Fat tire biking in the Upper Peninsula
There’s a new trend snowballing into popularity, and it promises to stick around! Fat tire biking in the Upper Peninsula has been described as a cross between riding a bike and riding a horse – and in big snow country, we don’t wait until spring to get back in the saddle!
What is fat tire biking?
Combine mountain biking with fat tires about 3.8 inches wide and you have this popular take on adventure. Fat tire biking in the Upper Peninsula offers a recreation expedition, stunning winter views and a good way to get outside when our heavy snow falls.
Groomed fat tire bike trails in the Upper Peninsula
There are several miles to explore via fat tire bike in various regions of the U.P. Pick the one closest to your destination, and set out for the trails.
Snow biking is a “cool” sport everywhere in the U.P., but Marquette is the fat tire bike hub of the Midwest with over 60 miles of groomed trails and plenty of rental shops.
Noquemanon Trail Network
The Noquemanon Trail Network (NTN) has a variety of singletracks to please anyone from casual riders to seasoned enthusiasts. Built with several styles ranging from flow, technical, jump, freeride, downhill, dual slalom and kids/beginners, this trail system is one of two in Michigan and only 16 nationwide to receive EPIC Trail Status from the International Biking Association. This is the most recognized trail system in town, and it’s regularly groomed. Enjoy riverside riding, Lake Superior views and frozen waterfalls along these trails!
The North Trails of this network offer over 30 miles of non-motorized trails alongside the Dead River. In the winter, 13.5 miles of those are northern singletrack trails groomed specifically for fat tire biking.
The South Trails have about 20 miles of singletrack groomed for fat tire biking, but it is open for other uses, too. If you are sinking more than a half-inch, lower your tire pressure or turn back and wait for the trail to firm up.
North of Marquette, you can also enjoy biking on about 7 miles of groomed trails at the Saux Head trails. These are rarely crowded! Ride through old-growth forests of white pines and hemlocks to catch a view of Saux Head Lake in the winter. These trails are shared with cross country skiers and hikers, but there are some singletrack sessions between the main trails.
Harlow Lake Area
Marquette’s Harlow Lake Recreation Area offers four stunning views — Hogback, Top of the World, Sugarloaf and Bareback. The technical riders in your group looking for a workout will thrive on this challenging terrain. These trails offer some of the most difficult technical riding in the Midwest. Get your thrills on trails built on rock outcrops with pounding technical climbs and steep, rocky downhills.
This beautiful winter destination has a simple loop for when there isn’t a ton of snow. It comes with great Lake Superior scenery and it’s only 1.2 miles total.
Once you finish the Presque Isle route, continue on Lakeshore Boulevard along the Lake Superior shoreline. If you want to continue for a while, this stretch of road goes to Chocolay Township, where it turns into dirt service roads.
The RAMBA trails in Ishpeming offer over 77 miles of hand-built singletrack, and each winter, more than 20 miles of that are groomed for the adventurous biker.
You may have visited Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, but have you biked there? Explore Bruno’s Run, Valley Spur and Munising Mountain Bike Park, whose website offers information on the conditions of each of these trails.
The following trails are part of the Dickinson Trail Network and regularly groomed each winter.
Fumee Lake Natural Area
The Fumee Lake Natural Area has 14 miles of trails that range in difficulty, length and terrain. 4.41 miles are single track.We recommend the regularly maintained trails: Little Fumee Lake Loop, Big Fumee Lake Loop and South Ridge Loop. The North and South Mountain Loops are also groomed. Follow the Fumee Lake trail map for other trails and to decide which is best for your skill level.
Millie Hill Trails
This set of trails in Iron Mountain features top-notch, single-track mountain biking year round that you can ride with a fat tire bike, too. Built to International Mountain Bike Association standards, Millie Hill ensures sustainability, erosion resistance and minimal environmental impact. Millie Hill itself is a 200-foot vertical drop with access to eight unique trails that range across difficulty levels.
Norway South Trails
Marion Park in Norway is the trailhead for 9 miles of groomed, single-track fat biking trails in this system. The following are the groomed trails:
- Oak Crest Connector
- Ez Eh
- Bear Hunt
- Racing Stripes
- Paper Route
- Squatch/Jackalope Hybrid
Be sure to carve out some time to pedal up the Keweenaw Peninsula. Marvel at glittering winter forests of evergreens and glide along trails to see waterfalls frozen in time.
Get off the beaten path at the Copper Harbor Trail System at the top of the Keweenaw Peninsula, float along a trail that skims the Lake Superior coastline. Churn along gentle gliding trails or launch into soft powder to dial up the challenge. Then explore these other Copper Country trails throughout the Keweenaw Peninsula.
Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park
The Porkies Winter Sports Complex has 17 miles of groomed trails for fat tire biking for experienced riders. Hundreds of acres accompany these trails with snow-covered trees and panoramic views of Lake Superior. Enjoy the thrill of these Michigan mountains!
Sault Ste. Marie
Soo Strong Trail
At 32 miles long, this trail network runs between The Soo and Eckerman, a small community in the U.P. Ride alongside an abandoned rail corridor! The trailhead is off Foss Street in Sault Ste. Marie or SR 123 at Sheldon Road in Eckerman.
Grand Marais Trail
Just south of Deer park, this trail runs for over 40 miles from Grand Marais to Shingleton. Remote spots along the way will offer gorgeous scenery and the potential to see plenty of furry animals. Admire them from a distance!
Places to rent fat tire bikes in the Upper Peninsula
Rent fat tire biking equipment at these locations in the U.P.:
- The Noquemanon Trail Network Forestville Trailhead Chalet rents out fat tire bikes with helmets. Rentals are for 24-hour periods or multiple days with a credit card. The earlier you arrive for rental, the better selection you’ll have. Northern Michigan University students can rent equipment for free!
- Rent bikes at Sports Rack Marquette, which is also a great place for information on biking in general.
- NMU students can rent bikes for free from Northern Michigan Universities Wildcat Fit Zone or at the Outdoor Recreation Center (ORC) in the Physical Education Instruction Facility.
- West End Ski & Bike Shop – Ishpeming’s Carbon Fat Bike Rentals offers full-day or half-day rentals, depending on your needs.
Chances are that no matter where you are biking, there is a bike shop nearby that offers fat-tire bike rentals. Call ahead to ask though! If they don’t offer them, they will have a good lead on where to check next.
Fat tire biking tips
Keep these tips in mind when fat tire biking:
- Use trails with at least six inches of snow
- Don't use trails if it's over 30 degrees, as that can quickly turn to mud, damaging the base trail.
- Make sure tires are at least 3.7 inches wide with no more than 4-6 PSI
Fat tire biking trail etiquette
- Avoid riding on groomed cross-country ski tracks.
- At the trailhead, check to see whether the trail is one-way or two-way.
- On two-way trails, stay to the right when approaching traffic.
- Keep dogs on a 6-foot leash and clean up after them (no one wants to ride through dog waste that was unseen by covered snow).
- Also be mindful and respectful of who is behind you.