We asked five local mountain bikers to tell us where they ride; their recommendations are the cream of the crop—trails that will get your head racing and blood pumping, in the best possible way. So get up, get out and explore the backcountry of Northern Michigan.
With over 40 miles of trail, and 26 miles of mountain biking single-track, there is enough trail at Big M to easily make a day of your ride. The trailhead is tucked away in Manistee National Forest, two miles south of M-55 where it passes through Udell. With the number of trails here, and their varying difficulty, you can put together your ideal ride. The terrain is varied and the riding surface is a mix of single-track and fire road. Afterward, if you’re headed toward Ludington, stop by the Heidi Hof in Free Soil for a pizza, a drink and a break.—Recommendation by Jeff Betz, owner, Trailhead Bike Shop, Ludington. 231-845-0545, trailheadbikeshop.com.
The well-maintained trails at Hanson Hills are the site of two Michigan Cup mountain bike races a year. The trailhead is easy to find at the end of the recreation area parking lot, just south of M-72 on the west side of Grayling. The 25-plus miles of single-track trail are kept clear for the races. There are some exciting descents where the trail runs down the ski hills at the recreation area. This all makes for an easy, exciting, fast ride. Afterward, head in to Grayling for a meal and a beer at Spike’s Keg O’Nails.—Recommendation by Tim Tubbs, employee, The Bicycle Shop, Grayling. 989-348-6868 thebicycleshopmi.com.
Just south of Marquette, off Benson Grade, this trail gets its name from the banked turns and mostly downward slope that let riders flow smoothly down, except for the rocks. The Flow Trail is just over a mile, and it flows fast enough to finish up in around 5 minutes, but its speed and plank bridges make it an exciting ride. Afterward, pick up a delicious, affordable B.R.C (bean, rice and cheese) burrito at Marquette’s Border Grill.—Recommendation by Brian Dietch, manager, Quick Stop Bike Shop, Marquette. 906-225-1577, quickstopbike.com.
A 12-mile loop of single-track trail is tucked away on the Boyne Mountain resort, with the trailhead at the north end of the tennis courts (to the right as you enter the resort). Hard climbs—it's a ski resort, after all—are rewarded with some great descents, and the boardwalks scattered throughout add a bit of variety. The trail is challenging, fast, flows well and makes for an exciting experience. Afterward, head to Pierson’s Grill and Spirits in Boyne Falls for a beer and a meal; our source suggests the white chili.—Recommendation by Chris McKay, manager, Latitude 45 Bicycles and Fitness, Petoskey. 231-348-0929. latitude45.com.
Traverse City’s own mountain bike–friendly trail network, Vasa contains a variety of wide cross-country ski trails and a 13-mile loop of narrower single-track. Tracing through the Pere Marquette State Forest, the single track flows from turn to turn through close trees and around several small, inland lakes in the Jack Pine Valley. The main trailhead is southeast of U.S. 31 on Bunker Hill Road. The single track trailhead is more difficult to find, on Supply Road south of Traverse City, four miles east of 5 Mile Road.—Recommendation by Karl Friesen, employee, Brick Wheels, Traverse City. 231-947-4274. brickwheels.com.