Have you ever stopped to count the number of bikes strapped to cars, all headed to our outdoor paradise?

Cycling is huge in the Petoskey area, and there’s a standout trail that beats them all for recreational cycling: The Little Traverse Wheelway.

Wheelway fans know what we’re talking about. It’s 26 miles of bike path between picturesque Harbor Springs and Charlevoix, all for cyclists. And pedestrians, joggers, and rollerbladers, of course. But cyclists seem to be the most enamored of the smooth ride and gorgeous shoreline views made possible by the Wheelway.

Top of Michigan Trails Council (TOMTC) was founded in 1994 with a focus on expanding the original Wheelway, a trail that linked Petoskey and Harbor Springs in the late 1800s.

Eric Cox, TOMTC’s Relationship Builder, pointed out that a few signs over the Wheelway in Petoskey read, “No Teaming or Driving.”

“Around the turn of the 20th century, bicycles were all the rage,” said Cox. “And at that time, the path was just for people on foot or bicycle around the bay. That sign is a throwback to when you weren’t allowed to drive your team of horses on the Wheelway.”

The bike path was neglected following the advent of the automobile. Now, it connects communities and offers tons of recreational fun. In the summer months, over 100,000 people annually will spend time on the Wheelway.

It’s a given that cycling the entire Wheelway is great exercise and exposes area visitors to spectacular places and views. However, it’s advised, to take breaks as you’re cycling through the area. Stop for a swim, grab a bite to eat, take a quick hike, and enjoy your visit at a leisurely pace. You’ll be happy you didn’t speed through your vacation.

Cox shared some of his favorite places to wander off the Wheelway and explore. But before we begin, it’s important to know that a section of path between East and Magnus Parks was damaged due to erosion and remains closed as of 2024. The area is highlighted on this TOMTC map. The City of Petoskey has received a grant from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy to stabilize and reopen that portion of the trail in the future.

Currently, there’s an unofficial Wheelway detour onto US-31 around the erosion zone. The detour isn’t recommended by the Trails Council or Visitors Bureau, especially for children or inexperienced cyclists. However, pylons on the highway during the summer months are there to protect you. According to Cox, all cycle traffic should remain on the bay side of the highway regardless of the direction of travel.

Did you know there’s an etiquette to cycling? Cox also shared a video on biking safety featuring T.O.M. Trails, otherwise known as Joe Short from Shorts Brewery. To quote T.O.M., “It just takes one nut-drunk squirrel darting out into the path to take this biker’s day from awesome to awful.” We highly recommend you watch it.

Now that we’ve got those details out of the way, where should you veer from the Wheelway to satisfy your craving for adventure?


Harbor Springs

The north end of the trail starts in the resort town of Harbor Springs at Kosequat Park. For bike rentals, Touring Gear at 262 E. Main St. rents road, cruising, and kids’ bikes, including ebikes. For a packed lunch, grab a quick to-go sandwich from Turkey’s or Gurney’s Bottle Shop. If you’re looking to purchase some gear before hitting the Wheelway, The Outfitter Harbor Springs is the place for you. And, for a more leisurely lunch or brunch, consider Small Batch at the Cupola to fill your belly before your ride.

There are incredible views of the Big Lake on the Wheelway between Petoskey and Harbor Springs. Photo credit: Top of Michigan Trails Council



The Wheelway follows M-119 for a while after leaving Harbor Springs, and cyclists will find themselves skirting the east side of Petoskey State Park. This is one of Cox’s favorite areas to leave the Wheelway. The state park has hiking trails, campgrounds, and a mile of glorious sandy beach for Petoskey stone hunting. Enter the park through the main entrance, or continue cycling and head in through the Tannery Creek trailhead just north of Tannery Creek Condos. The woodchip trail leads to the campsite and lakeshore viewing platforms.

Detouring off the Wheelway at Petoskey State Park will take you to viewing platforms above the sandy dunes, and ample space to swim and lounge on the beach. Photo credit: Top of Michigan Trails Council

After crossing the wooden bridge over Tannery Creek, you’ll find yourself passing behind the D&W Fresh Market, with plenty of refreshments to curb your hunger. A gravel parking lot behind the store is open to folks wanting to hop on that part of the Wheelway.

But what about the sudden craving for Indian food you’ve developed? Petoskey’s Aamchi Mumbai is here for you, located in the Fresh Market Plaza. Savory curries, butter chicken, tandoori barbecue, and other delicacies await you. Palak paneer is a personal favorite.

For local bike repairs, try High Gear Sports just to the right of the Fresh Market.

The Greenway follows US-31 for a picturesque ride past historic homes from the Victorian era in Bay View Association. Just past the Bay View community at 1300 Bay View Rd. is Bahnhof Sport, another popular spot for bike rentals, including e-bikes, and gear. And if you smell chocolate as you leave Bahnhof, that’s because the iconic Kilwin’s Chocolate Kitchen is located just a few doors down.

Sunset and Bayfront Parks along the shoreline await you after you finish your ice cream cone at Kilwin’s. This is another one of Cox’s favorite areas to hop off the bike and head into town. Take the tunnel underneath US-31 directly into the heart of Petoskey’s downtown.

Beards Brewery is right there, and it’s so great,” said Cox. “You can just park your bike and have a bite or a beer, then jump back on the Wheelway.” As long as you’re cycling sober, of course.

For a satisfying lunch break, try out Julienne Tomatoes, Sam’s Graces Café, or a sandwich to-go from Symon’s General Store (The 5 Dragon sandwich is a hit). If you’ve got a little more time to kill, head east on Michigan St. until you hit the Backlot, where food trucks ranging from tacos to pizzas to Mediterranean food and more are waiting to fuel your trek.

Just past Bayfront Park, take a detour into the Bear River Valley Recreation Area. The Bear River flows into Lake Michigan there, and it’s a beautiful sight to witness. Have a picnic, watch whitewater kayakers ply the rapids, or take a quick hike through the park.

Another great spot for bike rentals, sales, and repairs is Latitude 45, located at 476 W Mitchell St. The shop is just a few minute’s ride from the Wheelway, and they supply rental hybrid, fitness, road, electric, mountain, and youth bikes.

This tunnel on the Little Traverse Wheelway provides safe passage just beneath the Bay Harbor Golf Club entrance. Photo credit: Top of Michigan Trails Council

Continuing on, the Wheelway follows along the shoreline towards Charlevoix (aside from the area under repair mentioned above). The close-up views and fresh air off Lake Michigan can’t be beat. On the way, you’ll pass East Park of Bay Harbor Village (which includes restrooms), West Park, and Bayside Park. Take notice of the historical marker for Big Rock Point, named for a rock used as a landmark and gathering spot by Anishinaabe making their way home to northern Michigan in the spring months.

If you keep following the Wheelway, it will guide you into Charlevoix to enjoy that area’s hospitality, art, fine dining, and beautiful landscape.

Regardless of how much time you spend on or off the Wheelway, or how far you travel on your journey, we know you’ll enjoy your time cycling the Petoskey area. And for those of you who split time between road and mountain bikes, BE sure to check out our guide for mountain biking in the region.


About the Author: Jen DeMoss is a newcomer to the Petoskey area and loves northern Michigan. You can catch her paddling a canoe, hiking a trail, or swimming in Lake Michigan as often as the weather cooperates. She’d love to help you make the most of your time in this paradise she now calls home.