Trail Introduction | Guide | Facilities | Getting There | Additional Information
The View From The Top
It’s fall, the air is clear, the leaves are starting to drop, the views have improved on every ridge, hill and high point scattered across Michigan. For leaf peppers, hikers and especially mountain bikers, the views get no better than what is enjoyed at the top of Boyne City’s Avalanche Peak, the focus of our latest Trail Mix newsletter.
Need more high point suggestions? Deadman's Hill and the 3-mile Deadman's Hill Loop is an excellent destination for a view and a hike and you can get the trail map by clicking here. Or check out the latest outdoor feature on MichiganTrailMaps.com about camping on high points by clicking here.
A Wild Ride Down Avalanche Peak
By Jim DuFresne
There is no record of an avalanche ever barreling down Avalanche Peak into Boyne City, but the hill is incredibly steep—so steep that in the 1950s, it was a downhill ski area with rope tows and even a chairlift. Located on the southwest corner of the city, Avalanche Peak rises to 1023 feet or 439 feet above Lake Charlevoix to provide the most commanding view of any high point south of the Mackinac Bridge.
This towering ridge is the center piece of Avalanche Preserve Recreation Area, a 300-acre Boyne City park that is predominantly a forested sloping terrain. The exception is its northern slope that was the site of a downhill ski operation beginning in the early 1950s. By 1958 the downhill had a 1500-foot poma lift and later a double chairlift before closing in the 1960s.
In the fall the hill is a favorite for leaf peepers who scale a 462-step stairway to a pair of observation decks near the top from which they can gaze down at Boyne City, practically all of Lake Charlevoix and even a sliver of Lake Michigan on a clear day. In the winter the park is renown as one of the most thrilling sledding hills in northern Michigan.
Winding up and around the ridge is a 7-mile trail system that includes a 4.2-mile mountain bike loop and almost 3 miles of trails open to cross country-skiers and snowshoers in the winter and hikers the rest of the year. Needless to say, mountain biking and Nordic skiing at the park are rated challenging due to the extensive change in elevation experienced along both loops. Just climbing the stairway to the view at the top can be a workout for many people.
Click on the map to the right to view a larger version or print.
The mountain bike trail at Avalanche Preserve Recreation Area is a 4.2-mile loop that winds around - and climbs over - the 1,023-foot-high namesake ridge that rises above Boyne City. This is an intriguing ride but a challenging one as the trail is a narrow single track with more than its share of tree roots and rocks. Novice and even intermediate cyclists should be prepared to hop off their bikes and walk a few steep downhill sections their first time on the trail.
Following the trail in a clockwise direction from the warming shelter allows you to ride most of the loop before arriving at the observations decks near the top, an excellent place to linger if the weather is nice. After enjoying the view, all that reminds is a downhill run of less than a half mile back to the parking lot.
The mountain bike trail is posted west of the warming shelter where the single track immediately enters the forest. It’s a hilly ride almost from the get-go that swings near or crosses the walking trail three times in the first half mile. The mountain bike trail remains narrow and is well marked at most junctions so little momentum is loss searching for it.
At Mile 1.2 you reach the first crossover spur. There is a pair of short crossover spurs that allow you to bypass sections of the trail. This one eliminates a 0.65-mile segment of the loop. If you utilize both of them you would reduce the loop to a 3.2-mile ride.
Just beyond Mile 2 the trail climbs a long hill and then levels out to arrive at the second crossover spur. This one is shorter than the first and eliminates an easy 0.3-mile segment of the trail.
You intersect the walking trail again at Mile 2.8 and then follow the crest of the ridge where you can peer deep down into the forest. This stretch, the most interesting segment of the loop, lasts for almost a mile and at one point passes a picnic table perched between the mountain bike loop and the walking trail.
At Mile 3.8 you pass one of the old ski lift tower for the chairlift and then cross the walking trail again that doubles up as a service drive here. Just to the right are the observation decks where you can plop down and take in a glorious view from more than 400 feet above Lake Charlevoix.
This area of the trail system can be confusing with two-tracks and trails seemingly headed in every direction. After crossing the walking trail, the mountain bike trail stays just to the right of it as you re-enter the woods and descends Avalanche Peak.
You stay within view of the walking trail much of the time for a rapid descent that lasts almost to the end. Be Careful! You cross the walking trail at Mile 3.9 and then a side trail to Pleasant Valley Road before arriving at the east side of the parking lot at Mile 4.2.
At the base of the hill is the Avalanche Warming Shelter that includes restrooms, drinking water. At the observation area at the top is a pair of viewing decks with benches.
From US-131, north of M-32, follow M-75 into Boyne City. Once in town head west on Division Street and then turn left on Lake Street. Signs at the south end of Lake Street direct you left to the entrance of Avalanche Preserve Recreation Area at 1129 Wilson Street.
Contact the Boyne City Parks Department (231-582-6597). For lodging or other travel information contact the Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau (231-348-2755, 800-845-2828; www.petoskeyarea.com).