Climbing & Hiking Trails - 13 min read

15 Best Traverse City Hiking Trails (For All Levels & Pet-Friendly)

Alex Frick

Alex Frick, Updated September 26, 2022

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Traverse City is the heart of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, home to the abundant and ever-changing natural scenery and distinct shores of Lake Michigan.

The area highlights towering cliffside overlooks, rolling sand dunes, and dense forests for miles in all directions. With the constantly shifting climate and its diverse landscape, Traverse City is central to an array of unique outdoor opportunities.

In these hills or along its shores, the allure of the Upper Peninsula is available for curious adventurers, waiting to be discovered.

Plan Your Next Hike In Traverse City

1. Old Mission Point Park

Credit: Frank Cardoze / Flickr


Directions:  
From Traverse City, head north on M-37 N/Center Road and drive for 14.8 miles. Turn right onto Swaney Road and drive for 0.9 miles. Merge onto Old Mission Road and continue for 1.2 miles and the parking area will be on your left.

The Old Mission Point Park Trail is a wonderful hike through the Old Mission Peninsula. The hike follows through beautifully forested meadows and sandy beaches before reaching a storied lighthouse.

This well-marked and maintained trail is a packed dirt pathway with manageable elevation changes. The hike ultimately leads to Mission Point Lighthouse.

This lighthouse was built in 1870 and was decommissioned in 1933. Today, this iconic landmark is available for tours, allowing for a peek into the past while overlooking the banks of Grand Traverse Bay.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 6.1 Miles
Elevation Gain: 252 Feet

2. Sand Lakes Quiet Area Trail

Credit: Pure Michigan


Directions:
From Traverse City, head east on US-31 N and drive for 5.6 miles. Turn right onto M-72 E and drive for 0.8 miles. At the traffic circle, take the 2nd exit to stay onto M-72 E and continue for 0.5 miles. At the next traffic circle, take the 2nd exit to continue on M-72 E and drive for another 4.5 miles.

Make a right onto N Broomhead Road and drive for 0.4 miles. Turn left onto Deal Road for 1.5 miles and merge right onto Lackey Road. Continue for 1.6 miles and turn right onto Guernsey Lake Road.  After 2.8 miles, turn right, followed by an immediate right – your parking area for this hike.

The Sand Lakes Quiet Area Trail is a tranquil walk around a protected area of the Upper Peninsula – intended to be peaceful and secluded. In 1973, Sand Lakes was designated a “quiet area” and all motorized activity was restricted.

The wide and comfortable trail takes you along the calm shores of five small lakes, surrounded by the backdrop of rolling hills of the Upper Peninsula woodlands.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 7.4 Miles
Elevation Gain: 396 Feet

3. Meadow Loop and Copper Ridge Trail

Credit: Art Garcia-Cuellar / Flickr


Directions: 
From downtown Traverse City, head west on E Grandview Parkway and drive for 0.9 miles. Turn left onto US-31 and continue for 0.6 miles. Make a right turn onto Seventh Street and drive for 0.2 miles. Turn left onto S Elmwood Avenue followed by an immediate right onto Medical Campus Drive. Continue for another 0.3 miles and turn left, followed by a right and the parking area will be on your left.

The Meadow Loop and Copper Ridge Trail wanders through the natural beauty of Burns Park. This urban trail takes you away from the city and descends along to the Old Orchard Trail.

The trail will loop around wildlife-abundant wetlands, wildflower blossoming meadows, and lush and forested hillsides. The hiking trail is poorly marked, but sometimes getting a little lost only leads to offshoots that allow for wonderful overlooking views from the ridge.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 2.4 Miles
Elevation Gain: 324 Feet

4. Fern Lake Loop

Credit: Ed E / AllTrails


Directions: 
From downtown Traverse City, head west on E Grandview Parkway and turn left onto US-31 S. Drive for 0.3 miles and make a right onto W Front Street. Continue for 0.9 miles and merge onto N Long Lake Road. Drive for another 5.1 miles and turn left onto Timbers Trail. After 0.5 miles, turn left and the parking area for this hike will be on your left.

Fern Lake Loop is an incredibly scenic hike that follows the shores of two picturesque lakes. The trail begins following the calm banks of Long Lake before wandering to Fern Lake.

Once reaching Fern Lake, the trail will loop along the calm waters of this majestic lake in Traverse City’s Recreation Area. With a well-marked pathway and comfortable terrain, this hike is suitable for hikers of all skill levels.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 2.1 Miles
Elevation Gain: 124 Feet

5. Vasa Trail


Directions: 
From Traverse City, head west on US-31 N/Munson Avenue and drive for 4.9 miles. Turn right onto Bunker Hill Road and drive for 0.8 miles. Make a right onto Bartlett Road and continue for 0.5 miles. Turn left onto Eagle Crest Drive and the parking area will be on your left.

The Vasa Trail is a comfortably shaded journey through Pere Marquette State Forest. The dense forest is perfect for an outdoor adventure that takes you deep within the wilderness, far away from civilization.

The trail was built as a long-distance mountain biking trail with wide and level pathways. This single-track trail is easy to follow. While expert hikers can complete this in a single day, this trail is an excellent backpacking opportunity for beginners.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 26.3 Miles
Elevation Gain: 1,446 Feet

6. Pelizzari Natural Area Loop

Credit: Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy


Directions: 
From Traverse City, head on E Grandview Parkway and drive for 0.4 miles. Merge onto E Front Street and drive for 0.4 miles before turning left onto Peninsula Boulevard. Continue for 0.9 miles and slight right onto M-37 N. After 1.3 miles, the parking area will be on your right.

This hike through the Pelizzari Natural Area is a beautiful trek through open fields and meadows that explores native Old Mission Peninsula.

The hike through these undisturbed lands wanders through former apple orchards before farmers would clear the land for their agriculture.

With the dense forests surrounding these open meadows, this hike is an excellent opportunity to see diverse wildlife – especially for bird-watching enthusiasts.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 2.2 Miles
Elevation Gain: 209 Feet

7. Boardman Valley Trail

Credit: TART Trails


Directions: 
From downtown Traverse City, head south on Cass Street and drive for 2.2 miles. Use the left two lanes to turn left onto W South Airport Road and drive for 0.4 miles. Turn right onto Racquet Club Drive and drive for 0.3 miles and the parking area will be on your right.

The Boardman River Trail is an urban trail with wonderful nature viewing opportunities. This trail brings you along comfortable boardwalks and packed dirt walkways that are suitable for adventurers of all skill levels.

As you wander, you will encounter beautiful fields of vibrant wildflowers paralleling the wide Boardman River. The trail provides little shade, be sure to bring plenty of skin protection. With the plentiful water source, this trail is abundant with wildlife, but also pesky insects.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 6.2 Miles
Elevation Gain: 239 Feet

8. Cedar Run Loop

Credit: Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy


Directions: 
From Traverse City, head west on E Grandview Parkway and drive for 0.9 miles. Merge onto W Grandview Parkway and continue for 0.6 miles. Turn left onto M-72 W and drive for 5.7 miles and turn left onto Tilton Road. After 1.0 miles, turn left onto Cedar Run Road. Continue for 3.5 miles and turn left onto Tucker Road and after 0.8 miles, the parking area will be on your left.

The Cedar Run Loop is a well-maintained trail that traverses through a woodlands forest in the Cedar Run Creek Natural Area. This comfortable trail is a level pathway with some elevation gain, suitable for hikers of skill levels.

Cedar Run is less traveled, making for a wonderfully secluded hike in a private woodland environment. Best visited after periods without rain, the trail can become muddy with overwhelming amounts of irksome insects.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 4.6 Miles
Elevation Gain: 298 Feet

9. South Long Lake Loop

Credit: Ryan Phillips / AllTrails


Directions: 
From Traverse City, head west on E Grandview Parkway and drive for 0.9 miles. Turn left onto US-31 S and continue for 1.2 miles. Make a right onto Silver Lake Road and drive for 3.0 miles, then merge onto N West Silver Lake Road. Continue for 0.8 miles and turn right onto Secor Road. After 1.6 miles, the parking area will be on your left.

The South Long Lake Loop is a comfortable hike that takes you to the shores of its picturesque waters, as well as the eastern forest. The eastern forest has seen great transformation throughout the years.

Originally a swampy marshland, settlers would convert it into farmland. In recent times, it has been designated a place of recreation with hopes of returning it to its original state. The site is now dense forestlands, perfect for an afternoon walk near the lake.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1.7 Miles
Elevation Gain: 111 Feet

10. VASA Single Track Loop

Credit: TART Trails


Directions: 
From Traverse City, head east on US-31 N and drive for 2.9 miles. Turn right onto N Four Mile Road and drive for 2.1 miles until reaching a traffic circle. Take the 3rd exit onto E Hammond Road and drive for 1.0 miles before merging onto High Lake Road. After 0.4 miles, slight left onto Supply Road. Continue for 1.8 miles and the parking area will be on your left.

The VASA Single Track Loop is a technical mountain biking trail that is an excellently secluded hike through the forest.

As an offshoot of the VASA Trail, this pathway leads to more difficult climbs, twists, and turns to make for an active, but an enjoyable journey through the woods.

The trail is comfortably shaded and is a well-maintained pathway and is suitable for hikers of most skill levels. Keep an ear out for ambitious mountain bikers, this trail is popular among cyclists.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 11.2 Miles
Elevation Gain: 518 Feet

11. Miller Creek Nature Reserve and Horse Fly Trail

Credit: The Grand Traverse Conservation District / Flickr


Directions: 
From Traverse City, head south on Cass Street and drive for 2.2 miles. Turn right onto W South Airport Road and continue for 0.7 miles, then turn left onto Crossing Circle. After 0.1 miles, the parking area will be on your right.

The Horse Fly Trail in the Miller Creek Nature Reserve is a fantastic walk through the middle of the former Red Pine Plantation.

The Horse Fly Trail bends through beech forests, crosses boardwalks over cedar marshes, and wanders the open meadows of Miller Creek.

The Preserve is in an urban setting, surrounded by light industrial and commercial properties. However, it takes little time to escape the busy lights and become entrenched in the native beginnings of the Upper Peninsula.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 3.5 Miles
Elevation Gain: 173 Feet

12. Muncie Lakes Pathway

Credit: sarac_energizer / Flickr


Directions:
From Traverse City, head east on US-31 N and drive for 2.9 miles. Turn right onto N Four Mile Road and drive for 2.1 miles until reaching a traffic circle. Take the 3rd exit onto E Hammond Road and drive for 1.0 miles before merging onto High Lake Road. After 0.4 miles, slight left onto Supply Road.

Drive for 2.8 miles and turn right onto Rennie Lake Road and turn left. Drive for 3.1 miles and turn left, drive for 0.3 miles, and turn left onto Ranch Rudolf Road. After 0.2 miles, the parking area will be on your left.

The Muncie Lakes Pathway is arguably the most popular trail in the history of Traverse City. The rolling trail brings you through beautiful sections of the Pere Marquette State Forest.

The hike brings you past multiple pristine lakes, following the calming shores of the Boardman River. The trail then ascends above the picturesque city with wonderful overlooking views of the city and the surrounding Boardman Valley.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 8.4 Miles
Elevation Gain: 396 Feet

13. Boardman Lake Trail

Credit: TART Trails / Flickr


Directions: 
From Traverse City, head east on E State Street and drive for 0.1 miles then turn right onto Boardman Avenue. Continue for 0.2 miles and turn left onto E Eighth Street. Drive for 0.4 miles and turn right onto Woodmere Avenue. Continue for 0.3 miles and turn right onto Hannah Avenue and after 0.3 miles, the parking area will be on your right.

The Boardman Lake Trail follows along the northeastern boundaries of Boardman Lake. This section is primarily a dense forest that cuts through the very middle of Traverse City.

While encircling the lake, this trail provides easy access to libraries and parks, as well as breweries and eateries. The walk around Boardman Lake is a perfect getaway for locals to enjoy peace within nature, without leaving the city.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 4.2 Miles
Elevation Gain: 127 Feet

14. TART Trail

Credit: Noah Sorensen / Flickr


Directions: 
From Traverse City, head east on E Grandview Parkway and drive for 0.4 miles then merge onto E Front Street. Drive for 1.1 miles and merge onto US-31 N. Continue for 4.9 miles and turn onto Bunker Hill Road. After 0.1 miles, the parking area will be on your right.

The Traverse Area Recreation Trail or “TART” is an urban trail that travels through the heart of commercial Traverse City. This paved trail is a comfortable walk with little elevation gain and is suitable for hikers of all skill levels.

The hike leads you through several pristine parks, lively downtown Traverse City, and charming local neighborhoods. This trail is popular with cyclists, so be sure to share the trail.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 11.7 Miles
Elevation Gain: 111 Feet

15. Clay Cliffs Loop

Credit: The Leelanau Conservancy


Directions:
From Traverse City, head north on M-22 S and drive for 15.3 miles and turn left onto M-204 W. Drive for 2.1 miles and turn right onto E Horn Road. Continue for 2.2 miles and turn right onto N Eagle Highway. Drive for 2.9 miles and turn onto M-22 S. After 2.1 miles, the parking area will be on your right.

The Clay Cliffs Loop is a beautiful trail with vast overlooks of Lake Michigan. This short but sweet hike along these gorgeous naturally crafted cliffs is densely lined with vibrant wildflowers.

As you descend the loop, you will also be witness to picturesque views of reflective Lake Leelanau. The hike is quite popular – try to get here early to beat the crowds.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1.4 Miles
Elevation Gain: 150 Feet

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