9 Best Mountain Biking Trails in Michigan
Michigan is famous for its vast miles of freshwaters shoreline, its only genuine Dutch windmill functional in the United States, and home to one of the few ice luge tracks in the state. Detroit in Michigan is recognized as the car capital of the world. Alpena is the home of the biggest cement plant globally, and Rogers City is the home of the biggest limestone quarry in the world. Over the few decades, mountain biking has also gained popularity in Michigan due to its fitness benefits and recreational purposes.
Recently the trails that cross-country skiers and hikers only used experienced a steady upsurge in spoke-wheeled traffic. This led to the demand for new places for biking, and as a result, trails specially dedicated to mountain biking were constructed across Michigan. Eventually, the state has become famous for sports, providing opportunities for expert riders and beginners alike. These trails give you a chance to interact with nature as you socialize with folks.
If you are new in Michigan and wondering about some of the best mountain biking trails to explore, then you are in the right place. This piece will give you much-needed insights into some of the trails to explore.
Let’s get to it
1. Copper Harbor Trails
The mountain biking trails in Copper Harbor were designated as Silver Level ride center by the International Mountain Bicycling Association in October 2012 and categorized at that time as among the best five trail systems in the world just behind Park City and the same level as Oak Ridge, ID, Sun Valley and Taupo New Zealand. These trails are now among the best 20, with additional more Ride Centers from that time. The score points were based on Copper Harbor’s quality and variety of gateway, flow and gravity trails, and cross-country.
Mountain bikers prefer copper Harbor village trails due to motels, resorts, restaurants, campgrounds, brewpub, bike shops, and it, and accessible from the different sides of the trails.
Alongside the Marquette’s trail system, the Copper Harbor trails have also gained the Epic Ride Recognition by the IMBA. It features single tracks with cobbled rock, lots of climbs with rooty surfaces, bedrock, berms, technical descents, boardwalks, and rustic bridges amid gorgeous views and sweeping sceneries of Lake Superior.
Among the most famous trails within the Copper Harbor are the Danimal which features cutting-edge dirt jumps, and the Edge trail provides a vast maze and turns of wooden structures and bridges. The Flying Squirrel directs mountain bikers to a 7-mile descending adrenaline rush with various wooden jumps, rock gardens, and jagged roots. The flow starts from the top of Brockway Mountain that provides a 3-mile descent.
2. Marquette Mountain Biking Trail System
Situated near Marquette in Michigan, the Multi-use Marquette mountain biking trail incorporates 19 miles of paved tracks around the city from Presque Isle Park towards the north and Harvey town in the south. The trail offers access to shopping, neighborhoods, business districts, recreation sites, and city attractions, including the popular Iron Ore Heritage Trail and the Mattson Lower Harbor Park.
The trail offers almost everything you desire as you explore clean bathrooms every few miles with water founts and lots of sceneries and picture-taking spots. The Presque Isle is closed each day for 2 hours for safe use by the mountain bikers. The hours vary depending on the day of the week. The perplexing hill on the east side along the Lake Superior’s shore and perfect condition asphalt trail.
There are various parking areas and access points throughout the city. You can park at Shiras Park, Presque Isle Park, Founders Landing Park, Mattson Park, and South Beach Park to access the lake. The approximate 55 combined miles of the North Marquette and South Marquette trails make this the most prominent mountain biking trail in Michigan.
The South Marquette, as famously referred to as Noquemanon trails, the blue loop is the most challenging with technical climbs and descents over rocks. The yellow loop ascends to Lake Superior’s expansive sceneries from the Ski Area of Marquette Mountain and the Red loop that descends via double and singletrack trails. The Down Dogger trail track provides a 350-foot screaming descent.
There are plenty of boardwalks, rock gardens, and wooden structures to explore
3. Grand Island
Situated near Munising in Michigan, the Grand Loop mountain biking trail is moderately trafficked and features a lake and beautiful views. It is categorized as difficult and provides various activity options from work out to recreational, and is accessible between May and October. Although dogs are allowed, they must be on leashes.
Ride on the Lake Superior wilderness. The course goes through the perimeter track of the Island counterclockwise up past Duck Lake and Murray Bay. At three miles, the trailheads the east direction towards Tombolo along Trout Bay and up in the Island’s thumb, where the riders enjoy one of the breathtaking and spectacular stretches of the Great Lakes shoreline.
When mountain bikers ascend towards the Grand Island’s eastern cliffs, they are rewarded with the spectacular sceneries of Rocks National Lakeshore. The northern half of the Grand Island features 300 ft of beautiful Jacobs Ville sandstone cliffs and exquisitely spectacular and a gentle remote feeling of the North Beach. The western side of the Island features outstanding vistas of Lake Superior. A significant part of the track is shaded by lush hardwood forests giving you and adventurous and wild feel.
The overlook route Bay overlooks-see and is also a fantastic spot for a beach walk and picnic.
4. VASA Trails
Situated in Traverse City in Michigan, the VASA mountain biking trail features amazing sceneries and attractive wildflowers. The 42.3-kilometer stretches are rated as moderate and offer a wide range of activity options for runners, cross-country skiers, mountain bikers, hikers, and naturalists. It is best used between March and October. Dogs using this trail must be confined to leashes.
The VASA Mountain biking trails feature a series of loops such as 25K, 10K, 5K, and 3K, which provides the bikers various technicalities ranging from easy to difficult. The VASA Pathway is groomed and maintained by TART Trails in collaboration with Grand Traverse County and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. It is the home of cross-country ski races in North America and the yearly Iceman Cometh, and mountain bikers most prefer it for workout purposes.
Although hunting is permitted, the users should be cautious and attentive; wearing bright or orange gear is advises during the hunting seasons. Parking is available around Williamsburg.
Mountain riders may opt from the gentle, 15 miles rolling trails that are cut expansive skiing or the technical 12 miles singletrack trails from a different trailhead. Both tracks wind through pockets of sand and scenic hardwood forests that make some climbs more technical. Some of the famous areas are the Wall, Anita’s Hill, and the Power Section.
For further adventure, the trail contains Pere Marquette State Forest with 16 square miles of unmarked trails. Every November, the VASA Mountain biking trails hold the Iceman Cometh Challenge, the biggest single-day bike race. The event attracts more than 5000 participants.
5. Hanson Hills
Situated in Grayling in Michigan, the Hanson Hills mountain biking trail features extreme ecological diversity found at the Natural Area and the Glacial Hills. The property consists of 12 distinct types of habitat, including three wetland habitats, two hardwood forests, wet-mesic, and shrub thicket forest. It can support up to 20 tree species and more than a hundred species of flowers and birds, including eagles, great-horned owls, and the endangered red-shoulder hawk.
Hanson Hills mountain biking trail features a number of trails totaling 24. The difficulty levels of the trail range from easy to difficult. All the loops in this trail are color-coded. Most circles begin out flat, but the difficulty continues as you proceed on the steep climbs on the banks of the ponds. Although the trail is free to access, donations geared towards maintenance are welcomed.
Those wishing to explore this trail should wear helmets while biking and adhere to the safety guidelines. The bikers should also be keen and attentive not to cause harm to themselves and others.
6. Glacial Hills Pathway
Situated near Bellaire in Michigan, the Glacial Hills Mountain Biking Pathway is a 31.5 miles stretch. The trail is mostly used for mountain biking and winter sports. Whether you are a beginner or experimenting with something new, or a pro, there is something for everybody at Glacial Hills.
Mountain biking riders are treated to numerous twists, turns, elevation changes, and scenic overlooks. Various loops top out 400 feet above the trailhead while others offer repeated ups and downs. For instance, one track takes 2 miles to climb 300 feet due to the five downhill sections.
The warm-up/family loop at Glacial Hill is one of the flattest trails and ideal for beginners, while the Rolling Hills Loop is one of the intermediates with the 6.5-mile ride. The Outside Loops provide the most challenging climbs, tightest turns, quickest descents, and covers an average distance of between 12 to 20 miles. Dogs are permitted in the trail but with leashes.
7. Big M Trail System
Situated in the canopy of hardwoods between Wellston and Cadillac, the Big M Trail System is a 37.9-mile stretch. The trail provides a number of terrains to challenge every mountain biker and skier as they traverse up and down hills along the woods. A significant part of the 25 miles singletrack trail only bikers to only ride towards the clockwise direction as it is one-way. The trail is best used for recreation and workouts between April and September.
The 18-mile Cross-Country Skiing and mountain biking trails are groomed, and during winter, the parking lot is plowed mostly from December. For skiers, chalets are also available. The average snowfall from December to March is 130 inches, and an ideal time for skiers in the Big M Trail System is between January and February.
Although the trails are specially designed for mountain biking, it is also open for hiking. The trail goes through the Manistee National Forest land. It encompasses everything from thrilling descents to sustained flat sections and challenging climbs, including the uphill climb of the Capper’s peak, which gives you 360-degree scenery of the surrounding lakes and wilderness.
8. Highland Recreation Area
In White Lake in Michigan, the Highland Recreation Area mountain biking trail is a 16.2 miles stretch and features plenty of scenic views, climbs on forested hills, swift descents, and challenging features including rock gardens, log, and root jumps. Water drainage in this trail is also top-notch, making it suitable for the ride during the rainy season.
The Highland Recreation area is a perfect spot for socializing with new friends and unwinding from the city’s busy and stressful lifestyle. Working out in this region is breathtaking and much fun; thus, you can accomplish more than the distance you had planned due to the motivation from other mountain bikers.
Like any other mountain biking trail in Michigan, those wishing to explore this area must be cautious of other bikers and be very careful while biking to avoid accidents. It is advisable to put on a helmet while riding. It would be best if you also put on other protective gear if you skid and fall off.
9. Potawatomi Mountain Trail
Located near Pinckney in Michigan, the Potawatomi Mountain biking trail loop is a 28.0-kilometer stretch and is heavily trafficked and categorized as moderate. The trail provides various activity options and is ideal for use between April and November. The rule for dogs on leash applies here.
Within the Pinckney Recreation Area, the 17.5-mile loop is arguably the most famous in Southeast Michigan. It provides technically varied terrain as it goes through rolling hills, seven island lakes, past streams via the deep forest. The Potawatomi also varies from sand with exposes rocks and roots to hard-packed dirt.
Throughout the trail loop, the 1200 feet of elevation seems to be changing as it passes through the wooden bridges and provides attractive descents and magnificent overlooks. A lakeside boat ride campaign is also available.
Potawatomi trail provides a chance for those who are seeking to explore the Metro Detroit Area. Heading northwest towards Ann Arbor, you will get three trails: the 5.1 Crooked Lake Trail, the 17-mile Potawatomi trail, and the 1.9 Silver Lake Trail. These routes are also ideal for hikers.
Other permit activities in this trail include boating, camping, bicycling, canoeing, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, swimming, picnicking, water skiing, swimming, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and dining in Chelsea, Dexter Pinckney.
Mountain biking in Michigan has gained more popularity due to its fitness and recreational purposes. You are new in Michigan; you should consider exploring some of the above trails for a breathtaking experience.