Bike the Betsie Valley Trail with Fun Stops Along the Way

This 18-mile out-and-back route on the Betsie Valley Trail from Frankfort to Beulah is great for beginner and intermediate riders. (And it’s absolutely gorgeous.) Plan a Northern Michigan biking day trip around it.

Start at the lake (Cannon Park at Betsie Lake, to be specific). Walk your bike to the shoreline and fill up water bottles at the burbling mineral spring enshrined under a pagoda. Pause to watch the trolling boats captained by red-eyed fishermen as they chug toward the launch. Start pedaling.

The Betsie Valley Trail meanders for 22 miles from Frankfort to Thompsonville following the footprint of the former Ann Arbor rail line. But today, we’re just riding from Frankfort to Beulah—nine miles there, and nine miles back. The route can be pedaled in two to three hours depending on your pace.

Heading upstream with the Betsie River, the six miles from Frankfort to Mollineaux Road is paved asphalt, which makes for a smooth ride. The trail transitions to crushed limestone afterward—it’s manageable for road bikes, but cross/gravel bikes or wider tires are recommended.

As with all riding, be sure to wear a helmet and visible apparel, and be courteous of other trail users.

As you near Beulah, the trail skirts alongside the gin-clear Crystal Lake at Mollineaux Beach. For a scenic detour, head to Railroad Point Natural Area (accessible from the trail). A half-mile hike will reward you with a vista of the lake, and the natural area has 1.5 miles of trails if you want to explore more.

When you coast into Beulah, sidle up to the former railroad station that now serves as a visitors’ center and trailhead. Take advantage of the water fountains and bike service kiosk if you need a tune-up. Then venture across the street to L’Chayim Delicatessen for a snack or sandwich (the oatmeal raisin cookies are fantastic!).

Those looking to press onward to Thompsonville (an additional 11 miles from Beulah) may want to prearrange a spotter vehicle or plan for some serious saddle time.

Once you’re back in Frankfort, catch your breath and head to Stormcloud Brewing Company for a much-deserved post-ride beer. With a variety of impressive in-house taps, an expansive pub menu (vegan and vegetarian options available) and outdoor seating, it’s the perfect cap to a morning of pedaling.

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