No list of northern Michigan scenery is complete without a mention of Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. Situated between Glen Arbor and Empire it offers spectacular views, firstly through forest and across Glen Lake, and then over the dunes and out across Lake Michigan.
A little over seven miles long, Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive snakes its way through the steeply rolling hills of the Lake Michigan shoreline. Entry to the scenic drive is off M-109 just to the south of Glen Lake.
If you’re feeling like getting a little (actually, a lot!) of exercise to go with your scenery, there is a parking lot just inside the entrance. Leave your car here and you can hike or bike the remainder of the seven-mile drive.
The first point of note along the drive is the covered bridge. Covered bridges are designed to protect the timbers of the bridge from damage caused by large accumulations of snow and ice. They may be more commonly associated with the northeastern United States, but we get just as much snow up here as they do out east!
A short distance past the covered bridge, Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive delivers the first of its breathtaking vistas: the Glen Lake Overlook. The view across Glen Lake towards Alligator Hill and the Narrows, framed by trees on either side is a guaranteed photo-op. Trust us: get your camera’s focus correct and the view will take care of the rest!
Several more spectacular views exist on this glorious drive.
The first is the Dune Overlook, shortly after the Glen Lake Overlook. The panoramic vista from the Dune Overlook includes Glen Lake and its surrounding rolling hills, the historic D. H. Day farm, the spectacular landscape of the Sleeping Bear Dunes, and a dramatic glimpse of Lake Michigan, Sleeping Bear Bay, Pyramid Point, the Manitou Passage, and both North and South Manitou Islands. There’s a lot to take in!
The next obviously scenic stop is the Lake Michigan Overlook. Perched 450 feet above Lake Michigan at the crest of a massive glacial moraine, this overlook affords an awe-inspiring view across vast Lake Michigan. Visible from this point are the Manitou Islands, Empire Bluffs, and Point Betsie. Time your stop here to coincide with the setting sun for some spellbinding scenes.
A short distance further along Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive is the Sleeping Bear Dune Overlook. This stop looks across the Sleeping Bear Dune’s varied and evolving landscape, and close inspection reveals much of the 2000-year history of the dunes. Areas of exposed sand, dense vegetation, and the “ghost forest” remains of ancient trees engulfed by the shifting sands tell a cyclical story of accumulation and erosion.
The final overlook is North Bar Lake Overlook. North Bar Lake has one of our favorite northern Michigan beaches, and the view from above the lake on Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive doesn’t disappoint. The majestic vista encompasses Lake Michigan, Empire Bay, Empire Bluffs, and North Bar Lake, and is another vantage point for glorious sunsets.
But the beauty on Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive isn’t just confined to the overlooks.
Every yard of this twisting road serves up beauty in one form or another. From the majestic dunes to the tranquil dells shaded by the forest canopy, Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive is seven miles of northern Michigan at its most charming.
Here's a link to a map of the route along Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.