ANN ARBOR, MI – Milder temperatures and eye-popping colors make October a perfect month to hop on a bike and take in the best fall has to offer in the Ann Arbor area.
MLive meteorologist Mark Torregrossa predicts peak color change coming toward the tail end of this month in southeast Michigan.
Read more: Peak fall color in Michigan 2022: Weather may push back best leaf peeping time.
Thanks to trail advocates and pathway development initiatives, many Washtenaw County residents have a car-free route for cycling a short ride or drive away from where they live.
Chief among them is the Washtenaw County Border-to-Border (B2B) Trail, now spanning about 35 non-continuous miles and looping in a handful of parks and natural areas perfect for leaf-peeping. Those who prefer dirt to pavement also have no shortage of options, particularly in the western part of the county.
Here are a few places to take in the fall colors by bike before they’re gone.
Huron River Drive and the B2B Trail to Dexter
While not a pathway built purely for bikes, Huron River Drive northwest of Ann Arbor can feel like one on the weekends, when Lycra-clad cyclists outnumber drivers.
The roughly seven-mile stretch between the Barton Nature Area and Zeeb Road winds along the Huron River, with minimal climbing, great views of the water and few interruptions along the route.
Plug into the B2B Trail at the western edge of this section for a quick tour into downtown Dexter via the paved pathway through the woods of the Dexter-Huron Metropark. This area feels secluded, even while running along the railroad and behind subdivisions off Dexter-Ann Arbor Road.
This is a classic Ann Arbor-area ride likely already in most experienced cyclists’ Rolodexes, but it is also a great chance for beginners to see what the area offers. Access it by bike from Ann Arbor or park at the Barton Nature Area.
B2B Trail from Dexter to Hudson Mills Metropark
This route is is a nice extension of the above ride, continuing along the Huron River through the wooded Hudson Mills Metropark on the B2B Trail.
It starts in Mill Creek Park on the edge of downtown Dexter, traversing a series of wooden walkways before climbing into the forest along the river, eventually reaching North Territorial Road in about five miles.
Cross the bridge there and hop onto the three-mile loop on the paved walking trail through Hudson Mills, a great spot for a rest on benches by the river, before heading back.
Parking is available at Hudson Mills Metropark and in Dexter.
Ann Arbor’s Gallup Park
While on the shorter side, as a dedicated bike ride, the paths through Gallup Park, Ann Arbor’s most popular recreation area, are beautiful this time of year.
A paved pathway combining the B2B Trail and Gallup Park Pathway extends just over three miles on the southern bank of the Huron River, passing through picnic and play areas.
Cross the river at Dixboro Road to continue on the B2B Trail toward Ypsilanti, or continue on the pathway to Parker Mill County Park where a two-mile paved connector offers access to the Matthaei Botanical Gardens to the north.
Mike Levine Lakelands Trail
Washtenaw County residents looking to go a bit further afield should check out the Mike Levine Lakelands Trail, running between Hamburg Township in Livingston County and Blackman Township in Jackson County.
The 33-mile rail-trail route isn’t all paved. The paved section extends from M-36 just west of Pinckney to the trail’s eastern endpoint near U.S. 23, with the remaining trail surface a mix of dirt track and crushed limestone that can be rougher for bikes without wider tires.
Here, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has a list of trailheads and parking.
Potawatomi Loop and the Waterloo-Pinckney Trail connector
If you’re ready to leave the pavement behind altogether, the rugged and challenging Poto Loop is a longstanding area mountain biking gem.
The main trailhead is at the Silver Lake Day Use Area in the Pinckney Recreation Area, and the entire loop extends some 18 miles, with a shortcut available to trim some mileage off that total.
The trail offers views of several lakes and is entirely within the western Washtenaw County natural area, making it perfect for taking in fall foliage.
For the first time this season, mountain bikers can use a new connector between the Potawatomi Trail and the DTE Energy Trail system, following a section of the Waterloo-Pinckney Trail.
Entering the Waterloo Recreation Area and plugging into the B2B Trail, the trail offers a new look at a part of the natural area previously off-limits to cyclists.