Betsie Valley Trail


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Betsie Valley Trail Facts

States: Michigan
Counties: Benzie
Length: 42.8 miles
Trail end points: 510 Main St (Frankfort) and W 24 Rd. (Mesick)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt, Crushed Stone, Gravel
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6016111

Betsie Valley Trail Description


Remoteness and solitude describe a trip along the 42.8-mile Betsie Valley Trail in Michigan’s northern Lower Peninsula. The trail slopes gently downhill in the Betsie River Valley through a state forest, a natural area, and a game refuge on its way to the port of Frankfort on Lake Michigan. The western 6 miles are paved, while the rest of the trail is covered in crushed limestone (which may be soft in some spots). Snowmobiles are allowed in season between Thompsonville and Beulah.

The easternmost 20 miles between Thompsonville and Yuma are not part of the official trail route and are not maintained. This section of rail trail is often rough and is most often reserved for snowmobile and ATV use.

About the Route

The westernmost endpoint of the Betsie Valley Trail is located just steps away from the shores of Lake Michigan in the charming town of Frankfort. The trail here heads southeast first alongside Betsie Lake and then alongside River Rd. as the trail heads towards Beulah. Here, at the mouth of Betside Lake, there are ruins of an old railroad yard. Between Frankfort and Beulah, the trail skirts alongside the Betsie River and adjacent marshland as well as the Betside River State Game Area. 

As the trail veers north and approaches Crystal Lake, it also crosses Mollineaux Rd. where the trail becomes crushed stone and leaves its paved asphalt surface. This section along Crystal Lake, which passes by a row of beachfront cottages, does not allow dogs (up until reaching Beulah). Additionally, between Railroad Point Natural Area and Beulah, trail users must stay within the 10-ft trail easement to protect the surrounding landscape.

The trail offers a gradual ascent along the 5.3-mile stretch between Beulah and Aylsworth Road, where trail users can stop by the replica railroad depot for visitor information, restrooms, and memorabilia. 

As the trail heads towards Thompsonville, the trail crosses through a 7-mile stretch of pine and hardwood in the Pere Marquette State Forest. Along the way, trail users can spot the old turbine that supplied the sole source of electricity in this area, and near Aylsworth and Zimmerman Roads, the trail passes through the ghost town of Homestead, where railroad maintenance workers lived at the turn of the 19th century. At the end of this stretch, the trail crosses a renovated railroad bridge.

Thompsonville is the end of the official route, which is maintained by Friends of the Betsie Valley Trail. East of here, between Thomsponville and Yuma, the trail is not maintained but is owned by Michigan DNR and is better suited to atv-use and rough mountain biking. This section of the trail is relatively flat, with some rolling hills as trail users approach the trails southernmost end in Yuma.

Trail History

The Betsie Valley Trail follows the corridor of a railroad line that opened operations between Cadillac and Frankfort in 1888 and became part of the Ann Arbor Railroad in 1895. The railroad struggled; a railroad car ferry across Lake Michigan from 1892 to 1982 was its most profitable business. The railroad went through a series of owners after World War II. The section that is now the Betsie Valley Trail became disused in the early 1990s and began its transformation into a trail in 1992.

Parking and Trail Access

The Betsie Valley Trail runs between 510 Main St (Frankfort), where parking is available, and W 24 Rd. (Mesick).

Parking is also available at:

    • 1098 Lakeside Blvd (Elberta)

    • 7200 Crystal Ave (Beulah)

See TrailLink Map for all parking options and detailed directions.

Betsie Valley Trail Reviews

Easy parking and nice clean trail.

Easy parking and nice clean trail.

Very Nice Trail

Rode from Frankfort to Beulah 19 miles RT. First 6 miles are paved then hard packed gravel. Trail is beside the lake which is beautiful. Easy ride. Several places to eat in both Frankfort & Beulah. Half the ride is in the sun so go early or later in the afternoon during the summer months.


My wife kiddo and I were looking for a new trail to ride. We ride in traverse city but wanted something different. Today we parked at the Beulah Beach and this trail was just around the corner. We rode to Frankfort ate lunch and rode back. It was super easy for my 8 year old daughter, highly recommend !

beware in Mesick

I just discovered this trail thanks to this app. Looks like most people are exploring it towards the Lake Michigan loop. If you’re taking it over the Manistee river in Mesick, know that the bridge is an ancient railroad bridge that is closed off. It’s high above the river with just separated wood beams to walk on. No guard rails at all. It would be dangerous to try it. You’d be better served avoiding this stretch by biking the roads in this area to cross the river.


Pleasant ride and change of pace

In August a friend and I rode 10 miles from Beulah to Frankfort. and 10 back. The first 3 miles are decent crushed limestone; the remainder decent pavement. You ride near water most of the way (lake and river). Good for families. No special sights along the way. Several coffee shops / restaurants in Beulah. Enjoyed sitting in the park by the marina in Frankfort.

nice ride

We started in Frankfort , park behind the police station. Its a great ride from Frankfort to Beulah about half way. The path up to this point is very good. Stop a Beulah for a break and go across the street to two restaurants and get some great eats. The bike path after this point gets a rougher larger rocks and and uneven surfaces. Note that if its been raining a lot this trail tends to flood by the lakes , there are detours you can take to go around.

Mostly rough gravel

Rode from Thompsonville to Frankfort then back to Thompsonville. Only 6.5 miles of the trail are asphalt beginning in Frankfort and heading east. A portion of the trail just after the Frankfort trail head is underwater and there is a detour onto surface streets for about a half a mile. The gravel sections are predominantly double A road gravel which is a bit rough and certainly sharp. I rode on a gravel bike which did just fine, though some of the sandy road crossing approaches were tricky. This is not a good trail for a road bike. The scenery along the south shore of Crystal Lake was beautiful. The Thompsonville to Frankfort section is in much better shape than the section from Thompsonville to Mesick which I attempted to ride last year. Excellent rest and refueling options are available in Frankfort and Beulah. Thompsonville also has a bar & grill as well as a convenience store.

Frankfort to Beulah-September,2019

Parked in the town of Frankfort. There is a trailhead and lot one block from town, near the Police Station.
Yes there is a less than quarter of a mile section of the trail closed at Betsie Lake but you can go around the closed section. It is clearly marked and orange cones are out. Or you can just park at the lot in Elberta, which is across the road from Betsie Lake.
We biked from Frankfort to just beyond Beulah towards Thompsonville and back. Trail goes through wooded areas and open areas and wetlands. Gorgeous scenery.
The first 6 miles are flat and fast asphalt paved. Beyond M-115 it turns to gravel. Then the trail goes along Crystal Lake, which is beautiful. So the scenery makes up for the bumpy gravel section.
Just before Beulah you will come to Railroad Crossing Nature Area. Take the new wooden steps up to the overlook for a stunning view of Crystal Lake. On a sunny say, it's so clear the water looks blue.
In Beulah there are several places to eat. We parked our bikes in front of the restaurant and went inside and no one bothered them.
Beulah is biker friendly, there are bike lanes on the streets.
Heading out of Beulah towards Thompsonville the trail is gravel and bumpy. We didn't venture too far that way.
Well marked trail and trailheads and friendly people.
When in Frankfort, the trail ends 1/4 mile from the beach so take the trek to the beach and Lighthouse. Enjoy a gorgeous sunset.
In Frankfort there are several eateries and we left our bikes in front and no one bothered them.
All in all, a great trail offers nice stops. From Frankfort to just beyond Beulah and back was a 25 mile round trip.

Trail is closed in Frankfort due to flooding,

We easily found this trail on Waterfront in downtown Frankfort, but sadly the trail was closed due to flooding. On to Sleeping Bear Dunes Heritage trail. in poor shape, loose gravel, mud, part of the trail is now a stream. Suggest you start at western trailhead then ride east while the trail is in good shape. in poor shape, loose gravel, mud, part of the trail is now a stream. Suggest you start at western trailhead then ride east while the trail is in good shape.


An absolutely wonderful trail. Well kept and clean. Great for all ages.

My husband and I rode this trail on Oct 1st. The weather had temporarily turned chilly and windy. We found we were not dressed appropriately. We did not ride as far as planned. We began in Frankfort, and rode the paved section east to about a half mile of Rt 115, and returned to Frankfort. The pavement is in good shape. There are many benches, and the section we rode had three restrooms. The only caution to remember for next time is that the trail is east-west from the start alongside Betsie Bay, to the first road crossing at River Road. There it turns north. Time the trip so that the sun does not blind you while riding the east-west section. We parked at a trail head adjacent to the public boat launch in Frankfort. Find the Famile Fare grocery on the south side of Rt 115. The boat launch and parking, and a flush toilet restroom, is behind the grocery. Before going, you should look for pamphlets at various locations in Frankfort and in Beulah. We picked up a few pamphlets at the A&W Root Beer in Frankfort, and The Cherry Hut in Beulah. The maps in these pamphlets are better than the Google map provided on Traillink. Another pamphlet warns against swimming in Crystal Lake because of Swimmers Itch. The beach looked welcoming when we drove by it in Beulah, and the pamphlet explained how to use caution, but it was too chilly for us to do anything but sit and admire.

Beulah to Frankfort...Yes! Beulah to Thompsonville...Meh

My wife and I (with two year old in tow) did this trail. We camped at Betsie River Campground (in between Benzonia/Beulah and Frankfort), which is right on the trail. I dropped them off with camp supplies day 1, drove the car to the trailhead in Thompsonville and left it there overnight and rode the trail back to camp. The next day we bicycled back to the car together with a lunch/swimming break in Beulah. Takes a couple of hours at a leisurely pace.

Great trail for a day ride. From Beulah to Frankfort is really beautiful and well maintained. Beulah has a nice park with crystal lake swimming access, place to refill water, bathroom, etc. Frankfort, like a lot of Lake Michigan tourist towns is great as well with plenty to offer.

Beulah to Thompsonville is loose gravel. The woods are peaceful and the trail doesn't cross many roads on this stretch, but not much to look at. Good for a mind wandering ride, but the loose

I'd do Frankfort to Beulah again, but I'd skip the leg to Thompsonville.

Great Afternoon Ride

I just rode the trail, starting from Thompsonville and ending in Frankfort. The first 1/2 mile of the trail seems to be unmaintained, so I recommend starting on Thompsonville road right next to some sports complex. From there to Beulah the trail is similar to a gravel road. I have a hybrid bike with smooth 1.5 inch tires and it was a little harry at times, but don't be scared. Maybe bring a spare tube... I would not do it on a road bike. This section however is the most scenic. The short section from Beulah to the paved section is easily passable on any bike, and has great views as well. The whole ride took me about 2 hours, and there is a great public beach at the end on Lake Michigan. Also a brewery that I am about to try. ¿¿

Started at Thompsonville and loved the ride.

Rode the 20 miles-plus from Thompsonville to the end at Lake Michigan in late August. What a great ride! The first half is not paved so skinny road tires (less than an inch and half for all but experienced riders) are not recommended. The gradual downhill to Lake Michigan helped to make the trail more enjoyable. Saw lots of scenery and wildlife along the way. No black bears but berry-filled scat on several occasions. No other trail users on the upper, unpaved portion. An "Up North" undiscovered jewel!

Sweet ride...

We went from Frankfort to Beulah, loved Frankfort, lots of places to stop, catch a bite, nice ride for beginners. Will be terrific upon paving completion. Trailhead was easy to find

We were staying at Crystal mountain resort. The description says it starts ( ends ) here and was told so by an employee at the resort as well. Got dropped off in Frankfort with the hopes of ending at Crystal mountain. From this direction, the trail markings and gravel path end at Thompsonville. We tried taking one of the marked snowmobile trails to finish our ride but those trails were all soft sand and unridable in my opinion. We had to take the main roads the last couple of miles to get back to the resort.
In regards to the other parts of the trail, it's 6 miles of asphalt starting at Frankfort, followed by crushed stone till you get to Beulah. After that, the gravel has larger stones on the trial for the remainder of the route. Scenery wise, Frankfort to Beulah was the best.

Great Trail

We rode this trail in early October 2011. The Betsie Valley Trailway in Michigan runs from Frankfort to Thompsonville and is a 23 mile rail-to-trail with the first 8 (or so) miles of the trail paved and the rest gravel. We rode it out and back from Frankfort for a total of 47 miles. This was a great trail with a lot of variety. Water, forest, open grassy areas and hills. The trail runs along Crystal lake and then in to secluded forest. The town of Beulah is in-between and has restaurants and shopping and the old depot is a visitors center with bathrooms. Thompsanville has a restaurant and convenience store.

Betsie is the Bestie

My wife and I rode the entire trail and it was awesome. There is not many people on the trail from Beulah to Thompsonville probably because it is not paved. We really enjoyed this trail and would recommend it to anyone that wants to go for a 46 mile bike ride round trip. If you don't want to go that far the most scenic is from Frankfort to Beulah.

What a wonderful trail

My wife and I truly enjoyed running the Betsie trail. The woods are beutiful. There are plenty of wildflowers and wildlife. I saw at least 20 turtles laying eggs alongside the trail one morning. During the week, there was little traffic at all to speak of. The run alongside Crystal Lake will inspire you, whether you are running or cycling. If you are looking for a special trail, this is it.

Dream Trail

"Follow Mich scenic M-22 to get to trailhead in along beautiful Betsie river, saw salmon migrating, followed shore of Crystal Lake to Beulah, had lunch at Brookside Inn...along US31, great food and bakery...headed back...easy ride with lots to see. "

"Scenic, excellent for beginners"

"My wife & I do very little biking, but the trail from Frankfort to Beulah has become a MUST for us when we visit this scenic area."

Beautiful Ride

"This is a favorite trail of mine. Starting near Lake Michigan and running along the Betsie River, the trail also runs alond the shore of Crystal Lake. This path offers great shade on hot days."

Pleasant Surprise

Biked the trail from Frankfort to Beulah...10 miles...paved half way with hard packed crushed gravel the rest...Beautiful path...surpised that a railtrail could curve so much...followed the Betsie River...and followed the shoreline of gorgeous Crystal Lake...Lake on one side and wide range of cottages/homes on the other. Very tame trail would recommend it to all...don't miss this one!

Short trip on bikes

"The improved section of trail only runs from Frankfort to Benzonia. However, If you are looking for a longer ride you can exit the trail on Mollineaux rd and go up 115 turn right on US-31 then left on Walker. Head down the hill to (forgot street name), then turn left and head in to Beulah. From there continue around Crystal Lake on County Highway 704. You can loop back when you get to the end of Country highway 704. Crystal Lake is beautiful so you'll want to see it all twice."

Quite scenic and awaiting completion

"I rode the Betsie Valley trail during Labor Day weekend 2003 with a crossbike. Frankfort to Crystal Lake is paved and hugs the Betsie River for a couple miles. From Crystal Lake to Benzonia, the trail is crushed limestone.

The trail goes right through the beach on the south side of Crystal Lake. The original railroad right of way has been shaved down to a 10-foot width. East of Benzonia to Thompsonville, the trail was not yet improved. It was overgrown with weeds and railroad ballast."

Good Trail

"This is a nice but somewhat short trail. You sure don't want to go off the edges, and be careful at the road crossings too. The trail offers a lot of shade and a prety much flat, level and new surface."

Scenic trail

"This trail is so very scenic (Beulah to Frankfort) with views of Crystal Lake, Betsie River and Lake Michigan (where the trail ends in Frankfort). The trail also has heavily wooded sections. The Beulah residents are very friendly.

We loved this trail."

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