For both visitors and those who live here, one of the best ways to truly experience Northern Michigan’s outdoors is by biking; but sometimes difficult terrain or cars zipping by your bicycle can make riding too treacherous for kids. Luckily, the already impressive number of miles dedicated to bicycle and foot traffic in Northern Michigan is climbing all the time; here at MyNorth we want you to be able to enjoy the beauty of Northern Michigan with the whole family, hassle-free. So read on for our picks of the best Northern Michigan bike trails for kids.
The Traverse Area Recreation Trail network aims to encourage outdoor recreation in the Traverse City area by providing a collection of trails that are both easily accessible and accommodating pathways for pedestrian and bike use. There are several trails currently in planning and many that are already active. Here are the best options for a ride the whole family can enjoy.
Boardman Lake Trail
This 2-mile trail that follows along the southeast portion of Boardman Lake is heavily wooded and offers easily traversable terrain. The northern mile is paved and the southern mile is composed of crushed limestone. TART is currently planning to extend the trail north, and construction for the western portion of the trail between Oryana and 14th Street is planned for this year. For now, access and parking for the north end is off Hannah Road directly south of the Traverse Area District Library, and for access for the south end is located at Medalie Park in the Logan’s Landing area off South Airport Road.
The Leelanau Trail is a 17-mile paved, off-road connection between Traverse City and Suttons Bay running through Leelanau County’s former railroad corridors. It features views of surrounding forests, farms, vineyards, lakes, and ponds, and is flat and easy to ride. Don’t want to ride the entirety of the trail? Not to worry, there are three trailheads with parking that you can use to access the trail: one at Cherry Bend Road, one at Fouch Road, and one on 4th Street in Suttons Bay.
NOTE: The trail is currently closed between Grandview Road and Cherry Bend Road. A detour route (pictured below) will take trail users along Sunset Drive.
Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail
The ongoing goal to provide 27 miles of non-motorized pathways through the legendary Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore recently broke new ground: on June 6 the length of the trail was doubled, and now 9.5 miles of a wide, paved pathway between Empire and Glen Arbor is available for bikers and hikers alike. An ideal destination to view the abundant wildlife and arresting beauty of the lakeshore, the Heritage Trail is perfect for bikers of any age or skill level. Trail users will need a park pass to access the Heritage Trail. Go on a video tour of the trail below with MyNorth:
Circumnavigating Mackinac Island’s 8-mile perimeter is a great ride for families. Cars are outlawed, leaving the bike as the primary mode of transportation for visitors. Find more information on biking the island at this MyNorth article, or watch the video below to discover the two-wheeled adventures that await on Mackinac Island.
North Central State Trail
62 miles and 6 trailheads make this monster of a trail seem overwhelming—but the North Central State Trail has something to offer everyone. It begins at its southern point in Gaylord at the county fairgrounds and ventures north through Vanderbilt, Wolverine, Indian River, Topinabee, and Cheboygan, and then follows the Lake Huron shoreline west to Mackinaw City. The trail’s surface is crushed limestone. Things you’ll see along the ride include Sturgeon River, Burt Lake, Lumberjack Park, and Mullett Lake on top of a rolling agricultural hills and a menagerie of wildlife frolicking in the surrounding forests. Visit NorthCentralTrail.org for information on trailheads and places to stay and eat along the trail.
Fred Meijer White Pine Trail
Speaking of behemoth distances, what about the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail? This trail state park connecting Cadillac to Grand Rapids is a flat 88 miles long. It is composed of natural ballast and hard-packed gravel, but sections of it are paved: 15 miles from Cadillac to Leroy, 13 miles from Reed City to Big Rapids, and 22 miles from Sand Lake to Grand Rapids. There couldn’t be a better way to experience the scenic countryside of Michigan, affording views of charming small towns like Paris, Morley, and Stanwood. Visit WhitePineTrail.com for more information on attractions along the trail, elevations, and trailheads.