Dreaming of Biking the Betsie Valley Pathway

March 18, 2012




Joan H. Young


mcp blogger


We’ve had our first taste of really nice weather this week, and as I write this column, I’m thinking I might take the bike out for its first spin of the year this afternoon. I’ll probably just ride some back roads near home, but that won’t stop me from dreaming of exploring a trail I discovered this winter.


The Betsie Valley Pathway runs from Frankfort to Thompsonville on the bed of the Former Tuscola and Saginaw Bay RR, which later was incorporated into the Ann Arbor Railroad.


Of course the Frankfort terminus was served by one of the Great Lakes Ann Arbor line carferries, no longer in operation. The trail is 22 miles long, and the entire length is open to pedestrians and bicycles.

There are some rules that apply to particular sections. The paved portion from Frankfort to Mollineaux Rd west of Beulah is for non-motorized use only. However, east of Beulah to Thompsonville, the trail is compacted stone and is open for snowmobiling December through March. Dogs must be leashed.

There are some specific rules which apply to the three miles between Mollineaux Road and Spring Road in Beulah, known as the Crystal Lake Segment. It’s hard to see how some of these would be enforced, but they would definitely impact use. This section is closed from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., and closed to bicycles from sundown to sunup. Don’t get caught needing to make a quick sprint back to your car! This is especially true, since there is a 10 mph speed limit on bikes. That’s really quite slow. Even this old lady, on a flat trail, on a mountain bike, rides naturally at about 13 mph.

No dogs except service dogs are allowed in the Crystal Lake Segment. There cannot be more than 100 bicycles at a time in this section (except for permitted events). The regulations state that only facilities designated as public may be used. I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing all this fuss is because the trail runs through an area controlled by a homeowners’ association. Since I haven’t actually used this trail yet, I can’t say with certainty that there are no latrines or picnic areas for those three miles, but I sure wouldn’t count on finding any.

The Michigan DNR owns the trail, but it is maintained by Benzie County. In addition, there is a non-profit group, Friends of the Betsie Valley Trail, which promotes and works for the trail.

I can’t wait for a day when I’m entirely free with time to travel north and sample the scenery along this trail. I’ll be sure to share what I find.

For a map and more info, see http://www.betsievalleytrail.org

Area Churches