Image
(Aaron Peterson)
Sponsor Content

Ten Top Mountain-Biking and Road Cycling Destinations

Thanks to a state-wide initiative to expand rails-to-trails and mountain bike networks and dedicated groups of cycling enthusiasts, Michigan has become one of the most bike-friendly states in the nation

Image

With hundreds of miles of top-rated singletrack, a slew of family-friendly rails-to-trails networks, and a nearly endless array of routes for road cyclists, Michigan has something for every stripe of cyclist. Here are our favorite ten biking trails broken down by region.


Southern Lower Peninsula

(Bryan Mitchell)

1. Fort Custer Recreation Area, Battle Creek

Hardpacked, fast, and fun is the best way to describe this network of 21 miles of singletrack just east of Kalamazoo. There are no epic climbs, but the trails are extremely well maintained, flying through open fields, weaving through oak forests, and zipping past small, pretty lakes. They’re also conveniently color-coded. Families and newer riders: Start on the blue and green loops. More intermediate and advanced folks: Head straight for the more technical red trail. Everybody: Kick back post-ride in nearby Kalamazoo, which has a thriving restaurant and brewpub scene. No bike rentals nearby, so bring your rig.

2. Potawatomi Trail, Pinckney

Just 20 miles northwest of Ann Arbor, the Potawatomi Trail is as good as it gets in southeast Michigan, with fast and flowy trails, punchy climbs, and screaming technical descents. The full 17-mile loop traverses everything from deep forests to broad wetlands, with views of shimmering lakes along the way. It’s classic Midwestern riding: tons of roots and a never-ending rollercoaster of ups and downs through the woods. Rentals: Dexter Bike & Sport.

3. White Pine Trail, Grand Rapids to Cadillac

Following the old rail bed for 90-plus miles and snaking through five counties, the White Pine Trail forms the backbone of the state’s extremely popular and well maintained rail-to-trail system. Part crushed limestone, part paved, and 100 percent car-free, the White Pine is the perfect setting for worry-free multi-generational riders. Gravel-grinder types might want to rally it in one push, but there are plenty of options for shorter rides and several towns along the way, which make it easy to sample the trail in smaller chunks. Rentals: McLain Cycle and Fitness.


Northern Lower Peninsula

(Tony Demin)

4. Little Traverse Wheelway, Charlevoix to Harbor Springs

Four of the Great Lakes’ most charming small harbor towns—Harbor Springs, Petoskey, Bay Harbor, and Charlevoix—link up on this 26-mile rail-to-trail route that shadows the Lake Michigan coast. The entire route can easily be ridden in a leisurely day, but it’s also the ideal two-day trip. Pack a credit card, swimsuit, and sandals and spend the day pedaling one way to your hotel. Eat lunch and shop in funky Petoskey, swim where the trail nears the lake, and stop often to soak it all in. Stay overnight in Harbor Springs or Charlevoix and then pedal back to your car the next day. Rentals: Latitude 45.

(Beth Price)

5. The Vasa Pathway, Traverse City

The Vasa Pathway is at the center of the hive of TC’s buzzing mountain-bike culture. A combination of hand-cut singletrack and wider skate-ski trails, the Vasa system winds through hardwood forests and rolling hills. It’s accessible enough for new riders, there’s enough terrain (21 miles) to wear out experts, and it’s got tons of off-the-map bootleg trails for the adventuresome set. (If this sounds like your thing, we recommend packing a compass or heading out a with a local.) Afterward, tap into TC’s nationally renowned food scene (Mario Batali summers here) and then kick back in one of the city’s handful of beautiful beaches. Rentals: Einstein Cycles.

6. Leelanau Peninsula

Road riders, this is your place. Jutting out some 30 miles into Lake Michigan, the peninsula is a bucolic mix of orchards, vineyards, and, of course, stunning lakeside vistas. The road’s shoulders are wide. The traffic is light. And there are small towns with ice cream stands, tiny restaurants, and marinas for bucolic rest breaks along the way. Where to start? Park in Lake Leelanau Village and roam the roads north of M-204. Rentals: Suttons Bay Bikes.

(Beth Price)

7. Glacial Hills, Bellaire

Situated in the heart of northern Michigan vacation country in a region known as Chain O’ Lakes, Glacial Hills Pathway and Natural Area has more than 22 miles of IMBA-engineered trails. Mapped out with the family in mind, the trails range in difficulty from beginner-friendly (flat, wide, and easy) to gut-busting (steep, technical, and speedy). The best part? The trails start just more than a mile from the cool little town of Bellaire, the perfect multisport weekend basecamp for everything from fishing and paddling to biking and beer drinking (iconic microbrewery Short’s Brewing Company is based here). Rentals: Paddles & Pedals.

8. Big M, Manistee

Laid over the slopes of a long-defunct downhill ski area, the trails at Big M offer up 40 miles of riding laced with monster climbs and adrenaline-juiced downhills. Strong riders will find the biggest terrain mix and flowy fun on Catamount Trail—be sure to take the spur to Capper’s Corner for a see-forever view of Manistee National Forest’s treetops. The area also features several mellower, more family-friendly trails. Post-ride, brews and eats for everyone are just 15 minutes away in Manistee. Rentals: Crystal Lake Adventure Sports.


Upper Peninsula

(Roche Photo)

9. The Noquemanon Trail Network, Marquette

With gorgeous waterfront parks, Marquette, a handsome 19th-century mining-turned-college town on the shore of Lake Superior, is ground zero for the Upper Peninsula’s vibrant mountain-bike scene. The Noquemanon Trail Network has 50 miles of beautifully maintained trails, everything from gap jumps and ramp drops to kid-friendly flow trails. And that’s just the start: There are 90 more miles of singletrack within an hour’s drive of town. Our favorite trail: the Down Dogger trail, a ripping 350-foot descent. Rentals: Quick Stop Bike Shop or Lakeshore Bike.

10. Copper Harbor Trails, Copper Harbor

At the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, Copper Harbor’s 15-plus miles of trails scored a Silver Level Ride Center ranking from IMBA—one of just 10 in the U.S. And with everything from wood-plank corkscrews and cliffy, technical descents to rolling, buffed-out singletrack and family-friendly loops, it gets a gold medal for variety. The best part? The trails start right “downtown” in this 100-resident burg, where hotels, camping, restaurants, a microbrewery, and rentals can all be had. Before you go, check out the Copper Harbor Trails Club’s website for interactive maps, upcoming events, and all the other beta you could ever want. Rentals: Keweenaw Adventure Company.

Lead Photo: Aaron Peterson
sms