The initial draw to the Traverse City area, for most, is the town itself. It’s filled with a slew of local breweries and distilleries, an inviting downtown atmosphere with excellent eateries, and endless beaches to choose from. But what makes the locals stay and live here? Arguably, it's the opportunity for year-round outdoor activities. We have enlisted the help of some local Traverse City experts to inspire you to get outside and see what this area is all about!
Below, discover some of our local expert's favorite ways to adventure, supplemented with some tips and tricks for beginners and some popular spots for each activity.
Activity: Mountain Biking
Local Expert: Chad Jordan
Chad spends his days outside, under the blue dome, happy, exploring the forests, dunes, islands, and waters of northern Michigan. Chad has guided people professionally in fitness and active lifestyles for over 15 years. www.rideguide45.com.
Can you tell us about your experience with mountain biking?
My mountain bike experience started at the Traverse City State Hospital. It seemed natural to start riding bikes there since we had been running cross-country there for years. I wasn't old enough to drive, so I would ride into TC from Old Mission Peninsula and would usually meet up with my friends at the beach, a ramp, or trail. Thirty years later, and I am still riding with some of the same friends. Once we were able to drive, we began to explore and found the Lake Ann loops. Hot laps at Lake Ann was like riding a roller coaster through the woods, followed by a quick dip in the Platte River at our favorite swimming hole.
My wife was introduced to the VASA Single Track (VST). We spent many Friday nights at the VST for date night. It was a date night that I fell in love with the dance of cross-country mountain biking. We traveled all over the Water Wonderland for the next few summers, racing the state points series, and we really began to recognize health and fitness as the first priority. I still try to squeeze in a few events like Glacial Hills Challenge or Bear Claw Epic to gauge my fitness for what I consider the mountain bike Super-Bowl, the Iceman.
What are the two top spots to mountain bike?
Leelanau Conservancy's Palmer Woods is a manicured BMX track ribboning through 700 acres of preserved woodland forest. The berms, tabletops, and rollers are all the rewards necessary to tease you up the brutally challenging 300 vertical foot climb.
Arcadia Dunes, which tricks you into believing you are not even working by peppering in rolling switch-back berms and swooping grade-reversals. You are rewarded many times with some flowing single track that winds through the glacial terrain like a luge run.
Do you have some tips and tricks for beginners?
- Ride with a friend or tell someone your route.
- Bring the necessary tools and know how they work.
- Bring water and extra tacos.
- Know your limits and ride in control.
- Pack in, pack out. Don't litter.
Traverse City athletes road riding along Old Mission Peninsula
Activity: Road Riding
Local Expert: Craig Webb
Sharing the simple child-like pleasure of riding bikes with everyone he meets and embarking on adventures to test the limits of what is physically possible are Craig's passions.
Can you tell us about your experience with road riding?
As long back as I have memories, they include bikes. But it was on 9/11/01--hard date to forget--that I met my future cycling mentor who introduced me to cycling as a sport. There are organized rides and events nearly every week of the year in Traverse City.
What are the top 2 spots to road ride?
By luck or choice, we live at the gateway to some of the very best cycling anywhere.
To our West, in Leelanau County, there are challenging climbs, fast descents, winding, sinuous, scenic roads with vistas of Grand Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan.
To our East is the Pere Marquette Forest, which has been fostered by dedicated trail builders, volunteers, and donors who have created a trail system used year around.
Do you have some tips and tricks for beginners?
- Cycling is a social sport, and the cycling society in Traverse City is truly special, get out and meet other cyclists. It's not like morel hunting spots, every cyclist you meet will want to share their favorite roads and trails with you. There are many organized weekly rides for all ability levels, and everyone you meet will want to help new cyclists.
- If you're new to cycling and apprehensive about riding with others, don't be! Relax, always look forward, and be smooth.
- The more you ride, the more comfortable you will start to feel.
Local expert: Heather Durocher
Activity: Trail Running
Local Expert: Heather Durocher
Heather Johnson Durocher is the founder of MichiganRunnerGirl.com, a resource for living an active, healthy, and happy life in Michigan. Heather and her husband Joe grew up in northern Michigan and enjoyed an active lifestyle with their three kids, Emma, Andrew, and Alex.
Can you tell us about your experience with trail running?
I fell in love with trail running not long after becoming a runner in my early 30s. We live near the VASA, an amazing network of wooded pathways and single-track in the Pere Marquette State Forest on the east side of Traverse City. I'm so grateful I can lace up my shoes, head right out our door, and be on the trails within minutes. Although I've run many road races over the years, and I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of endurance events like the marathon. I'm a trail-lover at heart. Among my most favorite trail races are the Grand Island Half Marathon in Munising, with its stunning views of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and the Tahqua 25K on the North Country Trail at Tahquamenon Falls State Park, also in the UP.
What are the top 2 spots to trail run?
The VASA, given the various loops and distances available.
Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, whether you're looking for a mixture of paved and crushed limestone (Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail) or single-track and paths that consist of more challenging terrain (Bay View Trail, Alligator Hill, Empire Bluff Trail).
Bonus spot: the Betsie Valley Trail.
What are some tips and tricks for beginners?
While trail-specific running shoes aren't absolutely essential “ I've worn my everyday road running shoes on the trails plenty of times “ it can be nice to have a pair of trail shoes with better tread and grip, especially if you're running on terrain that may be a bit more challenging.
Bring water with you “ I love my hand-held Nathan water bottle.
Remember that trail pace is generally slower than your road pace “and that's a beautiful thing! Enjoy your surroundings, soak up the scenery, watch your footing (be aware of tree roots), and just have fun.
If you come upon another hiker, walker, or runner, say "to your left" to pass.
Whether you're looking to just get some fresh air or you're training for the next big race, we hope you can use these tips and tricks to connect to the incredible opportunity for outdoor adventure in northern Michigan. For more inspiration and adventures check out M22 Microadventures.