Michigan is notorious for having brutal winters, especially in the westernmost and northern parts of the state. The good news is that all the gorgeous attractions turn into amazing winter destinations. This translates into a spectacular opportunity to take winter scenic drives in Michigan.
Upper Peninsula Winter Scenic Drives With Panoramic Views
Copper Country Trail National Byway (US-41)
The Copper Country Trail National Byway winds through the old mining country of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It’s an especially popular destination during the winter, when abundant snow draws outdoor sports enthusiasts.
But even from the road, this Keweenaw Peninsula route is worth riding. It offers access to some of the state’s most beautiful natural features, such as Lake Superior and McLain State Park.
If you’re looking for a leisurely road trip, this is the perfect choice. You’ll find plenty of places to stop and take in the incredible views. The natural features have an ancient history, with many of the rock formations dating back 1 billion years.
Meanwhile, the forests include a wide variety of trees that provide lovely views no matter the season. Winter sports enthusiasts should have the state park on their list of destinations — the surrounding vistas make it a perfect place for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Calumet to Copper Harbor (M-26)
The route that winds from the town of Calumet to Copper Harbor is one that you’ll want to drive again and again. What makes this one of the best winter scenic drives in Michigan is the snowfall, which offers unparalleled views of the surrounding scenery.
At the beginning of the route, you’ll ride along the Eagle River, which offers a great road trip with views of nearby falls and historic lighthouses. Jacobs Falls, for instance, includes a short hike from the road. You could easily spend a day in Eagle Harbor too.
M-26 stretches along Lake Superior, with a few places to stop along the way, until it reaches Copper Harbor, where winter creates an unrivaled peace. The snowfall makes you feel like you’re the only person in the world. It’s the kind of quiet that most of us don’t experience in our daily lives!
Black River Harbor National Forest Scenic Byway (CR-513)
The Black River Harbor National Forest Scenic Byway is one of the most beautiful road trips in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It’s characterized by fascinating rock formations and stunning waterfalls through Ottawa National Forest.
At just 14 miles long, the byway is perfect for a short day trip and is packed with beautiful sights along the way, including Potawatomi Falls, Gorge Falls, and Rainbow Falls. Winter waterfall viewing is an unmissable tourist attraction.
You’ll find snowshoes for rental nearby, making it easy to trek up to see the frozen natural wonders. Brave explorers have even been known to walk across the falls when they’re frozen over (though they do it at their own risk)!
Marquette to Munising (M-28)
Michigan State Route 28 is a beautiful 43-mile drive along the southern shore of Lake Superior. The drive kicks off from Marquette and wraps up in Munising, widely known as the town of waterfalls.
Along the way you’ll get the chance to visit some of Michigan’s most beloved natural sites, including Presque Isle Park, Wagner Falls, and Au Train Beach.
Presque Isle Park is the perfect place to visit during the winter. The winds off Lake Superior create a perfect climate for unique ice formations along the beach and cliffs, such as the Black Rocks. Even more stunning are the one-of-a-kind ice caves that form from waves cresting on the beach.
Newberry to Paradise (M-123)
M-123 is one of the most popular winter scenic drives in Michigan in the Upper Peninsula. Though there are plenty of fascinating cultural and historical sites along this scenic drive, the scenery is widely considered the best part.
Most of the land in the region is undeveloped and protected, offering unique opportunities to see Michigan at its most wild — complete with pristine waterfalls and moose and deer making their way through the woods. For the lucky few, there’s a chance to get a glimpse at the Northern Lights.
You’ll also want to make a stop at Tahquamenon Falls during winter. The waterfalls are famously known as the Root Beer Falls and often freeze in very cold temperatures, creating a fascinating view of a world stopped by winter. The Upper Falls is the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi.
The national park is open year-round for winter activities (and camping, for the brave ones). And at the end of your journey, the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery & Pub will be waiting for you with Porcupine Pale Ale and Lake Superior Whitefish!
Lake Scenic Byway (US-2)
US Route 2 was designated the Lake Scenic Byway in 2018. This route, running 92 miles along the northern shore of Lake Michigan, offers stunning views of the lake and surrounding forests. You can travel straight from St. Ignace to Thompson, a trip that’s designed for people who love nature.
Before you start your adventure, you could explore fun things to do in St. Ignace.
Attractions along this route include Castle Rock, Seul Choix Point Lighthouse, and Manistique Lakeshore Campground. These high outlooks offer the chance to enjoy views of the icy beach and lake, which are stunning enough to make up for a winter trek!
Along the way, you also have the chance to extend your winter scenic drive with a jaunt down M-183 to Fayette Historic State Park.
Mackinaw City to Eben Ice Caves (US-2 and M-28)
The Eben Ice Caves are one of the most popular outdoor tourist destinations in Michigan, but this route features countless sights. Starting in Mackinaw City, a shoreside resort in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, the trip crosses the Mackinac Bridge and hits some of the most scenic sites in the Upper Peninsula.
This includes Munising — home to several famous waterfalls — the Hiawatha National Forest, and Canyon Gorge. The whole drive is perfect for the winter, with the ice caves drawing thousands of visitors every year to enjoy one of Michigan’s most unique winter experiences.
The Eben Ice Caves form when snow pours off the beachside cliffs, creating fascinating ice walls. You’ll be amazed at how thick the ice really is — thick enough to support the weight of an adult as evidenced by the popular activity of ice climbing!
Looking for more winter fun in Michigan? Be sure to take a side trip to Mackinac Island in the winter!
Beautiful Views on Winter Scenic Drives in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula
Tunnel of Trees (M-119)
Michigan’s Tunnel of Trees on M-119 is one of the most famous road trip routes in the state. This forested trail of evergreens and hardwoods meet above the road, forming the distinctive “tunnel” that makes you feel like you’re completely sheltered.
In winter, the route between Cross Village and Harbor Springs is a distinctively beautiful experience. The surrounding trees are truly a breathtaking sight when covered in snow. Also, the peaceful snow offers a unique chance to spot animal life, such as winter birds, deer, and herons.
The nearby Bear River offers the chance to hike, ride a fat tire bike, and enjoy the winter scenery. On a clear day, you’ll be blown away by bluffs, beaches, stately trees, and some truly awesome houses. Best of all, the nearly 30-mile scenic winter drive doesn’t have as much traffic as in the summer.
At the end of your road trip, check out all the fantastic Petoskey winter things to do. Stafford’s Perry Hotel offers a spectacular view of Little Traverse Bay from the H.O. Rose Dining Room all year!
Manistee to Traverse City (M-22)
M-22 is one of the most winter scenic drives in Michigan’s northwest. This trail winds around Lake Michigan and the Leelanau Peninsula, offering vistas of the water and surrounding forests, cliffs, and hills. It’s so picturesque that it has been named by USA Today as one of the nation’s most scenic drives.
The route covers 116 miles of coastline around Lake Michigan from Manistee to Traverse City. It features views of rolling hills, farmland, and one-of-a-kind nature reserves, the most of which famous is Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
The sand dunes at Sleeping Bear are peak wild Michigan, almost untouched by humankind. Winter brings out a fascinating side to the dunes, decorated with unique ice formations thanks to the climate of the Great Lakes.
Port Huron to Bay City (US-25)
From Port Huron, US-25 runs up and around the tip of Michigan’s Thumb and over to Bay City. This scenic “Thumb drive” has a long and fascinating history. More importantly, it offers some of the most beautiful and unique views of the winter scenic drives in Michigan.
The route follows the coastlines of Lake Huron and Saginaw Bay, offering breathtaking outlooks over the water. Along the way, you’ll see historical sites, century-old architecture, and even a ghost town.
In fact, Port Huron has an interesting history. You can explore the Port Huron Museum, view the Blue Water Bridge, and wander around the historic downtown district before setting off.
Port Huron and other small towns are full of gorgeous Victorian houses, pretty roadside parks, and great shops and restaurants make this the perfect winter road trip. We recommend stopping in Harbor Beach, Port Austin, Caseville, and Sebawaing.
On top of that, driving US-25 lets you enjoy beach views you’ve never seen, including the wetlands along the Thumb, where you may spot rare birds and other animal life. You can end your journey in Bay City, or follow the Saginaw Bay coastline to explore things to do in Tawas City.
Huron River Drive
Huron River Drive is one of the most scenic drives you can find in Metro Detroit. It winds alongside the Huron River and through many small communities on the outskirts of Ann Arbor, each of them offering unique outlooks of the surrounding landscape.
During your trip, you can enjoy pleasant views of the river, which is beautiful in the winter. Many undeveloped areas in the vicinity draw visitors for winter sports, including ice skating and snowshoeing, too.
Huron River Drive is one of the best winter scenic drives in Michigan for getting close to nature without venturing too far from the city center. Even though it’s winter, there are ways to enjoy Metro Detroit while staying warm. You can find a lot of winter things to do in Ann Arbor as well.
Detroit to New Buffalo (US-12)
The US-12 Heritage Trail is one of Michigan’s most beloved celebrations of culture, history, and nature. Along the way, you can enjoy 200 miles of Michigan nature — forests, prairies, rolling hills, and beaches. About midway into the journey, the road follows the southern border of the Lower Peninsula.
An interesting feature on the trail is extremely ancient natural formations dating from at least 10,000 years ago. The precursor to the current highway was built in the 1820s, making it one of the oldest in the United States.
In the 200 years since then, the site has remained a popular tourist destination thanks to the presence of the Irish hills. These striking formations also feature multiple lookout towers that offer unparalleled views of the surrounding Michigan landscape.
Discovering Winter Scenic Drives in Michigan
Most people think of summer as the best time for a Michigan road trip. But these destinations are also perfect for the winter months, offering a side of the natural world you’ve never seen before.