Are you building a list of must-ride motorcycle roads? If so, the Tunnel of Trees in northern Michigan, just along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan and a short way south of the famous Mackinac Bridge, is one ride you should add to your list. It’s a destination stop for sure, and well worth the advance planning.
The fast-paced, road-weary travel on the nation’s interstate highway system can get us to many places far from home, but we often experience little or none of the places and people we ride past. The Tunnel of Trees, also known as Michigan Highway 119 (M-119), provides a very different experience.
It’s not truly a highway in the modern sense. Instead, it’s a road that beckons you to slow down, truly feel the beauty of nature, and simply enjoy the surroundings. Quaint roadside establishments along the way offer great food, fresh produce and other goodies, fun shops, and other unique experiences you typically won’t find riding the interstate.
Let’s talk more about the road itself. Designated a Pure Michigan Byway in 2003, M-119 is a 21-mile-long scenic byway that follows an ancient Native American trading trail through beautiful forestlands that were home to the Ottawa people. This rural road became part of the original Michigan State Trunkline Highway System in 1919, but had a different route designation. In those early days of the American Road, when newly minted roads followed paths of trade or farm to market, there were no official signs or marked pavement. Even today, you’ll find no paint dividing the lanes in the Tunnel of Trees.
The Tunnel of Trees gets its name from the canopy of the forest where the branches have knit together to form a tunnel through the hardwoods and pines. The narrow pavement enhances the feeling. Along the route, there are breaks in the tree line where you can glimpse Lake Michigan. In fall, you’ll be amazed by the magnificent leaf color. In spring, you’ll find fields of trillium flowers. And the shade of the trees is a refreshing escape from the summer sun.
M-119 runs north for about 28 miles from the juncture of U.S. Route 31 (US 31) north of Bay View to Cross Village, Michigan. After passing through Harbor Springs—about 8 miles from the juncture with US 31—the centerline disappears, and you’ve arrived at the Tunnel of Trees. About 19 miles later, you’ll arrive in Cross Village.
While it’s an amazing ride, be sure to stop and experience the peace of this beautiful part of America.
Till next time, ride safe!
Check out some other places to visit across the country in our Rides section.
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