By Ari B. Adler
My wife Jessi and I were recently in Traverse City, Michigan visiting family before heading to Mackinac Island for an event. Since we had some spare time between our planned departure and our next stop, we decided to take the scenic route through Northern Lower Michigan. What a treat to find two off the beaten path destinations in one run!
From Traverse City, we headed north along the coast of Lake Michigan on US-31. North of Petoskey, the highway turns more inland, so instead, we took the path less traveled and continued north/northwest on M-119. This picturesque two-lane road winds its way along the western edge of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, giving you frequent glimpses of Lake Michigan and the beautiful homes built to take advantage of spectacular views.
Continuing north along M-119, you will come up on the Tunnel of Trees. The narrow two-lane road becomes more like one-and-a-half lanes of curvy blacktop that runs through what looks to be a tunnel made of trees. The big difference is you’re not traveling through a mountain but instead through some beautiful woodlands. Take your time to meander through this lovely stretch. If you end up with someone in a hurry behind you, it’s worth pulling over to let them pass so you can see the scenery at your own pace, not to mention navigate the curves in your RV a little easier.
After you exit the Tunnel of Trees, you will be in a very small town called Cross Village, which is where we found our second off-the-beaten-path jewel in this area. It’s called Legs Inn and it’s definitely worth stopping for a bite to eat while relaxing with a fantastic view of Lake Michigan. If the weather permits, Jessi and I highly recommend grabbing an outdoor table.
This historic restaurant built on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan is quite a quirky spot! Built of logs, stones and other materials, it is overflowing with wood carvings representative of the Native American culture that was so prevalent in Cross Village for many years. Its menu is what really seals the deal though, because you will find some great Polish food there.
The Tunnel of Trees and Legs Inn are definitely off the beaten path but really should be on everyone’s list of things to do and see when visiting the northwestern corner of Michigan’s mitten.