We’ve got untold miles of single-track and roadie paradise for bikers in Northern Michigan, but these four in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore never disappoint. As a lifelong local and now pro mountain bike racer, here are the routes I come back to again and again.

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1. Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

This 7.4 miles of heart-pumping paved road 450 feet above Lake Michigan is for cyclists wanting to earn their next meal while also enjoying inspirational views of Lake Michigan, the Glen Lakes, and North Bar. Spectacularly beautiful year-round, Pierce Stocking especially shines in autumn when fiery foliage contrasts with the cobalt water and tawny dunes. Entry fee is $15 for a bike or the $45 annual pass which works throughout Sleeping Bear National Park.

What Wheels? Best suited for an E-bike or a road bike for those not afraid of intimidating hill climbs. Watch for debris on the shoulder, especially in the fall when trees shed their leaves and stormy weather blows down twigs and limbs—which may mean choosing a bike with bigger tires.

fall color at Sleeping Bear Dunes

2. The Glen Lakes

For a 19-mile road bike loop around the Glen Lakes start in Glen Arbor. Pedaling counter-clockwise around the lakes takes you to the edge of historic Glen Haven Village which is worth a short detour. Be sure to look over your shoulder on the top of the climb heading away from Glen Haven—the reward is a classic glimpse of Lake Michigan with the dark shapes of the North Manitou Island hovering on the blue horizon. After passing the Sleeping Bear Dune Climb, the Glen Lake narrows are the next breathtaking view on this route, followed by Inspiration Point overlooking both Glen Lakes.

What Wheels? Best suited for road bikes or E-bikes.

fall color at Sleeping Bear Dunes

3. Heritage Trail

Out-and-back rides on the 22-mile long Heritage Trail starting in Empire or Glen Arbor offer cyclists spectacular views of Lake Michigan and the Dune Climb, along with a taste of the county’s history at Glen Haven where the former logging village has been restored to its 1920s charm. In the fall, the trail is hemmed with maple trees turning vibrant shades of red and yellow.

What Wheels? Suitable for almost any bike. The last several miles of the northern terminus are unpaved making the section along the Port Oneida Trailhead most suitable for bikes with tires wider than most road bikes.

sleeping bear dunes, heritage trail, bike, biking

4. Palmer Woods

Mountain biking options at Palmer Woods vary from flow trails excellent for beginners to some of the best (and gnarliest!) hand-built jumps and mountain bike features in the state. Expect thick hardwood forests and singletrack trails winding through bright foliage during color season.

What Wheels? Best suited for mountain bikes.

sleeping bear dunes, heritage trail, bike, biking

Brake for Lunch | Sleeping Bear Dunes Lunch Spots

Glen Arbor: Pick up a gourmet sandwich (try the French Brie or the Smoked Salmon) at Inn and Trail Gourmet (6453 Western Avenue) in Glen Arbor and take it the short walk to Glen Arbor Wines (5873 S. Lake Street) to pair with a glass of local wine. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

Empire: Shipwreck Cafe (11691 S Lacore Rd.,) sandwiches on homemade pretzel bread are legendary. Take them down to the road to the Lake Michigan Beach Park for an impromptu picnic. Closed Sundays.

Maple City: Feast on memorable pizza and sandwiches at Market 22 (97 E Harbor Hwy) where you can get a beer to go with. Find it just a couple miles from the north end of the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. Closed Mondays through Wednesdays.


Rent Your Wheels

Glen Arbor: M-22 Cyclery (6249 W. River Road) Full-service bike shop. Open every day.

Chase Edwards was the women’s 2019 National Ultra Endurance Series mountain bike champion and set the women’s record for the self-supported 800-mile Arizona Trail Race in 2021.

Photo(s) by Chase Edwards