Leelanau Trail


39 Reviews

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Leelanau Trail Facts

States: Michigan
Counties: Grand Traverse, Leelanau
Length: 16.6 miles
Trail end points: N Dumas Road (Suttons Bay) and E Carter Rd (Greilickville)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6016176

Leelanau Trail Description


The 16.6-mile Leelanau Trail runs up a Lake Michigan peninsula that is known for its abundance of cherry orchards and Riesling grape vineyards. Located in northern Michigan, the paved trail connects the popular tourist destinations of Suttons Bay and Traverse City.

About the Route

The northern endpoint of the Leelanau Trail is located just 1.8 miles north of the village of Sutton's Bay. The charming small town was an old railroad stop and has also served as a safe harbor for passing boats since the 1850s. Walking around the marina, trail users can spot a tall ship schooner that serves as a hands-on vessel for the Inland Seas Education Association. Elsewhere in town, boutiques, galleries, bed-and-breakfast inns, and restaurants cater to visitors.

As the trail meanders south, after about 7 miles it passes through Bingham, which sits atop the spine of the peninsula and is roughly between Lake Leelanau in the west and the West Arm Grand Traverse Bay in the east. From here the route heads downhill toward Traverse City.

About 6 miles past Bingham, the trail passes the DeYoung Natural Area. This 145-acre preserve, one of 25 natural areas owned by the Leelanau Conservancy, provides hiking trails through a former farmstead and access to Cedar Lake. Drinking water and restrooms are available.

1.2 miles past the DeYoung Natural Area, the trail arrives at a trailhead on Cherry Bend Road that is marked by a historic caboose from the Leelanau Scenic Railroad. The trail comes to its southern endpoint 0.9 miles farther south on East Carter Road in Greilickville, but there is no parking here.


The Leelanau Trail is part of the TART Trails, a series of interconnected trails near Traverse City, Michigan, and surrounding northern Michigan. 

At the southern end of the trail, the Leelanau Trail connects seamlessly to the Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation Trail

Trail History

The Leelanau Trail uses a former railroad corridor that got its start by hauling timber out of old-growth forests and ended its life as a scenic railroad. The Traverse City, Leelanau & Manistique Railway opened for business in 1903 by running up the peninsula from Traverse City and then crossing the lake by ferry to Manistique on the Upper Peninsula. The railroad went through some ownership changes and fell on hard times after a fire wiped out a large lumber mill. It limped along for decades and finally found use as an excursion train run by railroad enthusiasts from 1989 until 1995 when it was bought by a trail association.

Parking and Trail Access

The Leelanau Trail runs between N Dumas Road (Suttons Bay) and E Carter Rd (Greilickville).

Parking is available at:

  • 8600 E Fouch Rd (Traverse City)
  • 9509 E Cherry Bend Rd (Traverse City)

Please see TrailLink Map for all parking options and detailed directions.

Leelanau Trail Reviews

Beautiful Trail

Started at Feuch Trailhead. Rode to Sutton Bay. 12 miles one way. Very scenic ride with Vineyards & Orchards. Look for Leo Creek Preserve. Near Suttons Bay. Beautiful garden area. We stopped in Hansens Market and picked up Deli Sandwiches. Ate our lunch at the Leo Creek Preserve (don’t miss this preserve absolutely beautiful). Suttons Bay is a quaint town.


Stayed at Anchor Inn which was close to a trailhead and reasonably priced. Closer to Travers City we were told the trail was along the road so we went to the next closest trailhead. A smooth paved trail. Orchards were a nice break in the tree lines.

very smooth trail

Great ride, scenic as it rolls through vineyards and apple orchards. Not dissimilar from Tuscany. Also Sutton’s bay has plenty of restaurants including beer pubs which makes it a great halfway point.


Enjoyed our ride on the Leelanau Trail. Took us about 5 hrs to go to Suttons Bay and back. We have rad power bikes. Stopped a few times there and back—wandered around Suttons Bay a little. Nice smooth trail



What a great ride

great trail

We parked at Cherry Bend Rd and rode to Sutton’s Bay -about 14 miles. Trail is very smooth and there are beautiful views of apple and cherry orchards, sunflower fields, lakes and more. Enjoyed it very much.

Awesome trail

Flat, fast , smooth and well maintained! Find the southern end of trail on M22 next to Holiday gas station. Ride north 17 miles to Sutton’s Bay. Some road crossings to be careful of, but otherwise great !

One of the best trails in the Upper Midwest

In August a friend and I rode out and back from Traverse City to Suttons Bay. We passed over 50 serious and casual riders, runners and walkers. The 100% paved trail surface is excellent (no frost heaves, potholes or tree roots). It's wide enough to pass comfortably. Great views of rolling hills, corn and hay fields, apple and cherry orchards, and several hops fields. As other reviews noted, Suttons Bay has good places to eat. The TART trail in Traverse City seamlessly feeds this trail.

Great Combination of Trail quality and scenery with ease of riding

My wife and I rode this trail in July 2021 starting at the Cherry Bend trailhead riding north to Suttons Bay.

The trail is in excellent condition - no debris, no cracks or bumps. Plenty of riders on the trail, all of whom follow proper riding etiquette (including the road bikes!!) with plenty of waving and hellos.

There are only a few roads to cross, mostly rural dirt with no traffic, only two with a little traffic. From where we started at Cherry Bend Rd going north we passed several other trailheads where one can park and make it a shorter ride.

Port-a-johns and bathrooms are along the way at convenient places.

The northbound trail has a slight incline most of the way to Suttons Bay but it isn't really that noticeable, but of course on the way back down the ride is easier.

Plenty of scenery from forest to fields to farms and ponds to view and enjoy. Once arriving in Suttons Bay there is the Hop Lot Brewery just off the trail which requires a slight jog and a few feet on a main road. However, the shoulders of all the roads in this area are wide and made for bikes and the drivers are quite familiar with bikes and give us a wide berth, so don't worry.

Lots of bikes in the bike rack at Hop Lot and plenty of eating outside. The beer is cold and the food is tasty - a welcome reward for the ride up.

Just 1/2 mile on the main road shoulder takes you into Harbor Springs (unless you just skipped the lunch and stayed on the trail). We locked up at the Suttons Bay Bike Shop. You've got to visit this shop!

Nick Wierzba owns the shop, which has a ton of bikes of all sorts to rent along with a full repair shop and tons of clothing and accessories. The best part is that everyone that works there is amazing and experienced but kind to all, from novice to experienced bikers.

Jordan gave me a wonderful off-trail route on back roads to go around Lake Leelanau. They also have guided and self-guided bike tours of the wineries, and arrange to pick up your wine purchases and bring them back to the shop. The BATA bus (which also carries bikes) has a stop right behind the shop. They also rent bikes for winter rides and have an excellent winter ride program.

Overall, nothing to be critical of with this trail. Enjoy the ride!

nice ride

This is probably one of the best trails in Michigan. Paved , smooth all the way from Traverse City to Suttons Bay. If you happen to be here in may the cherry blossoms are out. If fall the colors are wonderful. We happen to be on this trail in June this time. The trail is somewhat busy but no problems at all. Go to Suttons Bay for lunch and shopping they have bike racks all over the city. Enjoy this gem.

My Favorite Rail Trail!

This is an absolutely beautiful trail! Since it was paved from Traverse City to Sutton’s Bay, the trail is smooth, with gentle inclines and descents. It winds through forests, orchards, vineyards, and farms. Absolutely spectacular scenery. And a great workout without huge hills that stress the joints! My husband and I have ridden many rails to trails pathways in many states and this one is in the top 5! Love it!

great inline skating trail

so hard to find a good smooth trail for inline skating in northern mi. this trail definitely is made for it! a flat rail trail with great scenery.

Incorporate a Winery Visit into the Ride

We parked our car on the roadside, near Shady Lane Winery, on Shady Lane Road( off of M 22). We rode into Suttons Bay and enjoyed the shops and lunch. You can ride back through the beautiful countryside and then go to the Shady Lane Cellars. The winery is gorgeous and welcomes cyclists.

Smooth paved path. Well marked. Very scenic ride through fruit farms, woods, and meadows. Perhaps one-third shaded. Right through the heart of Leelanau countryside. Gentle grade with peak near middle of ride. Either direction great to ride.

Smooth paved path. Well marked. Very scenic ride through fruit farms, woods, and meadows. Perhaps one-third shaded. Right through the heart of Leelanau countryside. Gentle grade with peak near middle of ride. Either direction great to ride.

absolutely beautiful

Quiet, smooth and not too busy. Enjoyed the scenery of farmlands. Lots of benches and watering stops. Went from traverse city to Blackstar farms winery. Perfect summer day.

Smooth asphalt

This is one of the nicest trails in Michigan, smooth pavement, well traveled, pretty scenery. The trail is interrupted in Suttons Bay for a mile or so before resuming for the last couple miles north of town. Perhaps the only thing which could improve the trail riding experience would be if the county would trim back the vegetation in the right of ways at more of the road crossings and thereby increase visibility and lines of sight for oncoming traffic.

Very relaxing ride through the countryside

Very relaxing ride through the countryside

Loved it!

Started in Traverse City- larked in the Tom’s Market parking lot. Trail is super smooth and very easy- elevation changes are not that bad. Trail is marked every mile and there are some vineyard views. You will cross 5 or so roads but traffic is very light. One location along the way- resident placed water, chairs, a chalk table and a bike pumps out for a fun rest area. The end takes you into Sutton bay and we negotiated the little town and got to a great view of Sutton’s bay- I will be back!

Great Ride

Well maintained with beautiful scenery.

Great Access to Wine Country!

My wife and I, towing our furry four legged companion, rode the trail this weekend. We stayed at TC State Park Campground and used the adjoining TART trail to access this one. On the northern end, we diverted from the trail to explore some of the beautiful wineries nearby. We had wonderful service for ourselves as well as our dog at Black Star Farms, Mawby, Big Little, Ciccone, and Willow. All are within a few (very hilly!) miles of the path, and we felt safe on the roads. Admittedly, some of the off-trail hills required us to hike-a-bike, but we anticipated this and enjoyed the chance to take in the beautiful views. We had hoped to stop at Shady Lane as well but time didn't allow. The trail was flat, exquisitely maintained, and perfectly scenic throughout. We're already planning our next up north trip to continue to explore this beautiful peninsula by bike!

Area bus service will accomodate bicycles

If you aren't up to a 32 mile up-and-back ride, consider the Bay Area Transit Authority Bike-n-Ride service. You can load up your bike and take a 40 minute bus ride from downtown Traverse City to Suttons Bay with great views of Grand Traverse Bay along the way. I've done it twice now and it is a slick way to enjoy this beautiful trail if time and/or stamina are limited. Check out their website at http://www.bata.net/maps-schedules/bike-n-ride-schedules.html. Caution - there are fewer departures on weekends when compared to weekdays so make sure you check the appropriate schedule.

Delightful trail!

We biked this on Labor Day weekend (Sunday)2016. The weather was perfect and so was the trail. Even on a beautiful holiday weekend the trail was not crowded. There is much variety on this trail as you pass by a pond, view Lake Michigan in parts, farm land and apple orchards. It has many portajohns along the way and even an area to pump some fresh drinking water. It's very flat and is great for families as well as serious riders. There are a few crossings, but most have little to no traffic. There are a few crossings with blind crossings, so use caution there. We started at the trailhead near downtown Traverse City and rode to the cute little town at the end of the trail where we had a great lunch and then biked back. A perfect day!


I was in town for only 2 days to bike and brewery hop before heading to Grand Rapids. I had no idea what to expect since this was my first time to Traverse City, I was very impressed with the trail system. We jumped on off the TART in Traverse City and rode it up to Suttons Bay. It's probably one of the most beautiful and well maintained rail trails I have ever been on! Beautiful views and smooth riding the whole way! There is a great brewery around the corner from the trail head called Hop Lot in Suttons where we grabbed some refreshments before turning around to head back to Traverse City. I couldn't have asked for a better experience! I am already planning a return trip!

Great Family Trail

Wonderful paved trail through beautiful farm country.

Nice, nice ride!

Took this trail from downtown TC to Sutton's Bay, and back. The scenery is really nicely varied, from shady cedar groves, to orchards, to vistas of vineyards, to small ponds. The trail pavement is pristine, the hills moderate. This trail is a real treasure for the Leelanau area.

Wonderful Early Fall Ride

I rode this trail Sunday Sept 6th. It worked well for me to deposit my family at the West End Beach for a half day of soaking up the sun.

After parking, while we were figuring out how to use the pay machine, we heard this very loud metallic scraping, crashing sound. This sound turned out to be an unloaded trailer somehow becoming detached from its hauling vehicle and running up the side of the road. I was thankful, we did not witness anything awful .. ie nobody was injured.

From the West End Beach, head west along a reasonably marked trial ( TART is the label ). I stopped a local man and he let me know that the Leelanau Trail began behind Holiday Stationstore ( a gas station ), just after Toms Market.

The smile never left my face as I was treated to beautiful farm vistas, gorgeous bay views, pond views, and stream crossings with very clear water. The trail was well used but not at all crowded. A number of folks were walking the trail with a wagtail canine companion.

This trail has so many unique elements, riders will surely return for more.

Nice Trail Great Ride!

Rode this Trail 7/22/14. Very nice indeed. Trail is paved the entire way. The scenery alternates between nice wooded areas and meadows highlighted with wild flowers and orchards. If you are into "Red Barns" this whole area is for you. They are everywhere. Great Trail! I'll be back to ride it again and again. I love it up there!

Great ride

Did this trail in June of 2013, going back to do it again in 2014. Last year I only did half the trail. The trail is now totally asphalt and a very easy ride. Take your time and don't rush it is the best advice I can give.

Beautiful Ride

We started at Sutton Bay. Trailhead right there, local restaurants nearby. Only did the top half but it was a gentile, country ride. Highly recommend taking time to go. Well marked, not too many road crossings, nice shade from the heat

Smooth and scenic.

I rode this trail last in July of 2012. It has been paved over completely. There are some parking spots in the corner of the Tom's food market grocery store. Next time I ride I will probably park across the street at Aroma's coffee shop and get a mocha after my ride. The trail is nice and there was tree branch trimming going on at the south end by a municipal crew, which is nice to see. Still the same scenic route, just faster on my road bike. Some trail-side residents will put out free water and cups which is really quite nice and I think there is a still brooms leaning on some of the trail signs if there is a need to sweep (glass), but I have never seen any broken glass here. Also, none of the pesky bumps where the driveways cross the trail as the Charlevoix to Petosky trail has.

!!! Make plans IMMEDIATELY to ride the Leelanau Trail !!!

Rode this trail on July 2, 2012. The paving had been completed the previous week so that the entire route from Traverse City to Sutton's bay is all smooth blacktop! The plastic protective film is still on the ADA compliant crossings and we had to dodge the straw blowing crew that was planting the grass along side the pavement. It is a gorgeous trail with enough hills to make you work some and enough views to leave you breathless.

Now hooked up with TART

With late fall 2004 hookup with the TART/Leelanau connector there is a lot of blacktop to ride. A new section from the end of the TART trail to where the Leelanau trail began is now open providing a safe transition between the trails. This also ads about another mile or so of asphalt for bladers and townie riders. The real upside is you can ride from Acme on the TART trail to about 11k up the Lee trail a round trip is a little over 30 miles. Start in the middle in Traverse City And go either way. You can get Sport drinks and food bars at a number of places along the Tart trail and the Holiday store heading out the Leelanau trail. Have a good time.


"I like this trail because it goes through Traverse City and you are never far from water or help as I ride a wheelchair bike/handcycle. There are a couple of dangerous problems where the trail runs right along the road over on the East Bay side near Bunker Hill road. The second is on the Leelanu Trail section where the trail crosses several roads.

One of the crossings is probably Michigan's most dangerous trail crossing where the trail goes over Cherry Bend Road through an S curse area. I have aired my complaints several times to the area's highest athorities but I think they are waiting for someone to be killed there before it gets fixed. Don't let your kids ride the Leelanu section!

***REPLY FROM TART Trails, Inc.***

Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation Trails, Inc. (TART Trails, Inc.) is working with the Leelanau County Road Commission to make the sight distance better at the aforementioned crossings. TART Trails, Inc. is concerned with safety on our trails and we are willing to work with the appropriate entities to improve trail hazards to ensure a safe trail experience for all trail users.

If anyone has any questions or concerns about the trails managed by TART Trails, Inc., please contact Missy Luyk, Trail Program Specialist with TART Trails, Inc., at missy@traversetrails.org or 231-941-4300. The TART Trails, Inc. Web site can be found at www.traversetrails.org.

"Paved part good, gravel part rough"

"I rode the trail during the July 4th 2004 weekend with a crossbike. The southern trailhead is in Greilickville. The five miles north of Greilickville is paved and smooth. The gravel section (about 9 miles) is sandy gravel, with a lot of rr ballast mixed in.

I recommend nothing less than a mountain bike. This section is very scenic however, with several old railroad bridges, cherry orchards, apple orchards, vineyards, and wildlife. The northern mile of the trail in Suttons Bay is paved."

Nice for mountain bikes

"Starting out from Traverse City, the first five miles or so are paved. This portion is wonderful -- woods, streams, lake views, etc. The next nine miles go through fields, orchards, meadows and the like, not quite as nice as the first part. However, this section is not paved and is really only suited for mountain bikes. Parts of the trail were gravel, dirt, sand, and mud. I did manage to get through on a road bike, but not easily. The last mile into Sutton Bay is paved."

Good Mix

"This trail is a good mix of pavement and dirt. It is an excellent way to visit either end, as it has only one somewhat strenuous hill (into TC). There are no bathrooms/food stops on the trail itself."

Not for trailers

I rode this trail in August 2002 on hybrid bike pulling my two kids in a trailer. The trail is paved for about five miles then it's basically two dirt ruts. I had two turn around since the trailer bounced everywhere.

Nice Ride!

I rode a roundtrip in July 2002. A couple of miles at each end are paved but the remainder was fine for my cross bike. I would do it again.

Great 3 seasons ride

This trail is a great three seasons ride. The trail is six kilometers of paving from Traverse City then gravel and dirt that are for the most part hard packed. Lots of nice views ending in a small town of small shops.

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