Michigan may not be the first state that comes to mind when you’re thinking about MTB destinations in the U.S. But, there are plenty of reasons why it should.
Many of those reasons have to do with the existence of the Copper Harbor Loop, which has gained a world-renowned status for incredible trail designs that creatively incorporate man-made structures with the natural terrain. This trail system alone attracts MTBers from all over the world to Michigan.
But Copper Harbor isn’t the only attraction in the state.
There are plenty of reasons why Michigan is a wonderful place to go mountain biking, and much of it has to do with the beautiful backcountry terrain that characterizes this state. Michigan’s old growth forests and background of great lakes make it a truly beautiful place to bike.
Before visiting these trails, just keep in mind that Michigan spends much of the year under a blanket of snow, so plan your trip from late spring to early fall.
Here are 8 of the best mountain bike trails in Michigan.
1. Copper Harbor Loop, Copper Harbor
You might think from its remote location at the northernmost tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula might make Copper Harbor a relatively unknown MTB trail system. It’s not.
MTBers all over the world makes special trips to check out the impressive and unbelievable roller coaster of winding wooden boardwalks and bridges that cover huge sections of this truly amazing trail system.
Some of Copper Harbor routinely rate as the best not just in Michigan, but the world.
Throw in some amazing views, technical rock gardens, beautiful forest, and a Copper Harbor town that has an impressive list of campgrounds, restaurants, and microbreweries, and you’ve got a MTBers dream.
2. High Country Pathway, Atlanta
If mountain biking for you is more about adventure and the opportunity to go deep into nature, then you’d be wise to check out the High Country Pathway.
The singletrack on this 80-mile loop isn’t flashy. In fact, these rugged trails are largely left to tend to themselves, so be prepared. This is about adventure, taking you deep into the woods to experience Michigan’s wilderness.
Expect to encounter more elk, beaver, deer, and bears than you will other cyclists. It’s for these reasons that this trail has earned IMBA Epic status.
It’s the perfect trail for bike packers looking for a multi-day experience away from it all.
3. Big M, Manistee
Sometimes you just want to go fast without all the twists and turns and jolts and jumps.
Big M is your answer to your need for cross-country riding. It’s 20 miles of flowing single and double track through the rolling hills of the Manistee National Forest in the beautiful woodlands of western Michigan’s lower peninsula.
Check out the system’s outer loop, which is easy to follow, flowy, and fast. This is cross-country MTBing at its finest. And, if fat biking is your thing, you’ll even find trails specially designed for this discipline.
You can even ride them in wintertime.
4. Glacial Hills, Bellaire
Fast, flowy, and trails to suit all skill levels. This is how you’d characterize Glacial Hills, which features some 30 miles of wooded trails.
With smooth trails and terrain that can be best classified as rolling, this is a trail system that will let you cover some ground in a hurry. Most trails suit beginner to intermediate riders with a few more technical sections for those looking for something more challenging.
A shorter non-technical loop is a great option for kids. Experts should choose the outermost trail, which offers challenging climbs and rapid descents through a forest of hardwood trees.
5. Marquette Trails, Marquette
With its technical steep descents and rocky terrain, the Noquemanon Trail Network at Marquette have quickly gained a reputation as some of the best, and most technical, single-track not just in Michigan, but the entire midwest.
This trail network features two sets of trails, the intermediate North Trails, and expert South Trails. The Blue Trail is considered the toughest with its lung-busting climbs and breakneck descents.
Make sure to check out the Yellow Trail, which is a true example of a top-notch trail building with a good combination of man-made structures, rock building, timely berms, and challenging uphills.
6. Fort Custer Trails, Augusta
With its wide range of trails to suit all ability levels, Fort Custer has become a mountain biking hotspot for riders not just from Michigan but also nearby Ohio and Indiana.
It’s more difficult trails are expertly maintained singletrack. Expect to find some fun sections with boardwalks, rock gardens, and wooden beams. There’s even a substantial stream crossing thrown in there.
Most of this network’s trails are smooth and windy trails that are flowy and fast. Riders looking for more technical terrain should check out the Red Loop.
Fort Custer also features a blue trail for novices with mostly doubletrack and flat terrain.
7. Potawatomi Trail, Pinckney
One of the most visited trails in southeastern Michigan is the highly regarded Potawatomi Trail.
Too often mountain biking trails follow the out and back formula. Not so with this challenging trail, which is a 17-mile loop.
The Potawatomi is one of Michigan’s oldest mountain biking trails, having been initially cut as a hiking trail in the 1960s. This well-traveled trail features skull rattling rooty and rocky terrain. Its rolling terrain makes for a mix of chest burning climbs and breakneck descents.
With its location near Ann Arbor and Detroit, expect to find the Potawatomi Trail to be heavily trafficked on the weekends.
8. Arcadia Dune, Frankfort
Hard-packed and flowy trails, Arcadia Dunes may not challenge your technical skills, but you will love the free feeling of being able to fly down this single track unhindered by roots, obstacles, steep elevation changes, or hairpin turns.
You might even surprise yourself when you check your average speed at the end. This flowing singletrack has plenty of well-built berms to keep you from having to squeeze the brakes.
There’s also plenty to see while you fly along including flower-filled meadows, old-growth forests, and, as a reward at the end, a sandy beach along the shores of Lake Michigan.