Top 10 Best Motorcycle Roads in Michigan

While exploring the thousands of miles of pristine empty lakeshore and forest roads, I’m left feeling like the last remaining soul on the planet.

best motorcycle rides in michigan

Michigan is one of those states that became a “surprise” for lack of a better word. Many hear of this state and they think Detroit, cold, and snow.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  This state is a hidden gem that is begging to be ridden and explored by motorcyclists.

Even though Michigan has a shorter riding season than some of the southern states, when you experience the state in the right time of year, you soon realize that this area of the country is special and will become memorable and always hold a place in your heart from experiencing these rides.  The roads are not as steep and intimidating as many other states which make them perfect for new riders, but the views, especially in the Upper Peninsula are some that will inspire you both as a rider and as a human being.

LAKE HURON

Great cruising road that hugs Lake Huron for what seems like forever and provides never ending views over one of the most majestic freshwater lakes in the World.

Start – Finish

Standish to Mackinaw City

Distance

194 Miles

Ride Time

4-6 hours

Time Of Year

May – Oct

Points Of Interest:

Stretch from Rogers City to Mackinaw City

Cautions / Dangers:

Minimal but possible sand near beaches along this route

Road Description & Scenery

This route describes and feels true Michigan.  It’s a beautiful ride along the shores of Lake Huron with numerous tourist areas to visit including lighthouses and quaint lake houses that you will ride by that will summarize Michigan and the Great Lakes region all in one ride. 

There are plenty of restaurants to stop for breaks with great vistas of the lake and beaches to stop for a swim in with minimal effort. This is a perfect ride if you want a laid-back beach day with intervals of non-technical riding with friends.  It is also perfect jumping point to add a longer ride and experience the Upper Peninsula and for a long weekend or ferry out to Mackinaw Island.

Tourism Opportunities

Some of the most beautiful lighthouses in the country pepper this route and are well worth taking the time to visit and tour.  There are also so many little towns that you are never far from a restaurant or bar for a break for some delicious local food and beverages.  This is one of the friendliest tourist areas in Michigan. Mackinaw Island is also right at the end of this route and is highly recommended to ferry out and explore this island.

Bikini Beach Bar – Great place to stop for not only lunch but for the afternoon with great food, drinks, and live music.
Latitudes Tavern- Another great place to stop and grab a bite to eat- 307 W Chisholm St, Alpena, MI 49707
Mackinaw Island – Not to be missed at the end of this ride, a quick ferry ride will get you to the island –
Sturgeon Point Lighthouse – There are so many beautiful lighthouses along this ride that it is hard to list them all but this one in particular I found a special draw to.

Where to Stay

With no shortage of camps and hotels along this route minimal planning is needed for your stay, or extended stay.  Going off weather and how you feel is probably the best way to determine if you should hotel or camp while riding this part of Michigan.

Tee Pee Campground– Reasonably priced and in a central location with a beautiful view of the lake and bridge.
Ossineke State Park– Much quieter than the other campgrounds along this route
Grand Lake Resort– Moderately priced for such a wonderful hotel and right on Lake Huron
Water Front Inn– Great priced hotel in a perfect location to end your ride.

THE STRAITS

Don’t let this name fool you this run has some wonderful twisties for the coastline of a lake. That feature dense forests to one side and beautiful Lake Michigan on the other side which provides immense diversity just by turning your head!

Start – Finish

Cross Village to Petoskey State Park

Distance

50 Miles

Ride Time

2-4 hours

Time Of Year

April – Nov

Points Of Interest:

Lake views and dense forest vegetation

Cautions / Dangers:

N/A

Road Description & Scenery

This is short but fulfilling lake drive that provides Michigan’s great diversity between views of Lake Michigan and the densely packed forest vegetation.  All you have to do is look to the left or right and you will have a new perspective on this ride as you gaze upon this wonderful state.  The views aren’t the only diversity you will experience. The roads go from longer straightaways to low elevation twisties that will leave you satisfied at the finish of this 50 mile road – glowing with a feeling that you rode 200+ miles.

Tourism Opportunities

This route has plenty of color both blue from the lake and green from the vegetation and forest.  There are some great state parks to visit along with the Tunnel of Trees at the end of this phenomenal road that winds through western Michigan. This is only a 50-mile route but food and gas isn’t that plentiful so I have listed a few stops that will break up the ride

Tunnel of Trees– An part of this route that is a must see a baby version of Oregon’s Avenue of the Giants.
Old World Café– Perfect halfway point to grab lunch or a coffee to fuel you for the remainder of the ride
Good Hart General Store– A great location to stop and get a sandwich or rehydrate with some fluids-

Where to Stay

Camping is plentiful along this route with a few state parks well worth visiting even if you aren’t going to be camping.  There are hotels both at the start and finish points but minimal once you begin the route.

Petoskey State Park– Beautiful lakeside park with campsites that are easily walkable to enjoy the lakeshore.
Legis Inn – Cute Michigan styled cottages to stay in.
Birchwood Inn – Great hotel near Tunnel of Trees and a short walk to the lakeshore

MARQUETTE LOOP

This 50-mile loop really hits the mark for Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  It is a ride that has some perfectly sized hills that are windy sweepers that will keep you on the throttle throughout the ride. This short route is one you will enjoy and can complete on a lazy Sunday with no rush or stresses. It’s Michigan riding at its best.

Start – Finish

Marquette loop back to Marquette

Distance

60 Miles

Ride Time

2-4 hours

Time Of Year

May – Sep

Points Of Interest:

Lake Views and forest parks

Cautions / Dangers:

Wildlife throughout this ride

Road Description & Scenery

A beautiful ride in fall especially this Upper Peninsula ride is one that will define your Michigan journey with its start and finish in Marquette it is an easy but fun ride that will keep your adrenaline on point with its sweepers it really doesn’t let down in anyway.

Tourism Opportunities

Michigan has plenty of lighthouses, and this route provides you with the opportunity to visit another one along with the Maritime Museum.  From my experience these lighthouses seem to be placed in areas that are perfect for taking a break off the bike and getting some physical exercise in, a stretch, and a chance to gaze out across the beautiful lakes in Michigan, or just get a coffee and chat with other riders.  This area also has a vast choice or restaurants and bars to visit either before or after riding this epic Michigan loop.

Iron Bay Restaurant and Drinkery– Beautiful historic restaurant in a wonderful setting.  The menu includes excellent Michigan whitefish, that is a must try for anyone visiting this area.
Ore Dock Brewery– Your typical brewery (it’s rare I find one I don’t enjoy) this one has a fun atmosphere with bar games and bands on weekends to provide a wonderful ambience and a chance to chat with locals after your ride.
Dead River Coffee– Great meeting for you and your posse to place to start the ride and as you wait you can sit outside with a great cup of coffee and gaze across fabulous Lake Superior.

Where to Stay

This loop includes some beautiful historic inns, bed and breakfasts and even some camping along. little inns, hotels, and quaint bed and breakfasts along this route. Lodging prices will vary in this area greatly depending how close to Lake Superior you want to stay.

Rippling River Resort – Wonderful campground that has cabins if the weather isn’t cooperating.  This campground is along a river if you are interested in fishing and also offers some pristine hiking trails.
Landmark Inn – More on the pricey side but the location is amazing. Everything is walkable in Marquette from this gem.
Model Town Inn– More reasonably priced and if you are looking to stay further out along this route and not in Marquette this is the best hotel that fits that criteria.hotel near Tunnel of Trees and a short walk to the lakeshore

UPPER MARQUETTE

A short but fulfilling route that winds along the dense forests bordering Lake Superior out to a spectacular lighthouse then back through 510 deeper in the forest which will return you to Marquette. This route is a perfect weekend add on to the Marquette loop described above. Be sure to remain vigilant as there are a lot of deer on this loop.

Start – Finish

500 North to Powell and across to Big Bay Lighthouse and return to Marquette VIA 510

Distance

70 Miles

Ride Time

2-4 hours

Time Of Year

May – Oct

Points Of Interest:

Lighthouses, dense forest, and Lake Superior views

Cautions / Dangers:

Many Deer and wildlife along this route

Road Description & Scenery

This hidden route is one that is very sparsely populated and will revive your senses. The road is in great shape but most of it has very soft shoulders so as stated above remain alert for wildlife. The dense forests are something to behold, especially as you are right next to the largest freshwater lake on the planet but for much of this loop you will be unable to see it, with the exception of the lighthouse and a few viewpoints. The forest is the beauty that will surround you as you embrace this area of the state.

Tourism Opportunities

This part of Michigan is more desolate than the other areas. There are, however, a few great places to see that many will miss out on by having Marquette as their turnaround point. 

Hungry Hollow Café – Great breakfast or lunch spot with generous portions at a reasonable price.
Big Bay Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast– One of the few lighthouses where you can spend the night in. A bit pricey but worth it from every aspect.
Thomas Rock Scenic Overlook- Wonderful stopping point and an opportunity for a short hike to stretch out while taking in some beautiful Michigan views- Location- 1 mile south as you turn on 510 heading back to Marquette.

Where to Stay

With this region being so remote there aren’t a lot of opportunities outside Marquette to stay, but the ones I have listed are worth the stop if you choose to spend a night in the northern part of this loop.  Experiencing the tranquility of this ride is greatly enhanced if you choose to stay over night.

Perkins Park and Campground– Quiet lakeside camping near Powell.
Forestville Campground– Close to Marquette and easy access to hiking trails.
Thunder Bay Inn– Historical Hotel built buy Henry Ford.

KEWEENAW PENINSULA

It is like riding to the end of the World on this route.  Beautiful overlooks of Lake Superior and the roads are in exceptional condition. By far one of my favorite loop routes in Michigan.

Start – Finish

Houghton to Copper Bay & Back

Distance

102 Miles

Ride Time

3-5 hours

Time Of Year

May – Oct

Points Of Interest:

Lake Superior Views

Cautions / Dangers:

Wildlife

Road Description & Scenery

It really does feel like you are riding to the end of the Earth.  In a sense you are – as this is the northernmost route in this state.  Starting at Houghton you will remain inland for about 25 miles and then the world opens up in front of you. Almost instantly you are overlooking Lake Superior from 500ft above.  The views are not just spectacular, but well-earned as you navigate the cliffside roads. This area is so out of the way you will experience little traffic as you ride this well maintained road and descend into Copper Bay where you can catch your breath, get a bite to eat and prepare for the reverse journey back to Houghton.

Tourism Opportunities

There are lighthouses galore along this northern Michigan route and each one is worth stopping for a visit.  This route similar to the others, is remote but the places listed below are worth a visit and placed in perfect places where you will want to take a break from riding and soak in the majestic scenery of Lake Superior.

Eagle Harbor Lighthouse: Beautiful lighthouse that was built in 1851.
Copper Harbor Lighthouse: Although this can only be viewed from the Copper Harbor Lookout point it is one of Michigan’s oldest lighthouses.
Harbor Haus: Beautiful rustic restaurant on the shore of Lake Superior with delicious food and great drinks.
Drift Inn Bar: Great little biker bar and in a perfect location to stop for a break.
The Downtowner: This is the place to either start or end the ride. Incredible views and great atmosphere.

Where to Stay

One of the pros to being so far north and off the beaten path is the opportunity for great camping experiences.  Some of these campgrounds are the best in the state.  If you aren’t up for camping due to weather or your comfort level, there is an abundance of hotels and local bed and breakfasts to find lodging for the night.

Sunset Bay Campground: Nestled right on the shores of Lake Superior this is a great place to call home for the evening.
Trails End Campground: Another wonderful campground on the northern most point in Michigan.
Dapple Gray B&B: A classic beautiful B&B right on the shores of Lake Supior with wonderful hosts.
The Vault Hotel: A bit more on the pricey side but right in the heart of Houghton and walkable to most the town.

PICTURED ROCKS NATIONAL SEASHORE

An incredible and mind blowing road that winds along the lakeside and allows you to feel as though you are floating effortlessly along this route.

Start – Finish

Munising to Grand Marais with a 30 mile optional out and back on 695 to embrace Picture Rocks Shoreline

Distance

90 Miles

Ride Time

3-6 hours

Time Of Year

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Points Of Interest:

Lake Superior Views

Cautions / Dangers:

Wildlife

Road Description & Scenery

Fun road with sweeping corners, nothing too technical.  The road is in great condition and other than wildlife (deer mostly) this is a fun hazard free ride. The roads are in great conditions with little hazards to be aware of that let you relax and embrace the natural side of this wonderful state.

Tourism Opportunities

This part of Michigan is one of the more remote parts, as are many others I have listed but for this particular ride there aren’t too many places to visit outside the nature part of it.  To me this is just fine as having the road to myself and being able to enjoy this part of the state will leave you feeling like you are the last person on the planet, just don’t let the speed get to you because they still enforce speeding laws here.

Grand Marias Tavern: With so few options this location really still goes above and beyond to please their customers both with food and service.
Mosquito Beach: Well worth the 15 mile drive up 695, and the 1.7 mile hike (one way) to get to this beach, and even the option to camp in this isolated shoreline campground.
Shooter Firehouse Brewpub: Another Michigan staple location.  Great food and live music.

Where to Stay

The campgrounds along this route you must backpack into.  Pro to backpacking is you will be very isolated and be able to see so many stars in the evening or fish and hike and have what will feel like all of Lake Superior pretty much to yourself.  The downside is your moto will be about 2 miles away from you.  My personal belief is it worth the extra work hiking to experience Michigan in this way, but if you feel differently hotels are not hard to come by either.

Beaver Creek Campground: a pleasant 2.5 mile hike to the campground.
Sunset Motel on the Bay: Great location in Munising to start your journey well rested or as a relaxing wind down after the ride.
The Vault Hotel: A bit more on the pricey side but right in the heart of Houghton and walkable to most the town.

THUMB RUN

For southern Michigan riding rounding the thumb will provide you with lakeside roads for the entire 155-mile ride.  The roads are very well maintained and there are plenty of places to stop and enjoy along this full day ride.

Start – Finish

Port Huron to Bay City

Distance

154 Miles

Ride Time

4-6 hours

Time Of Year

May – Oct

Points Of Interest:

Numerous Beaches and Lighthouses

Cautions / Dangers:

Wildlife (deer and turkeys)

Road Description & Scenery

Although not a lot of cornering required on this route it is still one that will impress any rider as it stretches along Lake Huron and winds down into Saginaw Bay.  It’s the perfect road to take your time and soak in the scenery while allowing for plenty of places to stop and enjoy the local establishments and meet other riders. There are also several beaches along this road which will provide great spots to fish, hike, or just embrace the calm of the lake’s waves smoothly caressing the shore.

Tourism Opportunities

A big benefit of exploring southern Michigan is all the little towns you will drive through.  Each is unique, but the one common factor they all seem to have is the beautiful people that reside in them.  They are warm and love tourists and motorcyclists alike.  This is particularly true along this ride.  This road also has a few lighthouses worth visiting. There is just an endless number of things to do and see here that it makes it worth scheduling a few days to fully absorb all the great experiences along here.

Harbor Beach Lighthouse: Yet another beautiful lighthouse worth stopping to explore.
Bluewater Sports and Grille: Perfect location to stop for an appetizer and a beverage.
Shelley’s Bar and Grill: This place doesn’t seem like much but the food is some of the best you will find along this ride.
Chet’s Corner Bar: In the middle of Bay City and a great relaxing place for after your ride.

Where to Stay

There is an abundance of locations to camp and stay along this route.  The ones listed below are just the tip of the iceberg but recommended for motorcyclists especially. There are 5 state parks along this ride, and all are equally beautiful in their own way. The hotels in Bay City are plentiful. Another option is staying at a location in one of the many towns that pepper the shoreline. You really can’t go wrong with any decision on staying in this beautiful part of the state.

Lakeport State Park: Beautiful campground and park to visit/stay.
Port Crescent State Park: Great halfway point for camping.
Lightkeepers Port Hope: Cute lakeside cottages.
The Cadillac House: A bit more pricey but wonderful location and place to stay.

WHITEFISH BAY BLAST

Whitefish point is known as one the most dangerous shipping areas in all the Great Lakes. It’s known among locals as the Graveyard of the Great Lakes. Named for its treacherous shipping lines that have claimed more vessels in the Whitefish Point area than other parts of Lake Superior. An equally interesting motorcycle ride is waiting for you around this area.

Start – Finish

Sault Ste. Marie to Emerson following Lake Superior Drive

Distance

55 Miles

Ride Time

2-4 hours

Time Of Year

May – Sept

Points Of Interest:

Lakeshore views and quaint little towns

Cautions / Dangers:

Wildlife

Road Description & Scenery

This road is also known as the Curley Lewis Memorial Highway and includes awe inspiring views of Lake Superior to one side and towering pines to the other this road is a must do and be sure to include lots of stops to take in all the scenery you are surrounded by.  The road is in excellent condition with few hazards outside the deer in the evenings and mornings.  This route is one that can be done as an out and back in 1 day easily but there is enough to see and do to stretch it out for a 2 day or full weekend ride since it will most definitely not disappoint and leave you wishing you had more time to spend in the area.

Tourism Opportunities

As with the other lake routes in this beautiful state there is no shortage of lighthouses, small towns and great people to see and visit as you drive this beautiful Lake Superior ride.

Port Iroquois Lighthouse: Another sensational lighthouse with spectacular views over Lake Superior and located at the halfway point of this ride makes for a warranted stop.
Dancing Crane Coffee Shop: Never a bad time for good coffee and this quirky little place is a great place to enjoy a cup as you travel this route.
Pickles Bar and Grill: Delicious cheese curds and a great selection of beers on tap.
Silver Creek Pub and Grill: Great for an end of the ride place to get a burger and a beverage.
The Lock View Restaurant: Lovely place to get dinner, especially if you are staying in Sault Ste. Marie.
Soo Locks: Fun to watch the boats travel through these historical Locks.

Where to Stay

One of my favorite things about this state is the enormous amount of well-run campgrounds and hotels that are historical and unique.

Bayview Campground: Clean and beautiful views of the lake.
Monocle Lake Campground: Very quiet location and close to Port Iroquois Lighthouse.
Lock View Motel: Love this motel since everything in town is walkable from it.
Bay Mills Resort: If you are looking for a more relaxed getaway for a day or two.

MOVING UP THE M-37

A wonderful flowing forest road that connects Southern Michigan to Northern Michigan and can provide an excellent jumping point to begin exploring the northern part of the state.

Start – Finish

Grand Rapids to Traverse City

Distance

150 Miles

Ride Time

4-6 hours

Time Of Year

May – Sept

Points Of Interest:

Beautiful forests and small towns

Cautions / Dangers:

Wildlife

Road Description & Scenery

This is the perfect road to ride as a connector to other northern Michigan routes. There is light traffic and the road is in excellent shape. There really isn’t a better south to north path to rocket you up towards Like Superior other than fully embracing this route. The road is mostly straight, but far from boring as it provides the scenery of the thick forest while riding north.

The beauty of this ride is the isolation you will receive from the rest of the world, which will allow you to really embrace Michigan. There are plenty of bailout options along this as well if for some reason you are in hurry Highway 131 runs parallel to this and will absolutely get you north faster but you’re in Michigan, what’s the rush?

Tourism Opportunities

Since this route is more designed as a connector to the northern part of the state there isn’t too much to see for most people but s riders who look a little bit deeper when touring there is always something everywhere, you just have to look in the right places.  This route provides those “right places” with a few interesting attractions that will add some depth to the ride north.

Fish Ladder Park: Just a fun place to start out from or use as a meeting location.
World’s Largest Cherry Pan: As I said there are interesting attractions here.
Barski Bar and Grill: Delicious Polish Sausages and a great atmosphere.
Old Iron Bar and Grill: This location sums up Michigan all in one stop, really fun place to stop and enjoy.
Huron-Manistee National Forest: Since this road covers the length of this National Forest there is hiking, fishing, off roading galore.  Easy to find an activity that suits how you feel the day you ride this.

Where to Stay

With Highway 37 splitting up the Huron-Manistee National Forest there are endless camping options down forest service roads for dispersed camping if you really feel like enjoying alone time in the state of Michigan this is a great place to find it.  If that isn’t for you there are plenty of campgrounds and hotels along this that will satisfy your lodging needs. No need to over plan along this ride it’s better to just go with how you feel that day as the options are limitless.

Interlochen State Park: Clean and safe campground located here next to a lake where you can enjoy outdoor activities.
Traverse City State Park: At the northern end of this route this campground is lakeside with some massive trees for privacy which provides for a restful nights sleep.
The Grand River Ascend Hotel: Great place to kick this ride off or finish. Fabulous location near everything in Grand Rapids, from nightlife to restaurants and parks.
Cloud Nine Resort: Quaint cabins in a quiet location with fire pits to allow you to relax.
Traverse Bay Inn: Lakeside hotel walkable to restaurants and tourist attractions.

EASTERN SHORE LAKE

Another way to get to Northern Michigan is this stunning ride which takes you through deep forests yet allows for plenty of offshoots to visit lakeshore attractions.

Start – Finish

Muskegon to Ludington Rte 31

Distance

60 Miles

Ride Time

2-4 hours

Time Of Year

May – Sept

Points Of Interest:

Dense forests and Lake Michigan Views

Cautions / Dangers:

Wildlife

Road Description & Scenery

Wonderful road with sweeping corners through the forests of Michigan that will leave you breathless as you traverse these woodland roads.  Other than wildlife to be alert for you will feel as though you own this road and with the great condition it is in it won’t be long before you are falling in love with this state.  If you feel the need to see Lake Michigan views they are only a couple miles away VIA any of the numerous offshoots that will let you feel as though you have entered a different ecosystem as the trees give way to the openness of one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world.

Tourism Opportunities

This route is peppered with fun tourist attractions and things to do outside the normal ride.  From taking tours of the dunes in Jeeps with friends, to fishing or maybe just a getaway to relax in the neighboring nation forest.  There are also many lighthouses that guard the shores of this incredible part of the lakeside.  There is such a diverse amount of activities to be enjoyed as you ride and enjoy this route it is well worth spending a couple days to absorb it all.

Parrot’s Landing: Really fun dune tours in a Jeep.
Cherry Point Farm & Market: Very quiet and secluded spot to catch your breath and enjoy the moment
Big Sable Point Lighthouse: One of the more majestic lighthouses in this state.
Little Sable Point Lighthouse: Another lovely light house worth stopping for.
Hell’s Kitchen Motorsports Bar and Grill: Great stopping point to meet other riders and car enthusiasts.
Kristy’s Country Store: Only place along this route to get snacks or water

Where to Stay

This ride has some wonderful campgrounds along it from state parks to dispersed camping in the national forest. You really can choose how isolated or social you wish to be depending on how you feel that day.  The options are endless and plentiful for hotels, cottages, or camping. There is never a wrong decision to be made with this choice, just go off how you feel and enjoy it.

Mason County Campground: Lakeside camping that’s hard to be beat at the end of a beautiful day’s ride.
Stony Haven Campground and Cabins: Lakeside with the options to stay in a cabin if the weather should be uncooperative.
The Pidge Inn: Marina side Hotel with all the amenities to make you comfortable.
Snyder’s Shoreline Inn: Located in a perfect spot to enjoy the lake or the city, or both.

Last Checkpoint

One of the biggest surprises with this state I found is all the welcoming campgrounds and parks that dot the entire state of Michigan. Once you open your eyes to exploring the thousands of miles of pristine empty lakeshore and forest roads you will often be left with the feeling you are the last remaining soul on the planet. These routes are some of my favorite in the state and once you ride them I am sure you will agree and possibly even find some hidden gems that I have missed in my ride review for the beautiful state of Michigan. Check out some of tips to cross country travel.

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