Five2Ride: The Best Bike Trails Near Detroit

For those who saw our recent list of five must-ride trails in the state of Michigan, a couple of the trails here are going to be familiar. The other thing to note about our list of the best trails near Detroit is that all are located north and west of the city center, and unfortunately all are at least a 30 minute drive from downtown. However, each of these trails offers such high quality singletrack that riders will find them to be well worth the drive.

Novi Tree Farm / Lakeshore Park

Beautiful day for a ride. #michiganinthefall #puremichigan #novitreefarm #mtnbiking #lifeisgood

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Located 30 miles northwest of downtown Detroit, the Novi Tree Farm trails are the closest among our list of recommended trails. Jason Martin, vice chairman of the Motor City Mountain Biking Association (MCMBA), says the 12-mile Novi Tree Farm trail system is a great place to ride singlespeed, if you’re into that sort of thing. “[There are] lots of log piles and other manmade features, as well as a dedicated pump track, growing skills area, and a loop specifically for the kiddos called the Sapling Loop.”

Highland Recreation Area

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The Highland Recreation Area is a 44-mile drive from Detroit, and apparently it’s “the trail everyone wants kept secret.” Don’t worry, the trails aren’t private or illegal–it’s just that some of those in the know would prefer to keep it to themselves.  Jason from MCMBA tells us these are rumored to be among the first purpose-built mountain bike trails in Michigan, featuring “classic tight singletrack that tests the width of your bars.” While the secret may be out about Highland Recreation area, riders can still generally find solitude on loops B through D at Highland Recreation area.

Brighton Recreation Area

The Brighton Recreation Area trail system consists of four main loops, which altogether add up to about 23 miles of singletrack. The Torn Shirt loop is recommended for its technical sections and drops, while the overall system is known to be fantastically scenic. Singletracks reviewer PhatPedals says, “[the] Murray Lake [loop] is sweet pure singletrack with lots of great ups and downs and tight trees” while HOLLYWOOD$ simply says, “Love love love!” In the summer, riders can cool off with a jump in the lake or catch live music Thursday nights at nearby Burroughs outdoor bar.

For mountain bikers who are willing and able to travel even further afield from Detroit, here are three more regional trail systems that rank among the best in the entire state.

DTE Foundation Trail

The DTE Foundation trail is one of the newest in Michigan, and promises flowy, machine-cut goodness located near Chelsea, MI, about an hour outside Detroit. There are currently two loops at the DTE Foundation trail system, and riders seem to be the most stoked on Big Kame. Beginner riders will enjoy the Green Loop, and visitors can look forward to the addition of three more loops over the next few years. The DTE Foundation trails are also groomed for fat biking in winter, making this a destination worth riding in any season.

Potawatomi / Pickney Recreation Area

photo: Dave Hunt

According to Singletracks trail reviewers, the Potawatomi trails are among the most popular in the state, and for that reason we also included them in the Michigan Five2Ride.  Riders can spend hours exploring the nearly 25 miles of trails, which feature a mix of everything from smooth singletrack to rooty, techy sections. Completing a big, 18-mile loop around the outer edges of the system means climbing (and descending) more than 2,000 feet–not a bad day’s work!

Fort Custer Recreation Area

photo: Steven Courville

Located about two hours from Detroit, Fort Custer boasts 20+ miles of roller-coaster style mountain bike trails that nearly anyone can appreciate. The trail system is divided into 3 main loops, each well-signed and marked for various rider abilities. Singletracks reviewer sissypants says, “rhythm abounds, flow is excellent, [and] little fun features with unique character dot every trail.”

But wait, there’s more! Singletrack, that is. Check out our full list of bike trails near Detroit.

This article is part of a collection showcasing the best bike trails in the Midwest and Texas.

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