ISHPEMING - The Range Mountain Bike Club's Snow Bike Trail in Ishpeming and Negaunee is now open for "fat tire" bicycle riders, as well as snowshoers and cross-country skiers, willing to brave the elements.
This winter is the first the 5.5-mile trail - 6.2 miles if you opt for an extra jog between New York Street in Ishpeming and Malton Road - is open, and along with Marquette's Snow Bike Route is one of few of its kind.
"We're probably the only two actual snow bike trails in the nation right now," said Dan Hill, president of the Range Mountain Bike Club. "To make it official, it's signed and it's mapped now, so it's a legitimate trail, and we open it up for skiing and snowshoeing also."
Dan Hill, president of the Range Mountain Bike Club, pedals down the Range Snow Bike Trail near its western terminus on Malton Road in Ishpeming Thursday. This is the first year the groomed 5.5-mile trail is open, and “fat tires,” cross-country skiiers and snowshoers are welcome. (Journal photo by Zach Jay)
The two-foot wide trail wends its way from its western terminus on Malton Road just north of Malton Electric Co. in Ishpeming, following a line east along the south side of the railroad tracks.
It then coils back in between where the Mather B and Mather A mines used to be, where there's a two-track road that goes through, and comes out in Negaunee. The next stretch follows sections of Range's summer trails through parts of Negaunee's Old Town, before coming out at the Negaunee Senior Center.
The trail is groomed twice a week, Tuesdays and Fridays "as Mother Nature dictates," Hill said, by a snowmobile pulling a homemade drag that Hill built.
He said getting the trail officially signed and mapped was a collaborative effort with the city of Ishpeming and Negaunee, and with the Marquette County Convention and Visitors Bureau paying for the signs. Also placed along the course are reflective markers to guide late-night and low-light riders.
Hill and the Range Mountain Bike Club have also enlisted the help of the convention and visitors bureau and Bike Marquette to promote the trail to people considering making a trip to the Upper Peninsula, but perhaps aren't sure what it has to offer.
"We're working with Bike Marquette, with the convention and visitors bureau, to get more people to come up this way, and now with having two trails it makes it more worthwhile to people to make a weekend of it to come up here," Hill said.
In the meantime, Hill said area residents have already given the cold trail warm reviews.
"We (Range Mountain Bike Club) have our own Facebook page ... and we're getting great feedback on it," he said. "Everybody's just starting to know where it's at now, but everybody rides it. I mean we're probably getting six to eight riders on it a day."
The Range Mountain Bike Club, which has an unofficial membership of about 200 riders, also has free rides at 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays at Jasper Ridge Brewery. In the summer, Wednesdays average 80 to 85 riders, split into three groups according to their experience, and Hill said the club continues the rides throughout the winter, albeit with a smaller group.
Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org