The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is known to many as a perfect destination for activities like hiking, boating, camping, fishing, and simply enjoying the pristine beaches of Northern Michigan’s outdoors. But what about biking? There are miles of beautiful terrain to explore along M22 and surrounding county roads, but with heavy traffic in the peak summer season and narrow shoulders at some sections it is less than ideal for a bicycle ride. Armed with the right knowledge, your Northern Michigan vacation could include fun and safe Sleeping Bear Dunes biking.
Bike Rentals in the Sleeping Bear Dunes Area
It doesn’t matter how enthusiastic and ready-to-hit-the-trails you are if you don’t own a bike, or left it at home. Not to worry! Cycling is becoming more and more popular every year along the Sleeping Bear Dunes Lakeshore, and because of this, Glen Arbor, Empire, Beulah, and Suttons Bay all have quality selections of bikes for rent.
Glen Arbor: The Cyclery @ Crystal River Outfitters
The Cyclery is a full-service bike shop that offers rentals, repairs, apparel and gear (don’t forget to wear a helmet—seriously), and even delivery. Crystal River Outfitters is located at 6249 West River Road. To contact The Cyclery, call 231.334.4420 or visit them at CrystalRiverOutfitters.com.
Empire: Sleeping Bear Surf & Kayak
Sleeping Bear Surf & Kayak, as its name suggests, provides surfboard, stand-up paddleboard, skimboard, and kayak rentals just a short walk from the beach in the heart of the charming Village of Empire. Despite their name, they also rent Fat Tire Bikes, which due to their enormous tires are able to glide atop sand and snow—but let’s not think about snow right now. Fat Tire Bikes are also suitable for just cruising around on the pavement. Sleeping Bear Surf & Kayak is located at 10228 West Front Street in Empire. Call 231.326.9283 or visit them at SBSurfandKayak.com for more info on Fat Tire Bikes and rental rates.
Suttons Bay: Suttons Bay Bikes
Leelanau County’s premiere bike shop has you covered from apparel to repairs, and even has free delivery within all of Leelanau County! All rentals include maps and recommended routes, as well as helmets, locks, and a repair kit so you don’t have to worry about anything. Their options for rentals are as follows: carbon road bikes, hybrids, Fat Tires, tandems, recumbent bikes, kids bikes, trail-a-bikes, and even electric bikes. Rentals are available in all sizes. Suttons Bay Bikes is located at 118 North St. Marys Avenue in Building B. For more information on sizing and equipment rentals, give them a ring at 231.421.6815, or to reserve your rental visit their website at SuttonsBayBikes.com.
Beulah: Crystal Lake Adventure Sports
The Village of Beulah, situated on the eastern tip of Crystal Lake, also has an outfitter with a full range of bike rental options. Crystal Lake Adventure Sports has road bikes, mountain bikes, hybrids, Fat Tires, kids bikes, and trail-a-bikes all available for rental. Helmets are included with rentals, and they also provide delivery service. Crystal Lake Adventure Sports is located at 214 South Benzie Boulevard. Contact them at 231.882.2527 for more information on rentals, or visit their website at CrystalLakeAdventureSports.com.
Riding the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail
The most recent segment of a project that aims to provide 27 miles of paved and protected biking trails along the Sleeping Bear Lakeshore was completed in the summer of 2014, bringing the trail’s length up to 10 miles. The Heritage Trail now gives riders access between the village of Empire to Glen Arbor and offers stunning views through a scenic route of the lakeshore, all while snaking along M22.
Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes, with the help of grants and copious amount of support from private donors, made the Heritage Trail a reality after years of planning once M22 (as well as M109 and M204) was designated as a Scenic Heritage Route; or, as MDOT defines it, “a state highway having outstanding natural beauty.” Leonard Marszalek, manager of the Heritage Trail and active board member of Friends of Sleeping Bear since 2009, says seeing the trail busy with bikers and hikers from all over is what it’s all about.
“Our purpose in life is to preserve natural resources and heighten the visitor experience,” Marszalek says, speaking on behalf of Friends of Sleeping Bear as well as himself. He says that now that the trail is active, the lakeshore can be explored and enjoyed by visitors of any age—all without a car. He also reflects that the trail has strengthened the connection between the communities of Glen Arbor and Empire: from increasing tourism for businesses to encouraging locals to commute via bicycle rather than by car within Leelanau County. Now with the trail traversing the lakeshore, Marszalek says experiencing Sleeping Bear Dunes has evolved into “more than coming to the beach.”
Take a video tour of the Heritage Trail with MyNorth below:
For more information or to donate to the Heritage Trail fund operation, visit FriendsOfSleepingBear.org.
Beyond the Heritage Trail
While the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail is a prime destination for families and the casual bicycle crusader, there are several routes utilizing surrounding county roads and less well-known trails that provide riders with stunning views of Northern Michigan’s shifting landscapes. Speaking with Marszalek (who was bit by the bike bug circa 2005 and very well could have an equal ratio of chain grease to blood coursing through his veins), he said that some of his favorite spots to ride illuminate the overwhelmingly beautiful terrain the lakeshore area has to offer, and that biking is an ideal way to take it in. So whether you’re an experienced cyclist or just a casual cruiser wanting to watch the trees roll by without a windshield in your way, here are some rides you won’t want to miss.
Glen Lake Loop
Take a 24-mile loop around the gorgeous Glen Lake using county roads and even some residential areas. Parts of it are hilly and could prove difficult for inexperienced riders, so plan accordingly!
Start in Empire, and follow M22 north until you hit M109 which will take you along the western edge of Glen Lake. Continue on M109 heading east to Glen Arbor, and when you arrive at Crystal View Road bear right and continue onto county road 675; stay on 675 for one mile and keep left when it turns into Dunns Farm Road. You will then follow this all the way south along the east side of Glen Lake until it intersects with MacFarlane Road which will give you an intimate look at the southern part of the lake through a beautiful neighborhood. This will last about 2.5 miles until it intersects with M22—follow that west to county road 616 which will take you right back to M109. Head back south on M109 and then M22 to Empire, and maybe head into Joe’s Friendly Tavern for lunch and a brew to refuel.
Glen Arbor to Port Oneida
For a casual ride that is only about 12 miles round-trip, consider a journey from Glen Arbor up to Port Oneida. Begin by grabbing a fine cuppa joe at Leelanau Coffee Roasting Company for that extra kick of caffeine, and then head north on M22. A word of warning: practice extra caution when departing Glen Arbor on M22 as the shoulders are narrow and traffic is abundant until you hit Crystal View Road, where the shoulders open up to 5 feet and the road becomes easily bikeable. Once you’re over the bridge, you’re good to go. Follow M22 for 3.5 miles, and then hang a louie onto Port Oneida Road. You can then follow this up to Basch Road and turn around, or if you’re feeling extra adventurous, turn right onto Basch and continue until you arrive at the Pyramid Point trailhead. From there you can park your bike and hike up some serious hills, ending at the tip of Port Oneida. Let serenity wash over you, listening to the surf pulse rhythmically as it crashes against the shore, with Sleeping Bear Bay to the west and Good Harbor Bay due east. When you return to Glen Arbor, don’t forget to hit up Riverfront Pizza & Deli for a pie or Art’s Tavern for a well deserved post-ride brewski.
Glen Arbor to Beulah Loop
If you have a nearly inexhaustible energy supply and a thirst for a more lengthy tour, this 51-mile route from Glen Arbor to Beulah and back will satisfy your cycling appetite. This trip will give you views of rolling, serene farmland as well as passing by the Platte River and even the eastern tip of Crystal Lake in Beulah. Starting in Glen Arbor, head south down M22 which will take you between Big Glen Lake and Little Glen Lake. When you make it to Fredrickson Road 5.5 miles later, bear left onto it and follow that south (it will turn into Kitlinger Road after it intersects with M72). Turn left onto Osborn Road when you come to it, and then right onto County Road 677. You’ll then make a right on Fowler Road (610) and soon after a left onto Indian Hill Road (679). Following 679 south for 6.5 miles, past the ever-populated Platte River and M31, you’ll then take a right onto Covey Road, and then a quick left onto Worden Road. When Worden meets 31, hang a louie and continue south for two miles. After this you’ll encounter Narrow Gauge Road right in the heart of Beulah: simply take a left, follow Narrow Gauge and you’ll run right back into 679. Take a left and go north 8.5 miles, where you will run back into Fowler road. A little jaunt left will take you to M22, and from there all that’s left to do is hang a right and pump those iron legs 13 miles north all the way back to Glen Arbor.
For even more cycle routes and trip ideas for a Northern Michigan ride, scope the route maps on CherryCapitalCyclingClub.org.