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Palmer Woods: Mountain Biking Trails



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Trail Details

County
Leelanau
Regions
Northwest
Latitude
N 44° 53' 30.84"
Longitude
W 085° 54' 52.56"
Distance
3 and 2.8-mile loops
Trail Type
Mountain bike Single track
Terrain
Forested ridges
Difficulty
Moderate
Nearest City or Town
Glen Arbor
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East Ridge and Central Ridge Mountain Bike Trails at Palmer Woods Forest Reserve are intermediate flow-style single tracks, allowing riders to weave downhill through a series of berms, rollers and switchbacks at higher speeds. Together they combine for almost 6 miles of trails dedicated solely for off-road cycling.
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Description
When the East Ridge Mountain Bike Trail was designed and built in 2018, it was the first public mountain bike trail in Leelanau County. It opened to rave reviews from the mountain biking community and encouraged the construction of the adjacent Central Ridge Mountain Bike Trail the following year.

Both loops are intermediate flow-style single tracks, allowing riders to weave downhill through a series of berms, rollers and switchbacks at higher speeds. Together they combine for almost 6 miles of trails dedicated solely for off-road cycling. Hikers, cross-country skiers and snowshoers have their own trail system at Palmer Woods.

The 3-mile East Ridge loop offers more challenging riding for intermediate riders with tighter corners, steeper slopes, and an assortment of tabletops, jumps and rock gardens. The 2.8-mile Central Ridge loop features a challenging climb in the first half followed by a rewarding downhill descent of rollers, berms and drops. Both loops offer bypass spurs that allow riders of varying experience levels to choose harder or easier routes.
Amenities & Services
Difficulty - Moderate
Mountain Bike Single Track
Trail Guide

East Ridge Mountain Bike Trail

East Ridge offers a more challenging ride than the Central Ridge Loop with tighter corners, steeper slopes, and four black diamond sections. At the Wheeler Road Trailhead, East Ridge is the furthest trail to the east and it must be followed in a counterclockwise direction. It begins with a steady climb and within a third of a mile tops off at a small clearing with a view of trails below you.

After crossing an old two-track the loop progressively becomes more technical, beginning with a stretch of rollers at Mile 0.5. The first obstacle to be posted with a black diamond – a tight downhill berm to the right – is reached at Mile 1. After a bit of climbing, another challenging berm is encountered at the start of a wild downhill run that bottoms out at a rescue sign No. 3. More climbing tops off at signposted Mile 2.

The final mile is basically a climb up and over East Ridge itself with three black diamond optional sections along the way. The first is reach on the edge of a clearing within a third of a mile and features a 3-foot drop for those up for the thrill and a bypass to the left for those who are not. You’re speeding down the ridge when at Mile 2.8 the trail becomes a short rock garden and then crosses the Hiker’s Loop at post No. 2. Keep an eye out for walkers! Just beyond the junction is a double roller with another 3-foot drop and an optional trail to left.

Within 200 yards of the end, East Ridge and Central Ridge Trails merge for the final and largest jump of the day, a massive stone drop well marked in advance with a caution sign. The bypass spur is to the right and both end up at the Wheeler Road information display.

Central Ridge Mountain Biking Trail

The Central Loop is less technical but more grunt at least in the first half. Built in 2019, Central Ridge offers a harder climb, longer downhills and technical progression: eight tabletop stones for riders to master before facing the massive stop drop at the end. The trail must be followed in a clockwise direction.

The start of the Central Ridge is almost due west of the trailhead display and near one end of the Hiker’s Loop. The loop immediately swings north, crosses a two track that is the south end of Price Valley Trail and begins climbing.  The climb is steady for more than a mile and unforgiving for those who haven’t warmed up. The single track utilizes switchbacks that allow you to sidle the ridge and twice makes short but steep drops.

At Mile 1.2 you top off at 1,006 feet where the trail levels out for a spell and features a pair of tabletops. Finally, you begin the descent of Central Ridge, passing a view through the trees of more ridges to the west.  The rest of the ride is a delightful and well-deserved downhill run that weaves through a series of berms. There are a handful of tabletop drops along the way but always a way to skirt around them if you had problems with the first few.

Just after passing rescue sign No. 2, you cross the Hiker’s Loop – post No. 3 – at Mile 2.2 and then enjoy a few more sweeping embankments before arriving where the East and Central loops merge together. Head left for the big stone jump or right to avoid it.

Facilities

Other than parking and a display map, there are no other amenities at the Wheeler Road Trailhead.

Hours & Fees

The single-use mountain biking trails are closed in the winter, but all other trails are open for snowshoeing and groomed for cross-country skiing. There are no entry or vehicle fees at the preserve.

Directions

From Glen Arbor, head northeast on M-22 and within 6 miles turn south (right) on Wheeler Road. The Palmer Woods trailhead is on the west side of the road, 3.2 miles south of M-22.

Information

For more information, contact the Leelanau Conservancy (231-256-9669; leelanauconservancy.org). For lodging or travel information contact Traverse City Tourism (800-872-8377; www.traversecity.com).


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