The return of warm weather, long days and sunny skies means it’s time for Marquette bike rides. Road and mountain bike enthusiasts itching to get out and feel the wind in their hair will find the following list handy for the first cycling escape of the season. (Of course, the fat bikers have been cruising through snow and mud for months now — props to them.)
In the spirit of summer, here are five great bike rides to enjoy in Marquette County.
Marquette’s 17-mile Multi-Use Path is an urban gem, precisely because most of it feels decidedly un-urban. That said, it never gains or loses a tremendous amount of elevation, so it’ suitable for all skill and fitness levels.
The Multi-Use Path has multiple spurs and loops, but the highlights include:
Bottom line: The Multi-Use Path has “leisurely afternoon bike ride” written all over it.
Locals know Highway 550 as Big Bay Road, the only paved route from Marquette to the picturesque town of Big Bay. After a recent reconstruction project, though, it’s now the most direct bike route between the two settlements. 20-plus miles of roadway has been upgraded with wide shoulders, a welcome change from the almost-total lack of shoulders in some curvy sections previously.
Big Bay Road offers a variety of grades, sweeping views of Hogback and other Huron Mountain peaks, and occasional glimpses of the Big Lake. What’s not to love?
The Iron Ore Heritage Trail is an ambitious trail that, once completed, will connect Chocolay and Republic Townships in smooth, unbroken fashion. More than half the trail — the entire stretch between Ishpeming and Chocolay — has already been surfaced with either asphalt or crushed granite, enticing riders of all ages, abilities and bike types. (It goes without saying that IOHT is fully accessible in winter, much to the delight of local snow bikers.)
IOHT offers a cross-section of Marquette County’s scenery, history and culture. It gains (or loses, depending on which direction you’re going) about 1,000 feet of elevation, hitting the county’s low point at Lake Superior and one of its higher points near Ishpeming. It passes through the heart of Marquette, where riders can take pit stops for a bite and a pint. And it’s dotted with historic plaques and markers that pay tribute to the folks who built Marquette County and the rest of the Upper Peninsula. How could you ask for more from your weekend afternoon ride?
The crown jewel of the Ishpeming area’s park system is Al Quaal Recreation Area, a beloved four-season destination for skiers, hikers, bikers, dog lovers and everyone in between. For bikers with offroad-ready wheels, Al Quaal’s Red and Blue Trails afford views of rugged rock formations, dense forest glades, and one-of-a-kind Teal Lake. Bonus: As part of the Noquemanon Trail Network, Al Quaal’s trails connect to Iron Ore Heritage Trail and other area trails, eventually leading to Marquette’s North and South Trail complexes.
The rugged land south of Marquette’s built-up area is home to Marquette Mountain, the central U.P.’s premier downhill skiing destination. It also hosts the Noquemanon Trail Network’s South Trails complex, a key component of Marquette County’s extensive mountain biking trail roster.
There’s a variety of terrain to be had here, so it’s fair to say that the South Trails cater to everyone from thrill-seeking experts to novices who don’t mind a few up-and-down stretches. Spring, perhaps the U.P.’s trickiest season for outdoor activity, is also the best time to bust out the fat bike (or sturdy mountain bike) and check out the rushing streams and cascading waterfalls that mark Marquette County’s annual reawakening.
What’s your favorite bike ride in Marquette County?