Northern Michigan’s Killer Climbs

In Northern Michigan, we are blessed with some absolutely stunning glacially formed landscapes (but not as stunning as the cover image). Over the past hundred years or so, we’ve also had some beautiful roads built over some of those rather large or steep hills. Here’s a list of them in no particular order!

1. Arbor Street, Harbor Springs

At only a quarter mile long and 100ft high, Arbor St is sure to get your lungs busted and legs filled with lactic acid. Starting off with a steep 12% average grade on Arbor, the turn onto Bluff mellows until the peak. I once did a bike fit on an 86 year old who would do hill repeats here until he got tired, which was usually after 10 climbs…

2. Wasson Grade, Harbor Springs

An often used launch point for attacks on the infamous Sunday Ride from Harbor to Cross Village and back. This stretch of M119 is beautifully tunneled by the surrounding trees, and boasts an ever increasing gradient! While the strong men may be able to hold on for the first half, the steeper second half belongs to the climbers.

3. Stutsmanville Road, Harbor Springs

stuts art
An artistic rendering of the descent that awaits if you climb to the radio tower, by Trisha Witty.

Stutsmanville is not easy. It doesn’t matter if you go east or west. It’s got two big, steep hills with a pleasant valley in between. The descents are absolutely worth it, though. Try it. You’ll want to do it again.

4. Robinson Road, Good Hart

I love this climb. It’s hard, it’s steady, it has turns. It reminds me of climbs I’ve seen watching World Tour races. And it’s out in the middle of nowhere. Very tranquil (except for the gunshots from the sportsman’s club).

5. North Conway Road, Conway

My favorite climb in Northern Michigan. Curves, steep pitches, good length, and plenty of elevation gain. I’ll never get tired of North Conway.

6. Boyne Highlands, Harbor Springs

Andover club
This 15-25% grade will lead you to questioning your life choices.

If you’ve ever skied or mountain biked Boyne Highlands, you know about the vertical drop there. But did you know there’s a paved road that goes almost to the top?? At time of publishing, I have the KOM. But be warned, you climb over 300 feet in the last 3/4 of a mile…

7. Country Club Road, Petoskey

Near and dear to my heart, as I grew up on Bren-Del Dr off of Country Club, this killer warms ups with a climb and rollers through the Petoskey-Bay View Country Club, then a long false flat to the steep right turn. After a short descent, you’re back into a steep climb that gives way to a steady 4% grade that looks pancake flat!

8. Mount Mayhem, Petoskey

A staple of the Michigan Mountain Mayhem Gravel Grinder, Mount Mayhem is rough. Russet is (road rideable) gravel, Brubaker is grueling, and Krause is 4 steep rollers! The elevation gain payoff is worth it, but the climb there is daunting.

9. De Strontberg, Walloon Village

This one is for all the crazed lunatics like me. 8% average, 0.6 miles long, just shy of 300 feet. Very similar to a Belgian berg, much like those in De Ronde Van Vlaanderen.

10. The Seven Hills Of Walloon

My favorite stretch of road on earth. It’s only a mile and a half long, but there are 7 little bergs to get over on the way to or from Walloon Village. Absolutely stunning scenery, and leg destroying hills!

11. Wildwood Harbor Road, Boyne City

A beautiful climb out of Boyne City, I much prefer it to Old Horton Bay Rd. The turns and lush greenery give it an unbeatable aura.

12. Chandler Hill, Boyne Falls

You may know it as Diablo’s Mountain, but it’s actually called Chandler Hill. It’s the Mack Daddy around here. Long, steep, and huge. A true heartbreaker.

13. East Jordan’s Wall

Ah yes, “The Wall.” Every downstater who has ever done the Michigan Mountain Mayhem’s favorite thing to talk to me, the road specialist at the shop, about. “Yeah man, that’s super hard, The Wall!” Yes it is. “Have you ridden it?” Obviously, I’m from here. However, “The Wall” shouldn’t be considered difficult just for its ultra-steep final pitch. You do a significant bit of steady climbing to get there, and then you hit the thing. Check this one off your bucket list, then come have a banal conversation with me about how a hill exists.

 

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