My home state of Michigan boosts 4.5 million acres of public land and more than 457 mountain bike trails. Michigan offers beautiful lakeside tours or thrilling double black diamond downhill mountain bike trails..
Ranking the best trail is always tough, most folks that “vote” are serious mountain bikers so I’ve injected high ranking family friendly trails as well.
The Best Mountain Biking Trails in Michigan
1. Maple Hill Trail – MTB Bliss
Located at Markin Glen County Park in Kalamazoo this trail has nearly 5 miles of machine built single track. Expect smooth hard pack trails with great drainage after a rain. Plan on getting a work out because your legs are going to carry you up 612 feet in elevation. The reward for the effort is a descent with flowing high banks, jumps and table tops. Most obstacles can be rolled by until you have the confidence to tackle the jumps.
The trail includes county park amenities such as a changing station, water and restrooms. Be prepared to pay either a $5 daily fee or a $25 dollar annual pass.
The trail is maintained by Southwest Michigan Mountain Bike Association. https://www.swmmba.com/
I recommend making a day of the park by packing a cooler with a light lunch and drinks. I usually park across the road from the trailhead at the beach area. It’s closer to the amenities and it’s nice to take a break in a lawn chair and think how you’ll change things up for your next lap. As an added treat, I’ll jump in the lake to cool off for the car ride home.
Where to Find Maple Hill Trail
Just north of Kalamazoo and east of 131 the trail is easy to find at 5221 North Westnedge Ave. The trailhead is across the road from the main area of Markin Glen County Park.
2. Copper Harbor Trails Mountain Biking – MTB Heaven
Located at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, Copper Harbor is a system of trails to delight the beginner to hard core riders. The trails total 37 miles and are divided into 9 separate trails. I particularly love the Flow and Garden Brook trails with wooden bridges crossing a stream , roller coaster berms and tight switchbacks. The thrill factor increases with a little speed.
Three of the trails are rated as black diamonds, but don’t let that scare you away. These black diamonds are links between trails and are clearly marked. But if you’re looking for some technical riding check out Overflow, Flying Squirrel and Danimal.
Most of the trails are family friendly, easy to intermediate skill level. The tougher black diamond trails can be accessed by these trails if you are looking for a more challenging ride.
I’ve found camping at Fort Wilkins State Park to be an economical way to stay the night to enjoy the trail for a couple days. Many of the campsites have power, showers and a convenience store. Relaxing around a campfire is the perfect way to end a day of single track riding.
Where to Find Copper Harbor MTB Trails
Located at one of the northernmost parts of Michigan the drive to the trail is the only downfall for me. This is easily a 9 hour drive from the Metro-Detroit area. For most folks, this is a multi-day trip, but don’t let the distance discourage you, the trails are worth it and there are plenty of other activities to do.
Check out what’s at Fort Wilkins State Park here –http://www.michigandnr.com/parksandtrails/Details.aspx?id=419&type=SPRK
Items to Pack to MTB in Copper Harbor
Pack a windbreaker to cover up because temperatures can drop into the 50’s. Copper Harbor is located on the shores of Lake Superior. You might think swimming would be a great post ride cool-off, but water temps only get into the mid-60s (19 degrees C) in the late summer.
Depending on the time of year, black flies and mosquitoes can be annoying so an effective bug repellent needs to be in your bike bag.
3. Marquette Trail Network – Worth the Trip
Another Upper Peninsula gem is the 3 systems of MTB trails around the town of Marquette. The Marquette area has really grown in MTB popularity, and I can completely understand why. With ski resorts closed, it’s the perfect opportunity to open the ski trails and mountainsides up to some two wheel action.
The Noquemanon Trail System is just south of town with bunch of trails. I’ve spent two days in this area and I wasn’t able to cover all the trails. These trails have a great mix of technical single track with difficult side trails to challenge the most experienced riders.
I’ve come to love Down Dogger for it’s long downhill flow descent run of just under a mile. Accessed from the top of Benson Grade the trail sweeps down through a nice loam with a couple rock slabs.
Another trail worth hitting is Freak N Nature, with just enough ascent to get your heart rate up, it rewards you with a wonderful descent through nicely bermed single track to Top of Red Trail.
For a more family friendly adventure, go to Marquette Mountain Ski and Bike Area, located just east of town. With aggressive downhill trails for the expert rider and a family friendly mountain trail for all ages. Transportation to the top of the mountain is with a shuttle bus.
The North Trail (Harlow Lake) system has a variety of skill levels just north of Marquette with beautiful vista views along Lake Superior.
Where to Find Noquemanon Trails Network MTB Trails
Where to Find Harlow Lake (North Trail System) for MTBing
Where to Find Marquette Mountain Ski and Bike Area Downhill MTB Trails
4. DTE Foundation Trail – Big Kame MTB Trail
What I like so much about the DTE Foundation Trail is that it is continuing to expand, with an aggressive plan to open another 5 trails in the system. Currently, 3 out of 5 trails are complete. All the trails are machine cut which creates flowing bermed single track that is smooth and well designed.
The Green Lake Loop is just over 5 miles in length and designed for the beginner, but has areas to get good speed. With a couple jumps, skinnies and a wall ride (all with bypasses) this trail is a great warm-up for the other trails.
Big Kame features 4.75 miles of single track with a couple small hills and one large hill “Big Kame”. The descent from Big Kame has some sweet jumps that touch the thrill button.
Wynn Loop, the newest trail, is 8 miles in length and steps up the challenge with bigger ascents and bigger jumps. Being machine, cut you can get some good speed and test your skills with the high bermed corners and rock jumps and skinnies.
Where to Find DTE Foundation Trail – One of the Best MTB Trails in the Lower
Just 5 miles north of Chelsea on M52. If you break something, Chelsea has a bike shop called Aberdeen Bike and Outdoors which has a full service shop.
5. Pontiac Lake – A Classic MTB Trail
I’m going to be a little biased on this selection. Pontiac Lake Trail is in my neck of the woods. On cool mornings, I can ride the 5 miles of road and hop onto the north side of this trail. With Approximately 11 miles of trail and some nice climbs this is the perfect workout.
I recommend thinking about two things when approaching this trail. The first is that in total, you’ll climb about 1,000 feet.. one hill in particular is +400 feet. The second thing is this single track only has two exit points: the main gate into the park by the lake (which has bathrooms and changing areas) and the other exit is a hidden little spot on the north side just off White Lake road.
Where to Find Pontiac Lake MTB Trail
The main trailhead has a bathroom. Additionally, after a ride, I always find it fun to lock my bike up and walk down to the lake to cool off with a quick swim.
6. Potawatomi Trail – One of My First Trails
Many years ago a buddy invited me to ride this trail. At the time, my bike was an old POS, but this trail was one of the hooks that started my MTBing journey. With 24 miles of trails, this hand cut single track will throw some curveballs at you. You start with some smaller hills and nice descents, then some bigger hills with rumbly root filled descents that have some quick turns at the bottom.
The trail is maintained by Potawatomi Mountain Bike Association and is located on State Recreation Land so a parking permit is needed. Read more about the trail at http://www.potomba.org/trails/potawatomi-trail/
Get a Copy of the Potawatomi MTB Trail Map
Click on the picture below to get an MTB trail map of “Poto”
7. Fort Custer Recreation Area
Ten miles west of Battle Creek is Fort Custer MTB Trail. The system consists of 4 trails aptly labeled Blue, Red, Green and Yellow. When I rode the “Custer” I was limited for time so only pedaled the 8 mile Red Loop.
In the parking lot after, I spoke to a local rider who gave me a brief description of the trails. The Green (8mi), Blue (4mi) and Yellow loops are rated as a beginner trail. The Green loop circumnavigates Eagle Lake and offers nice views.
MTB Trail Map of Fort Custer
Check out the park, trails and more in the downloadable trail map – just click on the picture below.
Get Additional MTB Trail information
Looking for the trail conditions? The SWMMBA posts regularly on what to expect. See link below.
Conveniences are located close by at the park which has water, modern camping and concessions. It’s a short ride to the town of Augusta which has ice cream and a bike shop – Custer Cyclery http://www.custercyclery.com/home_page–
8. Big M Loop Trail – A UP MTB Gem
East of Manistee is a gem of a trail that will get your heart going. The trail is located on an old downhill ski area and will provide the aerobic workout mountain bikers like. Long steep descents require caution since high speed and single tracks often have painful stops.
With 20 miles of trails available in the summer and 18 miles of groomed trails in the winter for Fat Tire enthusiasts.
9. Michigan Tech MTB – University Maintain Excellence
When a trail is called Aerobic Adventure, it’s got to be good… 11.5 miles of hills, waterfalls, ravines make this flowing single track a heart breaker.
Located on the south east side of Houghton MI, this trail is maintained by Michigan Tech University.
The Michigan Tech System trail system has three major loops
- Easy Single Track with 4 ½ miles of trail and 210 feet of ascent.
- Aerobic Adventure: a gruelling 11 ½ miles and 1115 feet to climb.
- Technical Trail Ride: only 4 ½ miles with handlebar width trails, skinnies, dirt jumps and other wooden features to challenge your nerves.
Get a Big M – MTB Trail Map
10. Arcadia Dunes – Hilly Hardwood MTB Magic
Rolling through a northern hardwood forest Arcadia Dunes takes advantage of the natural contours of the hills to challenge riders with short climbs and sweeping downhills.
Located just outside of Frankfort MI the trail system consists of two trail, but the 7 mile Dry Hill Trail is most popular. A great mix of moderate hills and great views while rolling through a beautiful forest.
Maintained by Michigan Mountain Bike Association – https://www.mmba.org/trails/
11. Merrell Trail – Grand Rapids MTB Leader
Located about 12 miles north of Grand Rapids in Belmont the Merrell MTB Trail has 7 miles of machine built trails. What I like most about this trail is the variety of obstacles mixed into the system. Ride bridges and rock gardens in the Mix Master section, then test yourself on the jumps in the Wynalda loop and find technical challenges on the Sawtooth.
Easily one of the most popular trails for the Grand Rapids crowd, the West Michigan Mountain Bike Association https://wmmba.org/ really takes care of this system.
Several races take place every year at Merrell so check the Facebook page for updates.
12. Lakeshore Park AKA the Novi Tree Farm Mountain Bike Trail
Nestled in a Novi City Park is 10 miles of mountain bike trails with a pump track, log piles, skinnies and rock gardens. No big hills will strain your lungs, but tight twisty single track will test balance and clearance to the trees.
It seems like most of the time I’ve ridden the Tree Farm after a rain, which for some sections of the trail means black sloppy mud. The trail is super convenient being located in a major metro area. I give credit to Motor City Mountain Bike Association http://site.mcmba.org/ who maintains the trail, they really do a great job.
Lakeshore Park also has a kids single track for those aspiring mountain bikers. It’s a cute gravel path that youngsters can ride to get the “mountain bike feel”. The park also has a family friendly 3 mile trail that allows two way traffic. this is really nice for when those tired legs want to turn back before completing the whole loop.
Download Trail map for Lakeshore Mountain Bike Trail
Click on Image below to get a free download of Lakeshore Mountain Bike Trail.
13. Brighton Rec Area – A MTB Trip
The Brighton MTB Trail System is in my top 5 trails, mostly because it’s just far enough away for me to pack some goodies, like a lunch and drinks. Yet I still get the feel that I am traveling to a trail (It’s a half hour from my house).
The trail is divided into two trails: Torn Shirt which is about 5 miles long and Murray Lake that’s a bit longer at 9 miles, but easier to ride.
Torn Shirt will give you the best workout with bigger climbs and rooty switchbacks to challenge your handling skills.
Note this is a Michigan State park so a Recreation Pass is required. Here’s a link to the State Park Website – Brighton State Recreation Area http://www.michigandnr.com/parksandtrails/details.aspx?id=438&type=SPRK#map-tab
A special thanks goes out to Potawatomi Mountain Bike Trail Association for maintaining this system. “POTO” is a cool organization that looks over 9 trails in the central lower peninsula.
14. Highland Recreation Area – My Secret MTB Trail
This is my home trail, just 2 ½ miles from where my bike is sitting. A perfect warm-up and cool down distance. I admit, I’m spoiled.. it’s a technical single track that can be a great endurance ride or a quick evening stress relief.
Highland Rec is comprised of 4 loops totaling a little over 16 miles. You’ll climb a lot on Highland and I don’t think there is any straight ways more than 50 yards long.
The “A” Loop, rated as an intermediate trail, has quick climbs and hilly, rooty descents. You can open up the speed the last mile and a half to stretch out before rolling into the trail head.
The “B” Loop adds more hills and tight switchbacks and faster descents. It is a step up in difficulty, although I would still call it intermediate. The B loop spurs off the A into a longer climb that makes you wonder what your getting into. Plan on climbing close to 900 feet on this 5.9 mile loop.
“C” Loop bumps up the difficulty another step. Tight, rocky, off camber single trail is the signature for this loop. This is a shorter loop at 2.4 miles and can be reached from the south end of the B loop.
“D” Loop is tight and twisty.. you will need to slow down just a bit to navigate the turns and rocky climbs and descents. This loop seems to be chipped out of the forest, dodging trees and other natural obstacles. Plan on climbing over 400 feet on this 3.8 miles of single track.
The “D” loop doesn’t see much traffic, so if you are looking for some solitude, but don’t have a couple hours to invest in riding the A, B and C loops to get to D, ride up the exit off the A loop instead.
Highland Rec is maintained by the Motor City Mountain Bike Association – http://site.mcmba.org/. Consider donating a little bit of money to this great group, every penny goes back into the trail. The trail is built on state land that was donated by the Ford family.
A State recreation pass is required or you can pay a nominal daily use fee at the parking lot.
Where is Highland Rec Mountain Bike Trails?
Trail Map for Highland Rec Mountain Bike System
Get a trail map with the link below.
Downhill Mountain Bike Parks in Michigan
Boyne Mountain: with chair lifts to the top of the mountain, Boyne is a great way to initiate yourself to the thrill of true downhill mountain Biking. The park rents bikes, but you can bring your own like I did.
This is a full service resort, so all of your needs can easily be met by just using the facilities on the property. Also, if you’d like to do a little sightseeing, Boyne City is the definition of a Lake Michigan Resort town with great restaurants and amazing sunsets.
Marquette Mountain: offers a shuttle to the top of the mountain. With 8 downhill trails ranging from intermediate to expert, the park will provide a full day of riding. My skills advanced tremendously after a day of rocketing down these trails.
The Marquette area is a MTB powerhouse. I’ve spent three days riding this area and then shooting north to the Copper Harbor.
Crystal Mountain Gravity Park, I admit Michigan doesn’t have true “Mountains” but it does have amazing natural resources. Crystal Mountain has really upped the Downhill game with 8 downhill runs and 11 miles of single track.
Lift tickets can be purchased all summer, but be sure to check the schedule because after Labor Day the lift activity slows.
Want to See the Sights on Your Mountain Bike?
The lower Peninsula has over 280 bike trails through every imaginable landscape. Tours the vineyards, the State Capital, and along lakes are a mainstay. I’ve come to love the Traverse City Area. Just north west of town is Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail
https://www.google.com/maps/place/Sleeping+Bear+Heritage+Trail,+Glen+Arbor+Township,+MIfirstname.lastname@example.org,-86.1100651,11.5z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x881e1c4b3a517681:0x96cc26d1d2adad0c!8m2!3d44.8950841!4d-86.0180013 with 20 miles of lakeside views
Another favorite of mine is the Old Mission Peninsula with a dedicated bike lane that travels north.
Michigan Mountain Bike Shops
Cycletherapy: a great full service Specialized Shop that really cares. I get my bike serviced here and have always been happy with the staff. https://www.ctbicycles.com/
American Cycle and Fitness: Primarily a Trek dealer with 8 shops through out the metro Detroit area. https://www.americancycleandfitness.com/
Ray’s Bike Shop: a dealer for Specialized, Trek, Surly, Salsa and more. With 4 locations throughout central Michigan. https://www.raysbike.com/
Mountain Bike Clubs and Other Organizations in Michigan
I’ve mentioned this in the article, but many of these trail are maintained by volunteers. If you can give a little bit of time to help preserve and maintain a trail that would be great. If you can’t give time, then a little bit of money donated would help as well.
The funds all the go straight into materials and tools to maintain the trails we love. The folks working want to make the trail safer and better for everyone.
- MMBA – Michigan Mountain Bike Association – https://www.mmba.org/
- Motor City Mountain Biking Association -http://site.mcmba.org/
- Potawatomi Mountain Biking Association – https://www.potomba.org/
- Southwest Michigan Mountain Biking Association – https://www.swmmba.com/