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Showing Our True Colors: Five Tours, including Grand Traverse, Antrim, Benzie and Leelanau Counties

Nature fills us with wanderlust in fall. With the first slight chill in the air, we're drawn outdoors to explore the scenery in all its splendor. And nature doesn't disappoint. She dresses up in her finest and reveals the many sides to her colorful personality.

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Tour One: Tunnel Vision
Old Mission Peninsula Color Tour: Approximately 38 miles

Old Mission Peninsula divides Grand Traverse Bay into East and West arms. Its beauty is unequaled, especially the views of the water and picturesque countryside on various points of your journey. Thousands of cherry trees cover the landscapes with blossoms in spring, and in fall, the vineyards and hardwoods take on the hues that only artistic masters can duplicate. Old Mission Peninsula has much to offer the autumn leaf-peeper: delicious apples can be found at roadside stands, charming restaurants offer sustenance along the journey, and history unfolds at the Old Mission and the Lighthouse for those who relish the past while they enjoy the present.

Take M-37 (Center Road) north from Traverse City's Garfield Road. Veer right where M-37 and Peninsula Drive fork, and continue north to the tip of the peninsula. Backtrack on M-37, and turn right on Peninsula Drive, winding along the West Bay shore to Traverse City.

Tour Two: Loops Around Lakes
Lower Grand Traverse County Color Tour: Approximately 43 miles

The Traverse City area encompasses more than 250 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, certainly providing some spectacular fall color viewing. But for something a little different, why not head inland to discover a more intimate perspective. Inland lakes dot the landscapes of Antrim, Benzie, Leelanau and Grand Traverse counties, and hundreds of rivers and streams provide the necessary nourishment to foster fabulous forest growth. Just south of Traverse City, a small collection of lakes provides for excellent color touring. Arbutus, Spring, Bass, Spider and Indian Lakes are surrounded by winding roads and the "oohs" and "aaahs" of delight are sure to be heard as you wander the country roads that encircle the shores.

Travel south on Garfield Road about nine miles; turn left on Hobb's Highway. Twist along Hobb's and around the lakes until you reach Supply Road (C-660). A left on Supply leads to Hammond Road which finishes the loop to Garfield. A right turn on Garfield will return you to Traverse City.

Tour Three: Land of Delight
Leelanau's Peninsula Color Tour: Approximately 93 miles

"Land of Delight" is the English translation of the Indian wood "leelanau," and it's easy to understand the reason for so naming the peninsula, especially in fall. Circling the perimeter of the place many call Michigan's "little finger" is a color tour that has been popular for decades. An easy and interesting route, M-22 takes you along the shoreline through the quaint villages of Suttons Bay, Peshasbestown, Omena and Northport, with water views almost the entire way. Each port town has its own unique charm, and each is a perfect place for shopping, dining, trying your luck at the casino or just breathing the crisp fall air. At the tip, you may choose to tour the Grand Traverse Lighthouse, a living museum. From its tower, your view of the season's extravagance may be at its best. Along the western coast, Leland and Glen Arbor offer still more options, and spectacular autumn color can be expected in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Don't be surprised if you find yourself going barefoot "one last time" when you encounter the massive sand dunes and incredible sunset beaches.

From Traverse City, follow M-22 along the coast to Northport, (From Northport, take M-201 to C-629 to the tip of the peninsula.) M-22 continues south from Northport along the western side of the Leelanau Peninsula, through Leland and into Glen Arbor, where M-109 takes you to the Dune Climb and the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. M-109 again meets up with M-22, which takes you to Empire. A left on M-72 will return you to Traverse City.

Tour Four: Bounty and Beauty
Antrim County Color Tour: Approximately 98 miles

Children of all ages will enjoy a color tour of Antrim County. With a first stop at Amon Orchards, fall starts as a season of great tastes - and some surprises (you might to led to believe that pumpkins grow on trees). Following an orchard tour and a trip to the petting farm, you'll be tempted to try some jam or jellies, and of course, you'll want to bite into a crisp red apple. Down the road a bit you can quench your thirst with fresh apple cider, produced by a horse-drawn cider press at the Hitchpoint Cider Mill. A tour of the countryside surrounding Torch and Elk Lakes makes for a marvelous afternoon in any season; in fall, the blues of the water just seem bluer next to trees of crimson and gold. The town of Alden welcomes fall travelers and offers fabulous antiques, creative crafts and family or fine dining.

Head north from Traverse City on US-31. Continue north through Elk Rapids to Eastport. Turn right on M-88 and follow it to Bellaire. In Bellaire, turn right on M-620 and follow it through Alden to Rapid City. Turn right on M-597 and take it through Kewadin back to Elk Rapids. Then take US-31 south back to Traverse City.

Tour Five: Sites And Sounds
Interlochen/Benzie County Color Tour: Approximately 64 miles

You're likely to hear the sounds of music mingling with the rustling of fall leaves on a color tour of Benzie County. The Interlochen Center for the Arts offers year-round education for young people interested in the performing arts. Situated on Green Lake, the Center provides excellent professional entertainment, as well as student performances, for all to enjoy. The campus itself consists of tree-lined pathways that take on vibrant personalities during the autumn months. And throughout the county you'll discover art and craft galleries and small town charms to make your trip even more colorful.

Follow US-31/M-37 south from Traverse City to the M-37 and US-31 intersection (Chums' Corners). Turn right on US-31, then left on M-137. Continue on M-137 to C-70. Turn right in the village of Karlin, then right on County Line Road which leads through Thompsonville. Make a right on M-115 and travel to Benzonia and Beulah to loop back onto US-31 south. A left turn at Chum's Corners will return you to Traverse City.

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