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Avalanche Preserve: Mountain Bike Trail
The mountain bike trail at Avalanche Preserve Recreation Area is a 4.2-mile loop that winds around - and climbs over - the 1,023-foot-high namesake ridge that rises above Boyne City. This is an intriguing ride but a challenging one as the trail is a narrow single track with more than its share of tree roots and rocks. Novice and even intermediate cyclists should be prepared to hop off their bikes and walk a few steep downhill sections their first time on the trail.
The trail has no posted direction of travel but the loop is described here in a clockwise direction from the warming shelter. This allows you to ride most of the loop before arriving at the observations decks near the top, an excellent place to linger if the weather is nice. After enjoying the view, all that reminds is a downhill run of less than a half mile back to the parking lot.
There is a pair of short crossover spurs that allow you to bypass sections of the trail. If you utilize both of them you would reduce the loop to a 3.2-mile ride.
The mountain bike trail is posted west of the warming shelter where the single track immediately enters the forest. It’s a hilly ride almost from the get-go that swings near or crosses the walking trail, a wide path here and later a two-track, three times in the first half mile. The mountain bike trail remains narrow and is well marked at most junctions so little momentum is loss searching for it.
The trail levels out somewhat but continues winding through the trees and at Mile 0.7 you cross the walking trail again. Two more trail crossings follow and at Mile 1.2 you reach the first crossover spur. The short spur climbs the ridge to the right to return to the trail and cutoff a 0.65-mile segment of the loop.
The main trail continues left and enters a grassy meadow before returning to the hilly woods where it descends to the crossover spur at Mile 1.8. Within a quarter mile the trail climbs a long hill and then levels out to arrive at the second crossover spur (right-hand fork). This one is shorter than the first and eliminates an easy 0.3-mile segment of the trail.
The main loop heads left and pops out of the woods into a field on the edge of the park before returning to the trees and the crossover spur at Mile 2.6. You intersect the walking trail again at Mile 2.8 and then follow the crest of the ridge where you can peer deep down into the forest. This stretch, the most interesting segment of the loop, lasts for almost a mile and at one point passes a picnic table perched between the mountain bike loop and the walking trail.
At Mile 3.8 you pass one of the old ski lift tower for the chairlift and then cross the walking trail again that doubles up as a service drive here. Just to the right are the observation decks where you can plop down and take in a glorious view from more than 400 feet above Lake Charlevoix.
This area of the trail system can be confusing with two-tracks and trails seemingly headed in every direction. After crossing the walking trail it should be just to the left of the mountain bike trail as it re-enters the woods and descends Avalanche Peak.
You stay within view of the walking trail much of the time for a rapid descent that lasts almost to the end. Be Careful! You cross the walking trail at Mile 3.9 and then a side trail to Pleasant Valley Road before arriving at the east side of the parking lot at Mile 4.2.
At the base of the hill is the Avalanche Warming Shelter that includes restrooms, drinking water and loaner skates for the ice skating ring. At the observation area at the top is a pair of viewing decks with benches.
There are no entry or vehicle fees for Avalanche Preserve Recreation Area.
From US-131, north of M-32, follow M-75 into Boyne City. Once in town head west on Division Street and then turn left on Lake Street. Signs at the south end of Lake Street direct you left to the entrance of Avalanche Preserve Recreation Area at 1129 Wilson Street.
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