View Full Version : Short NW Michigan bike route?

06-12-2013, 11:17 AM
I will be in Traverse City in a couple of weeks, and looking for an easy going bike ride to do with my sister somewhere in the area between say Sleeping Bear Dunes and the tip of the Leelenau Peninsula. By easy going, I mean that she starts to complain after an hour or so.

We could structure something where we go 5 miles, she turns around and goes back to car, then drives to meet me farther up the road 20 miles away. Sending her back alone sort of defeats the purpose plus she would not be able to fix a flat.... We'll have a car, and a rack so that gives us some flexibility.

Is it possible to ride along some part of either Lake Michigan or the Bay for some distance? I could drive by myself to somewhere, park the car, ride back to meet her, and we ride together back to the car? This could get complicated so we can benefit from some local knowledge here. Neither of us has ever been there before.

She has 3-4 bikes (all hand me downs from various sources) at her disposal, insists they are all "fine." The reality is that none of them really fit her thus she has never developed a great liking for longer distances. Worse she has been resistant to consider any suggestion that we even try to fit them better, or worse, buy a new bike that actually fits? Sigh. No wonder she is uncomfortable by 10 miles! Big hills would surely be a deal breaker.

We have an event in the early afternoon, but the rest of the day/evening is free so far. I know it won't be getting dark until close to 10pm. We wanted to plan on the bicycle portion of the trip the following day, but maybe a sunset ride somewhere quiet would work? We will stay overnight (somewhere), bike the next day, then we have to leave the area after that. Extra points for a motel recommendation that coincides with a suggested bike route.

Also, if there is a "must-see/do" in that area that we can do in the late afternoon or evening we would love some more ideas.


Bike Writer
06-12-2013, 12:19 PM
You will be visiting my very favorite area of Michigan! Beautiful there. I have visited many times but not with a bike yet. I am planning a trip this summer further north of Traverse City and will travel the Lakeshore Drive from Charlevoix to Petoskey, Harbor Springs and then onto Mackinaw City. Roughly doing the 'tip of the mitt' Here is a link to that route (http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/fullscreen/21647880/)

I'll put on my thinking cap and check with a friend who did a perimeter ride of the whole state to get his recommendations on that area for routes along the lake shore. Be forewarned that section of Michigan is pretty hilly. Hills of course are a relative thing. I know that traversing M-22 (West Bay Shore Drive) out of Traverse City and north up the eastern side of the Leelanau Peninsula is very scenic and travels along the water for much of the way but I don't recall the conditions for riding, like what the shoulder is like. The first town north of Traverse City is Suttons Bay and it is very quaint with nice shops and pubs and plenty of outdoor eating areas. The distance from TC to Suttons Bay is about 25 miles but you need not start from downtown TC. The western side of the Leelanau peninsula where Sleeping Bear Dunes is, is a hillier side and most of the roads you travel on that side are up on bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan. There is a nice scenic drive in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore info for the park is here (http://www.sleepingbeardunes.com/info/parkinfo.php) and also here (http://www.nps.gov/slbe/index.htm). In the town of Glen Arbor there is a dune climb which is a popular tourist thing to do. It can only be done on foot and after you get heated up from the climb Glen Lake across the street to cool off in. There are several wineries on the peninsula, lots to do and see. Fishtown in Leland is one of my favorite stops their FB page is facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/FishtownMI) you can pick up fresh smoked whitefish from Lake Michigan, fresh cheeses and baked goods for a picnic or lunch at a pub overlooking the harbor and at the foot of the dam. Last time I stopped there with my sisters for lunch we dined outdoors and watched the salmon jumping up and over the dam, that was in the fall when they make their run. When I hear from my friend, I'll update here.

06-13-2013, 12:04 PM
Traverse City is great by bike. My best friend and I went riding around the city from the campground there. It was not a long ride and she's not a cyclist but we managed. We got lost quite a bit before we figured out how to get back. Still don't know how we went wrong but we got directions and made it back. I don't have much to add other than that. It's a beautiful place to ride around. Have fun :)

06-14-2013, 03:35 AM
Maybe check the rails to trails for paths up that way? Here's one up there (http://www.railstotrails.org/news/recurringfeatures/trailmonth/archives/0509.html). I didn't appreciate all of the bike opportunities in MI until I moved back to OH.

06-14-2013, 07:36 AM
Maybe check the rails to trails for paths up that way? Here's one up there (http://www.railstotrails.org/news/recurringfeatures/trailmonth/archives/0509.html). I didn't appreciate all of the bike opportunities in MI until I moved back to OH.

Wow! this looks perfect! I'm thinking I could start on the Leelanau trail towards Suttons Bay, my sister could drive ahead and meet me say around mile 10, we ride into Suttons Bay together for a look see, lunch, whatever, then ride back to the car wherever she has stashed it. Then drive to one of the wineries for a tasting.

This assumes that one can access the trail at other than the trailhead areas.... yes? no? I can't find anything to that effect on the website.

06-14-2013, 05:15 PM
Honestly I don't know, I was around the Ann Arbor area and haven't actually ridden that trail but maybe there is a phone number for a local tourism area up there, or possibly a local bike group you could call and ask?

Bike Writer
06-18-2013, 12:21 PM
Here is a link to all of the various TART trails around the Traverse Bay area T.A.R.T. (http://traversetrails.org/) and I found my friends blog when he toured the perimeter of the State. Day 14 and 15 have the information about Traverse and the Leelenau Peninsula and can be found here (http://mittenpedaler.com/).

Earlier you mentioned some must do's or nightlife. There are plenty of venues. There is a tall ship, the Manitou that does evening dinner and sunset cruises, or at least they used to. It's a beautiful sail on the Grand Traverse Bay. If you google tall ships and Traverse City I'm sure something will come up.

I just returned from a trip to the upper peninsula and did a recognizance car ride to scope out a planned trip from Charlevoix to Mackinaw City. It's gonna be awesome!

Enjoy your stay and your bike ride with your sister, post photos and a ride report when you return!

06-19-2013, 06:50 PM
I just rode my first multi-day tour, the North West Tour in the Leelanau Peninsula, which is run by the Tri-County Bicycle Association. What an amazing event! I had seriously under trained, but had some very supportive friends who encouraged me to ride the longest ride of my life, 80 miles (and big hills!). I did 190 overall - the Old Mission Peninsula the first day, Empire, Glen Arbor, Leeland, Lake Leelanau, Cedar, Maple City and back to Empire on day two. Day three was Empire, Honor, around Crystal Lake, Frankfort, Elberta and Arcadia and back.

As far as trails are concerned, I rode a quick recovery ride on the last day - 4.5 miles and back of the new Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail which goes from Glen Arbor to the Dune Climb. It's mostly flat and shaded and takes you through the DH Day campground and Glen Haven historical village.

Another short and flat trail is the Betsie River Trail outside of Frankfort. http://www.betsievalleytrail.org/tour.html (I only rode the paved part.)

Lastly, I've ridden part of the TART on other trips. I hope to do the Leelanau soon - especially since they paved the connector to Sutton's Bay.

P.S. CherryCapitalCyclingClub.org has many of its regular route maps if you'd like to do some distance on your own.

Bike Writer
06-19-2013, 08:17 PM
mzone, Congratulations on a rigorous tour and your success! Also, thanks for the additional info. It's great to have up to date material. Sounds like there has been additionas and improvements to the trails in that area

06-20-2013, 03:17 AM
mzone, Congratulations on a rigorous tour and your success! Also, thanks for the additional info. It's great to have up to date material. Sounds like there has been additionas and improvements to the trails in that area

Thanks, BW. The next section of SBHT will be completed from the Dune Climb to Empire next spring. There's 27 miles planned in all. Fundraising is ongoing: http://sleepingbeartrail.org/

06-27-2013, 06:49 PM
I thought of you as I drove through your area this afternoon - during this:


This was on US 23 somewhere between Toledo and Ann Arbor. I guess the exit sign will identify the location, but I don't really have a map handy. It was a doozy, and made for 2 hours of stop and go traffic on the highway, mostly stop.

Bike Writer
06-27-2013, 07:30 PM
Aww, that was sweet. The storm was not, Ann Arbor got hit hard, we just got a pretty fair amount of rain. The Ann Arbor dot com news site showed photos of people kayaking in Ann Arbor on city streets. High and dry here. Your photo is roughly between Toledo and A2 as our exit numbers are in the low 50's. I was north and east of home today at Island State Rec Area near Brighton and had my first wet ride. I just had showers during my ride, the storm came after I was driving home.

Good luck on your trip, have fun with sister and post some photos when you return!

The heat wave we've had is supposed to dissipate and the humidity will drop making for very fine Michigan bicycling weather!