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A Quest For Color

For those who couldn't imagine a life without seasons, there is a special love affair with the vibrant foliage that accompanies late-September through October in our corner of northwest lower Michigan.

Michigan's Gold Coast is the first spot mentioned in Travel + Leisure magazine's list of America's Best Fall Color Drives. Just 12 miles from scenic highway M-22, which winds along Lake Michigan's coastline, Crystal Mountain is rated by Fodor's Travel among the country's 15 Best Resorts for Fall Getaways.

As the landscape turns a mix of rich orange, bright yellow and fiery red, enjoy a few of our favorite spots to take a day trip (or two) to experience this glorious fall season.

Point Betsie Lighthouse

1. Point Betsie Lighthouse - Frankfort, MI
Located five miles north of the coastal city of Frankfort, the Point Betsie Lighthouse is one of Benzie County's most breathtaking sights year-round but never more so than during color season. Constructed 1854-58, the lighthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places(22 miles from Crystal Mountain) Learn More »

2. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore - Benzie & Leelanau Counties
Good Morning America named it the Most Beautiful Place in America. We agree. The entire length of the federally protected lakeshore, which encompasses 35 miles of Lake Michigan coastline from north of Frankfort to south of Leland, in addition to North and South Manitou Islands, is a fall color lover's dream come true. First timers should get to know the park with a stop at the Visitor Center in the village of Empire. (25 miles from Crystal Mountain to park visitor center) Learn More »

3. M-22 Scenic Highway - Benzie, Leelanau & Manistee Counties
This 116-mile stretch of road holds winding turns through beautiful forests combined with awe-inspiring views of Lake Michigan. Voted America's Best Scenic Autumn Drive by 10Best and USA TODAY, visitors to Crystal Mountain are just a short drive from this iconic roadway. (12 miles from Crystal Mountain)  Learn More and view Directions from Crystal »

4. Arcadia Overlook - Arcadia, MI
Also known as Inspiration Point, the Arcadia Overlook is located just north of the village of Arcadia and a short drive from Crystal Mountain. Hike up the 120 steps (80 vertical feet) for a breathtaking view of Lake Michigan's blues nestled against the shoreline show of fall colors. (14 miles from Crystal Mountain)  Directions from Crystal »

Arcadia Overlook
Arcadia Overlook

5. Elberta Bluffs Lake Michigan Overlook - Elberta, MI
Across the bay from Frankfort, the village of Elberta serves up some incredible shoreline views from this vantage point high above Lake Michigan. After taking in the sights and sounds of the Great Lake, drive down the hillside road for access to Elberta's gorgeous beach and walkable pier. (17 miles from Crystal Mountain) Directions from Crystal »

6. Manistee River High Rollaway - Buckley, MI
Drive due east from Crystal Mountain to find one of the most jaw-dropping views in the area. Located near the village of Buckley, the High Rollaway views looking over the Manistee River valley are unforgettable in the fall. (23 miles from Crystal Mountain) Learn More and view Directions from Crystal »

7. Miller Hill Lookout - Glen Arbor, MI
This lesser known spot within Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore offers spectacular views of Sleeping Bear Bay and the tip of Sleeping Bear Point. Bonus points for being able to drive right to the lookout, as long as you don't mind a little gravel under your tires. (32 miles from Crystal Mountain) Directions from Crystal »

8. Fishtown - Leland, MI
The drive north to Leland is worth it alone, but the early-1900s fish shanties now housing quaint shops and eateries makes it even more so. (42 miles from Crystal Mountain) Learn More »

Fall Chairlift Rides

9. Scenic Chairlift Rides - Crystal Mountain
Held select days in the fall but always worth the visit. Enjoy the ride to the top, but get your camera ready for the ride down; you'll want a photo or two to share. Fall Chairlift Schedule »

10. Michigan Legacy Art Park - Crystal Mountain
The 50+ sculptures take on new life with the change of every season. Fall is no exception along nearly two miles of hiking trail as well as the "Access for All" trail for those with limited mobility. Learn More »

Michigan Legacy Art Park
Michigan Legacy Art Park

11. Empire Bluff - Empire, MI
A hilly but very manageable hike located in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. And the effort is totally worth it for the views of Lake Michigan. (24 miles from Crystal Mountain) Learn More »

12. Pyramid Point - Maple City, MI
It's a 2.7 mile hiking loop but the Lake Michigan lookout is only .6 miles from the trailhead. Of course, with colored leaves all around, you might not even notice the climb. (37 miles from Crystal Mountain) Learn More »

13. Grand Traverse Commons - Traverse City, MI
Hop out of the car for a while to take a stroll among the historic buildings, explore the boutiques and galleries and sample cuisine, craft beer, wine and coffee. (30 miles from Crystal Mountain) Learn More »

14. Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail - Leelanau County, MI
Neighboring Leelanau County sits on the same parallel as the French wine region of Bordeaux. The wines themselves are matched only by the breathtaking landscape. Learn More »

15. Betsie Valley Trail - Thompsonville to Frankfort
This bike and hike trail extends from nearby Thompsonville to Frankfort, but the nine-mile ride from Beulah to trail's end at Lake Michigan includes a nice stretch along Crystal Lake, the Betsie River, and Betsie Bay. Learn More »

16. Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail - Leelanau County, MI
Whichever direction you choose from the Dune Climb, whether the easier ride to Glen Arbor or the more challenging trip toward Empire, you won't be disappointed. Learn More »

Betsie River

17. Betsie River - Benzie County, MI
Experience one of northern Michigan's most pristine rivers from the unique vantage point of a canoe or kayak. Visit our neighbors at Betsie River Canoes and Campground to reserve a river trip! (1 mile from Crystal Mountain)

18. Platte River - Honor, MI
This mellow float trip down the lower Platte River is located in nearby Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and is a must-see when the colors begin to change. We recommend taking a trip with our friends at Honor Trading Post(17 miles from Crystal Mountain)

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Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail
Take a day to explore the Leelanau Peninsula and discover over 20 wineries!
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Fall Chairlift Rides
Watch Benzie County transform into a kaleidoscope of color while enjoying live music atop the mountain.
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