Fall is just around the corner, but that means mountain biking in northern Michigan is just getting started! We’re lucky to have a long autumn to enjoy the trails in Traverse City and around the region, and we’ve got a challenge for you; ride somewhere new!
You’ve got a few months before evenings are dark and the snow will have Head Groomer John Roe licking his chops. Between now and fat biking season, we want you to ride a trail that you haven’t checked out before. Whether you’re a TC local who hasn’t made it to Glacial Hills, or a Cadillac rider yet to make the trip north to Palmer Woods, make a plan to make it happen.
One of the best things about our part of the state is that the terrain, soil, and design of our forests allow for deceptively diverse riding options. While sand is universal, the hills, the valleys, and the men and women behind creating our singletrack trail networks make each NMMBA trail feel, ride, and look different.
Vasa Singletrack/Unmarked. In a word, ‘natural’. Both the Vasa Singletrack and the miles of unmarked singletrack that extends like a spider web out from the VST weave into the Vasa 25km Pathway, creating the Traverse City Trail Network. Much of that singletrack is hand cut, narrow, winding, and offers a feel of riding through the forests with reckless abandon. It never feels like the trails were made as much as were just there. There are no features, no wide sections, and you’d be hard-pressed to be able to spot the trail unless you’re physically on it.
Cadillac Pathway. Much like the Vasa 25km Pathway, Cadillac’s trail offers a wider, cross-country ski trail that serves as the backbone of the network, with a mix of unmarked singletrack jumping on and off. That’s going to change with the construction of eleven miles of trail this fall, the culmination of a years-long process to bring real, marked, and thought-out singletrack to Cadillac. The Pathway is also home to a slew of new amenities, including a new Pavillion, bike rack, even solar powered lights! If you’re really looking for a chance to ride it, make sure you’ve got the Bear Claw Epic on your calendar. The BCE is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Cadillac Pathway and the final event in the NMMBA Trail Series on September 28.
Glacial Hills. While it is wide enough to ski, the elevation that gave this trail system it’s name make this much more of a mountain bike trail! The rolling, twisting, flowing singletrack isn’t as wide as Cadillac or Traverse City’s pathways, but still allows a little room for error for riders letting gravity have its way. While there is plenty of elevation, the expert, machine-made trails allow for plenty of momentum. Do a lap and you’ll pocket nearly 1,000 feet of elevation, but it never feels like that much climbing! The closest comparison to Glacial Hills might be the Arcadia Dunes trails near Frankfort, which were shaped by the same designer. Make plans to hit Bellaire, shred Glacial Hills, and stop by Short’s Brewing, a company that supports the trails, outdoor events, and a NMMBA like no one else.
Palmer Woods. The new trail is enjoying its first full season in 2019 and people are loving it! Instead of mile after mile of natural, Palmer Woods offers a feature-filled circuit for riders looking to practice and show off their technical skills. The Leelanau Conservancy and Bike Leelanau have put a lot of heart into creating something that attempts the impossible; keep everyone happy. We think they’ve nailed it. There are plenty of lines to make the trail system accessible to beginners and kids, but enough jumps and drops to make the drive out to Wheeler Road in Maple City well worth it.