Trail Tour

The History Of Betsie Valley Trail

The Betsie Valley Trail is built on the bed of the former Ann Arbor Railroad. From 1892 until 1982 the freight cars were carried across Lake Michigan on car ferries to Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Passenger service was discontinued in 1951 and freight service in 1985. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) bought the rail corridor in 1998.

Benzie County and the Friends of the Betsie Valley Trail have been working with the DNR since 1992 to build the Trail.

Did You Know?

The Ann Arbor Railroad carried freight and passengers from Toledo through Ann Arbor, Owosso, Cadillac, Thompsonville and Beulah to Frankfort and Elberta.


Breakdown of the Trail

Start of the Trail

The Trail starts at the City of Frankfort’s Lake Michigan Beach and passes through Cannon Park. Then passes through the City’s waterfront parks to 10th St., where it officially becomes the DNR owned Betsie Valley Trail. Excellent for road bicycles, roller blades and wheel chairs. with beautiful views over Betsie Lake and its marshland, then travels to Crystal Lake with periodic views of the Betsie River.

  • 3 Blocks of Waterfront
  • From Cannon Park to Mollineaux is 6.7 Miles of Asphalt Trail
  • Crosses Betsie River Twice near Elberta

Crystal Lake

The trail from Mollineaux Rd. to Beulah (3 miles) runs along Crystal Lake. The limestone fines surface is hard enough for road bikes but mountain bikes work better. The first mile passes through the County owned Railroad Point Natural Area with access to the beach and Crystal Lake. The two mile portion closest to Beulah runs through private property on a 10 ft. easement. Special use restrictions apply here and are listed on trail side signs. Please stay on the trail in this area.

  • 3 Miles Along Crystal Lake
  • Access To Beach
  • 2 Miles of 10ft easement on private property. Read Trail Signs

Stop & Relax

Frankfort, Elberta and Beulah and Thompsonville have accommodations, restaurants, and camping (see Web Links page). Beulah has a beautiful public beach on Crystal Lake. Visit the Beulah Trailhead and Visitor Center, a replica of the former Railroad Station, for information on local restaurants and Delis. Bicycles may be rented in Frankfort, Elberta, Beulah, and at Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville.

  • Restaurants, camping, and accommodations
  • Off Road Parking in Frankfort, Elberta, and Beulah.
  • Bike Rentals

Did You Know?

The Trail from Frankfort to Beulah is restricted to non-motorized use. The Trail from Beulah to Thomsonville is open to snowmobiles from December 1st through the end of March.

End of Trail

The 13 mile trail from Beulah to Thompsonville has an excellent aggregate trail surface, hard enough for road bikes but cross bikes or, preferably, mountain bikes work better. It is remote, almost devoid of structures, and passes through mile after mile of pine and hardwood upland forests, including 6.5 miles of the Pere Marquette State Forest.

Between Landis and Haze Roads, there is much wetland and excellent birding in the spring. At Wolf Road, the Trail passes the old turbine which once produced the first electricity in this area, powered by the nearby Betsie River. In 2006 the old bridge over the Betsie River near Thompsonville was renovated and the Trail has been completed to Thompson Avenue in Thompsonville, one block south of Lindy Road. There are two restaurants in Thompsonville, and complete lodging and dining facilities at Crystal Mountain Resort nearby. There is trail-side parking in the ballpark just north of Lindy Road in Thompsonville (entrance beside the trail as it crosses Lindy Road).

  • There is a gradual 50 foot incline over the 5.3 miles from Beulah to Aylsworth Road which is no more of a challenge than the predominant winds from the west on the way back.
  • While there is access to the Trail at the road crossings indicated on the Trail map, there is no designated parking between Beulah and Thompsonville.

Your Adventure Begins Here

Trail Map

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Betsie Valley Trail relies on the charitable contributions from individuals, families, businesses, and organizations. Become a supporter of Betsie Valley Trail and help protect this beautiful habitat and active lifestyle for future generations.