Whether you are a fan of road biking or trail riding, the Straits Area of Michigan offers some of the state’s greatest cycling opportunities.
Because of the area’s low traffic volume and great scenery, there is an abundance of great road routes. A good source of information about these routes can be found by referring to Michigan Department of Transportation’s Road and Trail Biking Maps. The maps can be viewed on line, purchased through the website, or picked up at various locations including most chamber and visitor bureau offices and at the Top of Michigan Trails Council’s office in Petoskey (1687 M 119).
The U.S. Bicycle Route System includes two important routes in the Straits area. This is a national network of regionally and nationally significant bicycling routes spanning multiple states. The purpose of the U.S. Bicycle Route (USBR) numbering system is to facilitate travel between states on road routes identified as suitable for long-distance cycling. U.S. Bicycle Route 10 is a 193-mile route that connects St. Ignace and Iron Mountain in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The route utilizes the wide paved shoulders along US-2. U.S. Bicycle Route 35 is a 500-mile route that runs from Indiana through Michigan to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada, generally following the Lake Michigan shoreline and through the eastern Upper Peninsula.
Mackinac Island is a great place to cycle and is only a ferry ride away from either Mackinaw City or St. Ignace. The ride around the island is eight miles, and the paved road borders the water nearly all the way. The interior of the island with its Victorian homes and great vistas is open to cycling, but there are substantial hills to climb to get there. It’s a pleasure to road ride without the worry of automobile traffic, which is not permitted on the island.
Michigan’s two peninsulas can be toured on bicycle with connection by ferry to and off Mackinac Island or by use of the Mackinac Bridge. Bicycles are not permitted to ride on the bridge, but the Mackinac Bridge Authority will transport cyclists across one of their official vehicles for a fee of $2.00 per bicycle). If you are traveling northbound, there is a phone at the south end of the bridge to call for a pickup. If you are southbound, go to the service window in the administration building and ask for assistance.
In addition to road riding in and near St. Ignace in the Upper Peninsula, the St. Ignace to Trout Lake Trail runs 26 miles. The surface is unimproved which means the trail can best be navigated with a mountain bike.
Rail trails offer cyclists a safe way to pedal off-road to access scenic spots and to travel from one community to another in the Straits area. Michigan has more rail trails than any other state in the US—2,439 miles. Of those miles, many are in the Straits area, including three great trails within the trail network of Top of Michigan Trails Council (TOMTC). These compacted crushed limestone trails can be navigated with any bike, with the exception of road bikes with thin tires.
The North Central State Trail runs 16 miles from Mackinaw City to Cheboygan, then 48 miles from Cheboygan to Gaylord. The North Eastern State Trail connects Cheboygan to Alpena (70 miles). The North Western State Trail, the newest of Northern Michigan’s rail trails, runs from Mackinaw City to M 119 just north of Petoskey (32 miles). These rail trails are compacted crushed limestone with the exception of eight miles of asphalt paved trail from Alanson to M 119. At M 119 you can ride seven miles north to Harbor Springs or south 19 miles through Petoskey to Charlevoix on the Little Traverse Wheelway, a paved asphalt trail with a total distance of 26 miles.
Maps of these trails are available at the TOMTC office (near the intersection of the North Western State Trail and the Little Traverse Wheelway). Maps are also available in most area chamber and visitor bureau offices. They can also be found at the organization’s website: www.trailscouncil.org/trails.
This summary was prepared by the Top of Michigan Trails Council, whose mission is to advocate for trails in the Northern Lower Peninsula. TOMTC will host their second annual “Lake to Lake Tour” utilizing their trail network to facilitate pedaling from Lake Huron (Alpena) to Lake Michigan (Petoskey). This tour will take place September 14-16. The Trails Council also will host a Festival of Races (marathon, half marathon, 10K and 5K) on Saturday, May 26. These running races will take place on the Little Traverse Wheelway. For more information about these events, or to learn more about the work of TOMTC, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (231) 348-8280.
PHOTO SOURCE: Michigan Traveler.