Traverse City Bike Trails
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Adventure Awaits on These Awesome Traverse City Bike Trails

Let’s go explore these awesome Traverse City bike trails

Winter has loosened its grip; the earth is coming to life again. Our motivation is returning, and our muscles are begging to be used. Spring is a reminder that we are alive- we will always return to this season of awakening, unfurling from the earth with purpose.

I don’t know about you, but I am bursting to join nature in its steady showcase of spring. Every day, new shoots of green come to the surface. The sun is shifting, the days longer and full of promise. My running shoes, kept in the closet all winter, now call to me, “Let’s go!” As I clear the garage of my skis and sweep the grime away, I spot my mountain bike. It too, begs to be wiped down and tuned for a thrilling ride. 

Equipment now ready, my mind shifts to my favorite trails to run and ride. There are many locations to choose from- some paths are lined with pines, others offer a breathtaking view, and some provide hidden lakes you have to seek.

Listed below are my top trail recommendations to try near Traverse City – both on heel (running) and wheel (biking)! Whatever it is you choose to do, I hope you find the time to revel in the delight found this season!

Baby Pines In The Forest At Muncie Lakes Pathway.
Baby pines in the forest at Muncie Lakes Pathway | photo via Kristi Murphy

1. Muncie Lakes Pathway

  • Location: Ranch Rudolf Road, Traverse City, MI
  • Length: This trail system is perfect for all levels. There are interconnecting paths that can form up to a total of about 11 miles. You can pick and choose the loop you’d like to reach your goals.
  • Difficulty: The beginning loops that reach Muncie Lakes are fairly moderate, with the additional loops increasing in difficulty and hill climbs.

Parking and Directions

This one is fairly easy to get to – your GPS should know the way! Heading south on Garfield Road, follow along and take a left onto Arbutus Hill Rd. This will turn into S Hobbs Hwy. Take a right onto Ranch Rudolf Rd. After about 2.5 miles, you will see the parking area on your left.

Parking is free, with a big lot and plenty of spots to choose from!

Muncie Lakes Pathway Description

If you are looking for a serene area with views of a lake and the Boardman River, this one’s for you. The beginning trails will lead you through a varied forest and a peaceful meadow before reaching Muncie Lake. It is tucked away, with clear views of the still water.

If you continue further, you will head through the twists and turns of the forest, eventually reaching the Boardman River. It is a breathtaking spot, with a bench to rest on and the river’s song. Take a dip here if you’d like and refresh yourself to finish your run!

A Serene Resting Spot Along The Boardman River
A serene resting spot along the Boardman River | photo via Kristi Murphy

2. Maplehurst Natural Area

  • Location: Kewadin, MI
  • Length: There are several paths you can run, interconnecting them to the length of your choosing. The perimeter of the trail system forms a 3.8 mile loop.
  • Difficulty: It varies in terrain, with some areas rugged and fairly steep, which earns this trail a moderate rating.

Parking and Directions

From US-31, you will travel north through Elk Rapids. You will turn right on Winters Rd. After about 2.5 miles, the road will turn into Waring Road, and you will see a sign for Maplehust Natural Area.

The parking is spacious and free.

Maplehurst Natural Area Description

With views of Torch Lake, a gurgling stream, and a beautiful track through the woods, this is a spot not to miss. The beginning of the trail will lead you down to the shore at Lake Maplehurst, a small inland lake.

From there you will make your way along an old two-track, and climb to reach a view of Torch Lake. Continue on through the woods, and you’ll soon reach the stream, and then another climb for a view of Torch Lake before completing the loop. Every season here will offer something new to see!

Stopping Along The Trail To Admire The Sun's Glory
Stopping along the trail to admire the sun’s glory | photo via Kristi Murphy

3. Lake Ann Pathway

  • Location: Lake Ann State Forest Campground, 5539 N Reynolds Rd, Lake Ann, MI
  • Length: There are many choices of loops to take here- which is part of why I love this peaceful trail so much. You can form a loop close to 6 miles, or go for a shorter few, depending on your mood.
  • Difficulty: The trail is rarely busy, and does contain some nice long hills to work up a sweat, earning it a rank of moderate.

Parking and Directions

Follow US-31 out of Traverse City and through Interlochen. After passing through Interlochen, continue for several miles and take a right onto N Reynolds Rd. After about 3.7 miles, you will take a right into the Lake Ann State Forest Campground, with the parking lot immediately to your left.

You can park here for free (with a state parks pass) and access both sets of trails.

Lake Ann Pathway Description

This is a “has it all” type of trail. Views of Lake Ann, a quiet river, several bogs, and a forest-lined path. My preferred trail will take you across the road from the parking lot, swooping down along Shavanaugh Lake, then along Mary’s Lake, before approaching rolling hills through several bogs.

Just over two miles in, you will find yourself down at the edge of Platte River. There are many stops to take a breather or even a dip in this gorgeous water. You will wind back to where you started, and have the option to add on another quick loop that will take you to access Lake Ann.

Admiring the shades of green along the path near Lake Ann | photo via Kristi Murphy

4. Sand Lakes Quiet Area

  • Location: Broomhead Rd, Williamsburg, MI
  • Length: This is another choose-your-distance trail! One of the bigger loops will take you a distance of 7.4 miles, but you can also choose to do an out & back trek or form your own loop with some of the main points of interest.
  • Difficulty: Considered a moderate trail, there are certainly many sections of the trail that are easier, but some points that you will have to be prepared for an incline.

Parking and Directions

From Traverse City, take US-31 north until you reach M-72. Head east along M-72 for about 5 miles and take a right on Broomhead Road for several miles until you reach Sand Lake Road. Take a left on Sand Lake Road to where the trailhead begins.

You may park here for free, with an accessible and large lot.

Sand Lakes Quiet Area Description

This is the definition of beating the crowds! With spring and summer come more foot traffic on many of this area’s trails. Sand Lakes is a nice kept secret where you can run or ride in peace.

There are five small lakes found within this loop, all with gorgeous and shady oak and pine trees guiding your way. The loop is rolling, with many sights to see along the way. You will feel miles away from any city- a nice reprieve from the busy months ahead! 

Mother & son date night riding in Palmer Woods Forest Reserve | photo via Kristi Murphy

5. Palmer Woods Forest Reserve

  • Location: 4715-5999 S Wheeler Rd, Maple City, MI 49664
  • Length: There are different sets of trails marked for those on foot and those on bike! It is the best of both worlds, as you can feel safe knowing that a collision is avoidable! Trails range in length, forming loops up to 4 miles. Additional trails have recently been added, and the area continues to grow!
  • Difficulty: Trails range in difficulty, some being definitely moderate, with plenty of climbs, bike features, and places to grow your strength. In addition, there are several easier trails to ride with kids- from the littlest tyke to a kid ready to take on a challenge.

Parking and Directions

Take M-72 west out of Traverse City. You will continue along M-72 until the stoplight, where you will continue straight onto Coleman Road. After 3.5 miles, turn left onto W Burdickville Rd/W Co Rd 616. Continue another half mile and take a right onto S Tremain Rd. After close to two miles, you will take a right onto S Wheeler Rd and travel the final mile to the parking lot on your left.

Parking is free and easily accessible.

Palmer Woods Forest Reserve Description

Palmer Woods Forest Reserve is definitely known for its mountain biking, but don’t let that fool you. Trails for hiking are just as gorgeous and FUN! Signs are clearly marked with difficulty ratings and directional routes for bikers.

You’ll find incredible views, up and down terrain, and a surrounding of incredible old-growth trees and varied hardwoods. With both Glen Lake, Lake Michigan, and the Sleeping Bear Dunes just a few miles from the preserve, this makes for a great stop on a day away from Traverse City.

My kids admiring the view from the newly installed bridge around Boardman Lake | photo via Kristi Murphy

Honorable Mention: Boardman Lake Loop

  • Location: Traverse City, MI
  • Length: This is a perfect trail for a family ride or run, clocking in at an even 4 miles.
  • Difficulty: The trail is primarily flat and mostly paved, so it earns an easy rating.

Parking and Directions

There are two main trailheads to this loop- one begins on Hannah Ave, in Hull Park. The other trailhead is off S Airport Rd, in the Logan’s Landing area. Both parking lots are free and easy to find!

Boardman Lake Loop Description

If you are looking for an adventure near Traverse City, this one’s for you. The trail is mostly paved and flat, making it accessible for children or a date night. The loop trail was completed in the summer of 2021, with an expansive bridge connecting the paths around Boardman Lake.

There are numerous stunning bridges along the trail, with an opportunity to take in the view of the water below. Part of the path is in the forest, creating the feel of being further into nature than in reality. The west side of the trail takes you through neighborhoods and lets you see Boardman Lake from a different angle.

Halfway around the loop,  you will cruise right by both Right Brain Brewery and the Filling Station- great stops for a beer “refuel”. You can complete the loop or connect yourself to town and further along the TART trail from here.

Savor Your Next Traverse City Adventure

As you explore this variety of trails, may you make time to breathe. Find a resting point along the path, or stop at a view you may find inspiring. Take a moment to be still, just for a second, to watch this new season coming alive with you.

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