Glance at the cyclists approaching on any bike trail, and it’s easy to surmise this: Jumping on a bike and starting that easy glide recalls the fun and exhilaration of childhood summer breaks. A journey by trail adds the element of discovery. While there’s a place for athleticism in cycling, these route favorites are made for the biking equivalent of a saunter.
Betsie Valley Trail (Frankfort to Beulah, 9.7 miles): Starting at Frankfort’s sandy Lake Michigan beach, the trail hugs Betsie Bay into Elberta before transitioning into shady woods with crossings of the Betsie River. Pick up your rental (if needed) and picnic lunch too at the Conundrum Cafe in Frankfort and pay close attention, advises regular rider Carol Kraak, to the way the forest floor changes by season — morphing from columbines to lady’s slippers to goldenrods to daisies. betsievalleytrail.org
Iron Ore Heritage Trail (Marquette to Ishpeming, 17 miles): When they platted a route to connect the area’s towns, trail planners noticed how many iconic stops might share the story of the region’s growth spurred by iron ore. Start at the Marquette visitor center to enjoy a scenic Lake Superior stretch and leave time to read some of the interpretive markers that share the history of downtown’s striking sandstone buildings and even offer a reflection area for miners who died in a particularly noteworthy tragedy. There’s beauty, too, like the Pine Quarry stretch cradled by rock walls. ironoreheritage.com
The Leelanau Trail (Traverse City to Suttons Bay, 15 miles): This shady beauty is popular for the way it runs in the heart of orchard and vineyard country. Another plus is that you don’t necessarily have to make the round trip. A Bike and Ride program, offered daily in season, lets you cycle into Suttons Bay for lunch, beach or a drink at family-friendly Hop Lot Brewing Company and bus back. Hungry sooner? The DeYoung forest garden 2 miles north of Traverse City lets you stop and munch on wild blueberries, plums, apples and persimmons. traversetrails.org/trail/leelanau-trail
Alpena Bi-Path (10-mile loop): The Northeast State Trail sets the stage for a 71-mile packed surface journey from Cheboygan to Alpena on a former railroad trail and is a favorite of those who love its remoteness. For a family-friendly section, take the paved route that circles Lake Besser, runs past a city wildlife sanctuary and offers views of the Thunder Bay River and Lake Huron and access to restaurants, beaches and city parks (which also offer parking). trailscouncil.org/alpena-bi-path-trail
Detroit RiverWalk and the Dequindre Cut Greenway (9 miles round trip): Park at the free lot at Rivard Plaza and before starting your ride, check out the custom-made carousel featuring animals native to the Detroit River — and a mermaid. Amy Eckert, author of “100 Things to Do in Detroit Before You Die,” said the route’s gorgeous view passes a 63-foot tall lighthouse, outdoor amphitheaters and flower beds and runs through Milliken State Park. If you cover the 3.5-mile riverwalk and long to keep going, take the Dequindre Cut Greenway to Eastern Market, where you can pick up a guide to the market’s many murals, shop and dine. detroitriverfront.org
Kim Schneider is an award-winning travel writer who lives in Leelanau County.