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Michigan, A Land Of Wonder For RZR Riders

Dec 8th 2019

From the valleys of Kalamazoo in the south to the wonderful wilderness of Ontonagon in the Upper Peninsula, the state of Michigan is home to countless backwood ORV trails, lakeside sand dunes, and miles upon miles of mixed-use OHV roads. Michagen’s beautiful fall colors, technical rocky terrain, and high-speed trail stretches attract side-by-side riders from around the country, while the untapped wilderness and myriad lakes / streams make it a perfect destination for both solitary fishermen and family-men alike. The trail systems in Michigan are very well taken care of, and the variety of terrain as well as scenery make it a can’t-miss destination for any and all Polaris RZR owners. Be it the sand dunes at Silver Lake or the 50” trails from Mio to St. Helen, if you’re planning a trip to this UTV friendly state, it’s hard to go wrong. And while there are enough riding location in Michigan to fill a full-length book, here are some top side-by-side destinations in Michigan sourced by side-by-side riders, for side-by-side riders.

Best Times To Take Your Polaris RZR To Michigan

Although year-round riding is possible in Michigan, many riders prefer to visit during the summer months due to the temperate climate. However, winter riding is absolutely possible, with restrictions from Nov 15-30 where trails are closed from 7-11am and 2-5pm. Further, there are certain snowmobile trails were UTVs aren’t allowed, or that should be left alone out of respect for snowmobilers -- such as groomed trails where side-by-side ruts can deleteriously affect sleds. Many trails in Michigan are mixed-use, and many maps exist that will tell you which ones are open for side-by-sides and which ones are off limits. Trails can also be closed for other various reasons throughout the year, so make sure to check the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website before you embark.

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Both the Western and Eastern sections of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (UP) offer fantastic rides. In the Western UP, many riders like to stay at Twin lakes or Baraga State campground and ride up to Copper Harbor (CH) -- checking out the cool things to see along the way. You can ride from Mass City to CH in one long day or driving, stay the night at the Pines Resort in CH, then ride back the next day. You can also break off from the trail and ride over to the Gay Bar for food, hit CH for gas, then head over to Silver City. There is a bridge you must cross in Houghton which requires a police escort. If you are riding with a small crew, you have to go during the designated times. If you are riding in a large group, however, just call the police station when you get near, give them an ETA, and they will escort you across.

The back side of the Upper Falls is another good ride. If you stay at Chippewa County SORVA, you can start and end in Strongs MI. The trail to get to the falls is gated, but SORVA has permission to unlock the gate. The south side of the Upper Tahqanemum Falls is another great place to ride. If you’re prepared for a long ride, you can head up and see the famous split rock.

Other great places to ride in the UP include St. Helen, Atlanta, Indian River, Grayling, and Kalakaska, with many riders also enjoying the Munising and Paradise areas. Most of these areas are mud and dirt with some rocky and sandy areas, with few gravel roads.

For riders looking for some technical trails, Drummond Island way up to the north is a good destination. It can be a bit muddy depending on the weather, and the trails can be quite tight in places. Even if it’s rainy, there likely won’t be much mud on the ATV trails, and the mud that is there can be traversed around at least 50% of the time. Furthermore, most of the mud puddles in the area aren’t too deep as long as you steer clear of the high clearance trails. An Arctic Cat 150 might struggle, but if you’re riding a Polaris RZR you should be fine.

Side-by-Side Riding In Middle Michigan

Further south you have Lincoln Hills, Little Mainstee, and Tin Cup in Lake County which are designated as “routes”, not “trails”. This great for riders with wider stances on their RZRs, as many trials are restricted for vehicles wider than 50”. You can also ride the open roads and state forest rods (not federal forest roads).

Silver Lake in Michigan is another great place in central-western Michigan for riding UTVs -- and an especially great spot for sand riding. Although not the biggest in terms of area -- you could probably lap the whole thing in about 10 minutes or so -- there are many features to occupy an RZR rider such as trees to navigate around and a drag pit. Silver lake makes a great day trip, and it’s the perfect destination to test out your RZR and it's new sand tires in the fine-grain lakeside sand. From Silver Lake you can then head up to Traverse City. There are two-track trails and forest roads south-east of Traverse city just off of Nimrod road. Take Exit 222 on I-75 and you’re bound to find some great destinations to rip.

Extreme Off Road Expo Side-by-Side Roundup

We can’t talk about UTV riding in Michigan without mentioning the Extreme Off Road Expo Side By Side Round Up, which is an annual event with 2.5 miles of trails in the woods, a 20 acre mud pit, rock garden, and articulation area. They have side-by-side competitions such as Tugs, Dirt Drags, a Bounty Hole, and a Hill N Hole, with multi classes for the Bump N Hustle event as well. Usually taking place in mid to late summer, this event takes place in Lonia Michigan.