Lake Michigan Circle Tour Itinerary Plan
The Great Lakes Circle Tours are a total of four routes circling each Great Lake, with the exception of Lake Ontario. The State of Michigan has signed each of the circle tours for the Great Lakes the state touches: the Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, and Lake Superior Circle Tours. These tours were originally conceived as an aid for travelers who wished to stick close to the shorelines of the lakes in their journeys. You’ll find the Lake Michigan Circle Tour route below.
Lake Michigan Lighthouse Map & Circle Tour
The Lake Michigan Lighthouse Map & Circle Tour is a free publication available from the West Michigan Tourist Association to accompany the Lake Michigan Circle Tour. Request your free copy of the 2017 Lake Michigan Lighthouse Map & Circle Tour, or click here to view the map online (PDF).
Lake Michigan Circle Tour Route
The route of the mainline Lake Michigan Circle Tour in Michigan follows signed state trunkline routes in its entirety, although in some places the nearest state highway to the Lake Michigan may be several miles away. Along with the primary Circle Tour route, several marked “Lake Michigan Circle Tour Loops” have been posted using white-on-brown signs. These loops may follow state highways or utilize city streets and county roads running closer to the shoreline. These loop routes are detailed below the mainline route below:
- The Lake Michigan Circle Tour enters Michigan from Indiana on US-12 south of New Buffalo and proceeds northerly through New Buffalo to I-94.
- The route leaves US-12 and continues northerly on I-94 from Exit 4 toward St Joseph. At Exit 23, the route exits I-94 and continues northerly into downtown St Joseph via BL I-94.
- In St Joseph, the Lake Michigan Circle Tour continues northerly on M-63 into northern Berrien Co.
- At the nothern terminus of M-63, the circle tour proceeds northerly on I-196/US-31 toward South Haven.
- The route leaves I-196/US-31 at Exit 18 and loops through South Haven using BL I-196.
- On the east side of South Haven, where BL I-196 ends at I-196/US-31 Exit 20, the route continues north into Allegan Co on I-196/US-31.
- While the Lake Michigan Circle Tour remains on I-196/US-31 at Saugatuck/Douglas, a locally-designated Lake Michigan Circle Tour Harbor Tour loop route is signed concurrently with A-2/Blue Star Hwy between Exits 36 and 41.
- The circle tour continues northerly on US-31/BL I-196 toward Holland at Exit 44 when I-196 splits off to the east.
- At Exit 47, route signage indicates that the circle tour exits US-31 and loops through downtown Holland following the former route of BUS US-31/BL I-196. However, this business loop route through Holland was removed in August 2004 (signage removed in May 2005), but Lake Michigan Circle Tour markers along US-31 itself still indicates the route exits US-31 onto a business route which no longer exists. Therefore, the new de facto route for the circle tour continues northerly past Holland via the US-31 bypass.
- On the east side of Holland, the route continues northerly following US-31 through Grand Haven and toward Norton Shores.
- At the jct of US-31 & I-96, the Lake Michigan Circle Tour leaves US-31 and follows BUS US-31 through downtown Muskegon.
- Northeast of downtown Muskegon, the route continues northerly via M-120 to North Muskegon and northeasterly back to US-31.
- Back on US-31, the circle tour continues northerly toward Ludington, leaving US-31 twice: once to follow the route of BUS US-31 through the downtowns of Whitehall and Montague in northern Muskegon Co; and again to follow the route of BUS US-31 through downtown Pentwater in Oceana Co.
- At the end of the US-31 freeway near Ludington, the Lake Michigan Circle Tour turns east following US-10/US-31 toward Scottville.
- At Scottville, the circle tour turns northerly again to follow US-31 toward Manistee, although a locally-designated Lake Michigan Circle Tour Loop Route formerly continued east on US-10 into downtown, then northerly via Old US-31 back to US-31 and the Lake Michigan Circle Tour. (NOTE: The Lake Michigan Circle Tour Loop route through Scottville was removed/decommissioned some time in late 2004 or early 2005 and no longer exists.)
- The route continues northerly from Scottville and through Manistee on US-31.
- Northeast of Manistee, the route turns northerly to follow M-22 through Onekama, Frankfort and Empire.
- Northeast of Empire, a Lake Michigan Circle Tour Loop Route leaves M-22 to follow M-109 past Glen Haven, rejoining M-22 at Glen Arbor. (The mainline LMCT remains on M-22 between Empire and Glen Arbor.)
- From Glen Arbor, the circle tour continues northerly on M-22 through Leland to Northport. At Northport, M-22 and the Lake Michigan Circle Tour turn nearly 180 degrees to head southerly into Traverse City.
- At Traverse City, the Lake Michigan Circle Tour returns to US-31 and continues northerly via US-31 through Elk Rapids, Charlevoix and Petoskey and on toward the Mackinac Bridge.
- South of Mackinaw City, where US-31 ends, the route continues northerly on I-75 crossing the Mackinac Bridge and entering the Upper Peninsula at St Ignace. Between Mackinaw City and St Ignace, the Lake Michigan Circle Tour is jointed by the Lake Huron Circle Tour.
- In St Ignace, the Lake Michigan Circle Tour continues westerly along US-2 for more than 140 miles through Manistique and Gladstone to Escanaba.
- At Escanaba, the circle tour continues southwesterly via M-35 along the Green Bay shoreline to Menominee
- The route continues south on US-41 through Menominee and enters Wisconsin at Marinette.
In Wisconsin, the mainline of the Lake Michigan Circle Tour follows signed state highway routes in its entirety, although in some places the nearest state highway to the Lake Michigan may be several miles away. This route listing lists the official route as well as any locally-designated and marked “Lake Michigan Circle Tour Loops,” which are generally posted with brown signs. These loop routes are detailed below the mainline route below:
- The Lake Michigan Circle Tour enters Wisconsin from Illinois via STH-32 and proceeds northerly through the downtowns of Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee, all the while following STH-32 religiously.
- In northern metropolitan Milwaukee, the LMCT joins I-43/STH-32/STH-57 heading northerly into Ozaukee Co.
- At Grafton, the tour departs I-43 to remain on STH-32 and continues through Port Washington.
- On the north side of Port Washington, the tour rejoins I-43 and contines northerly via I-43/STH-32 toward Sheboygan.
- At Exit 123, the circle tour departs I-43 and continues northeasterly via STH-28 into Sheboygan.
- At STH-23, where STH-28 ends and STH-42 begins, the LMCT continues northwesterly via STH-42 back to I-43 at Exit 128.
- The route continues northerly via I-43 from Sheboygan to Manitowoc.
- At Manitowoc, the circle tour leaves I-43 at Exit 149 and continues into downtown via US-151.
- In downtown Manitowoc, the route continues northerly via US-10 to STH-42. Also in downtown Manitowoc, a rather unique Lake Michigan Circle Tour spur route begins: travelling straight across the lake via Lake Michigan Carferry’s S.S. Badger carferry!
- On the north side of Manitowoc, the tour continues northerly via STH-42 through the communities of Two Rivers, Kewaunee and Algoma into Door Co and the Door Peninsula.
- At STH-57, the Lake Michigan Circle Tour turns northeasterly via STH-42/STH-57 past Sturgeon Bay.
- The route then heads northeasterly along the Lake Michigan side of the peninsula via STH-57 through Jacksonport, meeting back up with STH-42 in Sister Bay.
- In Sister Bay, the Lake Michigan Circle Tour turns back southwesterly via STH-42 through Egg Harbor to Sturgeon Bay once again.
- Southwest of Sturgeon Bay, the tour continues southwesterly via STH-57 into Green Bay.
- At Green Bay, the circle tour transitions to the final seven miles of I-43 northwesterly to that highway’s northern terminus at US-41/US-141.
- The Lake Michigan Circle Tour then turns northerly via US-41/US-141 in Howard.
- A the US-41/US-141 split in Abrams, the circle tour veers northeasterly to follow US-41 through Oconto and Peshitgo on its way to Marinette.
- At Marinette, the Lake Michigan Circle Tour enters Michigan on the US-41 Interstate Bridge linking that city with its sister, Menominee, on the other bank.