From out-of-this-world nature views and historical landmarks to rustic towns and foodie locations, the Tunnel of Trees is not only a charming highway but also presents a multi-faceted quest.
Luckily, no matter when you decide to take this driving route, Michigan’s four seasons have something for every visitor to enjoy.
That said, we’ve done the hard work of rounding up each of the seasons to take the stress out of planning your Tunnel of Trees adventure, so let’s dive straight into it.
Why You Should Visit the Tunnel of Trees
You should visit the Tunnel of Trees because it’s one of Northern Michigan’s most valuable gems, a magical place for nature lovers, and an exciting stretch of road! Whether you travel by car or bicycle, this is going to be an unforgettable trip.
Along your drive, you’ll be enchanted by many hardwood and evergreen trees, areas overlooking the Michigan Lake, and a plethora of stunning colors, which vary based on the season you decide to visit.
Here are suggestions for other stops you can make along the way for a memorable Tunnel of the Trees voyage:
- Good Hart is well-known for its pot pies, but you can also buy some snacks and souvenirs or take a photo in front of the famous red building (the Good Hart General Store).
- In Cross Village, you can explore some of the cool art galleries or rent a cottage and stay the night before resuming your journey the following day.
- Harbor Springs has been known as a resort destination for decades, so there’s no going wrong with that one.
- Middle Village Park is the perfect place to take a dip in the lake.
- The Petoskey Area, with its recognizable Victorian architecture, is a rare gem.
- The Bear River Valley Recreation Area is known for some of the best whitewater courses in the entire Midwest. Also, the Michigan Paddling Club organizes events and classes on an ongoing basis, so if you don’t have the necessary water gear, you can always check the club and see what they host that day.
- Lake Michigan, Water Trail Northwest, is perfect for travelers looking for some boating fun.
- Odawa Casino is pretty self-explanatory and for those searching for other kinds of excitement.
- Horton Bay General Store (Boyne City) is a store with a vintage charm that used to be frequented by Ernest Hemingway.
- For Hiking trails, we recommend the North Western State Trail. Note that the trail includes seven miles of paved trail and an additional 20 of relatively unpaved paths.
All in all, whether you decide to just pass through or explore all the stops on the way, one thing’s certain — the Tunnel of Trees won’t disappoint you, and the overall scenery will leave you enchanted.
For a much more encompassing experience, we suggest staying in Harbor Springs and starting your Michigan Tunnel of Trees drive there. And for the purposes of our guide, we’ll focus on this route.
Overall Best Time to Visit Tunnel of Trees
The best time to visit Tunnel of Trees is in summer, from June through August, allowing you to observe the Tunnel’s lush greenery.
Alternatively, the autumn months (September–November) are equally attractive, when travelers can enjoy stunning reds and golds.
The summer months have moderate precipitation with comfortable high-ish temperatures, so expect to begin your trip from Harbor Springs with pleasant weather.
In June, get ready for a temperature in the range of an average high of 65.8°F and an average low of 50°F. In July, expect an average temperature ranging between 72.3°F and 57.9°F. August sees an average temperature fluctuating between 72.5°F and 59.2°F.
Note that August is the busiest month in Harbor Springs, so expect high lodging prices, heavy traffic, and higher airfare tickets for those coming from far away.
That said, this is rightfully the season why many decide to visit the Tunnel of Trees and combine it with a short stay in Harbor Springs.
The Tunnel has many pleasant stops — you can take as many photos as you like, and when you return to Harbor Springs, you can spend the rest of the day kayaking, sailing, or just relaxing in a nearby park.
Opting for the autumn period is another great decision for those who fancy seeing the leaves change color. The highway is the most scenic this time of the year, and fall colors make for perfect social media-worthy shots.
Going in September, however, means dealing with an average temperature between 66.2°F and 53.6°F. October is already a slightly cooler month, with the average temperature fluctuating between 44.6°F and 52.9°F.
November is cold, with average highs of 41.2°F and average lows of 33.6°F. Due to the weather changes, tourism slows down these three months, so visitors enjoy both lower hotel prices and less traffic.
Cheapest Time to Visit Tunnel of Trees
While tourism comes to a halt in autumn and prices go down, the cheapest time to go visit Tunnel of Trees is hands-down in December.
Being the first winter month, December is freezing cold. The temperature is in the range of 31.1°F and 24.6°F. Not an attractive month for travelers, right?
Although the Tunnel of Trees highway may look mesmerizing in white (when there’s snow), considering the temperatures and the overall winter state of mind, the activities you can engage in are limited. In turn, this is why most lodging options are available and prices are low(er).
If you decide to visit Tunnel of Trees in December, know that there are other things you can enjoy in Michigan, such as February’s Ice Fest. Finally, the trip itself to the Tunnel of Trees is a winter idyll on its own.
Least Busy Time to Visit Tunnel of Trees
The least busy time to visit Tunnel of Trees is December through February. We already covered the temperatures in December, and if you thought December was cold, wait till you see the average temperatures for January and February.
In January, the average temperature ranges between 17.2°F and 24.8°F. February is yet another freezing month, with the average temperature fluctuating between 16.5°F and 25.3°F.
These two months are the slowest with tourists, so if you’re trying to avoid large crowds, this is your chance to take advantage of the cold Michigan weather.
Finally, keep in mind that no matter which season you choose, the least busy time to visit Tunnel of Trees is on weekdays because there’s less road traffic.
Worst Time to Visit Tunnel of Trees
We suggest that you avoid visiting Tunnel of Trees from March through May. Humidity teams up with weird temperatures to make this season colder than it should be.
Rain is somewhat common, with four to seven days of high precipitation per month. In March, the average temperature ranges between 23.9°F and 34.3°F. Probably not the spring temperatures you had in mind.
In April, it gets quite warmer, though, with an average temperature varying between 44.6°F and 33.1°F. May is a mild month, with temperatures in the range of an average high of 58.1°F and an average low of 42.8°F.
Also, spring tends to be the busiest season for tourists, so prices skyrocket, and heavy traffic becomes the norm. That said, while many expect to see Tunnel of Trees in their blooming period, we believe the colors are nowhere near as attractive as the autumn ones.
Don’t get us wrong — the Tunnel of Trees is stunning regardless of which season you go, but the crowds, prices, and traffic that come with the spring season bring more frustration than actual pleasure.
Things to Consider
Now that we’ve covered the best time to visit Tunnel of Trees, you might wonder whether other factors could have an impact on your scenic drive adventure.
Here are some worth taking into account:
- Stop where appropriate, stretch your legs, and take photos. A few postcard-worthy locations are outlined on this official map. A spot north of Stutsmanville Road and the entrance to Birchwood Farms are among the most notable ones.
- Acknowledge historic markers on your way. They provide passersby with insights into Michigan’s past. Here are some markers to be on the lookout for during your drive:
- Devil’s Elbow (south of Good Hart);
- Middle Village (south of Good Hart);
- Old Area of the Council Tree (north of Good Hart);
- L’Arbre Croche (south of Cross Village).
- M-119, or the Tunnel of Trees, is a state highway with a speed limit of 45 miles per hour. If there’s anyone who wants to pass, we recommend that you pull over and gently allow them to proceed on their way. Take your time and marvel at the landscape views… Which brings us to the next point.
- Look out for cyclists, motorcyclists, and slow drivers while enjoying the scenery. Unfortunately, many forget they’re on a highway while passing through the Tunnel of Trees, and it’s easy to get carried away or distracted while driving. Plus, the road is quite narrow, so dangerous situations sometimes feel imminent.
- Being a state highway, traveling M-119 on foot isn’t encouraged as there’s neither a sidewalk nor a shoulder.
Frequently Asked Questions
What towns are near the Tunnel of Trees?
Cross Village and Harbor Springs are the two end points of the Tunnel of Trees’ picturesque drive. Whether you’re beginning in Harbor Springs (like we suggested) or finishing there, you’ll create many lovely memories.
Is Harbor Springs worth a visit?
Yes, Harbor Springs is absolutely worth a visit. It has wonderful beaches, nature trails, a cool downtown area, great restaurants, and golf courses. You can walk along the charming Harbor Springs marina too.
If you happened to go before mid-June, you could even ride the water ferry between Petoskey and Harbor Springs.
In case you go in the fall (as that’s when we also recommend taking the Tunnel of Trees drive), you can also visit the Pond Hill Farms. There, you can go to cute cafes and have a hot chocolate or two, enjoy some delicious food, and even buy pumpkins for Halloween!
How many miles is the Tunnel of Trees?
The Tunnel of Trees, or the iconic M-119 route, is 20 miles long. The route skirts Lake Michigan, between Cross Village and Harbor Springs.
More specifically, M-119 begins at the north end of Petoskey, but only after reaching the north of Harbor Springs does it become Michigan’s Tunnel of Trees.
From there, the highway transforms into a narrow road, allowing drivers to experience a spectacular drive in Northern Michigan.
How long does it take to drive through the Tunnel of Trees in Michigan?
It takes around 40 minutes to pass through the Tunnel of Trees at a maximum speed of 45 miles per hour (without stopping). If you decide to add the 10 miles necessary to reach Petoskey, it’s about 50 minutes.
That said, travelers rarely drive through the whole highway — they stop to marvel at some of the major sites during their drive, the tree canopies, and the cute small towns, which means you may spend several hours (or more) on this road.
Is the Tunnel of Trees worth it?
Ranked as one of the most iconic drives in the US and a year-round destination, the Tunnel of Trees is absolutely worth it. It has engaging activities, magnificent nature views, interesting historical sites, and tasty food venues.
So, When Should You Visit Tunnel of Trees?
On the whole, we recommend visiting the Tunnel of Trees anytime from June through August or in the September–November period. The cheapest time to go is in December.
That said, December is brass monkey weather, so while you may manage to travel on a budget, be prepared for Michigan’s floes. If you wish to avoid heavy traffic and enjoy the drive on your own, we suggest that you visit in the December–February period.
Things are quite slow these months, and nothing really seems to be happening — especially in February, as it’s the coldest month. If this works well with your travel plans and preferences, opt for this period.
The worst time to embark on the Tunnel of Trees adventure is from March through May (at least the way we see it). There’s a lot of rain, humidity, and temperatures that don’t quite resemble spring weather (April is a mild month, though).
What’s more, spring is a peak season, so there’s a plethora of tourists, which also translates into road traffic. All in all, although most people prefer taking this scenic route in the fall, there’s plenty to see and do throughout the whole year.
In fact, the overall scenery and surroundings are different depending on which season you decide to visit. So what are you waiting for? Take the jaw-dropping Tunnel of Trees drive today!