That’s something finally checked off my list – biking Mackinac Island. I can’t say we haven’t attempted it in the past – but we normally have the kids with us and decided to turn around near mile marker two out of pure fear of making it half way around the loop and hearing the kids cry that they simply cannot move another inch. Then what? Carry the kids and their bikes back to town?? You know how it goes. However this weekend it was just the two of us – my husband and I. We decided it would be the perfect opportunity to finally attempt completing a trek all the way around the country’s only non-motorized state highway. Could we make it?
Mackinac Island Bike Trails
If you’ve ever been “up north” Michigan to check out Mackinac Island you might have noticed the lack of motorized vehicles on the island – that’s because they aren’t allowed there. Motorized vehicles were banned from the entire island completely back in 1898. Naturally as another means of getting around the city, other than foot traffic, bikes and horses have become a popular mode of transportation. While many people will use their bikes solely to get around town and to visit some of the more popular sightseeing spots like Arch Rock or the fort, there are a few brave souls who will set out to bike around the entire island – all eight miles of it.
The most popular route to take around the island is the Lake Shore Boulevard which runs along the coast and is completely paved – because it is actually considered a state highway believe it or not. While I was there the highway was pretty secluded with only the smell of cedar and horse poop to keep me company – except for the fellow bike rider now and then (I think it thins out a lot after mile market two when people like us usually turn around). Thankfully though the ride around the outside of the island is pretty level – with only one or two small hills to surpass. While the journey is long for an inexperienced rider (like myself), the views of the coast were breathtaking and the breeze that followed me around did help to cool me off during this otherwise pretty sweaty endeavor.
While the scenic route along the coast is what I prefer, those looking to explore the inner most parts of the island and do a little off road riding can choose the option to veer off onto one of the many unpaved trails. Be sure to ask at the visitors booth for a map.
What You Need to Know
You might be wondering how you go about getting a bike on the island to ride around on. Well, that’s simple – you either bring your own or rent one after arriving to the island. Either way though, it’s going to cost you. While the prices differ between the ferry lines, they will allow you to bring your own bike over to the island aboard their boats for an added cost. If you don’t want to bring your own bike with you, there are MANY bike rental shops on the island who are happy to rent a bike to you for an hour, half day or full day.
Once you’ve got a bike in hand on the island, parking is just about anywhere along the side of the road within the white line. The only thing you need to be aware of is where you left your bike – sometimes hard to decipher in the sea of bikes or after visiting a bar or two. While I have never brought a bike lock and have simply left my bike to always find it waiting for me when I returned, some people do lock their bikes when not in use.
Which way to go? Deciding on which way to go around the trails is entirely up to you and I don’t think it makes any real difference. The trails are separated by a double yellow line for two way traffic purposes and for the most part people obey the laws. For this trip we started off by heading to the right after un-boarding at the docks – this took us by the fort first and ended us out near the Grand Hotel.
How long does it take? Riding around the entire island is 8.2 miles and can take between 1 and 3 hours depending on how many times you stop. We made several stops to sit on the picnic tables overlooking the lake, walk the beach or hike up to Arch Rock. There are also bathrooms and places to grab a drink or snack (or ice cream) along the route.
We Made It
Even though we doubted ourselves around mile five and had a few moments where our legs seemed to give out, we did it. We made it all the way around the island without any major set backs. Was it worth it? For us, totally! The sights were unlike anything else we’ve seen on the island and the break from the noise of downtown was just what we were after during this trip. Plus, between the moments of smelling horse manure, the cedar and lake smells were divine.
After finishing up our trek and feeling quite accomplished we parked out bikes outside the Pink Pony and headed in to grab a bite to eat – which we followed up on with a slice of salted caramel fudge a little bit later on.