North Western State Trail emmet

nw trail cyclists

North Western State Trail Loop
Paved from Petoskey, at Spring Lake Park, to AlansonLink to Map
15.6 Miles

Michigan bike paths are really coming into their own these days. What were once scruffy, unused rights-of-way are becoming very pleasant places to bike and walk. Whatever feedback loop is happening between users and builders is working. Their popularity is an amazing thing to see. Go to any bike path that was installed in the past ten years or so and it will show you how much people use and enjoy them. Read more ›


Any bike path is a good bike path, but some work better than others. The newer ones seem to take many recent design improvements to heart. This often comes down to accentuating the unique and interesting qualities along the way, but just as important are the roadway crossings. The smoother (and fewer, where possible), and more perpendicular to the crossing road, the better. Some of the early designs in pathways didn’t quite get this right. The barrier-free paving changes were a major step forward in accessibility, but some of the early attempts still created rough transitions from the path into the crossing. The North Western, currently paved from Petoskey to Alanson, does a great job of creating nice, smooth crossings.


It passes by Round Lake with overlooks, under shady tree cover through the Little Traverse Conservancy’s Fochtman Nature Preserve, into the community of Conway, past the Oden Fish Hatchery, through the small community of Oden itself, then along a large marsh area on a wooden boardwalk before arriving in Alanson.

The Fish Hatchery is well worth the detour. It has an informative and visually stunning train display, an interpretive center, and a path that leads back to the spawning ponds where you’ll find plenty of fish to ogle.


Nearing Alanson, the trail takes a jog onto local streets and climbs a short hill. There is an adjacent commercial area along US31 with Subway, a convenience store/gas station, a bakery, and there’s a small park on the east side of US31, among other things.


The last time I rode it, I brought along my own snacks and I ate them on a small grass patch above the gas station / convenience store looking across at the Dutch Oven Bakery, Café and Deli. People in Yelp seem to like the Dutch Oven and the Alanson Depot Restaurant. I was yearning for a nice baked good, but I chewed on my energy bar instead. I won’t make the same mistake again.

NW Trail (10 of 10)

The Backstory
For many years this was a railway line. No surprise, eh?

“The [North Western] trail runs along the former Grand Rapids and Indiana line of Pennsylvania Railroad (once known as “The Fishing Line”) that opened in 1882 and continued in some areas until 1992.” (Top of Michigan Trails Council) It brought settlers into the area, increased the lumbering trade, and also brought an influx of tourists.

nw trail pair

What’s more, Alanson gets its name from that same railroad, with two variations.

Story 1: Named for Alanson Howard, grandson of W.O. Hugart, GR&I President. (The Steamer Topinabee…, by Mark Hill)

Story 2: Named for Alanson Cook, who was an official of the GR&I Railroad. (Michigan Place Names, by Walter Romig)

I’m veering toward the first story, but you go ahead and choose your preference.

Inland Route

Before the railway line, the lakes, rivers and streams were the main mode of passage through the area. The “Inland Route” of waterways was used to avoid the more treacherous Lake Michigan passage around Mackinaw. This route included: Round Lake, Iduna Creek, Crooked Lake, Crooked River, Burt Lake, Indian River, Mullet Lake, and the Cheboygan River, which emptied into Lake Huron. Beginning at Crooked Lake, it was even navigated by a steamer called the Topinabee (see image). No small feat.

round lake
Native Americans and early fur traders used it as a safe passage as well. Early native settlements along its shores go back 3000 years. They portaged off of Little Traverse Bay at the current site of the Petoskey State Park, into Round Lake, and continued from there. By the late 19th century it became a major destination. “It became one of the busiest inland waterways in the country.  At one point, up to thirty two boats a day were traveling the route with tours lasting 2-3 hours up to an overnight stay at various hotels.” (The Steamer Topinabee and the Inland Water Route of Northern Michigan, by Mark Hill)

But then came progress in the form of the railway. With it, the Inland Route’s popularity declined. We won’t even talk about the advent of the automobile and its impacts.

For more information on this bike path and to keep apprised of its future expansion, go to the Trails Council Website.

Go here for a further explanation of the Inland Waterway. Link to Map


5.19.14 Old Mission (3 of 10)
Old Mission Peninsula
42.0 miles Link to Map

I start this ride at a small city park, East Bay Park along East Bay Boulevard on the shores of….ta da…East Bay. There are other places to park all over the peninsula (noted on the map) and you can even begin this ride from downtown Traverse City if you’re into good hearty rides. This East Bay Park location lets you get the full peninsula in one loopy sweep without excess, but it’s only a suggested starting/ending point. Read more ›

Boat on East Bay

This is not your typical transport vehicle. Click on it to enlarge and see the cargo.

The ride heads out along East Bay, swings through the community of Old Mission, out to the tip of the peninsula at the Old Mission Lighthouse and the Old Mission State Park, then back along the west side, past Bowers Harbor, winding along West Bay. It’s hard to get lost when they name the bays with orientation points on the compass.
colorful barn roof

Center Rd_Old Mission Peninsula

Let me give you the basic gist of the peninsula. First, traffic is quieter at the north end. It gets busy as you get closer to Traverse City. Next, Center Road is a main through-route. Traffic moves fast and it’s busier than other roads. It also has relatively wide shoulders, though there are sections in poor condition. The shoreline roads are relatively flat. Inland it gets hilly fast. Be prepared to do some climbing. The villages tend to be at the mid to north end. Vineyards and orchards are all over the place.

If you want to hang around the peninsula to stop into a pub or restaurant after your ride, or if you want to do a wine tasting tour, you should consider parking in a place like Bowers Harbor and do your loop from there. Jolly Pumpkin is a short way from the Bowers Harbor boat launch parking area (again, see map for parking options). Peninsula Grill or Bad Dog Deli is also a short trek from there in Mapleton on Center Road. The Old Mission General Store on Mission Road is a fun place to check out along the way. Be aware, the general store is quirky and that’s what makes it interesting. As mentioned above, there are many wineries a stone’s throw from most places you’re riding.
old mission general store

Now for a little history. Native Americans wandered here for many years before the Europeans arrived in the 1830s. Old Mission, settled by a couple of missionaries in 1839, was the first community in the region. The Mission was moved in 1852 to Omena on that other peninsula to the west, Leelanau. That made the first mission “old.” The name stuck. The New Mission one didn’t, hence Omena. The Old Mission community is a small, pleasant place tucked around Old Mission Harbor. There is a replica of the mission itself on Mission Road near the General Store.
replica of old mission

The peninsula is known for various fruits. It’s part of Michigan’s major fruit belt. Viniculture is big, and growing. With the new interest in cider, an increased number of apple orchards are sprouting up. It’s been a key part of the cherry industry for years.
cherry hut

There are a number of major wineries splayed along either side of Center Road all along the way, such as Chateau Grand Traverse, Chateau Chantal, Two Lads, and Bowers Harbor Vineyards, and more. These offer tastings during the warm season.
swaney road at old mission

There’s also a lighthouse included on this route. The Mission Point Light is situated on the 45th Parallel. It looks more like a house with a beacon on top than the statuesque Grand Traverse lighthouse on the tip of Leelanau County, but it’s still quite quaint in its setting. It’s open to visitors. There’s also an 1856 log house, the Hesler House, nearby that’s worth checking out as well.

old mission lighthouse


hesler log houseMost of all, though, this area is scenic. Between the vineyards, the orchards, the topography, the farms, the lighthouse, and the views over either or both bays, it’s beautiful. Though development still takes place in the area, this was one of the early regions that adapted conservation easements, so there have been strategies put into place to help retain its character.
bluff road along east bay
For further information on accommodations, markets, wineries, food, and other highlights, go to They do a nice job of laying it out for you.

As for the route, in order to make the full ride work, there are a couple of areas on the south end that are more suited to the cycling enthusiast who is not shaken by busy roads or unique cut-throughs. If this seems too daunting to you, I recommend that you head to a parking spot farther out the peninsula and spend your day riding out at that end. You’ll experience the peninsula at its finest either way. See Route by Miles info on the map sheet for a further explanation.
45th Parallel Marker

Link to Map

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bluff drive
Tunnel of Trees Loop
47.0 mile loop

Link to Map

This loop begins and ends in the charming village of Harbor Springs, then winds north through the Tunnel of Trees on M-119 through Good Hart and Cross Village. This area is also known as L’Arbre Croche, or Crooked Tree. At Cross Village, it turns inland and rolls over hills, past expansive farmland, fallow fields, fecund marshes, and well-known ski resorts. It’s a long, hilly ride, for those with a high level of fitness. For those who don’t want to tackle the whole thing, a short out and back along M-119 to get a taste of the Tunnel of Trees area would be a nice outing.

Read more ›

Harbor Springs

Give yourself plenty of time to poke around Harbor Springs. For such a small town there’s a lot to explore. There is the town proper, with all the shops, restaurants, cafes and museums, situated above the harbor on Little Traverse Bay. There’s the tier above town on Bluff Drive, particularly the eastern end in the neighborhoods with a park that has a majestic view over the town and the bay. There are the docks with all kinds of boats bobbing about in the water. There’s the loop around Glenn Drive and 2nd Street at the far western end of town, a quiet neighborhood with a couple of the area’s ubiquitous nature preserves snuck in.

Harbor Springs @ Little Traverse Bay

There’s the ride around Beach Drive and Pennsylvania Avenue on the eastern end of the town in the area of the West Wequetonsing Nature Preserve. This area has some attractive old resort homes facing one another in a series of greenswards that open out on the water.

Harbor Springs Residence

Farther east, on a ride that leads from Pennsylvania Avenue onto Beach Road, get in touch with your true nature preserve self and savor the natural world. I’m not sure how it all unfolded, but much of it is contiguous land that looks to have been granted to the Little Traverse Conservancy in small parcels. It all adds up to a nice stretch of quiet natural landscape to ride through. It will eventually lead you back out to M-119, then down to the Petoskey State Park, a great place to walk the beach if you’re looking to get your toes out of bike shoes and into some soft sand.

Nature Preserve

Nature preserves are a major focus in this region. There are over forty within or around this loop alone. There’s a strong desire in this area to retain the natural surroundings for plants, animals and people. It is a great draw to the region and it focuses on a broad mission toward land stewardship. Nearly 30% of the land in Emmet County is in public ownership.

Birds in Flight
Tunnel of TreesHead north on M-119 along a curvaceous coastal roadway lined with the famous Tunnel of Trees that winds through the area known as L’Arbre Croche, or Crooked Tree. This area is a historic Odawa Native American gathering place. The tree (long since removed), thought to once be near Good Hart, represents a physical object with many levels of meaning. It locates a place where tribes traded and worked out differences. It’s also a signifier of homeland and a spiritual icon.

The county, once known by the Native American name Tonedagana, was eventually named for the Irish patriot Robert Emmet, who was hanged in Ireland as a traitor to the British government at the age of 23. This renaming was due to the strong Irish American presence in the mid-1800s.

On the northern end of the route, Cross Village is one of the oldest settlements in Michigan and today is known for its ties to the Odawa tribe, as well as a strong connection to the the early missionaries in the area. The town’s name comes from a large white cross reputed to have been originally erected by Father Marquette. Legs Inn, built in the 20s and still run by the original Smolak family, is a unique architectural wonder built of native stone and wood, with driftwood accents.

Middle Village


L'Arbre Croche

L'Arbre Croche Home

Tunnel of Trees Cottage

Robinson Road over Marsh

Robinson Road drops dramatically down to a rich and diverse marsh on both sides. The Maple River flows through it.

Robinson Road Marsh

NOTE: This ride is for those who are in good physical condition. It’s not only long, but it’s also very hilly. The ride through the Tunnel of Tree area on M-119 is often over gently rolling hills, some do get more challenging here and there.

An optional Shortcut is shown on the map that cuts east/west across Stutsmanville Road. Be aware that, like much of inland Emmet County, this is a very hilly crossover. Even as a shorter route option, it’s still quite a challenge and you should be in good physical condition to handle it.

For a nice historic profile of the county and more maps, go to

Link to Map

BEULAH SOUTH benzie + manistee

Beulah South Loop
49.3 mile loop

Link to Map

County Road 677This is basically half a century ride (not the length of time, but the distance, unless you’re an exceedingly slow rider), part of it over very hilly terrain. It’s not an easy area to find places to carve out a shortcut. A lot of the roads look promising, but then peter out on dead ends. This has a lot to do with the numerous streams and particularly the Betsie River as it winds its way through the valleys. This route even dips down into Manistee County on the south end for a bit. This is an adventure.

That’s not a bad thing. The topography is part of the region’s charm, and the ride is beautiful throughout. If you like hills, this is your ride. But, try to cut this ride short and you may find yourself in a maze of roads that continually route you back the way you came. There are a few alternate routes shown on the map that allow for options if a fifty mile ride isn’t possible. They’re still going to involve a few hills, however. That’s a given in the area unless you’re on the Betsie Valley Trail or riding around one of the nearby lakes. Read more ›

Cyclist along Crystal Lake

It begins and ends in the village of Beulah, a charming spot nestled on the east end of colorful Crystal Lake. Beulah would not exist were it not for an engineering error by an entrepreneur with questionable engineering skills named Archibald Jones. In 1873 he tried to connect the Crystal Lake to the Betsie River in hopes of creating a navigational channel to Lake Michigan.

Henry Orchards

Unencumbered by the thought process, Jones and his cohorts didn’t take into consideration that the lake was far higher than the river. Once the channel was opened it sucked the lake’s shoreline down by about twenty feet and it lost a quarter of its water volume. The subsequent draining did nothing for carving a channel, but it did create land for a town and a wider resort economy around the lake shore. Even after all that, Crystal Lake is still nearly twenty feet higher in elevation than Lake Michigan just across a nearby dune.

Homestead RoadThe route leaves Beulah, crosses US-31, then rises eastward out of the village on Narrow Gauge Road. It rolls up and down and back around (on some rather challenging hills, particularly the climb on Homestead Road after it crosses Case Road) to cross US-31 once more into the village of Benzonia. The Benzie Area Museum sits near the intersection. This is also the home of the late Bruce Catton, Pulitzer Prize winning author of A Stillness at Appomattox and Waiting for the Morning Train.

The road then carves its way down a long descent into the Betsie River Valley and passes the famous home and shop of the late artist Gwen Frostic, whose cards echo the natural character of northern Michigan. The shop itself is a throwback to an earlier time, with views within of the printing presses and long corridors of unique woodwork. The exterior is made of native stonework and the roof is covered in native plants.


The road then abruptly climbs out of the valley and up into the rolling hills to the south. There are some long sweeping uphills and long sweeping downhills. You’ll pass by wide open farm fields, through tree covered canopies, past u-pick fruit farms, over numerous streams, alongside an inland lake, near the Crystal Mountain Resort, over the Platt River, through the village of Honor and back over one last climb, then a joyous descent down the winding Narrow Gauge Road back into Beulah. One personal insight. County Road 677 from M-115 to Goose Road is a slice of heaven for cyclists. It just is.

Funny Farm

It’s all worth the pedaling, but take plenty of fluids and some snacks along to tide you over. There are few stores along the way. This is the quiet inland.


Once the ride is complete, you’ll be in Beulah. There are some nice places to eat, including the Phoenix Café right downtown, and the historic Cherry Hut (founded in 1922) out on US-31 just north of town. With Crystal Lake right there you can also have a nice picnic lunch on the beach.

Goose Road on Platt River

Since this was a long, hilly ride, tomorrow you can take an around-the-lake-loop (see the Frankfort-Beulah-Betsie Valley Trail) that’s mostly flat and rides along the Betsie River on a tree covered bike path, through the active town of Frankfort right on Lake Michigan, and around the vibrantly chromatic Crystal Lake. The pedaling opportunities in this region will keep you rolling for quite some time.

whitetail deer

NOTE: The alternative routes shown on the map do not indicate hills. Be assured, they’re there.

Link to Map

EMPIRE – HONOR LOOP benzie (+leelanau)


Empire – Honor Loop
27.6 mile loop
Link to Map


One nice thing about this ride is that you begin and end with views over Lake Michigan. Along with that, you’re on a public beach where you can take a refreshing dip when the ride is done (believe me, you don’t smell as fresh as you did when you began this adventure).

Read more ›

Empire_Honor_Porch Empire also has a nice pub, food and groceries in the heart of town. If you really like to treat yourself, there’s the Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate Shop just south of the M-72 crossroad on M-22. Handmade and delicious.


Empire_Honor_Stormer_BarnYou may have also noticed that this ride is listed as a Benzie County ride, but it begins and ends in a Leelanau County town. I can’t do much about political jurisdictions, but most of the ride is within Benzie County, so it’s listed as such. You get the best of both worlds. Plus, while everyone else is staring at the big lake to the west, you’re inland enjoying the other side of the beauty equation this area has to offer.


tractorThis ride also begins with a stout uphill climb on M-22. For some reason somebody put a very steep rise just south of the town. There’s no way around it. Though M-22 can be busy at times, the climb includes a wide shoulder. It’s curving, tree-covered and quite beautiful. Take it at your own pace. It’s a nice way to warm up those legs.


morgan schoolThe rest of the route has some rolling topography, some sections a bit more biting than others, but overall it’s quite typical of the region and not overly challenging if you’re in good physical shape. There’s a shortcut option at mile 8.0 that cuts across Fowler Road. This shortens the loop by 14.0 miles, making it a 13.6 mile ride. It’s an excellent route even at half the overall distance.


m-22The route is primarily along major county roads along with short sections on M-22 and US-31. Traffic can move swiftly, but for the most part there is ample shoulder and traffic is moderate.


Empire_Honor_CyclistThe countryside along the entire route is beautiful. It passes some century old farmsteads with expansive views along corn rows and tended orchards, and when not, much of the area is covered in forest on either side of the road. Wildlife is all around you. Wild turkey, deer, soaring hawks, and all kinds of other animals abound.


m-22 foggy barnAt its south end it swings through the village of Honor where you can fill up on protein and liquids. There’s a small park on Deadstream Road (one of the great road names) where you can have a short picnic before heading back. The Platt River runs through the town and it hosts the Coho Salmon festival in August. You might get a fish fry out of the deal if you time it right.


m-22 ridgeline treesLike many towns in the area, the lumbering industry played a major part in the settlement of the area. Honor took a unique approach, building a business based on cask making. The Guelph Patent Cask Company was founded here in 1895. The town was named after the owner’s baby daughter.


Head back and it’s a long rolling ride north past more farms and forests. The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore will be on the left as you cruise along M-22. You won’t see the lake, but you’ll look across a large expansive field to the barrier dune that perches high above the water.


wilco roadFinally, the brisk, shady sweep down the narrow Wilco Road as it descends into the village of Empire is a thrill, though it’s also sometimes sand covered (it is in among the rolls of a barrier dune after all) and it has developed a few potholes to watch for.



Be aware that Village Park is very busy in the summer months, particularly on warm weekends. Alternate parking is also available on the east side of M-22 along M-72 at the National Park Service Information Center (where there’s also some great info about the area).
Link to Map


anders road

Vary Roubaix Loop
34.2 mile loop

Link to Map

This is a wonder of rolling hills, mostly, though not entirely, on dirt roads. It passes through sections of the Barry State Game area and through farmland and conservation areas. This is beautiful country.

Read more ›

hubble road

What’s This Roubaix Stuff All About?

It also follows parts of the renowned Barry Roubaix dirt road bicycle race held at the end of March each year. Rick Plite and whole crew of dedicated cyclists put on one of the Midwest’s finest races, both in terrain and in organization. I’ve raced it a number of times and there are moments when the beauty of the course almost makes you forget you’re racing. Almost. The hills, when attacked from the start, do take a toll on the legs. But when the race is over there’s a sense of accomplishment that only the best races elicit.

This isn’t the route (there are actually a few courses of varying lengths in Barry Roubaix), but it does cover some of the same roads and the feel is very similar. So, you can ride this hard or you can take it easy and enjoy all the beauty that unfolds from beginning to end.

peake roadThis also passes by a segment of the North Country Trail, a route that passes through many northern states in the US. I don’t think this segment of the North Country Trail is open to bikes (correct me if I’m wrong), but the excellent Yankee Springs mountain bike trail is nearby to fulfill your single-track desires.

There are times when you’re in amongst low marshland or you’re riding alongside small picturesque lakes, and times when you’re high on a hill with panoramic views that go for miles. It also rides along a majestic conservation area that’s part of the Otis Farm Bird Sanctuary, coordinated by the Audubon Society.

Or Hastings Perhaps?

This route begins and ends off of Norris Road, but notice that there’s a relatively close connection to the town of Hastings. The ride can just as easily begin and end there, with the option of beginning with a cup of coffee from a local café, or ending at a restaurant downtown. You’ll add about four miles round-trip to your ride on paved roads if you start and end in Hastings.

goodwill road

Barry Co_Goodwill Rd2

Barry Co_Little Pine Lk RdLink to Map


Barry County 11-07-13_162
Dowling East Loop
23.0 mile loop
Link to Map

Read more ›


Barry County 11-07-13_125Think about this. At the far east end of this route you’ll be straddling the Barry/Eaton County line for one mile. Look to the east in wonder. That’s another land. Glorious Eaton. You may ride there someday.


Most of this ride is on relatively quiet country roads, both paved and dirt. It’s relatively gently rolling terrain. It does cross some main highways, such as M-66 and North Avenue (which tend to run north-south connecting the larger cities and towns), and it does ride along M-37 for about a mile, which is somewhat busy at times with trucks and other traffic, but it also has a good wide shoulder.


The rest of the ride is past large farmsteads, expansive fields and dotted with woodlands. It’s all quite picturesque, but the highlight is in a valley between Case Road and M-66 on Butler Road. The usual straight line east-west orientation of the dirt road deviates into a winding route through a marshy lowland that crosses Wabascon Creek.

Barry County 11-07-13_93

The landscape is transformed into another world altogether. There are areas of marsh grasses in still water, tamarack stands, and long views over a marshy landscape both north and south of the road. Wabascon Creek wends its way south through a long stream valley to eventually empty into the Kalamazoo River near the city of Battle Creek.

Barry County 11-07-13_87

The most prominent area of habitation on this route is the unincorporated community of Dowling. It’s about half a mile north of the Clear Lake parking area. There might actually be available parking in Dowling, though nothing is designated as such. At the corner is a general store for refreshments. There’s also a gas station/ party store just a short way north up M-37.

Barry County 11-07-13_73

The general store has the date 1864 posted over its name. It’s not clear what this date signifies, as the settlement was originally known as Baltimore as early back as 1842, and the name changed to Dowling in 1880. Perhaps that’s the date of the store’s founding. There’s also a small library just east of the general store on Dowling Road.

Barry County 11-07-13_65

The general store and gas station are the only places on this ride to find refreshments. The rest of the route is rural and non-commercial.

The Clear Lake Boat Launch parking area sits in the midst of a small cluster of lakeside houses.
Link to Map


We leave you with cows.

Barry County 11-07-13_43


Glen Lake
Three Lakes Loop
23.5 mile loop

Link to Map
This is the heart of the heart of Leelanau County. It includes a couple of challenging climbs, but mostly it’s over gently rolling hills and it passes by three inland lakes, Big Glen, Lime, and Little Traverse. It also passes right near downtown Maple City, and a beautiful, simple white church on a quiet inland road.
Read more ›

Bohemian Road Field
Inland Leelanau County is about as perfect for riding as it gets. The roads, on the whole, don’t have a lot of traffic. Cars prefer M-22. Robert Frost uses the sea as metaphor, but I think he was driving M-22 when he wrote Neither Out Far Nor In Deep:

They turn their back on the land.
They look at the sea all day.
. . . . . .
The land may vary more;
But wherever the truth may be—
The water comes ashore,
And the people look at the sea.

Lake Michigan is one of my favorite bodies of water in the world. It creates an amazing microclimate which adds a unique character to the land, and that character rolls inland with the hills, farms and forests. While the majority of visitors are looking out to the sea, head inland and explore a quieter side of the county that’s just as beautiful. Then go take a swim in the big lake when you’re done.

Bohemian Road ChurchSt. Joseph’s Catholic Church on CR 669 was built in 1884 by Bohemian immigrants. It sits like a simple white dove alongside Bohemian Road.
On this ride your only challenges inland may be the steepness of some of the hills and the chip-and-seal method of road maintenance used by the county. Chip-and-seal is not easy to ride over immediately after its application. It can take up to two weeks or more, depending on the amount of traffic that will pack it in before it gets relatively smooth. Eventually, though, it’ll get packed in and the road will be wonderful once more.

I’d highly recommend that you have alternate route options in mind before you head out. The pedalgood route might include one of these maintenance projects and you’ll want to be aware of all detours available.
M-22 School House
The most challenging climbs are on Trumbull Road (short) and on Hlavka Road (long). As in most climbs in this county, they’re a bit strenuous and worth it, but just be aware that they’re part of this ride.
Old Farmstead
The views over Big Glen Lake from Old Settlers Park, where this ride begins and ends, are wonderful. Big Glen is one of those multi-hued lakes in the region due to its sandy bottom and varied depths. There are also picnic tables if you want to make a day of it.
Link to Map


Suttons Bay 9-17-13_59


Leelanau Trail – TART (Traverse Area Recreation & Transportation)
Suttons Bay to Traverse City
29.1 miles out-and-back
14.6 miles one-way

Link to Map

Read more ›

Suttons Bay 9-17-13_36


This route will begin and end in Suttons Bay, but it’s just as easy to begin and end in Traverse City. It’s a very straightforward, easy to follow route that’s one of the nicest rail trails that you’ll ever lay tread upon. Be aware that there are all kinds of users on this path: hikers, dog-walkers, roller bladers, pogo stickers, stilt walkers, you name it. I haven’t seen the latter two, but I’m sure they’ve had their moment. The point is that there are many opportunities for cordial deferral to families and users of all athletic abilities.


Suttons Bay 9-17-13_50

The original rail line was a spur of the Manistee and North-Eastern Railroad from Manistee to Traverse City, developed in 1887. It mostly carried old-growth timber, one of the major resources that brought settlers to the region. The route operated as a standard rail line, in one form or another, well into the twentieth-century. In 1995, its right-of-way was purchased by the Leelanau Trails Association. In 2004, it was officially connected to the TART Trail in Traverse City.

As a rail trail this is a route to savor. It’s saturated in beauty that includes everything from deeply shaded bowers and tunnels of trees to wide open views out over working fields and orchards and classic farmsteads. There’s seldom a moment that you don’t think that this is a joyful place to be if you like pleasant rural settings. I can almost promise that there will be moments when a vista arises that bring out an audible ahhh.


Suttons Bay 9-17-13_58


Perhaps the only things that impinge on the nirvana are the numerous road crossings, some of them with fast moving traffic and some that cross near roadway curves where traffic appears seemingly out of nowhere. Still, that’s standard on most pathways. Roads need to be crossed. Take your time, listen, look both ways twice, keep an eye on the kids, and cross without dawdling and you should be fine.


Suttons Bay 9-17-13_5

On the whole, the path rolls on a gentle grade. There are slopes that might be slightly stouter than you’re used to if you’re a regular on flat bike paths elsewhere, but even these are very manageable.

This is also a good access route for those interested in venturing farther into the depths of Leelanau County. The road crossings offer jumping off points where you can drift into the beautiful ether that is Leelanau.

Best of all, at each end is a great place. Suttons Bay at one end, Traverse City at the other. This is good. The southern end of this layout ends at the TART parking area on Cherry Bend Road. The actual path continues into Traverse City and well beyond.

It’s also got an excellent website devoted to it that will give you a map and things to ponder. This will give you up-to-date information on parking areas, restrooms, BATA bike-n-ride opportunities and more.

If it’s been a while since you’ve ridden it, be aware that it’s now paved the entire way. The photo below of the caboose is just south of the Cedar Bend Road parking area, but it’s an iconic symbol of the trail.

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Link to Map


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Cedar – Big Glen Lake Loop
30.1 mile loop
Link to Map


This route begins and ends a few miles west of Maple City in Miles Kimmerly Park off County Road 616. It weaves through the central heart of Leelanau County and nudges into two major lakes at each extreme, Big Glen Lake and Lake Leelanau. It also passes through the village of Cedar about halfway through.

The landscape is a combination of rolling hills, wide open fields, historic farmsteads, woodlands, tight weaving shady lanes, and long stretches of rolling roadway. This is Leelanau at its best, but that can be said about everywhere else in the county, so enjoy. Many of the roads have moderate levels of traffic, and often less than moderate. This offers plenty of opportunity to sight see as you ride.

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As on any loop, it can be ridden either direction with the benefit of fresh perspectives. The route is laid out counter-clockwise, but try it the other way on another day and it’ll be a whole new ride.


Be aware, this is a very hilly ride. I’d suggest that you be in good shape for this and have a few hilly miles already under your belt before tackling it. It goes through glacial terrain that offers no respite if your legs give out and you still have a ten or fifteen mile return to the park.

There are also some alternative detours along the way.

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At mile 3.3 there’s an option to turn right on County Road 675 and take a short jaunt down to the Old Settlers Park (0.3 miles) on Big Glen Lake. It’s a nice little park, with restrooms and picnic tables and the views over the lake are great.

At mile 3.7, instead of turning left onto Bow Road, stay on Macfarlane Road headed south and climb to Inspiration Point 1.8 miles away. Be aware that it is a hearty climb. The views from the Point are gorgeous. On a clear day you can see over Big Glen, Little Glen, and on to Sleeping Bear Dunes to the west.

This is more a shortcut than a detour. At mile 18.1 at Schomberg Road and Lake Shore Drive, continue north on Shomberg rather than turning right onto Lake Shore. You won’t see Lake Leelanau with this option, but you will avoid some long, sometimes rather steep climbs. The shortcut is 1.8 miles long and takes you directly to the old settlement of Isadore. It is uphill part way, but not as challenging as Rosinski Road on the full route. It will cut the total route distance by 2.5 miles.


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If you continue on Lake Shore Drive there will be a long gradual uphill to a high point that overlooks Lake Leelanau, then a sweeping downhill that rounds to a left turn onto Rosinski Road at mile 19.9. Rosinski Road is a hill climber’s paradise and a flatlander’s hell. Keep that in mind. It is one long, sometimes very steep climb.


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The village of Cedar is a treat. There are a couple of well-stocked grocery stores, each with its own unique character, Buntings Cedar Market IGA and Cedar City Market. There’s the renowned Pleva’s Meats next to Cedar City. There’s the Blue Moon Ice Cream Shop in the middle of things. There’s a small park, Cedar Park, at the north edge of town where you can have a picnic from the bounty you just bought at the markets, and there is a port-a-potty in the warm months.


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Beyond Cedar, at mile 22.2, is the old Polish village of Isadore. It’s now basically a church, the Holy Rosary (built in 1922), some boarded up buildings, a cemetery, and farmland that stretches around the crossroad. If you’re looking for a post office, you’re over a century late. It closed in 1912 after twenty years of operation. Isadore sits on a high point and the views, particularly to the east and south, are majestic. With farmland as the major driver of the economy here, it’s fitting that Saint Isadore is the patron saint of farmers.


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This is not directly on the route, but it’s only a short way off. It has a small grocery store if you need to replenish supplies before continuing on to the park. Interesting that there are two villages so close to one another named after trees. Cedar is in a low area. Cedar trees love marshy soils. Maple City was once called Peg Town because it was home to a shoe peg factory. Maple is a good hardwood, apparently necessary for shoe pegs. What is a shoe peg you ask? It was once used alone or along with stitching and nailing to attach the soles and heels to the upper part of the shoe. That’s the fullest extent of my knowledge on the subject.


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This is a large and popular recreation area in the region. There are picnic shelters and tables, water, and port-a-potties available. If you just want to run around the various ball fields there are those as well.


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Link to Map