M-22 begins in Manistee Township somewhat unremarkably as the road branches off of northbound US-31. The road passes for five miles through farmland and Ottawa Indian territorial land. It then enters thick forest and rolling terrain before running into the south shore of Portage Lake in Onekama. M-22 wraps around the east half of Portage Lake, passing by Onekama Marine, Shaw’s Chop House, Heathlands Golf Club, and the Blue Slipper Bistro before continuing north. The road passes through berry farms and apple orchards for five miles before hitting the turnoff to Pierport Beach, one of the most scenic and secluded stretches of Lake Michigan shoreline in the state. Just two miles north of Pierport on M-22 sits Arcadia Bluffs, a magnificent golf course sitting high atop bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan.
M-22 continues through the town of Arcadia, a small harbor town located along Arcadia Lake and the Lake Michigan shoreline. It then heads up a steep hill to the Arcadia Overlook Roadside Park, which sits high atop shoreline dunes and provides one of the best views of Lake Michigan anywhere. Ten miles north on M-22 sit the towns of Frankfort and Elberta, which sit on the north and south shores of Betsie Lake leading into Lake Michigan. M-22 heads east through Frankfort before turning north again on its way to Crystal Lake and Point Betsie. Surrounded by hills and endowed with crystal clear water, Crystal Lake is one of the most beautiful inland lakes in America. Point Betsie sits across M-22 near Crystal Lake, and has one of the Great Lakes’ most scenic lighthouses surrounded by miles of pristine beach.
M-22’s next forty miles weaves through the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, one of two of Michigan’s federally protected national lakeshores under the management of the National Park Service. Sleeping Bear Dunes occupies 112 square miles along the Lake Michigan shoreline and on nearby North and South Manitou Islands. The mainland of the national lakeshore features native forests, rivers, towering dunes, pristine beaches, and grandiose views of Lake Michigan and surrounding areas. North and South Manitou Islands feature miles of hiking trails, beautiful beaches, numerous shipwrecks, and fantastic views of the mainland. M-22 is the main artery through it all. Sleeping Bear Dunes begins along M-22 a few miles north of Point Betsie. In its first few miles through Sleeping Bear Dunes, M-22 weaves through native forests of pine and maple trees, passing a number of trailheads. Three miles into the dunes, M-22 crosses the Platte River, a renowned trout stream, home to one of the largest fall salmon runs in the country, and one of the most popular canoing and kayaking rivers in Michigan.
M-22 next hits the town of Empire, a small beach town featuring shops, restaurants, galleries, and great views south to Empire Bluff and north to Sleeping Bear Bluff. Two miles north of Empire, M-22 splits into Old M-22 (now M-109) and New M-22. Old M-22/M-109 continues north to the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. The drive circles for seven miles along the highest point in Sleeping Bear Dunes, and provides views of more than thirty miles over Lake Michigan, Glen Lake, and North and South Manitou Islands. Past the entrance to Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, Old M-22/M-109 runs north along Glen Lake and past a 260 foot high dune, known simply as “Dune Climb.” Old M-22/M-109 next passes Glen Haven, which consists of historic logging buildings restored and maintained by the National Park Service, and a trailhead leading through the dunes to Lake Michigan. New M-22 proceeds north through forest and dunelands and over the middle of scenic Glen Lake.
Old and New M-22 rejoin in the town of Glen Arbor, home to numerous shops, galleries, wine tasting rooms, and restaurants, and one of the most popular destinations in Northern Michigan. M-22 continues within the Sleeping Bear Dunes north of Glen Arbor, passing numerous inland lakes and Sugar Loaf Mountain Resort before exiting the national lakeshore. North of the dunes, M-22 passes Lake Leelanau on its way to Leland, a small resort town with roots as a Native American fishing village. Leland’s signature attraction is Fishtown, an assortment of weathered shanties sitting along the Leland River connecting Lake Leelanau to Lake Michigan.
Past Leland, M-22 turns northeast and heads toward Northport on the east side of the Leelanau Peninsula. In Northport, M-22 turns south, and runs along Grand Traverse Bay through the towns of Omena and Suttons Bay, home to marinas, scenic downtowns, shops, galleries, and wineries. M-22 continues south along Grand Traverse Bay for fifteen miles past Leelanau Sands Casino Resort, the bay’s beaches, and numerous large waterfront homes before ending near downtown Traverse City.