Northern Michigan offers some of the best trails and most beautiful, scenic vistas anywhere in the country. There’s no better place than the Traverse City region to experience the majesty of a rigorous Michigan hike. Meadows, forests, and sand dunes all make this area unique. Looking to take in the great outdoors on your next trip Up North? Consider a Traverse City hike.
I am committed to raising my three young girls to love the great outdoors as much as I do. For most adults, fresh air and beautiful scenery are reason enough to head out for a hike. Kids often need something more to nudge them out the door. In my experience, finding or creating adventures that excite them is the best motivation. The hiking trails in and around Traverse City are a great place to seek adventure with the whole family.
The following Traverse City-area trails offer awesome opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. You’ll be working up an appetite while experiencing a Traverse City hike. Therefore, I’ve also identified some tasty spots to grab a bite to eat near each trailhead.
Empire Bluff Trail
The Empire Bluff Trail in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore leads to a spectacular view of Lake Michigan. The bluff at the trail’s end is more than 400 feet above the Lake Michigan shoreline.
This hike itself is relatively short (less than two miles round trip) and easy (no steep climbs). It’s a great choice for kids. This trail is also accessible year-round. It’s one of our favorite trails to hike with snowshoes in the winter.
Pyramid Point is also part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. It features views of Lake Michigan and the Manitou Islands that rival Empire Bluffs. The Pyramid Point trail is about a mile and a half hike up to the scenic overlook point. It’s another family-friendly trail. It cuts through meadows and maple-beech forests before reaching the high bluffs. It’s not a difficult hike for most adults, but presents a challenge for little ones who have fun scampering up the ascending trail. The payoff at the top is worth the effort for everyone.
Where to Eat: Head north/east on M22 from Pyramid Point and hit up Market 22 for some deep dish Detroit style pizza.
Whaleback Natural Area
Head north up the Leelanau Peninsula and enjoy the scenic drive through farms and orchards. Catch views of Lake Michigan on your way to Whaleback Natural Area. Whaleback is part of the Leelanau Conservancy. It is located just south of the town of Leland. It’s a beautiful hike with a gradual ascent through big hardwood trees. It leads up to a viewing platform overlooking Lake Michigan that sits atop a 300 foot bluff.
Where to Eat: Check out The Cheese Shanty in Fishtown and enjoy one of the best sandwiches you’ll ever taste (try the pretzel bread!)
Veronica Valley Park
Veronica Valley Park is maintained by Leelanau County. It is located approximately four miles southwest of Suttons Bay and four miles south of the Village of Lake Leelanau. It was previously a nine hole golf course that has been converted into trails and fishing ponds.
The trails wind through gently rolling hills, open meadows, and wetlands. If you have kids in tow, and they’re not sufficiently worn out from the hiking and fishing, there’s also a picnic and playground area for them to let loose on.
Where to Eat: Head east a couple of miles to the VI Grill in Suttons Bay for pizza and burgers.
DeYoung Natural Area
The DeYoung Natural Area is another of the natural areas preserved and maintained by the Leelanau Conservancy. DeYoung sits on an historic farmstead near the shores of Cedar Lake that dates back to the 19th century. It’s a short 10 minute drive, or 20 minute bike ride (you can access it from the TART Trail), from downtown Traverse City.
There are hiking trails through forests and scenic meadows. A great fishing platform stands on over a mile of preserved shoreline on Cedar Lake. There is also an edible garden called the Cedar Creek Food Forest full of different varieties of fruits and vegetables.
Where to Eat: Make the short drive to Traverse City where you’ll have tons of options to choose from. Can’t decide where to eat? Head to The Little Fleet. There’s something for everyone offered in one of the many food trucks parked there in spring, summer, and fall.
Traverse City’s Fairy Trails
There are few things as magical as a hike on one of Traverse City’s many trails and pathways. It’s not just the fresh air and beautiful surroundings that thrill and inspire, but also the sense of discovery that comes from exploring nature’s wonder. From a brilliant blanket of trillium to a majestic soaring eagle, there is always something to see while on a Traverse City hike through the forest.
Now there’s even more to discover on Traverse City’s Fairy Trails. The Fairy Trails are a magical place for kids of all ages to explore. Children can discover fairy houses built along the Cedar Cathedral Trail at The Village At Grand Traverse Commons. Kids are invited and encouraged to build a fairy house of their own on the trails.
Where to Eat: Pick up some of the best tacos, burritos, and tostadas you’ll find north of the border at Spanglish. I is located near the entrance to the Fairy Trails.
Which of these hikes is your favorite? Where are some of your favorite areas to hike?