Mid-Mitten Cycling Scenic Rides

You Don’t Have to Go Up North to Find a Tunnel of Trees

Diamond Rd.
Heading south on Diamond Rd.

Mid-Michigan is known for its flat farmland, but we do have some pretty scenery, especially where roads pass near rivers, lakes, and state recreation lands. We even have roads overhung by canopies of oaks and maples so we can feel like we’re “up north” right here at home. The foliage adds variety to a long ride and welcome shade on a hot day.

This ride starts in Mason and heads east and south into rolling country south of Dansville. The roads are mostly quiet and Potter and Williamston roads pass through the scenic Dansville State Game Area. At the mid-point you’ll visit Sts. Cecilia and Cyprian Catholic Church and its adjacent cemetery. The Dansville Mercantile provides a good stop for refreshment about ten miles from the end, and restaurants and bars abound in Mason. (This route uses part of the “East Lansing Cruise” in Cari Noga’s excellent Road Biking Michigan from Falcon Press.)

From the courthouse square in Mason, head north to Columbia St., where you’ll make a right. The rolling begins immediately as you descend and climb twice as you leave town on Columbia. Turn right on Every Rd. at the top of the second climb, a little over 3 miles from the start. (We always sing “Climb every mountain/ride Every Road” while ascending to help this climb go faster.)

Wheat field and wetland
A wheat field merges into wetland along Potter Rd.

Descend gently into the shade of deciduous trees, before the rolling continues down to Dansville Rd./M-36, where you’ll turn left. Now get ready for one of the biggest hills on the route, as you climb a whopping 60 feet up to Diamond. Turning right on Diamond, the shade and the rolling terrain return. The route seems to alternate between these two modes: sunny climbs, followed by shady, rolling terrain.

Horse farm at the corner of Williams and Catholic Church roads.

The next left is at Dexter Trail, where you’ll face a shorter sharp climb before the road levels off. Don’t make the mistake, as we did, of turning right on Meridian. That road is narrow, busy, and currently has more potholes than pavement. Instead, continue to Potter Rd., a quiet lane with excellent views into the Dansville State Game area on the left, including some lovely wetlands.

Sts. Cecilia and Cyprian Church

Potter takes you south for about 3 miles, merging with Ewers Rd before bending east to Williams Rd. Take a right here for a short hop down to Catholic Church Rd. Take time to say hi to the horses at the ranch at this corner, before turning left. In a little less than a mile you’ll reach the bucolic Cavanaugh’s Ireland Bells Dairy (since 1859!) and shortly after that the intersection with Williamston Rd. Go straight here for another half-mile to this road’s namesake, Sts. Cecilia and Cyprian Catholic Church, with a pretty cemetery across the street. This is roughly the halfway point of the ride.

Cemetery across from Sts. Cecilia and Cyprian

Return to Williamston Rd., then head north, right, re-entering the State Game Area. Now you’re really in a “tunnel of trees,” with oaks and maples overhanging the road. This stretch has several curves as well, which adds interest to an area where most of the roads and highways are set out in a grid pattern. Pullouts offer the chance to get off the bike and explore the game area, if you have the right footwear.

Tunnel of trees
Tunnel of trees along Williamston Rd.
A massive oak along Williamston Rd.
A massive oak along Williamston Rd.

In another 3 miles, the road straightens out and makes straight north, back into farm country, crossing Dexter Trail before continuing north another mile into Dansville (where Williamston Rd. temporarily takes the name Jackson St.). The Dansville Mercantile, with its porch and benches, makes a good spot to rest and refuel.

Dansville Mercantile
Dansville Mercantile

Back on the road, turn left for a short mile on Dansville Rd., then right on quieter S. Clark Street. (If you prefer smoother pavement and wide shoulders, and don’t mind the traffic, Dansville Rd. offers a more direct route back to Mason.) Continue north on Clark to Columbia, where you’ll turn left, west, for the 6.5 miles back to Mason (making sure to jog left at Meridian Rd. to stay on Columbia.) In Mason, take a left on Rogers or Lawton, then a right on Maple, for a quieter ride on residential streets back to the square.

A well-earned post-ride beer.
A well-earned post-ride beer at BAD Brewing Co.

Mason offers several post-ride food options. Our favorite is to get sandwiches at the Vault Deli (corner of Jefferson and Ash) and take them south one block to BAD Brewing Co. for an excellent locally brewed beer (and ten percent off for cyclists on Sundays!). Bestsellers Books and Coffee, also on the square, has excellent java and baked goods.

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5 replies on “You Don’t Have to Go Up North to Find a Tunnel of Trees”

It’s some of the most beautiful land in the region. From satellite view this area forms a small green patch southeast of Lansing.

AND… this is where I grew up, and it’s righteously beautiful and hidden away from civilization, but still close to it.

Hopefully too many people won’t see this particular article 🙂

Really enjoyed riding parts of this with you, your wife and Bert last Saturday. Glad I bumped into you all during our tandem rally! Wish I’d taken some photos, but I was too busy enjoying the sights and chatting! Was trying to remember the name of BAD Brewing Co. in Mason on Saturday to introduce some of the tandem riders from out of town/ state, but they didn’t show up in my Google search of Mason breweries or restaurants. Bummer!

I added parts of this to my standard Holt-Mason-Dansville route yesterday, I really enjoyed the scenery. Thanks for writing it up.

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