Wind your way by bicycle along The Bestie Valley Trail, a gorgous trip that runs waterside, through wetlands and hardwood forest. Twenty-two miles total, ten miles are paved. The 12 miles between Beulah and Thompsonville are gravel and open to snowmobiles between December and March. This is a no-motor meander anyone can do and here's some suggestions for making the most of your trip.
Along the river, through the woods, from lakeside hamlet to Lake Michigan coast you go: in less than 10 miles of easy biking between Beulah and Frankfort, the Betsie Valley Trail slips through forest, farm, meadow and wetland, packing in ogle-worthy autumn scenery along its way. Count on stubborn sailboats on Crystal Lake, crimson leaves drifting from branches to Betsie River riffles, the Frankfort light framed by a big water sunset. The trail’s paving and packed gravel makes it easy to roll; gift shops and boutiques in the wee village towns along the way make it easier to detour and dawdle and turn this little ride into a leisurely two-day round trip.
If you begin in Beulah, you’ll finish in Frankfort. Cozy up there in the Betsie Bay Inn—a historic downtown Victorian steeped in Scottish charm ($85+, 231-352-8090, BETSIEBAYINN.COM)—or a room, suite or condo at the beachside Harbor Lights Resort ($79+, 800-346-9614, HARBORLIGHTSRESORT.NET). If you start in Frankfort, bunk up in Beulah’s on-the-water Crystal Lake Resort (COTTAGES $95+, MOTEL ROOMS $59+; 231-882-7282) or in the city-chic suites above kitchen goods emporium, Crystal Crate and Cargo ($100+, 800-787-7366, CRYSTALCRATE.COM).
At Elberta’s Conundrum Café (open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fri.-Sun. through the fall, 231-352-8150), whose sandwiches honor area icons, honor your belly and the region’s last car ferry with The Viking—Bavarian ham, Genoa salami, provolone and cherry mustard grilled panini style—and a scoop of Conundrum ice cream—homemade vanilla bean with caramel swirl and Twix. In Frankfort, Coho Cafe’s crab cakes are killer (open for lunch Thur.-Sat. and dinner Thur-Sun. through the fall, 231-352-6053), and The Fusion’s Asian-inspired menu is to die for (closed Sunday, open 5-8 p.m. Mon, 11-8 p.m. Tue.-Thur., 11-9 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 231-352-4114). The organic coffee and from-scratch scones at Beulah’s Phoenix Café are worth rising for again and again (231-882-2005).
Frankfort is home to Ed Moody, a pumpkin-carving master who once carved a replica of Cinderella’s carriage (PUMPKINED.COM). See Moody’s elaborate carvings, play pumpkin hillbilly golf and compete in a pumpkin chuckin’ contest at Frankfort’s FallFest on October 10-11. Beulah/Benzonia’s annual Fall Fest—soup contest, farm market, cider press, petting zoo, pumpkin carving and more—happens October 3-4 (800-882-5801).