In and around the lake! A 53-mile bike route around Lake Charlevoix yields the perfect loop for scenic beauty and small-town charm. Here are the must-stops and insider tips you’ll need for this exciting two-day Northern Michigan adventure.

This article first appeared in Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine. Find this article and more when you explore our digital issue library. Want Traverse Magazine delivered to your door or inbox monthly? View our print subscription and digital subscription options.

“Want to ride your bike around Lake Charlevoix?”

This was one of the easiest questions I’ve answered lately. I love to prep and plan a route almost as much as I like exploring it and meeting up with new people and places on the way. With the advice of Chet Morris of Revolution Bike in Charlevoix, I decided to ride a recommended 53-mile loop around the hilly, scenic back roads of Lake Charlevoix.

Photo by Gately Williams

Photo by Gately Williams

Photo by Gately Williams

Day One of Exploring & Biking Lake Charlevoix

My adventure started with prepping my bike and making sure all my camping gear would fit snugly on it. As for the route? I stopped in Revolution Bike shop to pump tires and go over my plan with Chet. The goal was to cover 53 miles in two days. Day one, I’d stop at Young State Park, so I had all day to cover 28 miles. With a recommendation for a little restaurant on the water, I set off in search of lunch.

Heading south out of Charlevoix, I passed a big white barn behind a “Share the Road” sign and I knew I was going to enjoy this trip. Six quick miles later, I coasted downhill into Ironton. I felt no need to lock my bike as I slid into a two top on the dock for lunch at The Landing, where I demolished a lobster sandwich while watching the Ironton Ferry come and go a few times. After lunch, I hit the road and headed south on M-66. A couple of miles later, I came upon an old wooden barn, home to Otis Pottery, where I got to meet Andrew Otis, a second-generation potter running the family biz.

Photo by Gately Williams

Photo by Gately Williams

Photo by Gately Williams

Photo by Gately Williams

After a pleasant chat, it was time to get some miles in, and I pedaled south around the bottom arm of the lake, passing through East Jordan and back north to Advance. I turned right to make my last six miles to Young State Park, where I had a one-night tent camping reservation. I was pleasantly surprised to cruise into Boyne City—what a charming little town. Since it was early afternoon and I had plenty of time, I parked my bike outside Lake Charlevoix Coffee Company to have a look around before making my way toward the park.

My final stretch into Young State Park was down a tree-lined, winding trail away from the road into the campground. I set up camp and found it easy to make friends—as I was taking a short walk to refill my water bottles, I met the Sisson family playing on their slackline. I watched the kids and parents take turns for a couple of minutes before they invited me to join the fun. Back at my camp, I saw my neighbor sipping coffee with a classical guitar resting patiently on his lap and headed over to see what he might play. I met Mark and his wife, who were spending an easy weekend camping out of their fifth wheel. He graciously played me a song and his wife handed me the latest issue of Traverse Magazine for my night-time reading. As the sun began to dip, all the campers gathered on the bank of Lake Charlevoix to watch the sunset.

Photo by Gately Williams

Photo by Gately Williams

Photo by Gately Williams

Photo by Gately Williams

Photo by Gately Williams

Day Two of the Lake Charlevoix Biking Adventure

The next morning, I only had to ride four miles to find coffee. I stumbled upon Horton Bay General Store, established 1876, which doubles as an inn. While there, I got caught up on the Hemingway history and lore of the area.

After refueling, I followed the hilly farm roads north to Bay Shore, where I joined the Little Traverse Wheelway. This rail trail, which starts in Harbor Springs, parallels US-31 all the way back to Charlevoix. The final nine-plus miles were pleasant, with views of the lake and plenty of fellow cyclists. I coasted back into the town of Charlevoix on Saturday afternoon. The drawbridge was constantly working for passing boats and the farmers market was in full swing; the loop had brought me full circle on a perfect summer weekend in the most beautiful of places. My final stop? To visit Chet at Revolution and share the highlights of my trip.

Photo by Gately Williams

Insider Tips for Biking Lake Charlevoix

Check Out: Little Traverse Wheelway, a 26-mile rail trail from Harbor Springs to Charlevoix. (Note: the 1.25-mile section from East Park in Bay Harbor to Magnus Park in Petoskey is currently closed.)

Bite: Get dinner in Boyne City at Cafe Santé. The patio has incredible views of Lake Charlevoix. 

Scenic Shortcut: Taking the Ironton Ferry makes this same route just 33 miles.

Gear: The roads are in good condition, making any bike possible (you’ll want gears for the hills though).

Photo(s) by Gately Williams