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The state of Michigan is a peninsula. No, it doesn’t stick out into the ocean like Florida or Cape Cod. But it is surrounded on all sides by Great Lakes. And like many other peninsulas, it is mostly flat. The road network, especially in the Detroit Metro area is a basic grid. Some have even argued that Detroit always specialized in straight-line cars because none of the engineers or executives there thought much about cars that could corner. But the truth is that there are several spectacular driving roads within a day’s road trip.

‘Hell and Back’ Loop

Map of a drive near Ann Arbor, Michigan
‘Hell and back’ Michigan drive | Google Maps

Ann Arbor is a college town 45 minutes northwest of Detroit. And while getting there is a straightforward highway drive, north of Ann Arbor lies a maze of lakes and hills. It is the place to find good driving roads in the greater Detroit area. The most legendary route may be Car and Driver’s test loop, which begins and ends in Hell, Michigan, just north of Ann Arbor. The magazine doesn’t publish its precise loop. But no worries, any drive in the general area will scratch your motoring itch. Here’s a great option.

Take Huron River Drive out of Ann Arbor (slow but scenic). Follow it through Dexter, Michigan. Turn left onto North Territorial Road (also a great driving road), then take your first right, north onto Dexter-Pinckley Road. You’ll follow this road toward Pinckley, MI, but take a left onto Patterson Lake Rd on the outskirts of town. Follow Patterson Lake past some lakes and through Hell, MI, even when it turns into Doyle. Turn left onto Unadilla Rd and follow it, even after it turns into Hadley Rd, until you hit North Territorial Road again. Turn left on N Territorial, driving east past a country club, then take a left onto Hankerd Road. You’ll follow this road north and turn left onto Glenn Brook Rd. Glenn Brook will tee into Patterson Lake, completing your loop.

‘Thumb of the Mitten’ Lakeshore Cruise

Map of a loop along the Lake Huron shore in Michigan.
‘Thumb of the mitten’ Michigan drive | Google Maps

If you’re less of a speed demon and want to drop the top for a lakeshore cruise, Michigan has plenty of those. When viewed from above, Michigan looks like a big old mitten. Driving the shoreline of the entire “thumb” is a nice half-day adventure, just north of Detroit. To go counter-clockwise, you’ll need to first get to Bluewater Bridge at the southern tip of Lake Huron. Interstate 94 goes right to this bridge. But if you want to extend your drive, you can take Lake Shore Road/Jefferson Ave from Detroit and up the shore of Lake Saint Clair, before hopping on 94.

As you exit I-94, you want to take state route 25 north along the shore of Lake Huron. You’ll follow this road up the shore, through Lakeport, Forester, Harbor Beach, Port Hope, Port Austin, Bay Port, and into Bay City. Once in Bay City, you can hop on I-75 south for a quick cruise home. Depending on the day, you may find yourself in some traffic along the shore. So be ready to cruise, and don’t hesitate to stop when you see a beach or restaurant you like.

Tunnel of Trees, Northern Michigan

Map of the 'Tunnel of Trees' drive in Michian
‘Tunnel of Trees’ Michigan drive | Wikimedia Commons

No list of Michigan’s greatest driving roads would be complete without M-119, also known as the “Tunnel of Trees.” This highway is in northwestern Michigan, running along the shore of Lake Michigan. It is distinct for two reasons: It is a narrow road with no centerline. And for miles at a time it is fully engulfed in foliage. Thus it’s name.

The beautiful winding road stretches for 27 miles. But you can hop on at any point. It’s a popular stop for motorcyclists and sports car enthusiasts headed toward Michigan’s remote “Upper Peninsula.” Even though the southern tip of the road is 4.5 hours from Detroit, it can see up to 15,000 vehicles a day during peak season.

See more of the best roads in Michigan, according to a motorcyclist, in the video below: