlooks both East and West Grand Traverse Bays. About a mile past the town of Mapleton, turn right onto Smoky Hollow Road and follow it down through vineyards and orchards to the quiet village of Old Mission, the oldest permanent settlement in the region. Take a left turn onto Swaney Road and follow it back to M-37, where a right turn will have you heading north to the picturesque Old Mission Point Lighthouse. On the return journey, head back south on M-37 to Mapleton. Here you'll turn right onto Bowers Harbor Road and follow it down to the shore of West Bay. Keeping to the left, you'll return to Traverse City by way of Peninsula Drive, a pleasant residential road that skirts the shore of the bay with wonderful views of isolated Power Island, Neahtawanta Point and the distant hills of the Leelanau Peninsula (more wineries and charming villages).
Head north from Traverse City's eastern edge on US-31, following the highway as it carves its way past orchards and farms along the shore of East Bay. At the lively little port of Elk Rapids, turn right at the light and follow Ames Street (which becomes the Cairn Highway) along the northern shore of Elk Lake, through the village of Kewadin and southward again on County Road 593. This road will take you along the eastern shore of the lake, across the Torch River as it empties into Torch Lake. Get ready for an amazing experience when you see Torch Lake, ranked by National Geographic as "the third most beautiful lake in the world." The lake's deep Caribbean blue color is mesmerizing. At 18 miles long, it is Michigan's longest lake, and is the state's second largest lake, covering an area of 29-square miles. Enjoy the rich hues of autumn and the dramatic backdrop of Michigan's "Chain of Lakes" with more than 70 miles of shoreline that includes Torch Lake, Torch River, Elk Lake, Lake Skegmog, Clam Lake, Grass River, and Lake Bellaire.
For a delicious side trip go north on US-31 to Atwood and turn east onto CR-48 for a visit to Friske Orchards in Ellsworth; take home fresh apples, jams, pastries, and lots of cherry goodies. Every Saturday in October enjoy apple cider, wagon rides, u-pick apples and pumpkins, fresh donuts and lots of sampling of Friske products.
Open dusk to dawn and less than 20 minutes away from the Torch Lake area is the Grass River Natural Area with 3 miles of boardwalks, and wood-chipped trails that wind through the area; the Perception Pathway for the visually-impaired is also wheelchair and stroller accessible. Start out going west on W. Old State Rd/CR-624 toward N. East Torch Lake Dr. /CR-593; turn left and continue to follow CR-593. Turn right onto SE Torch Lake Dr.; turn left onto Alden Highway to the entrance of the 1,325-acre Grass River Natural Area. Hike or stroll on over 7 miles of trails in upland forests. There is no admission fee to enjoy lakes, a meandering river, rushing streams and crystal clear creeks - a haven for plant and animal life, including both rare and endangered species. Be sure to call ahead to find out about educational classes for the entire family.
Your next stop is Kalkaska. Head south on CR-593 to M-72 west to Kalkaska, and make a visit to Sand Lakes Quiet Area. The trailhead is located at Guernsey Lake State Forest Campground 8 miles west of Kalkaska via Island Lake Road and Campground Road in Pere Marquette State Forest. One of the most popular natural areas in northwest Michigan it offers 10 miles of hiking, biking and cross-country skiing with 5 lakes surrounded by rolling hills of oak-pine forest and offers opportunities for viewing deer, turkey, squirrel, and other woodland wildlife. Some lakes are stocked with test populations of hybrid fish. Return to Kalkaska next year for the annual National Trout Festival.
Leaving Kalkaska on M-72 west is pure delight with masses of colorful trees and towering pines lining the highway. There's a rest stop between Kalkaska and Grayling that is worth a visit to photograph some of the vibrant sugar maples. It's about a 25 mile drive to Grayling where you can spend more time on the Au Sable to soak up the splendor of Michigan's autumn.