Fuel up with an Old World-style breakfast, blow off steam with a pedal down the Betsie Valley Trail, take a break to wade in Crystal Lake, disappear into the forest and come out by a first-class resort.
Start with some sustenance and good cheer at the Elberta Beach Diner (735 Frankfort Avenue, Elberta. 231-352-5273), where a pierogi plate with eggs and kielbasa will get you fired up for a spin on the 22.3-mile Betsie Valley Trail. The former Ann Arbor Railroad line is partially paved with asphalt, the rest with crushed aggregate that’s best suited for mountain bikes.
Commence from Cannon Park near the beach in Frankfort, past the Elberta Marina, the Betsie River and Betsie Lake, then along the aqua-hued Crystal Lake, all during which you’ll take in the heady smells of spring, maybe stop to pick a few wild leeks or morels, watch chickadees cavort with finches in the forest or see baby turtles sunning themselves on the river rocks.
When you get to Beulah, cool your feet at the public beach and check out the Beulah Trailhead and Visitor Center, which is a replica of the former railroad station. Stop for a big deli sandwich at L’chayim (274 S. Benzie Boulevard, Beulah. 231-882-5221). Continue on the remaining 12.3 miles of trail, past unspoiled pines and hardwoods and the Pere Marquette State Forest, to Thompsonville.
Don’t want to go home?
Book a room at Crystal Mountain Resort (12500 Crystal Mountain Drive, Thompsonville. 800-968-7686) and enjoy a spectacular sunset from the hot tub and a steak and ale in the Scottish-themed Thistle Pub & Grille in Crystal’s Kinlochen Lodge.