With over public 100,000 votes, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was named the “Most Beautiful Place in America” on ABC’s Good Morning America. This has put Traverse City and the surrounding region on the top of the list of go to vacation spots. Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail is a hard-surfaced, non-motorized, multi-use trail which will span 27 miles from the northern end of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore at County Road 651 to the Leelanau/Benzie County line at Manning Road south of Empire. Currently the trail runs almost 16 miles between Empire and Port Oneida, connecting to park attractions and the town of Glen Arbor along the way. Trailheads are at Bar Lake Road, Pierce Stocking, Dune Climb, Glen Haven, Alligator Hill, Crystal River, Bay View, and Port Oneida.
But wait, there is more. Two of the areas main rail-trails are connected, making it possible to cycle the 26 miles between Acme and Suttons Bay, combining an enjoyable urban experience with a leisurely ride through the woods. The 11-mile long TART Trail is a paved urban transportation corridor that offers easy accessibility to the Grand Traverse Bay, downtown Traverse City, neighborhoods, parks, beaches, hotels, restaurants, shopping, marinas, bike shops, miniature golf, museums and the zoo. The trail is a favorite of families, visitors, bicyclists, runners, walkers, in-line skaters and commuters. Then, stretching over 15 miles through Leelanau County, the Leelanau Trail connects Traverse City and Suttons Bay. The trail creates the perfect setting for both recreation and environmental education through a route that bends through rolling hills, lush forests, picturesque orchards, peaceful meadows, and an aquatic medley of streams, lakes and ponds. For more information, visit www.traversetrails.org.
A wonderful discovery awaits the weekend bicyclist who jaunts along the intersecting segments of the White Pine and Pere Marquette Trails. From Big Rapids north to Reed City and then east to Evart (a span of 28 smoothly paved trail miles) one can experience small town hospitality, exciting recreation, great music, historic charm and natural Michigan beauty at its best. The White Pine Trail, one of the state’s major north-south trail spines at 92 miles, stretches from Grand Rapids to Cadillac. The Pere Marquette Trail, at 85 miles running from Baldwin to Midland, is one of the state’s main east-west connectors. The two trails intersect at Reed City with an attractive diamond-shaped stone marker and cross-track alongside a beautifully restored rail depot which serves as a community center.
Reed City, home of Yoplait Yogurt, brims with small-town friendliness. Volunteers have preserved and enhanced beauty and history, with a covered bridge on the White Pine Trail over the Hersey River (2 blocks north of the diamond crossing) and the Old Rugged Cross Museum, featuring fascinating historical memorabilia. Evart beckons with its own musical country charm, as evidenced at the world-renowned Dulcimer FunFest and the weekend Musicale programs (free admission), featuring a vast array of music all summer long.
Big Rapids at the southern end of this tour boasts its own style as home to Ferris State University with accompanying college activities and destinations. Water recreation opportunities abound along this route as it parallels the Muskegon River, M
ichigan’s 2nd longest river (after Grand River). At the southern end, the City of Big Rapids has been affectionately dubbed s the “Tubing Capitol of Michigan” welcoming travelers with great tubing, swimming, canoeing and kayaking resources. Start at the Sawmill Tube and Canoe livery at Highbanks Park, with a full menu of trips (from 1 hour to 7 days), permitting your own “pedal and paddle” experience. Two more canoe liveries await you at the eastern end of the journey, in the adjacent town of Evart. There are many a fine “hole” for fishing in the Muskegon River, nationally ranked for its excellence by Field and Stream and National Geographic.
A varied and plentiful display of natural beauty awaits along both trails as you bicycle through former Christmas tree farms, fields of alfalfa, and “tunnels of trees”. Wildflowers in many hues also contribute to the visual delight. The views of the river are stunning all along the way, including the overlook from Whites Bridge, 319 feet above the water.
The round trip from Big Rapids to Evart can easily be done in two days, but you may find yourself wishing to stay a little longer to bask in the serenity. Camping facilities are available at Paris Park (right next to the fish hatchery), Rambadt Park (in Reed City) as well as River Country Campground, Riverside Park, and Big Lake Country Campground (in Evart). For plusher accommodations, there are many hotels available in Big Rapids within one mile of the trail.
For a complete listing of attractions, dining, camping and lodging, visit the Mecosta County Convention & Visitors Bureau at www.bigrapids.org
Mackinac Island is a cyclist’s paradise. Back in the late 1800s, the Island banned the “horseless carriage” and today, there is still a ban on automobiles. The modes of transportation on Mackinac Island are limited to horse, horse drawn carriage, bicycle and foot power. While there are emergency vehicles, make no mistake, this is the perfect place for a cycling vacation. With over 70 miles of natural and paved trails inside the Park, you can explore and discover its sun-dappled, verdant secrets for days on end. And yes, you can bring your bike on the ferry for a small fee, but you can also rent a wide array of bikes on the Island: single-speed, three-speed, five-speed, ten-speed, tandems, mountain bikes, kids bikes, beach cruisers, burly carts and more are all at your disposal.
Mountain bikers will love the dirt trails in Mackinac Island State Park’s Boreal Forest for a muscle-building, sweat-inducing workout. The terrain ranges from flat to 300-foot steep bluff climbs. Hybrids will welcome the rolling hills and casual riders can enjoy the 8.2 mile perimiter trail on Michigan’s car-free M-185 state highway.
There are many bike rentals available by the hour, half day, full day or longer adjacent to the ferry docks right downtown. Hotels offering bike rentals for guests include: Grand Hotel, Harbour View Inn, Inn at Stonecliffe, Island House Hotel, Mission Point Resort and Small Point Bed & Breakfast. For more information, visit www.mackinacisland.org.