With so much of life in metro Detroit shut down because of COVID-19, the outdoors beckons as a low-risk respite from all of the virus-induced anxiety. Mountain biking is one of the best ways to escape, and whether you want challenging or casual, insanity or serenity, the region has a trail for you.
“While the idea of the ‘best’ trails is a bit subjective and quite frequently discussed over post-ride beers, there is a lot of good mountain biking in metro Detroit,”says Clinton River Area Mountain Bike Association board member Steve Vigneau. Katherine Rose, chair of the Motor City Mountain Biking Association, can attest to that — and to how addicting the sport can be. “I don’t know how I ever lived without this life-changing sport,” she says. “There are places for bikers of all skill and experience levels to ride.”
Here’s a look at 10 of the best metro Detroit mountain biking trails:
White Lake Township
Highland Recreation Area
Overview: Not for beginners, these four loops totaling 16 miles offer an aerobic and technical challenge with forested hills, scenic views, swift descents, rock gardens, roots, and log jumps. The A Loop (3.8 miles) and B Loop (5.9 miles) can be ridden as one continuous trail. The C loop (2.4 miles) adds more rock gardens, and the D loop (3.8 miles) includes a grueling climb to the top of 1,140-foot Mount Omich. That leads to a long downhill stretch with many tight turns. The longest straightaway on any of the trails is about 50 meters. “Highland is so much fun, but challenging, and you have to be ready for anything,” Rose says. “It might seem smooth due to all the use it has received the past 25 years, but then you run into some rocks or roots.”
Starting from Detroit: Take I-75 to M-59, and continue west for 14 miles. The main park entrance will be on the south side of the road, between Bogie Lake Road and Ormand Road. A Michigan State Parks Recreation Passport is required for entry.
More information: mcmba.org
DTE Energy Foundation Trail
Overview: Metro Detroit’s newest mountain bike trail system consists of four loops totaling more than 20 miles. All were completed between the spring of 2016 and the summer of 2019. Green Lake (5.2 miles) is best for beginners, but it has jumps and areas to build up speed. There is more climbing on Big Kame (4.75 miles), including a glacier-formed mound and two sizable rock gardens. Winn (8 miles) offers plenty of ups and downs through a forest of oak and hickory overlooking a lake. It features a steep ridgeline with rocky sections and drops of several hundred feet. Sugar Loop (4 miles) is the most technical, with large hills, berms (raised drop-offs), and jumps, as well as many rock features and a serious drop-off. The final trail (Cassidy Loop) is scheduled to open later this year and will include wooden chutes and ladders. “DTE is hands down the favorite of everyone who has ridden it,” says Jim Bruzzese of Macomb Bike in Warren. “It’s flat-out fun.”
Starting from Detroit: The trailhead is on M-52, roughly 7 miles north of I-94, exit 159. A Michigan State Parks Recreation Passport is required for entry because the trails are part of the Waterloo Recreation Area.
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