Manistee River High Rollway – Stunning Fall Views in Northern Michigan
Fall color is either at or near peak in most of Northern Michigan, and when we recently made a trip to the Traverse City area to check it out, we were able to visit the Manistee River High Rollway scenic overlook near Buckley – an overlook on the North Country Trail that features stunning fall views as the river makes a horseshoe bend down below. There were quite a few people at this site, which surprised us since we had only recently become aware of its existence. A wide and well-worn path leads to several overlooks and benches with amazing views, just a few miles away from M-37. This site is also referred to as Highbanks Rollaway, the Rollaway, Horseshoe Bend, Highbanks Overlook, Lookout Point.
A sign near the third overlook has a map of the North Country Trail on one side and gives background information on the area’s history on the other side: “Rich in beauty as well as history, this overlook towers 200 feet above the Manistee River and offers a view of up to 15 miles. Referred to locally as a “rollway,” it was at this site in the late 1800s that thousands of logs would be stockpiled along the river during the winter months. Following the spring thaw and ice breakup, key logs were removed, allowing the huge pile of logs to tumble down the bank into the river to begin their trip downstream to the sawmill. Archaeological evidence indicates this area was used extensively by Native Americans whi fished, hunted and made their homes here. Because it also is the highest point on this stretch of its the Manistee, its beauty must have held a special significance for them as well. Today, this panoramic vista attracts photographers, family gatherings, picnics, hikers and you. Enjoy the view and please stay on the path and deck, which have been designed for your hiking and viewing pleasure. The steep bluff is easily eroded by foot traffic and endangers the stability and longevity of the overlook.”
While the fall color from the overlooks was fantastic, we also enjoyed seeing the orange, yellow and red colors on the drive out to the overlook. Check out the photo gallery below for more pictures, and consider adding this amazing site to your fall color plans for this year (if you hurry) or in the the future.
To get to the High Rollway, head south from the blinking light in town (1st St.). Follow this until the road becomes W. 4 Rd. and it curves to the east. Stay on W. 4 Rd. for about four miles (you’ll pass through two four-way intersections) and then when the road bears sharply left, follow the brown MI DNR sign for High Rollway that directs you straight on a well-worn dirt road. Follow this dirt road to its end at a parking area that can hold 10-15 cars, the overlook is a few hundred feet away. This road was in very good shape when we visited and in most places it is wide enough for two-way traffic.