The Tip of Michigan's Lower Peninsula

One of Michigan's beautiful bike touring options is a loop from Petoskey to Mackinaw City to Cheboygan to Indian River.

Bicycle Adventurer: Rich S. on a solo weekend trip.

When: Rich recommends riding in this area during the warm summer months of June through September.

Where: The northern tip of Michigan's Lower Peninsula.

Accommodations:

Distance: This trip takes three days, but you can squeeze it into two days, since the total distance is between 130 and 170 miles.

Bonus tip for this adventure:

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Day One

If you arrive the night before, Petoskey State Park is a beautiful park for camping with a big sandy beach along Lake Michigan. If you go in late July or in August, you can take advantage of warm water and go for a swim. It beats swimming in most inland lakes. Water in Lake Michigan is so clean and clear, that playing in it, as long as it is warm, is a pure pleasure. Don't forget to move your car to the overflow lot, located toward the end of the Tannery Creek Campground. 

Once you leave the campground, get on the Little Traverse Wheelway rail-to-trail bike path and ride west on the north shore of Little Traverse Bay toward Harbor Springs, MI. However, I would, after about half-mile on this path, veer off to the left on Beach Road to follow the shoreline, more or less.

On the west side of Harbor Springs, you can begin riding the Tunnel of Trees Scenic Heritage Route, Michigan's state highway M-119. Even though the tree coverage is not continuous, and at times you ride in the open sun, there is plenty of shade. The road is beautiful at any time of the year. If you go in the spring, you'll be able to enjoy amazing views of woods covered by endless blooms of wild flowers. The route, being high above the water level, offers some amazing views of Lake Michigan.

If you pay attention, and notice the little drive, on the left, down the bluff, called South Lamkin Road, you'll have a chance to get closer to the lake and see an old church and cemetery and some old buildings of the Middle Village. Eventually, in the area of Good Hart, you have to make it back up to M-119. Otherwise, you end up on one of the dead-end streets and you have to turn around.

Continuing on M-119 north, you eventually arrive at Cross Village, MI with its popular Polish restaurant, Legs Inn. If you're looking to buy a lunch, this is the place, since there won’t be anything else before Mackinaw City. Legs Inn is very popular with tourists and motorcycle “bikers," so expect a line to be seated.

After lunch, continue north on North Lake Shore Drive to Wilderness State Park with its sand dunes and many spots where you can stop and relax on the beach or go for a swim in Lake Michigan.

Then continue to Interstate-75's Mackinac Bridge and enter the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse Park through the parking lot immediately past the bridge. The park is a nice place to stop and enjoy the view of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, meeting under the Mackinac Bridge, the Upper and Lower Peninsula's connector. 

Day Two

After staying at Mackinaw Mill Creek Camping, I took the ferry to Mackinac Island. You can visit Arch Rock and see beautiful houses along some of the island roads, Grand Hotel, and Fort Mackinac. If this is your first visit, try the Mackinac Island fudge at one of the many fudge shops along the main street. 

Back on the Lower Peninsula, I made my way to Cheboygan on a gravel and limestone trail that follows the road. Then I proceeded along the west shore of Mullet Lake to my camp for the night at Burt Lake State Park. This park is another beautiful Michigan state park. However, I found it quite busy and full of big RV’s, campers, and big tents.

Day Three

Petoskey State Park is only 20 miles away, so once you get back to the Little Traverse Wheelway, you can ride extra by riding toward Charlevoix, or just head straight for Petoskey and take a swim.

This weekend loop is one of the most picturesque weekend bike rides on Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. And the only reason, that I said “one of" is that there is another loop on the Lower Peninsula's west side — Traverse City to Mission Peninsula to Leelanau Peninsula to Sleeping Bear Dunes — which is also beautiful, so I cannot decide which one is nicer.

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HOW ABOUT YOU? Inspire others by submitting your bike overnight adventure!

3 responses so far ↓

Maxairedale - Apr 5, 2016 at 10:09 AM

GREAT READ!

My wife and I did basically the same route in 2003. We Started in Burt Lake (between Indian River and Alanson) and had two more stops along the way by going to Rogers City after Cheboygan and stopped in Onaway for the last night.

We enjoyed the area and plan to do it again.

Jeff - Sep 17, 2016 at 7:34 PM

I rode the North Central State Trail (Gaylord to Mackinaw City), which passes through Indian River, in late August. It was awesome. Gaylord to Indian River is pretty much all down hill, and very picturesque. Cheboygan to Mackinaw is straight as an arrow and very flat. One gear is all it takes.

Plan to do Indian River to Charlevoix, via Mackinaw and Petoskey, next month!

Jeff - Sep 17, 2016 at 7:36 PM

By the way, I did it on a road bike (700 X 25 tires) and it was just fine in most spots.

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