It’s time to plan a beautiful fall color tour in Northern Michigan. This year explore the many ways to experience fall color on woodland trails, art trails, rivers and, of course, roads in and through Benzie County.
Experience Fall Color Hiking
For walkers and hikers, four great trails in Benzie County include the Betsie Valley Trail,
Betsie River Pathway, Lake Ann Pathway, and Michigan Legacy Art Park.
The Betsie Valley Trail is an easy to moderate 22+-mile trail through Benzie County. From Frankfort through Elberta, the Old Ann Arbor Railroad bed follows the Betsie River north to Railroad Point, along Crystal Lake, and then through Beulah to Thompsonville. All or part of the pathway can be hiked based on level of experience and interest. www.betsievalleytrail.org
The Betsie River Pathway has two loops – a 2.8-mile and 6.6-mile loop. This easy to moderate trail winds through the Pere Marquette National Forest. The shorter loop climbs a wooded and hilly terrain and descends to the Betsie River. The longer loop includes a hardwood forest and meadow and also connects to Crystal Mountain’s Aspen Trail. www.upnorthtrails.org/trails/betsie-river-pathway.html
The Lake Ann Pathway is a 6-mile picturesque forest trail with an easy to moderate terrain. Throughout the six-mile trail are views of four lakes, three bogs, and a stretch of the Platte River. From swamps and lakes to a trout stream, few trails in Michigan display so much water in such a short distance. www.michigantrailmaps.co
A beautiful hilly fall hike is perfect at the Michigan Legacy Art Park within the grounds of Crystal Mountain. The Art Park trail feature over 50 sculptures, poetry stones, natural woods and spectacular views. It is located on a densely wooded 30-acre preserve, which includes the 1.6 miles of hiking trails. There is a small fee to enter the park. www.michiganlegacyartpark.org
Experience Fall Color Biking
On the road, M-22 for fall color can’t be beat. This 116-mile road was recently voted the #1 road for “Best Scenic Autumn Drive” by USA Today. Bikers can ride for 2 to 3 days and will experience scenic overlooks, quaint communities and lodging along the way. Benzie County’s 2-hour ride from the Arcadia Overlook to Frankfort is one of the most beautiful scenes, with views of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. End your ride in Frankfort, Elberta or one of the other quaint small villages in Benzie County for an overnight or weekend stay at one of many lodging locations. Experience the fun of Frankfort’s Stormcloud Brewing Company, Beulah’s St. Ambrose Meadery & Winery, Lake Ann’s Brewery, and Iron Fish Distillery near Thompsonville, as well as, one-of-a-kind restaurants and shops throughout Benzie County during your stay.
If you’re more into mountain or fat-tire biking, a perfect destination is Crystal Mountain, which features many hilly trails and places to ride, as well as, bike rentals.
The Betsie Valley Trail, Betsie River Pathway, and Lake Ann Pathway are also suitable for mountain and fat tire bikes. To travel the Betsie Valley Trail by bike, a great way to enjoy the entire trail in one day is to make arrangements with the Benzie Bus to be picked up at one location and transported to another, with your bicycles.
Bike rentals are available by visiting www.visitbenzie.com or calling 800-882-5801.
Experience Fall Color Kayaking, Canoeing or Tubing
Benzie County has over 200 miles of rivers and over 50 inland lakes with many sections for kayaking and canoeing, to experience the best and most serene fall beauty in the state.
The Betsie River is winding and scenic, with a steady and moderate current. There are many Benzie County kayak and canoe liveries and rentals, or bring your own boat. Lodging locations like Hanmer’s Riverside Resort & Livery offer 1 and 3-hour canoe and kayak rentals for a relaxing scenic experience.
The Upper Platte River caters to a more experienced kayaker. Featuring tight turns, faster current and low hanging branches and underwater obstacles this part of the Platte River is for the adventure oriented person. Wildlife such as deer, loons, eagles and more are common sights. The total trip takes 3 ½ to 4 hours.
Along M-22 and Deadstream Road, where the Upper Platte meets the Lower Platte River, the river turns calmer. Starting at Honor Canoe Rental you can park a car for a leisurely 2 ½ hour trip in a canoe, kayak, or a tube. The Lower Platte River flows into Loon Lake and then, once across the lake you can pick up the river again and travel all the way to Lake Michigan ending at a sandy beach with spectacular views of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. At the end there is ample parking, a beautiful picnic area and restrooms. From September – October migrating salmon swim upstream on the Upper Platte River, therefore portaging around the fishing weir is necessary. The salmon migration viewing is fascinating and well worth the experience.
Kayak and Canoe rentals are available by visiting www.visitbenzie.com or calling 800-882-5801. See more about Hiking, Biking and Kayaking trails at the new NorthernMichiganTrails.org website.
Experience a Fall Color Drive
Of course, traveling by car is also a fun way to see fall color. Traveling into Benzie County from M-22 or M-115 is a majestic site. Experiencing the small villages is also a delightful way to see the local flavor of fall.
Main roads where the trees are vibrant and the views span for miles are along
M-115 from Cadillac to Benzonia, or from the south beginning in Manistee along US-31 or M-22 along Lake Michigan with stops along the route in Beulah, Benzonia, Elberta, Frankfort, Honor, Thompsonville or Lake Ann for overnight stays. Day trips to the Sleeping Bear Dunes along M-22 are not to be missed. www.m22colortour.com.
Lodging and Special Fall Package
For more information about lodging choices in Benzie County, including cottages, cabins, inns, motels and condos see www.visitbenzie.com. For assistance with lodging choices, call the Benzie County Visitors Bureau at 800-882-5801. Through October 31, 2017 visitors who stay at participating lodging locations for 2 consecutive nights or more are eligible for the “Benzie Treasure Trove” Vacation Package. The “Benzie Treasure Trove” Package has a value of up to $300, which includes multiple free gifts, two-for-one offers and more.
To learn more about the “Benzie Treasure Trove” and to sign up online to participate, see www.visitbenzie.com.
For more information about Benzie County Fall activities, see www.visitbenzie.com/fallfest-67 or contact the Benzie County Visitors Bureau at 800-882-5801. For a fall color tour guide, see www.visitbenzie.com/fall-97/.
Benzie County is a perfect vacation getaway with friendly towns and villages such as Frankfort, Elberta, Honor, Thompsonville, Beulah, Benzonia, and Lake Ann. Benzie County was one of the most well-known logging locations in Michigan during the early 1900’s. Presently, Benzie County is a popular tourism location with spectacular beaches along the majestic Crystal Lake and Lake Michigan, over 100 miles of biking and hiking trails, and great restaurants and shops. Perfectly situated along the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Benzie County still retains a very natural, hometown personality with nearly 30 miles of Lake Michigan coastline, 57 inland lakes, and approximately 200 miles of rivers. Outdoors activities in the summer and fall include fishing, golfing, biking, hiking, running, kayaking, paddle boarding and more.
Benzie County is only 130 miles north of Grand Rapids, 235 miles north of Detroit, 290 miles north of Chicago, 295 miles north of Fort Wayne and 380 miles north of Indianapolis. Plan a couple of days or more and get a true flavor of the relaxed pace and exquisite natural beauty of Benzie County.
Fall Events in Benzie County:
Beulah / Benzonia Fall Festival
October 7, 2017
Throughout the day, enjoy the experience of a small town festival within a beautiful setting. Activities in Beulah and Beulah Village Park include a cookie bake sale, pumpkin decorating, carvings by Pat Harrison, “Lord of the Gourd”, sidewalk art contest, a fall soup contest, hula hoop contest, horse drawn wagon rides, and a classic vehicle & motorcycle “Park & Shine” show. Children will also be entertained with children’s stories and activities, face painting, a climbing wall and a bounce house. Adults can browse for antiques at Myers Granary Antique Market. A narrated historical tour focusing on local WW1 soldiers from Benzie County will be offered by the Benzie Area Historical Museum in Benzonia with free admission. Times for activities are featured online at www.visitbenzie.com/fallfest-67/.
Frankfort Beer Week
Oct 9-14, 2017
The highly rated Stormcloud Brewing Company located in Frankfort will be front and center during October’s Frankfort Beer Week. Other Michigan Breweries who have small batch releases will also be participating. Frankfort Beer Week is a weeklong series of events, including Beer Dinners, Beer-pairing menus, a Homebrew contest, Beer-Infused Creations, Concerts and Cookouts, Special Beer Releases, and Tap Takeovers. There are a wide variety of experiences to sample. For details see frankfortbeerweek.com.
Frankfort Fall Festival
October 14, 2017
Throughout the day, experience the wild, wacky and fun at the Frankfort Fall Festival. Some of the most unique happenings will include the parade featuring The Scottville Clown Band, GIANT pumpkins, locally built floats and the mutt march along Main Street. The parade begins at 11 a.m. There will also be a giant pumpkin (200 – 500 lbs!) weigh-in and carvings by Master Pumpkin Carver Ed Moody, the Mutt Coral Awards for the best / most unique dog costumes, a pumpkin pie eating contest, helicopter rides ($55), and a giant pumpkin drop (500+lbs) onto a car. Children will love pumpkin decorating, “Hillbilly Olimpiks” the silly-themed obstacle course, kids games, the straw maze, a scavenger hunt with prizes and “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” movie at the Garden Theater. There will also be a beer and mead, live music, a silent auction, free wagon rides through town and a “home brew” competition at noon at Stormcloud Brewing Company. Times for activities are featured online at www.visitbenzie.com/fallfest-67/.
Tri Up North Triathlon
Oct. 15, 2017
The port city of Frankfort along the Betsie Bay is a perfect location to participate in a triathlon. This kayaking, biking and running race is specifically geared toward beginners and those looking for a little motivation to become more active. Their goal is to engage young people, families and individuals to make healthy choices and live an active lifestyle and enjoy all that Northern Michigan has to offer. Take the athletic challenge and soak in the beauty of Benzie County’s weather and gorgeous scenery. The event will start at 9 am / course and packet pick up begins at 7 am. For more specific information see www.Tri-upnorth.com call (800) 882-5801.
Peaktoberfest & Founders Peak 2 Peak Mountain Bike Classic, Tour de Tykes & Cross Country Trail Tour
Thompsonville – Crystal Mountain
October 20-22, 2017
Peaktoberfest includes first-class mountain bike racing, live music, family fun, great German food and award-winning brews surrounded by the autumn colors of northern Michigan.
During the festival the 12th Annual Peak2Peak Mountain Bike Classic will take place, presented by Founders Brewing Company. This epic event is held in and around the beautiful and gently rolling terrain that surrounds Crystal Mountain and will start and finish at Crystal Mountain. Riders journey through hardwood and pine forests along rambling two-tracks and flowing single-track on a course that is fast and challenging, but not so difficult that racers new to the sport won’t have a great time. The Tour de Tykes is a bike race for kids 7 to 12. Crystal will also offer the Tour de Tiny Tykes, for ages 6 and under. All participants receive medals. Additional Saturday activities include chairlift rides and “Spooktacular Saturday” activities with petting zoo, caramel apples, pumpkin carving, wagon rides and a spooking trail walk. www.crystalmountain.com/events/peak2peak-mountain-festival or call the Park at Water’s Edge at 888.968.7686 ext. 7000.
9th Annual Frankfort Film Festival
Frankfort Film Festival
October 19-22, 2017
The historical Garden Theater in Frankfort is the place to be on the third weekend of October. This film-lovers festival features leading edge independent films from prestigious film festivals throughout the world. Visits by film directors and screenwriters and other surprises will be part of the four-day event. For more information see www.frankfortgardentheater.com/film-festival/ or call (231) 352-7561.
Additional Fall Experiences:
Fish are abundant in Benzie County with 57 inland lakes and approximately 200 miles of rivers. Benzie County is known for its year-round fishing for Rainbow trout, brook trout, brown trout, lake trout, small mouth bass, northern pike, yellow perch, blue gills, whitefish, Rock bass, and sturgeons on the rivers and lakes. King Salmon, Coho Salmon and Steelhead are popular fish that can be caught in the Betsie and Platte Rivers, as well as, along the Lake Michigan coast in Benzie County
Golf at some of the finest courses in the Midwest. Crystal Lake Golf Club, Pinecroft Golf Course, and Champion Hill Golf Course in Beulah all have stunning views of Crystal Lake. Mountain Ridge and Betsie Valley golf courses at Crystal Mountain, and Chestnut Hills Golf Course in Arcadia also feature beautiful terrain.
Settle in at one of the many unique cozy restaurants in Benzie County to make your fall journey complete. There are many unique and locally owned restaurants that serve food that will appeal to many different palates. Restaurant options include deli’s, fresh fish and farm-to-table restaurants, Asian and Mexican restaurants and more.
Sit by a warm fireplace after a magnificent experience:
Book a Group Wagon Ride or a Romantic Carriage! Experience the beauty of nature by horse drawn transportation, with custom trips on two-track trails and country roads. See more at http://fantailfarmllc.com
Chairlift Rides with Live Entertainment
Crystal Mountain (weather permitting)
September & October (9/2, 9/23, 9/30, 10/7, 10/14, 10/20, 10/21) – Check for times per date.
Enjoy panoramic views of three counties and top-of-the-mountain attractions including live musical entertainment. Ride the Crystal Clipper Quad Chairlift to the top of the mountain to enjoy the music. Chairlift rides are $7 per person. Children 8 & under are free with a paying adult. Guests staying at Crystal Mountain can ride for free.
For more information see www.crystalmountain.com/activities/chairlift-rides or call the Park at Water’s Edge at 888.968.7686 ext. 7000.
Point Betsie Lighthouse Tours
Oct. 1-Oct. 31, 2017
Lighthouse tours and the Gift Shop will be open from 10 – 5 pm on Thurs. Friday, Saturday, and noon – 5 pm on Sunday. See www.pointbetsie.org.
Crystal Spa Days
October 1 – November 12, 2017
Enjoy select 50-minute massage, facial, body treatment and nail services at special prices. Crystal Spa guests also enjoy complimentary Eucalyptus steam rooms, infrared saunas, an indoor relaxation lounge, and mosaic hot tub garden as part of their spa experience.
General Information about Benzie County
Fall Family & Kids Activities in Benzie County
During the fall, families can experience Charter fishing on Lake Michigan and lake/river fishing, boating, kayaking, and canoeing on over 50 lakes and the Platte and Betsie Rivers, biking on the Betsie Valley trail, and art and hands on programs at the Elizabeth Lane Oliver Art Center in Frankfort and COGnition in Beulah. Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville also has many children’s programs for guests who stay at the resort and for visitors who pay a fee for activities such as an elevated rope and zip line course, mountain biking, golf and paintball courses for teens.
Adult Activities in Benzie County
From art galleries to antiques and home furnishings, Benzie County has many unique shops and shopping experiences. For the interior designer, art enthusiast and home furnishing buyer, Benzie County has a large selection of showrooms and art galleries to explore. Benzie County has many unique restaurants offering farm-to-table specialties on their menus. Stormcloud Brewing Company in Frankfort and Lake Ann Brewing Company in Lake Ann are hot spots for craft brews made in-house. Regular music events take place at both breweries. Stormcloud also has great food offerings and Lake Ann Brewing has a wonderful restaurant next door that offers food delivered to the brewery. St. Ambrose Cellars in Beulah has free sampling of their many award-winning wines and meads, charcuterie and cheese plates and snacks, and weekly music events and an open mic night. Iron Fish Distillery located near Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville offers spirits tastings, craft cocktails, snacks and special events.