Mile 0 of the trail is at 10th Street in Frankfort, where it officially becomes the DNR-owned Betsie Valley Trail. A connector trail continues west through Frankfort’s waterfront parks on Betsie Lake and along Waterfront Drive for three blocks to provide access to the Lake Michigan beach in Cannon Park.
The trail from Cannon Park to Mollineaux Road (6.7 miles) features an asphalt surface suitable for road bikes, inline skating and parents jogging with a young one in a carriage.
From 10th Street, the rail-trail skirts the south end of Betsie Lake pass Mile 1 and parallels M-22 briefly as it crosses Betsie River via a boardwalk with an observation area in the middle for the lake and surrounding marsh. At the west end of the boardwalk the trail passes the entrance of Lakeshore Recreation Area where there are toilets and picnic tables before crossing M-22 to the Elberta trailhead on the other side. You then swing east to re-cross the mouth of the Betsie River a second time, passing another observation area.
For the next 3 miles the rail-trail parallels River Road and then crosses it at Mile 4 to the DNR boat launch on the river that doubles as a trailhead. Additional views of the Betsie River are enjoyed before the trail crosses M-115 and arrives at the trailhead on Mollineaux Road. A third of a mile to the east on Mollineaux Road is the trailhead for the Mary Margaret Johnson Trail, the start of a short hike to views of Crystal Lake from Railroad Point Natural Area.
Beyond Mollineaux Road, Betsie Valley Trail switches to a limestone aggregate surface and for the next mile hugs the shoreline of Crystal Lake as it passes through the natural area. From the rail-trail there is easy access to the lake and a swimming area along this stretch. For the remaining 2 miles to Beulah the rail-trail winds through private property on a 10-foot easement with special-use restrictions, including a ban on dogs and a 10 mph speed limit, that are posted for trail users. Within view of Crystal Lake most of the way, this portion of the Betsie Valley Trail can be very sandy in places.
At Mile 9, the Betsie Valley Trail enters Beulah and arrives at a replica of the town’s former railroad depot that serves as a trailhead and visitor’s center with information, maps, restrooms and drinking water. Restaurants and a public swimming beach are nearby.
Two blocks from the depot the Betsie Valley Trail crosses US-31. The aggregate trail swings south and then resumes its easterly direction at Mile 10 with a gradual ascent for the next 5 miles to Aylsworth Road, much of it in the Pere Marquette State Forest. The trail crosses Dair Creek at Mile 17, where a wooden stairway descends to a beaver dam across the stream. Just before entering Thompsonville is an old turbine at Wolf Road that produced the first electricity in the area. The Betsie River is then crossed via a renovated railroad bridge and the rail-trail arrives at its east end on Thompson Avenue, one block south of Lindy Road.