For a freewheeling day along one of the North’s prettiest routes, head into Petoskey, hop onto your trusty ten-speed and cruise on up toward Harbor Springs. Schwinn-less? Just saunter into the Alpine-style Bahnhof Sport (1300 Bay View Road, 231-347-2112), where $25 makes a bike and a helmet yours for the day. The entire trek is about 10 miles, doable in an hour, allowing for a comfortable pace and some dawdle-time.

Not long after your first push-off, the scenery ahead opens up to the first of many million-dollar views. On your right, the historic cottages of Bay View cozy up to one another on shady bluffs. It’s a grand show of Victorian elegance and charm, rivaled only by what’s sprawling to your left: the brilliant blue water of Little Traverse Bay. Just past Bay View, the trail turns onto Division Road, where it threads through a sun-speckled forest of white pine and oak before joining back with M-119.

Stop to hydrate at the Litzenberger Fountain (named for the family who donated it to the trail), then heed the advice on the plaque and “roll on” toward Beach Road. Adult cyclists can keep following the trail (it cuts through the Harbor Springs airport before merging into the wide shoulder of M-119) but families with children should opt to take the meandering, less-trafficked Beach Road all the way into town.

In Harbor Springs, Cornichon’s European Market & Deli (248 State Street, 231-242-0020) is a fine spot to rest and refuel; big appetites deserve the Big Bertha sandwich, with London broil roast beef, smoked bacon, chipotle bleu cheese dressing and greens piled high on an onion roll. Work it off on the way back, then — hey, it’s your day — reward the effort with a frosty scoop of frozen custard at the ’50s-themed Bob-In Again (1150 Bay View Road, 231-347-1750).

Mastered the 10-mile trek from Petoskey to Harbor Springs? Try spinning along the wheelway’s entirety for 29 coast-hugging, woods-cruising miles from the northern tip all the way down to Charlevoix. It’s a long haul, sure, but one that merits an extra scoop of custard at trail’s end.

Emily Bingham is assistant editor of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s

Note: This article was first published in April 2006 and was updated for the web February 2008.