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Mountain Biking in Michigan…and we’re not talking the U.P.

When you think of Southeast Michigan, mountain biking probably isn't the first thing to come to mind. With mecca's like Marquette & Copper Harbor located a few hours over the bridge, the lower peninsula is often forgotten never even mentioned when riders from other regions are visiting. While it may be hard to justify a destination trip to ride these trails, some are definitely worth checking out on your way up North, or even if you just happen to be in the area. 


DTE Foundation Trails

If you're familiar with the area, it's obvious why the DTE Foundation trail system is first on the list. The network offers a great variety of riding including rolling climbs and fun mini descents on the Winn Loop to more technical rocks, some flow, and a few great wooden features on the Sugar Loop. 

NMU Alum, Husband & Wife Adventure Team, All around good people, Joel & Jasmin climbing the rock Berm on the Sugar Loop

NMU Alum, Husband & Wife Adventure Team, All around good people, Joel & Jasmin climbing the rock Berm on the Sugar Loop

The trails at DTE Foundation are directional, with directions alternating every other day. This adds an awesome element to riding here, it's basically like having 2 different systems depending on the day. Personally, I like to ride the Sugar Loop on clockwise days. Sugar Loop is also hands down my favorite loop in the network due to it's more bike park feel. If you're looking to build your confidence and low consequence jumps, drops, and rocks, this is the place to do it. 

"In early 2016, the DTE Energy Foundation provided over a quarter-million dollars to fund trail construction, and the trail was rebranded from the “Waterloo Trail” to the DTE Energy Foundation Trail. The first 5.2 mile loop of the trail at Green Lake was completed in June 2016. The second loop, on “the Big Kame” was completed in May 2017. The third loop, “Winn” was completed in August 2018. The fourth loop, “Sugar” was completed in August 2019. Additional loops will be opening each year until 2020. Total trail mileage will proximate 20+ miles." (DTE Foundation Website)


Highland Recreation Area

Truth be told, this is probably my favorite loop in the area. This network is a little bit more demanding than others in the area boasting 1700' of climbing across 13 miles. Not bad for Metro Detroit. The Network is made up of four loops, when combined make for a great Saturday morning ride especially as the leaves begin to change. 

If you like rocks, roots, and punchy climbs, this is the loop for you. A true, authentic single track experience that will make you feel like you're in the backcountry. The Highland Rec Area sits on approximately 5900 acres and in 1976, Haven Hill is considered a National Natural Landmark. 

"Edsel Ford, only child of Henry Ford, began purchasing parcels of land in Highland and White Lake Townships in 1923. The plan was to construct self-sufficient retreat as a diversion from the hustle and bustle of city life - a retreat that was more convenient than a lengthy drive north. Three years after Edsel’s passing in 1943, Eleanor sold the estate to our state park system, which eventually became Highland Recreation Area."

Holly-Holdridge Mountain Bike Trails

A little bit more "Rural" than the previous networks, Holly is home to five different loops ranging from beginner trails to advanced tech. If you've never ridden here, and you're in the Metro Detroit area, I'd highly recommend it. Start with a quick warm up lap on the three mile West Loop where you'll tackle "The Wall." A fun little rooty descent that's worth the small climb. From their you can either hop back onto the blue trail to return to parking lot, or add an additional half mile on the black trail that has some good rock, root, and wood features. Once you're back in the lot, grab a snack and fill up your water bottle before hoping on the East Loop. 

This is a pretty good sized ride so make sure you have plenty of water. By nowhere near as technical or as much climbing as Highland Rec, this loop will still take it out of you due to the way the hills roll up and down. There really isn't any point where you're not pedalling. 

Settlers Park

If you want man made fun, this is it. Settlers Park is by no means difficult or demanding, but the trail builders have done an excellent job supplementing man made features into the trails. Whether you're a true beginner, or an advanced rider you will be smiling on this trail. Loops 2 & 3 have everything from wood bridges to teeter totters, a great place to spend a fall afternoon. 


Boyne Highlands Bike Park

Alright, I know this isn't Southeast Michigan, but it's Lower Peninsula, so I'm going to throw it in. I'm a huge fan of bike parks and this is about the only consistent lift access riding in Michigan.  Located in Harbor Springs, Boyne Highlands Bike Park will get some amazing views of Little Traverse Bay when you reach the top of the lift. Be warned though, this is hands down the slowest lift I have ever ridden in my life. The bike park features mellow green trails to scary pro lines and everything in between. My favorite trail was Dirt Sampler which features smooth jumps, wood drops, and wallrides before dumping you into some highspeed tech. The one gripe I have is that this park is not that well marked. When you exit the lift, there's no real signage directing riders to the different trails, or even labeling what's an XC trail vs DH. I don't like to rely on Trailforks that much when riding, but it was definitely needed riding at this bike park. 

If you like wood features, there are endless ways to hit the hits they have scattered throughout the network. 

When I rode here last week I was having so much fun that I really didn't take many pictures. I'm heading back up this weekend for Closing Day on 10/11 and plan on getting some more shots. 
For a lot of people, Bike Park can be intimidating, but I assure you there is no better way to improve your riding, gain confidence, and have that much fun in a days riding. 

Heading to Marquette this week, for real time content and to follow along, give me a follow on Instagram!

@Slowclimberboi

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