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Biking US-35 North
Biking US-35 North

Biking US-35 North

Biking US-35 North

While traveling up the west coast of Michigan, I (Jade) biked US-35 North from Holland to Harbor Springs. Andrew drove JoVanna as a Support-And-Gear(SAG) wagon and explored beaches and surfshops on route.

Table of Contents

Holland to Ludington

This 106 mile route starts out on the Lakeshore Trail, a 20-mile paved trail connecting Holland to Grand Haven. The Lakeshore Trail is relatively flat with many gorgeous sites along the way. Heading north out of Grand Haven was a little tricky. The planned route lead through a sandy mountain bike trail. After a few wrong turns and a restroom break at Coast Guard Park, an alternate route was found through Muskegon. If you are biking through Muskegon, the traffic is a little heavy. Stay close to the shore line and follow Lake Harbor Rd until you see signs connecting you to the Muskegon Lakeshore Trail.

Biking US-35 North - Holland to Ludington
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Rails to Trails Muskegon to White Hall on US-35 North

The Muskegon Lakeshore Trail snakes over the river and around the north end of town until it connects with the Fred-Meijer-Berry(FMB) Junction Trail. The FMB Junction Trail will take you all the way through Whitehall and connect you to the Hart-Montague Trail. The Hart-Montague Trail was the first rails to trail in Michigan. Whitehall is a very cute little town and a great place to make a SAG stop.

Biking US-35 North - Holland to Ludington
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Rails to Trails Montague to Hart on US-35 North

The Hart-Montague Trail travels through many small towns. Each town has a place to rest in the shade and restrooms to use. Some stops, like the town of Shelby, even have a bike repair station and tire pump. All of the trails from Holland to Hart are flat, paved, and well maintained.

Leaving the Trails and Hitting the Road

Leaving the trails behind in Hart is when the serious climbing begins. You will take hilly country roads first north and then west to the cute little town of Pentwater. North of Pentwater, you will travel along the west coast of Bass Lake with a beautiful view of the lake and many windmills to the west.

The largest climbs come north of Bass Lake as you pass between the Ludington Reservoire and Lake Michigan. Stop here for a quick breather and to take in the beautiful view. The last few miles up Lakeshore Drive are very challenging. It is all worth it as you catch speeds of up to 40 mph on your way down Iris Rd.

Arriving in Ludington, you can have your SAG wagon pick you up at Stearns Park or you can ride the additional 7.5 miles out on the penisula to Ludington State Park.

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Ludington

Ludington to Frankfort

This 67-mile section of biking US-35 North is very challenging with nearly 2,400 ft. of climbing. Before getting out on Route 35, leaving Ludington State Park, you have to travel 4.5 miles south down the peninsula. The sunrise over the dunes is stunning and the trees along the way will keep you cool any time of day.

Just before you reach Ludington, turn east on Bryant Rd. and skirt north around the town. All roads until Manistee are shoulderless country roads with light traffic and high speed limits.

Biking US-35 North - Ludington to Frankfort
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Sunrise on Ludington State Park

Manistee has a cute downtown and would be ideal for a SAG stop (maybe next time). Heading north out of Manistee you will travel through a small industrial park with wide open roads. You will probably encounter other cyclist near here. Continue east until you reach the famous M-22.

Halfway through US-35 North Part 3

This section of M-22 has a wide shoulder, but the traffic is relatively high. From here, you will follow M-22 all the way into Frankfort. There are rolling hills until you reach the small town of Onekama. There is a cute park on Portage Lake with a public restroom. I used this as a brief stop and a chance to fuel up. Don’t skip out on this rest spot. You have three massive climbs ahead of you.

We thought “onekama” was maybe native for… “big f#%@ing hill”!!!

Biking US-35 North - Ludington to Frankfort
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Onekama City Park

The Hills on US-35 North

Just north of Onekama, you will climb a curvy, steep hill for about 2.5 miles. It’s a tough climb. On the other side, prepare for incredible speeds on the way down. Then enjoy the rolling hills until you get to Arcadia.

We later learned that “Onekama” is actually the Anishinaabe word for “Singing Water.” It is a good word because this place is beautiful.

Once you pass through Arcadia, you only have 11 miles left on your journey to Frankfort. I stopped here to give Andrew a quick update on my location.

Biking US-35 North - Ludington to Frankfort
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The hill north of Arcadia is a lot shorter in length, but much steeper than the hill north of Onekama. There is a lookout over Lake Michigan here. I didn’t stop and have regreted it since. Take the time to stop and check out the views. It is supposed to be one of the most stunning lookouts in the area.

Leaving the lookout, watch your speeds coming down hill. It is just as steep on the way down as it is on the way up. There is one more large hill before you get to Frankfort, but it doesn’t compare at all to the first two. The rest of the way into town is a breeze with a little traffic in the summer.

Recovering at the Beach

I met Andrew and JoVanna at the Benzie Shores District Library in downtown Frankfort. I would recommend finding a place for lunch like the Stormcloud Brewing Company. We started our Frankfort visit by heading directly to Point Betsie for a picnic by the lighthouse.

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Kiting Point Betsie

Leelanau to Old Mission Point

After a fews day of rest and running in Frankfort and Empire, Des and I were eager to get back out on the road to continue biking US-35 North. This 57-mile route from Leelanau State Park to Old Mission Point was a very relaxing return with only 1,100 feet of climbing.

The first few miles out of the state park into Northport are on country roads with a very wide shoulder. Take the dirt road along Northport Bay for this amazing sunrise. It is a very smooth, hardpacked dirt road that even Des, my Tri-Bike, handled with ease.

Biking US-35 North - Leelanau to Old Mission Point
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Sunrise over Grand Traverse Bay

South of Northport, you will jump back onto M-22. There is a lot of fast moving traffic, but the shoulder is fairly wide until you reach Omena. From there, the shoulder is minimal and the traffic is a little scary until you reach Suttons Bay.

In Suttons Bay, jump on the Leelanau Trail. This trail eventually connects with the TART Trail in Traverse City. These two trails have many port-a-johns along the way and places to rest as needed.

Take the TART through Traverse City and jump on M-37 north. Take Peninsula Dr. up the west coast of the Old Mission Peninsula. Although there isn’t a shoulder, the traffic is lighter and the speed limit is lower.

Beauty Biking US-35 North

Andrew and JoVanna met me at the Old Mission Point Light House. Here we hiked the trails for a couple hours and then picnicked along the side of the road.

On the way back to Traverse City, stop for some wine tastings or grab a beer. We enjoyed a couple beers at Old Mission Tavern before heading to Traverse City State Park for the night.

Biking US-35 North - Leelanau to Old Mission Point
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Road to Old Mission Point

Traverse City to Harbor Springs

I started the 84-mile final leg of biking US-35 North with this beautiful sunrise over the east arm of Grand Traverse Bay. The cloudy sky was a forcast of the rainy day to come.

Pulling out of the Traverse City State Park Campground, I jumped directly on the TART Trail. Although it only went a few more miles to the northeast end of town, it connected me right back to US-35. From there the route was easy to follow with signs every couple of miles.

Most of the route was on country roads with very little traffic. So although there was often no shoulder, I felt very safe.

Biking US35 North - Traverse City to Harbor Springs
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Traverse City Sunrise

What to see on US-35 North

The surrounding fields showcased the variety of agriculture that Michigan offers including apples, cherries, pumpkins, and sunflowers.

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Field of Sunflowers

After miles of country roads, you will pass through the small town of Elk Rapids. There are couple of cafes, coffee shops, and a marina here if you need a quick break or a restroom.

North of Elk Rapids, you will head east around the sound end of Birch Lake before heading north to wind along the western shore of Torch Lake.

Hills of US-35 North

The hills continue on as you cross back and forth over US-31 on your way to Charlevoix. As you near Charlevoix the traffic picks up but you will also encounter a lot more cyclists.

In downtown Charlevoix, there is a public restroom below the ampitheater. This is the only public restroom I saw on this leg of US-35, so be prepared. North of Charlevoix is my favorite stretch. The Little Traverse Wheelway from Charlevoix to Petoskey is flat, wide, and very well maintained.

US35 North - Traverse City to Harbor Springs
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Charlevoix

The Little Traverse Wheelway on US-35 North

In the spring of 2020, due to erosion of the shoreline, two parts of this bike trail callapsed into Lake Michigan. In these two sections, the shoulder of US-31 is the alternate route. Check here for updates on the latest restorations.

The Little Traverse Wheelway travels between US-31 and Little Traverse Bay, giving you stunning views of the lake at all times of the day.

The Wheelway continues until you reach downtown Harbor Springs. From there you can continue up US-119 along Lake Michigan through the tunnel of trees. If you haven’t had a chance to run, ride or drive this area of Michigan, I would highly recommend adding it to your bucketlist. Although the road becomes rough north of Harbor Springs the scenery makes every bump worth it.

US35 North - Traverse City to Harbor Springs
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Little Traverse Wheelway

Thanks for following! ~KiteBikeVan

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