This is such a pleasant way to spend seventeen miles. It all begins (and ends) in a small township park at the north end of Popp Road a short way west of the Village of Lake Leelanau. Schneider Beach Park offers a long, majestic view of the north arm of Lake Leelanau. There’s plenty of parking and a port-a-potty. What more could you want?
Ride south, out to M-204, turn left, and cruise into the small village of Lake Leelanau.
If you like to begin a ride with a cup of coffee, there are two great little shops, one on each side of the narrows along M-204, The Redheads Café on the west or Pedaling Beans on the east. Once caffeinated, take a spin through the village, where there’s a good grocery (NJ’s) and some nice eateries and shops to check out.
One of the highlights in Lake Leelanau is the use of fieldstone on the churches. It’s a beautiful local vernacular material and you only wish it would have caught on more.
When done prowling the big city, head south on South Lake Shore Drive (County Road 643). The road skirts the west shore of the south arm of Lake Leelanau. This is a flat to gently rolling stretch of road with only minimal shoulder width, but traffic usually travels at a moderate pace. This is one of the most agreeable beginnings to a ride you’ll find anywhere. It’s lined with trees, there are nice occasional views over the lake, the roadway is dotted with small working farms as well as well-kept homes. The homes are both seasonal and year-round. There are also some vegetable and fruit stands along the way if you’re looking for a fresh snack or for greens for dinner.
The other ag product you’ll find here is grape crushing. This yields wine. Wineries are all over the place. Throw a grape and you’ll hit one. On this route they’re called Bel Lago, or Chateau Fontaine. Bel Lago is actually just off the route, a short way further south on Lake Shore Road, but close enough for a quick pedal up to its tasting room.
If you’d like a stop along the way, or if you’d like to touch the lake, take a left at mile 5.8, Hohnke Road, and coast down to the shoreline where there’s a boat launch. Otherwise, continue south to Kabot Road. If you love going uphill, you’ll love this road. There are a couple of short downhills within, but it’s mostly up. The arrival on French Road is worth the effort, though. It rolls gently up and down across the high midsection of land between Lake Leelanau and Lake Michigan. The views are mostly farmsteads, wide open fields, a few cows, a horse or two, vineyards, and orchards. And the road usually has a very low traffic flow. Heaven on a bicycle.
After a few miles you’ll pass Lavassar Road on the right and from there back to the township park it’s a long sweeping downhill.
Post ride can be a return to Lake Leelanau, where a coffee shop awaits, good food is available, or drop into Dick’s Pour House or the Northern Latitudes Distillery for something a bit stronger.