Thoughts of fudge, horses, and history are usually top of mind when thinking about Mackinac Island, but the bike trail around the island is one of its most unique features. The relatively flat path, which makes it accessible for most riders, encircles the entire island for 8.2 miles and offers stunning views of Lake Huron, the Mighty Mac, and beautiful wooded landscapes.
If you have a bike, try to bring it to the island – the ferry fare for a bike is a reasonable $8. If you choose to rent bikes, the least expensive is Ryba’s Bicycle Rental with a fare of $5/hour. Be sure to give yourself at least two hours to do the loop if you plan to stop along the way.
Bike rentals usually include one gear, three gear, tandem, and mountain bikes to suit everyone’s needs. Attachments of baby carts and baskets are also available. For the loop, one gear is enough for that adventure. If you plan to head to the top of the island for trails, the mountain bike is more expensive, yet worth the investment.
There is no right or wrong way for the path to be taken! If you wish to save Arch Rock for the end, start by heading west out of town on the paved path – there is a solid yellow line that leads the way. Although there are no cars, conventional rules still apply on bikes and horses for which side of the road to ride on.
This weekend, we traveled to Mackinac Island for #MittenTrip (my overall guide is here). When we began our bike ride, the sun was out and the water was calm – a perfect summer day for a bike ride! I rocked my High Five Threads tee to spread the spirit of Michigan pride along the way, but man, was I impressed by all the other Michigan gear. Kids, grandparents, teens, and adults all sported gear related to the Great Lakes State. Woohoo! Seeing all that Michigan-love made my day.
What to See
For our adventure, we tried to see all that we could. I recommend that your stops along the route should include Mackinac’s natural spring, a small woodland hike to a peaceful creek for a break along the first section of the trail. At the halfway point, there is a rocky beach and concession shack to grab some much-deserved grub. Grab some of the smooth rocks on the shoreline and see how many times you can skip them! I failed at the challenge, but it was still a blast.
Continuing along, you’ll pass picnic tables, benches, and footpaths that are the perfect place to take a small hike or relax along the shore.
Just when you have almost finished, you’ll have the opportunity to pull off to view Arch Rock from below. The famous natural landmark towers above the path and shoreline. Another couple hundred feet down the path, there is a parking area and stairs to lead you 207 steps up to the arch for a vantage point above the formation.
After the gentle bike ride and relaxing adventure, you’ll land back in town where you can switch out your one gear bike for a mountain bike. Now is the time to head up Fort Hill towards the peak of the island. Brace yourself – the hills can be killer! Once at the top, hang a right to pass by the top of the fort.
At the intersection just past Fort Mackinac, take a left on Garrison Road. Skull Cave will be the first point of interest on this route. Once you have learned its history, stay right on Rifle Range Road until you hit a path known as Sugar Loaf Road.
Along this trajectory, Sugar Loaf will appear and you will most likely stand in awe at the massive 70-foot cliff-rock that towers above the surrounding forest. There is a cave that runs through the rock, although an adult can’t fit through it, it is still fun to try climbing to the cave to sit and relax.
According to island historians, during wartime, soldiers would come to the rock for honey. Millions of bees would create their hives and produce so much honey it would drip from the rock. No one knows exactly what happened to the bees, but today more bats call the rock and crevasses home.
Next, you should take a quick stroll up the west staircase to the lookout point that
provides an elevated view of the rock and forest. It’s a must-do!
Now, you have to put that mountain bike to good use right? That’s what I thought!
Mountain Bike Adventure
That means it’s time to get off the pavement and onto the skinny, bumpy, and sometimes muddy bike paths. There are dozens of trails similar to this on the island, so pull out your map (available at multiple places on the island) and pick one that looks thrilling! Tranquil Bluff is a good choice and it gives you views of Lake Huron along the way.
The crowds on the inner paths of Mackinac are a complete contrast to town. Getting to the top takes work, and most people prefer to stay on the flat shoreline. This means space to roam, woods to relax, and bluffs to reflect.
Mackinac Island is the best of both biking worlds. The flat, family-friendly path is fun, relaxing, and energetic. The hilly central part is peaceful, adventurous and crowdless. I would say that is pretty impressive for an island that is only a few miles wide!
One last note: Beware of biking selfies! They are a common reason for bike crashes on the island. Pictures are fun, but don’t be that person steering a tandem bike while taking a selfie driving on the wrong side of the road (true story). Or, the mom who accidentally runs over her own kid while on FaceTime. Oops!
What are your favorite ways to explore Mackinac Island by bike? Any favorite spots?