Author Topic: North Lakes Route - Have Questions  (Read 847 times)

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Offline swedbeam

North Lakes Route - Have Questions
« on: March 26, 2014, 11:38:42 am »
I will be taking the train from Minneapolis, meeting a friend in Chicago, and then taking the train to Battle Creek, MI and biking back on the ACA North Lakes route.

I have a few questions:

- Has anyone completed this route in the last few years?
- We plan on camping the whole way, any issues with that?
- The ACA route looks like it goes though some heavy traffic, should I get some other maps?
- Why doesn't the ACA route follow Lake Michigan? Any recommended detours of the ACA route?

Thanks!


Offline John Nelson

Re: North Lakes Route - Have Questions
« Reply #1 on: March 26, 2014, 12:05:25 pm »
I took the North Lakes route in the summer of 2012. I camped the whole way too. The Interstate Park south of St. Croix Falls, WI has beautiful grassy sites, with great showers for no extra charge and some historic interest. There is a great, inexpensive municipal campground in Birchwood, WI (great shower for 25 cents). I camped at Day Lake outside Clam Lake, WI in a nearly deserted but perfectly nice NFS campground (no showers, but a lake to jump in). Big Lake Campground short of Boulder Junction, WI was great with a lot of friendly people (no showers, but a lake to jump in). The campground at Pentoga Park on Chicaugon Lake near Gaastra, MI was expensive and very lively (circus atmosphere), but also nice--they have an ice cream shop in the campground (good showers). The campground in Escanaba, MI at the Upper Peninsula State Fair was adequate and inexpensive (reasonable showers). The Milakokia Lake State Forest Campground near Blaney Park, MI has no showers, but has a lake to swim in. Straits State Park in St. Ignace has one of the most beautiful campgrounds I've stayed in with a view of the Strait and bridge. The municipal campground in Petoskey (Magnus Park) is quite nice. Whitewater Township Park, several miles outside Williamsburg, requires you to ride a sandy road to get there, but it's nice although expensive. Old Grade Campground (USFS) ten miles west of Luther, MI is primitive but cheap.

I did not find traffic a problem on this route. I see no reason to deviate from the ACA route. Highway 2 across the UP can be a bit busy (if you don't take the ferry across Lake Michigan), but there are few alternatives.

Seems to me that the ACA route does indeed follow Lake Michigan as much as possible, at least as far as Traverse City. I'm not sure why it goes inland after that.


Offline swedbeam

Re: North Lakes Route - Have Questions
« Reply #2 on: March 26, 2014, 12:29:29 pm »
Great info, thanks for the reply. I will just be going the opposite direction of you.

Did you only use the ACA maps?  no GPS or local bike maps?

Offline John Nelson

Re: North Lakes Route - Have Questions
« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2014, 04:54:38 pm »
Yes, I just used the ACA maps. No GPS and no other maps. It was fine. Yes, you occasionally get off course, but I usually figure it out pretty quickly. Road signage can be iffy at times, and has sometimes changed since the ACA printed the maps. I don't think I ever went more than 3 miles off course, and most of the time less than a mile, without figuring it out and going back. Be sure to talk to all other cyclists you see coming the other direction to get tips--these are often invaluable, especially about road construction and detours. Don't be afraid to ask locals for advice, but always recognize that the information they give is quite often wrong, so don't place complete faith in it.

I recommend not skipping Mackinac Island. It's a fun way to spend a few hours. But there is no camping on the island, so catch the ferry to St Ignace when you're done. The ferry operator will know that you came from the other side by the color of your ticket, so you just have to assure him that you really do not want to go back from where you came.

I very much enjoyed the pasties of the Upper Peninsula. They seem the perfect cyclotouring food. I wish they were commonly available elsewhere. I had a fun stop at the "Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum" in Naubinway.

Offline swedbeam

Re: North Lakes Route - Have Questions
« Reply #4 on: March 26, 2014, 05:53:13 pm »
Good to know about that maps, that's encouraging.  How was camping south of the Old Grade Campground?  Looking at Google maps there are quite a few.  You end up stealth camping at all?

Never been to Mackinac island either so will for sure check that out.
« Last Edit: March 26, 2014, 06:41:02 pm by swedbeam »

Offline John Nelson

Re: North Lakes Route - Have Questions
« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2014, 11:15:09 pm »
I didn't go any farther south than the Old Grade Campground. I headed east on the Lake Erie Connector. I do very little stealth camping--mostly just when there is no other reasonable option.

Offline JBrooks191

Re: North Lakes Route - Have Questions
« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2014, 12:43:03 pm »
I did this ride in 2011, although I took the ferry across Lake Michigan. Traffic was never an issue, and no problems finding good campgrounds. I used the ACA maps exclusively. I did make a side trip to Hayward, Wisconsin that was well worth it. Great trip, with beautiful scenery. You'll have a great time.

Offline swedbeam

Re: North Lakes Route - Have Questions
« Reply #7 on: April 08, 2014, 11:11:02 am »
John/Brooks, how many miles did you average per day?  Sounds like the terrain in flatter than other parts of the USA according to ACA.  We are shooting for about 70/day
« Last Edit: April 08, 2014, 11:12:41 am by swedbeam »

Offline JBrooks191

Re: North Lakes Route - Have Questions
« Reply #8 on: April 08, 2014, 03:03:07 pm »
I averaged 60 to 70 miles a day, and had several 80+ mile days with no problems. We got bogged down a bit with headwinds and heavy rain when the tornado hit Minneapolis.  Other than that, and some climbs between Muscatine, Iowa and Stillwater, it was a relatively smooth ride. Many of the campgrounds were located directly on pristine lakes, which added to the experience. Would love to do that ride again someday. I have a photo log on my Facebook page if you're interested. Jim Brooks Centerville, Ohio.

Offline John Nelson

Re: North Lakes Route - Have Questions
« Reply #9 on: April 08, 2014, 03:56:03 pm »
John/Brooks, how many miles did you average per day?  Sounds like the terrain in flatter than other parts of the USA according to ACA.  We are shooting for about 70/day
Minnesota is very flat and you can get in a lot of miles a day. It gets hillier again when you get into Wisconsin, but the flat again along Lake Michigan. Once you turn inland from Lake Michigan, you're into rolling hills.

From Dalbo, MN, to Luther, MI, I did days of 61, 92, 71, 78, 83, 91, 88, 64, 64, 80 and 84 miles.
« Last Edit: April 08, 2014, 04:03:58 pm by John Nelson »