Northern Michigan is a haven for bikers and hikers. We have lovely summer weather and fantastic trails. Among the best of those trails is the TART trail system. TART stands for Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation, and it encompasses eight seperate trails, including the TART, Leelanau Trail, VASA pathway, Buffalo Ridge Trail, Boardman Lake, and Boardman River trails along with others spread out across Grand Traverse and Leelanau County. Together they cover almost 60 miles.
You can do almost anything on the TART trail system. You can run, walk, roller skate, roller ski, bike, and even cross country ski and snowshoe on the Leelanau Trail and VASA pathway in the winter. Horses are not encouraged on the Leelanau Trail and VASA, but they are not prohibited either. Motorized vehicles however, are prohibited.
According to Arianne Whittaker, the Marketing and Outreach Director, the best parts of the TART trail system are “the connections the trail provides. People get around town, commute to work and school. We’re creating connections and continuing to grow.”
Recently sections of the Leelanau Trail that were dirt are now paved. Plans are to connect the Boardman River Trail to the Boardman Lake Trail on one end, and connect it to the North Country Trail on the other end. Part of the TART trail systems long term plans is to connect Elk Rapids to the new Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail.
Events play a large part in the TART trail system. On September 16th, the trail will play host to the Leelanau Harvest Tour put on by the Leelanau Cycling Club. Families of bicyclers will gather together to enjoy autumn colors as ride past picturesque vineyards and farms. On October 27th, there will be a Zombie Run on the trail. Last year more than 1,000 people participated, and you can learn more by checking out the Zombie Run website. The VASA pathway hosts the North American VASA ski race and the Ice Man race every year.
“They get more people out on the trail and it helps bring in more funds,” explains Whittaker about the events. “What most people don’t know is that this is a volunteer organization. We run on volunteers and donor support. Most of our funds come from private donations.”
Volunteers mow the sides of the trail, help with different events, groom the trails in winter, and every Tuesday volunteers go to the Orchard Creek Retirement Facility and walk along the trail with patients. After the massive storm that hit Northern Michigan in March, volunteers worked for weeks to clear the trail of debris. It is a lot of work but it is well worth it to keep the beautiful TART trail system up and running.
If you are a biker, hiker, runner or nature lover in the area then you need to hit the TART trail system. Cruise along the gorgeous blue bay, or run through cool, green woods. From Acme to Suttons Bay, the TART trail is a dream connecting some of the prettiest places in Michigan.
According to Whittaker, the best part of the TART trail system is that “so many people use it. We have a wide range of ages and abilities that we can provide for. We had a four year old at the Tour de TART that rode the whole way. We’re continuing to grow the trail and make everything intertwined.”
~Sarah Blodgett, feature writer