motorcycle destinations

Best Motorcycle Roads and Destinations in Michigan, United States

Best Motorcycle Roads and Destinations in Michigan, United States

1. Introduction

Located inland beside the U.S.-Canadian border, Michigan or “the Great Lakes State” hosts plenty of roads that travel alongside the coasts of America’s largest freshwater lakes. Besides providing beautiful views of the crystal-clear water and the surrounding wilderness, motorcyclists can also admire the scenery throughout the peninsula. There is no shortage of attractions for motorcyclists to visit due to the multitude of towns, cities, farms, mills, wineries, etc.

This article will give you a preview of Michigan’s prominent motorcycle roads and destinations along with supplementary information on this state’s motorcycle laws and possible luggage options.

2. Michigan Motorcycle Roads and Destinations

2.1 Tunnel of Trees Road

Distance: 20 miles
Time: 39 minutes
Start: Harbor Springs
End: Cross Village

With the route closely hugging the eastern coast of Lake Michigan, you will leave behind the Straits of Mackinac. Within close proximity of Harbor Springs is Pond Hill Farm which has full pumpkin fields during the fall and provides various refreshments including beer, wine, and cider.

As you continue on your way, you will enter through the southern entrance of the Tunnel of Trees. This route has dense forests of hardwoods and evergreens that line the road, with the trees bending towards you as the canopies intertwine. Sunlight manages to peek through the foliage, illuminating the asphalt in green, red, or orange depending on the season.

As you approach the final destination, you will pass by the Ryan, Woollam Family, and Enje Nkweshdat Wat Nature Preserves. Upon reaching Cross Village, you may want to consider visiting the Legs Inn. This quaint cabin-style restaurant has a rustic atmosphere and specializes in cooking Polish dishes.

2.2 Michigan East Coast Cruise

Distance: 229 miles
Time: 4 hours 16 minutes
Start: Bay City
End: Mackinaw City

As you start out in Bay City, you will find the city still has Victorian-style homes and buildings still standing. If you go to the Bay City State Park, you can spend time swimming at the beaches during the summertime. You will have a constant landmark to help determine your position in the form of the 1895 City Hall Bell Tower.

Continuing on to Tawas City, you will eventually come across Tawas Point State Park which has nature trails you can explore and a lighthouse overlooking Lake Huron. When you get to Alpena, you will see the shipwrecked remains of the Shamrock. Despite the area around Alpena being hazardous for ships, it is a good spot to try scuba diving.

You eventually make it to the farthest point on Michigan’s Lower Peninsula when you arrive in Mackinaw City. Besides having a replica of a fur-trading post and a fort reminiscent of the era of settlement, you can travel over the world’s longest suspension bridge referred to as Mighty Mac.

2.3 Keweenaw Peninsula

Distance: 51 miles
Time: 1 hour 13 minutes
Start: Houghton
End: Copper Harbor

Before you leave Houghton, you should visit the impressive collection of minerals at the Mineral Museum of Michigan located on the campus of Michigan Tech. You can also explore the wilderness in Nara Nature Park and North Canal Township Park.

As you curve around the Upper Keweenaw Peninsula, you will have a great overlook of Lake Superior from elevations at least 500 feet high. If you stop in Eagle Harbor, you should be able to see the lighthouse built in 1851 standing vigil.

Upon making it to Copper Harbor, you should grab lunch at the Harbor Haus. Besides having a pristine view of the lakefront, it offers seafood, steak, and produce both made local and imported from Hawaii. You can also find Michigan’s oldest lighthouse aptly named the Copper Harbor Lighthouse.

2.4 Ride Round the Thumb

Distance: 154 miles
Time: 3 hours 8 minutes
Start: Port Huron
End: Bay City

As you begin to embark from Port Huron, you can visit the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse that overlooks Lake Huron. You may notice one of this city’s notable landmarks known as the Blue Water Bridge which forms a bridge between Michigan and Ontario.

As you continue heading northward, you will eventually make it to the tip of the Thumb. In Port Austin, you can browse the stands at the Port Austin’s Farmers Market if you come during the warmer months. If you consider yourself a history buff, you can stop by the Port Austin History Center to learn about the buildings and background of Port Austin, Grindstone City, and Port Crescent.

Arriving at Bay City, you can hang out in the plaza of Wenonah Park to stretch your legs as you admire the fountain and the white circular statue in the center. If you are looking to find unique exhibits, you can check out the vehicles at the Dobson Antique Toy and Firehouse Museum.

2.5 Moving Up the M-37

Distance: 140 miles
Time: 2 hours 48 minutes
Start: Traverse City
End: Grand Rapids

If you decide to travel further north of Traverse City, you will be able to spot Mission Point Lighthouse at the tip of the Old Mission Peninsula. There is no shortage of establishments where you can sample drinks such as Mari and Bowers Harbor Vineyards.

As you head straight south, the road will cut through the dense greenery of the Huron-Manistee National Forests. While the route stays relatively straight, the ground being blanketing with the color of the foliage and the relative quiet of this isolated route makes for a pleasant distraction.

If you still have the energy after rolling into Grand Rapids, you can find the gigantic metallic statue of Leonardo da Vinci’s Horse. Close by is also Robinette’s Apple Haus & Winery which has a bright red apple sculpture sitting on the premises.

2.6 Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Distance: 49 miles
Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Start: Munising
End: Grand Marais

If you wish to admire the natural scenery close to Munising, you can check out Miners Castle Rock which overlooks the crystal blue water of Lake Superior. Further inland, you can see the rainbows created by Miners and Munising Falls. You will also pass through the northern portion of Hiawatha National Forest.

The highlight of this route is the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore which encompasses many cliffs, dunes, waterfalls, and lakes that are within close proximity to Lake Superior.

As you draw closer to Grand Marais, you should be able to spot Au Sable Light Station in the distance. If you catch sight of a giant barrel, it probably means you are passing by the uniquely constructed Pickle Barrel House Museum. At your final destination, you should be able to find food and drink at the Grand Marais Tavern.

2.7 Ride Along the Grand River

Distance: 38 miles
Time: 54 minutes
Start: Grand Rapids
End: Spring Lake

Riding alongside the Grand River, you can stop by John Ball Zoo to check out exotic wildlife shortly after you leave Grand Rapids behind. When you take a sharp left on Butterworth Street, you will pass by Millenium Park and Johnson Park to keep the river in view.

Though there is not much scenery, the roads are relatively easy to navigate with just the occasional dip and curve to keep you on your toes. While you are still on Butterworth Street, keep your eyes peeled for any loose gravel scattered on the asphalt.

If you are willing to take a slight detour, you may stumble across a replica of Stonehenge at the town of Nunica. Reaching the final stop at Spring Lake, you can browse the items at Spring Lake Antique Mall.

2.8 The South Coast of the Upper Peninsula

Distance: 95 miles
Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Start: Mackinaw City
End: Manistique

Departing from Mackinaw City, the last landmark you will see before you leave the boundaries of the city is Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse. Traveling across the Mackinac Bridge, you will leave the Lower Peninsula and enter the Upper Peninsula.

Finishing your crossing, your first leg of the journey should take you by Brevoort Lake and Sault Ste. Marie State Forest Area. Around the halfway point when you get close to Naubinway, you reach the northernmost point of Lake Michigan. You can also stop by to see the animals residing in Garlyn Zoological Park.

If you stop in Manistique during the summer, you can go wander the sandy shores of Sunset Beach and Copenhagen Beach or admire the beauty of the Indian River. If you head in the direction of Lake Michigan, you should spot Manistique East Breakwater Lighthouse.

2.9 Along the River to Hell

Distance: 24 miles
Time: 41 minutes
Start: Ann Arbor
End: Hell

If you wish to explore Ann Arbor, you can check out the unique greenery and plants that are housed at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens. You can fulfill your wish of having close interactions with exotic animals at the Creature Conservancy. Considered the equivalent of New York’s Central Park, you can walk the nature trails and spy on the waterfowl in Gallup Park.

For the first leg of the journey, you follow alongside Huron River as you head northwest. Much of the landscape will be rich farmland and lines of train tracks which the road will have to curve around. Before you take a sharp turn westward, you will pass in between Portage Lake and Baseline Lake.

During the last leg of the trip, it is a straight path to Hell. You will know you are on the right track if you eventually ride alongside the Portage River. If you are looking to find some nourishment, you can get what you need at Hell Saloon.

2.10 Marquette Loop

Distance: 53 miles
Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Start: Marquette
End: Marquette

This loop takes you on a scenic route around Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. There is plenty of natural scenery within the vicinity of Marquette including Presque Isle Park, Sugarloaf Mountain, Lakenenland Sculpture Park, and Dead River Falls.

When you reach the bottom of the loop, you will arrive in the town of Gwinn. Near the community is Peter Nordeen Park where you can enjoy lunch or simply take a short walk to stretch your legs. You can also visit K.I. Sawyer Heritage Air Museum if you wish to know the history of those who served at K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base.

This route is perfect for a leisurely ride as the road climbs up and down gentle rolling hills with wide sweepers that are easy to navigate.

2.11 Whitefish Bay Blast

Distance: 53 miles
Time: 1 hour 7 minutes
Start: Emerson
End: Sault Ste. Marie

Also referred to as the Curly Lewis Memorial Highway, this route takes you along the coast of Lake Superior. You will pass by several inlets including Tahquamemnon, Pendills, Waiska, and Whitefish Bays. Whitefish Bay or “the Graveyard of the Great Lakes” has a reputation of being hazardous to navigate since the rough waters have sunk many ships.

When you reach the halfway point, you should be able to see the Port Iroquois Lighthouse sitting at the edge of the shore near Lake Superior. If you are looking for a rest stop and a place to eat, there are no shortage of establishments along the way. Get coffee at the Dancing Crane Coffee Shop, cheese curds at Pickles Bar and Grill, and burgers at Silver Creek Pub and Grill.

2.12 Upper Marquette

Distance: 70 miles
Time: 1 hour 53 minutes
Start: Marquette
End: Marquette

As you leave Marquette behind and start heading northwest, you will pass by many natural wonders during the first leg of your journey including Lower Big Garlic Falls and Gold Mine Falls. When Lake Independence comes into view, you will loop around the body of water until you get to Big Bay Point Lighthouse.

On your return trip back to Marquette, you may want to take a slight detour to Ishpeming. You can visit the Cliffs Shaft Mine Museum or check out the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame.

3. Michigan Motorcycle Laws

3.1 Michigan Motorcycle Helmet Laws

If you are under the age of 21, you are required to wear a motorcycle helmet if you wish to ride on a motorcycle.

If you are over the age of 21, you can only ride without wearing a motorcycle helmet if you possess $20,000 in first-party medical benefits insurance coverage. You must also have held onto a motorcycle endorsement for at least two years or completed an approved motorcycle safety course.

Make sure that you own a motorcycle helmet that meets crash helmet standards and follows the safety standards provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The three models that you should be looking for are half, three-quarter, and half-face helmets. When you are searching for a motorcycle helmet, make sure that the one you select has the following features:

  • Has a Department of Transportation (DOT) sticker
  • Can be fitted around your head snugly
  • No visible signs of damage
  • Has a face shield with no scratches (Full-face helmet only)
  • Requires separate eye protection with no scratches (Three-quarter helmet only)
  • Has a hard and durable outer shell that is shatter-resistant
  • Gives you a clear, peripheral view
  • Can be fastened with a neck- or chin-strap
  • Allows airflow without fogging up
  • Can allow you to wear sunglasses or goggles underneath

3.2 Michigan Motorcycle Passenger Laws

While there is no minimum age requirement for motorcycle passengers in Michigan, any individuals under the age of 21 are required to wear an approved motorcycle helmet. Your motorcycle passenger must be able to comprehend and follow directions, imitate your movements, and reach the footrests. Your passenger cannot be seated in front of you nor can s/he be carrying any packages in their arms.

Your passenger is only allowed to ride with you without a motorcycle helmet if s/he is over the age of 21 and owns $20,000 in first-party medical benefits insurance coverage.

You are only allowed to carry two people on your motorcycle at a time. But to transport another person, your motorcycle must be equipped with a designated passenger seat, footrests, and handholds. The passenger seat can either be located on the side as a sidecar, as a separate saddle towards the rear, or at the back of the driver’s seat.

3.3 Michigan Motorcycle Safety Features

Even if you are sure there are no issues with your motorcycle’s functionality, it is good to conduct periodic inspections of your vehicle. As you carefully check the machinery, primary components, and exterior surface of your motorcycle, you might come across damage that had previously gone unnoticed. Depending on the severity of the damage, you can either conduct the repairs yourself or take your ride to be seen by a mechanic.

Listed below are the safety features your motorcycle must have and should be given proper maintenance for your vehicle to be considered street legal in Michigan:

  • Horn
  • Permanently Attached Seat
  • Wheels
  • Tires
  • Handlebars
  • Front and Rear Brakes
  • Controls
  • Headlight
  • Taillight
  • Stoplight
  • Exhaust system
  • Muffler
  • Rearview mirrors

3.4 Michigan Lane Splitting Laws

In Michigan, motorcyclists are not permitted to attempt any form of lane splitting.

You cannot ride on top of the dividing lines between traffic lanes, ride between adjacent rows of stopped vehicles, overtake a larger vehicle in front of you, nor ride side-by-side with another vehicle in the same lane.

However, motorcyclists are entitled to utilize the full space within the lane they are currently in.

4. Motorcycle Luggage for Michigan Motorcycle Tour

Whether your Michigan motorcycle tour takes you far from home or lasts only a single day, it is useful to have Motorcycle luggage to carry your belongings. Traveling at high speeds and turning tight corners, you want reliable baggage that will stay fixed to your motorcycle. You also want luggage that will keep its contents from spilling out and getting swept up by the wind.

Listed below are examples of motorcycle luggage that come with mounting hardware, installation instructions, ample storage space, and are made of durable, weather-resistant materials. As they function more or less the same, you should pick the version with the size, color, and design that you prefer:

5. Parting Words

The highlights of your Michigan motorcycle trip will be the long winding roads you navigate, the interesting locations you get to visit, and the memories you make while spending time with your motorcycle. But before you can set out on the road, you will have to spend significant time prepping for the trip ahead.

When riding a motorcycle, it is not easy to look at directions while keeping your eyes on the road. It is best to become familiar with the landmarks along your route and the names of the roads you traverse as they may help you from getting lost. If you decide to take a detour, you will just have to make a slight adjustment to your plans to help you get back on track.

Regardless of whether you are a resident of Michigan or an out-of-state tourist, it is best to learn Michigan’s motorcycle laws so you know what safety gear to acquire, how to safely transport a passenger, the equipment your motorcycle needs, and the rules of the road.

Always go over your checklist of items you plan to bring with you multiple times, especially right before you are about to leave. Take the essentials with you including a change of clothes, provisions, water container, repair tools, and electronics.

Make sure to keep a level head as you travel on the highways, try out new activities whenever you can, and make sure to enjoy yourself on your motorcycle trip through Michigan.

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