Just because there's a chill in the air it doesn't mean you can't continue to play outside on the trails. In fact, the cooler temperatures and fall scenery make this time of the year perfect for exploring. Whether you're biking, running, or simply walking, you will be sure to find a route that's right for you along the TART Trails. Let's learn more about the trail network from Kate Lewis, Community Engagement Manager at TART.
How many trails are in the TART Trail system?
We have nine different trails and one cross-town route within the TART Trails Network.
How are the trails different from each other?
It’s amazing how many different types of trails you can experience just minutes from your doorstep. All of the trails within the TART Trails Network are non-motorized. Many of them are paved, multi-use trails such as the Leelanau, TART and Boardman Lake Trails. On the east side of town we are proud to contribute to the management of the Vasa Pathway, a collection of dirt trails primarily used for mountain biking, running and hiking in the summer and cross country skiing in the winter. Another natural surface trail just to the south of town is the Boardman River Trail, ideal for backpacking, bike camping, trail running, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, birding and more.
Leelanau Trail - Photo by Hoplite Photography
Which trails are good for families and why?
Honestly, all of the trails are suitable for families and individuals of all ages, it really depends on the experience you're going for.
The Leelanau Trail is always a crowd pleaser. It’s seventeen miles of relatively flat paved trail that was once a rail line between Traverse City and Suttons Bay. It hosts a quiet and serene landscape through meadows, woods and orchards with a few fun stops along the way like the historic potato barn (great photo op) and Leelanau Peninsula wineries.
If your kiddos are just honing their mountain bike skills, the new Vasa Bike Park (aka Vasa Skillz) is a must ride! Two one-mile, single-track loops have been completed and feature elements such as jumps, table tops, berms and rock gardens designed to help people advance their mountain biking skills. Most recently a BMX jump line has been added to the mix for anyone who is intent on getting air and sending it.
Another great trail for the entire family is the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. This unique (mostly) paved trail through the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has something for all ages and abilities. The twenty miles of trail connects the villages of Empire and Glen Arbor, and cruises through the Dune Climb, Glen Haven (Maritime Museum!), DH Day Campground and the Port Oneida Rural Historic District - not to mention some world class Michigan beaches. It’s also groomed for cross country skiing in the winter, making it a year-round destination and a great way to experience the National Park.
How are TART Trails promoting social distancing while using the trails?
Since the pandemic began, we’ve been encouraging folks to get out and enjoy the trails and outdoor spaces safely and responsibly. Proper trail etiquette is always at the forefront of our messaging. We encourage trail users to find an alternate trailhead if one seems too busy and to remain at least six feet from others. We kicked off our ‘Bell for Every Bike Campaign’ this summer, as a way to increase awareness of the importance of trail etiquette and help promote positive interactions between all trail users and encourage social distancing. We also placed signage at trailheads and along typically busy intersections.
Boardman Lake Trail - Photo by TART Trails
Tell us more about using the Leelanau Trail to bike to wineries, breweries and places to eat.
The options to experience local goods, food and beverages along the Leelanau Trail is something that truly makes the Leelanau Trail a Pure Michigan Trail. Some of our favorite stops along the trail include Hop Lot in Suttons Bay with plentiful outdoor seating, great food and awesome local brews, it’s always a good time. Shady Lane Cellars, Mawby and Black Star Farms are just a few of the beautiful wineries located right off the trail. And the new kid on the block (or on the trail) is Farm Club. This stop has it all - a market with farm goods and artisan crafts, a tantalizing food menu, refreshing beer, cider and local wine and plenty of space to chill. They even offer yoga on certain days of the week and is a great family destination!
What’s the future look like for the trails? Anything new planned for 2021?
Over the past twenty years we have been able to build nearly 100 miles of community trails and our goal is to double that over the next twenty years. There are so many impactful projects on the horizon!
We’re really excited to complete the Loop around Boardman Lake next year. The Boardman Lake Loop Trail will showcase the region’s natural, cultural and recreational resources—the trail will help share the story of both the Boardman River and the community’s transformation by highlighting our unique freshwater environment and featuring captivating public art installations.
Planning is underway to extend the Three Mile Trail from South Airport to Hammond Road thanks to a very important partnership with East Bay Township, the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy through their Mitchell Creek Meadow Preserve and Norte’s Safe Routes to School programming. This trail will be a critical connector to four schools, businesses, neighborhoods and will showcase pristine natural resources including wetlands, meadows, creeks and woods.
Another large scale project is the Nakwema Trailway, a project that will connect the TART Trail network in Traverse City to the Top of Michigan Trails network in Charlevoix, creating a 325+ mile non-motorized trail network in northern Lower Michigan. Nakwema, an Ojibwe word, means where paths connect and this trail will connect people, communities, natural public spaces, business, beaches and so much more.
Even further down the trail we envision a network that takes us to places like Kalkaska, Fife Lake, Kingsley, Interlochen, Lake Ann and beyond.
All of these projects are possible thanks to incredible community support!