Cycling For serious road warriors, your ticket to one of the best rides in the region is simply to follow the eastern shore of beautiful Torch Lake, which, at 19 miles, ranks as Michigan’s longest inland lake. The tree-lined route along East Torch Lake Drive offers relatively flat terrain and intermittent views of Torch’s tropical-blue waters. The shoulder is less than generous at times, but assertive riders shouldn’t have any problem with traffic, even during peak tourist season. Our suggestion: Start your ride in the village of Alden on the southeast end of Torch, and bike 17 miles to Eastport at the top of the lake, where the beach at Barnes Park is a great place to spend the afternoon before heading back south.
4Grass River Natural Area
ANJANETTE MERRIWEATHER, CARLY PASZEK, SHEA HADDAD
Cruising With nearly 26 miles of trails—almost all of them paved—the Little Traverse Wheelway (trailscouncil.org) makes exploring the region as easy as riding a bike. Not only does the trail allow you to pedal all the way from Charlevoix through Petoskey and onward to Harbor Springs, but most of the journey will put you within sight of the beautiful Lake Michigan coastline. On your trip you’ll find more than a half-dozen roadside parks to take in a picnic lunch, and numerous beaches with direct access to the water. Make Petoskey your midway point and you’ll have access to some of the region’s best restaurants and shopping. Find the Charlevoix trailhead, plus parking and restrooms, at Charlevoix Township Hall, 12491 Waller Road. For bike rentals nearby, try Revolution Bike & Boards. 102 MASON ST., CHARLEVOIX, 231.237.0900, REVOLUTIONBANDB.WEBS.COM.
A 1,400-acre Antrim County oasis and self-proclaimed “eco-guardian project,” Grass River offers visitors a peek into the upland, wetland and aquatic ecosystems of the Chain of Lakes. Seven miles of easy walking trails meander along meadows, woods and streams; one section of trail includes a wheelchair-accessible “perception pathway” for visitors with special needs. The interpretive center offers lots of classes and guided hikes, such as the weekly 1 p.m. “Sunday Stroll”—a leisurely walk led by a naturalist. 6500 ALDEN HWY.,
BELLAIRE, 231.533.8576, GRASSRIVER.ORG.
Jordan River Pathway
This rugged 18-mile trek winds through the wildly scenic Jordan River Valley, an 18,000acre swath of state-owned forestland. The tract has dramatic elevation changes and is home to the pristine Jordan River. This is a great destination for a weekend backpacking trip; stay overnight at Piney Bridge Campground, a rustic camping spot with 15 hike-in tent sites located about halfway along the trail. For an easy day hike, try the three-mile Deadman’s Loop. Find the main trailhead off Deadman’s Hill Road, six miles north of Alba on US 131. State Recreation Passport required. 989.732.3541, MICHIGANDNR.COM.
Coy Mountain Preserve
Many visitors overlook this pretty 1.4-mile hike, but it’s a treat worth seeking out. The 17-acre tract, tucked down a residential road near downtown Alden, encompasses a 140-foot ridge forested with virgin hardwoods. It’s the perfect spot to stretch your legs and search for wildflowers; come fall, the foliage is magnificent. From downtown Alden, follow Coy Street south for one-third of a mile; turn east on Valley Street. The preserve is two blocks in. VISITALDEN.COM. MyNorth 2013 Vacation! 9
Ideas for your ultimate Northern Michigan vacation. A supplement to Traverse Northern Michigan's Magazine.