The Little Traverse Wheelway is 26 miles of dedicated trail, from downtown Charlevoix to downtown Harbor Springs.
The “Bike Path”, as it is locally called, runs 26 miles from Charlevoix to Harbor Springs in Charlevoix and Emmet Counties. The trail is mostly dedicated and paved in asphalt. It is currently the best developed and most suburban of our trunk line trails. The part between Petoskey’s Bayfront Park to Petoskey State Park follows closely the path of the original Little Traverse Wheelway that stretched from Petoskey to Harbor Springs in the 1880s and ‘90s. A gate over the trail at the east end of Bayfront Park proclaims “No Teaming or Driving,” and replicates the original gate that stood at nearly the same spot. This gate is a reminder of a time when people were prohibited from riding horses or horse-drawn carriages on the trail. Two other identical gates have been built to the west on Petoskey’s portion of the trail.
In late 2008 construction was completed on the 1.4 mile “Resort Bluffs” segment between East Park in Bay Harbor and Magnus Park in Petoskey. This new trail replaces the “road shoulder “segment that had forced users to ride along US 31.
Distance: 26 Miles
Trail Surface: Asphalt
Horses: Not Permitted
Snowmobiles: Not Permitted
The trailhead is located at the Charlevoix Township Hall 0.50 miles from US 31 on Waller Road where parking and restrooms are available. Trail users can go into the city by following Waller Road west and McSauba Road east to Division Road. This in-town trail passes close to the North Point and Mount McSauba Recreation Areas.
The “dedicated” and measured portion of the trail begins at US 31 and includes 3 miles of asphalt and .6 miles of boardwalk through a wetland. The trail closely follows US 31 and Lake Michigan much of the way and there are many good lake views. The Charlevoix Community Pool is near the start of the segment.
The area off US 31 is a delightful place to relax and view the bay in all its glory. There are plenty of picnic tables available to eat your lunch or just enjoy the ambiance of the scene. To the east the area around Nine Mile Point is especially scenic and there are other good places to enjoy the view. (4 Miles)
West Park’s parking and amenities are located several hundred yards north of the trail on Townline Road but there is a de facto trailhead right on the trail. This segment consists of five miles of asphalt near US 31. There are some panoramic views of Lake Michigan and the business district called The Village at Bay Harbor (A) is a short ride from the trail. There are good parking and recreational opportunities at both Bay Harbor parks as well as in the Village District with its many amenities. A parallel equestrian trail may be built in the future.
East Park is an excellent intermediate trailhead. It was closed for remediation of contamination problems caused in the cement making process dating back to the days when the Bay Harbor area was a large cement-making plant. The new park has been reconfigured and reopened and is now one of the most beautiful parks of its kind in the country.
This 1.4 mile segment was relocated from the highway shoulder and paved with asphalt in the summer and fall of 2008.Travelers can now proceed along the railroad grade above Little Traverse Bay without using the busy US 31 shoulder. This segment runs 10-50 feet or more above the bay and is widely regarded as the most scenic on the entire Wheelway and surely one of the most beautiful in the country. There are numerous turnouts with benches where trail users can stop and enjoy the view.
This segment previously ran along the shoulder of Lake Street but was rerouted to a dedicated trail from west of Ingalls Avenue through a new section of park land and finally across the Bear River to the bay side of City Hall and the Firehouse. This section has also seen the erection of two more Little Traverse Wheelway arches like the one further east along the Wheelway. Also check out the metal sculpture of a big wheel bicycle in the new park. The History Museum has wonderful exhibits depicting Petoskey’s place in history.
This scenic 2.5-mile segment runs through Bayfront Park and utilizes a short stretch of sidewalk before reaching Bay View. The History Museum is a must stop for those interested in the history of the Little Traverse region including the role played by the original Little Traverse Wheelway. The bicycle arrived here along with the railroad and the new wave of settlers who came for economic and religious reasons. Farther along in this segment are located the Petoskey Marina, the Midway, the Bayfront Resource Center, the Ed White Softball Field, Yosemite Falls, Lime Kiln Pond and numerous picnic tables. Parking is available in Bayfront Park as well as access to Petoskey’s historic Gaslight District (downtown) (A) through the tunnel under US 31. This segment also goes through the summer community of Bay View along the salmon-colored sidewalk. Stop and enjoy the ambiance of Petoskey’s “summer sister” that grew up along with the city in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The overlook building honors the memory of Fred Fettis and Neal McCue, two longtime trails advocates who were instrumental in the development of the Wheelway and served on the TOMTC board of directors. TOMTC is working on a plan to improve the parking lot and grounds in this area and perhaps establish an intermediate trailhead. There may also be a park at the nearby mouth of Tannery Creek in the future. The overlook is a good place to stop and view the bay and is a popular picnic lunch spot for people working in the area.
Opposite the overlook on the rear of D&W Fresh Market is a beautiful mural by Kingsley muralist Terry Dickenson depicting transportation along the Wheelway corridor at various times in history. TOMTC commissioned the artist to paint the mural in the fall of 2006.
The trail continues past the Tannery Creek Trailhead through private property (Tannery Creek condominiums). A chain link fence marks the boundary of the Petoskey State Park. The trail continues through a wooded scenic 1-mile segment that runs through a young oak and white pine forest to M-119. Immediately on the left is the Packy Offield Trail Center, which became the headquarters of Top of Michigan Trails Council in 2016. The property was purchased through the generous donations of TOMTC supporters and a number of organizations, including the Petoskey Rotary. A fountain and bench in front of the Trail Center are a generous gift to trail users from the Litzenberger family. The Trail Center is open 9 – 4:30 on weekdays, and offers trail users a variety of maps and great advice on outdoor adventures in the area. A porta john is available for trail users during the summer and fall months. Parking and restrooms are available at Spring Lake Park across M-119 from the Trail Center (public parking is not available at the Trail Center). The North Country Trail diverges from the Wheelway at Spring Lake Park and continues north along the North Western State Trail. A crosswalk just north of the Trail Center connects riders with the NWST.
This three-mile segment tracks along a largely commercial area along M-119 and past the main entrance to Petoskey State Park (P R) and past Beach Road. Round Lake Nature Preserve and the headquarters of the Little Traverse Conservancy are across M-119 on Powell Road. Various public buildings are located across M-119 in the John Watson Community Resource Center just north of Beach Road. This 1.1-mile segment runs close to M-119 before cutting away to follow the northeast edge of the Harbor Springs Airport. Enjoy the shallow panoramic view of Little Traverse Bay at the Little Traverse Township Park where parking is available.
This 3.0 mile segment is accessed by crossing M-119 at the traffic light at Pleasantview Road (across from the township park). The trail then follows the highway, sometimes just off the paved shoulder, and sometimes off-road. The Harbor Springs trailhead is near the ball fields at Lake and Hoyt on the east side of town, where restrooms and parking are available. Local streets can be used to ride into Harbor Springs, a wonderful destination with beautiful views, excellent restaurants, and a multitude of things to do.
Follow Beach Road all the way to town, passing through the Ramona Park, Roaring Brook, and Wequetonsing associations. This route can have a great deal of automobile traffic during the tourist season but should be generally safe for adult cyclists. Be especially careful in riding on the twisting portions through the forest. Riders should ride single file on the far right side of the road.