Trail of the Month: September 2005
Traverse Area Recreation Trail, Michigan
If you enjoy an exciting hike, ride, run or skate and haven't visited Michigan's Traverse Area Recreation Trail (TART)—you are certainly missing out. This 11-mile beauty is located in the northwest portion of the "Great Lake State," and provides users of all experience levels with an entertaining adventure. Coursing through neighborhoods, parks, beaches and a zoo, the TART offers fun attractions and gorgeous views of Grand Traverse Bay. Strap on your tennis shoes, imagine comfortable 60 degree September temperatures, and treat yourself to a rail-trail vacation.
Begin your TART journey just north of the intersection of M-22 and M-72 at Carter Road at the red caboose. Head southeast toward downtown Traverse City passing Darrow Park and West End Park—two of five parks located along the trail. Each of these two parks feature waterfront views and beaches along with parking and restrooms, a perfect spot for a quick break or an afternoon picnic.
Continue past the park on the paved TART amid beautiful views of West Grand Traverse Bay for approximately 1.2 miles until you arrive at Clinch Park. This is the most popular park in the city with over 1,500 feet of sand along the bay near downtown. If you are traveling with the kids you are sure to appreciate the amazing amenities. Clinch Park has picnic tables, lifeguards and restrooms, and adjacent to the park is the kiddy, "clincher"—Clinch Park Zoo. This local favorite was established in 1932 to educate visitors about northern Michigan's wildlife. It occupies more than three acres of land and hosts animals like the bald eagle, Canadian lynx and bison. The zoo is open from 10 am to 4 pm daily and costs $4 for adults and $2 for children.
Also located in Clinch Park is the charming miniature steam train, the Spirit of Traverse City. A big hit with kids and adults, "Loco" runs through the zoo and Clinch Park Marina.
Officially opening in October, you can rack up some extra mileage by hopping on the Boardman Lake Trail from Hull Park. According to the Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation Trails, Inc., a local group who maintains four local trails including the TART and the Boardman Lake Trail, the new 1.7 miles will start at the park, course along the lake toward Medalie Park and connect city neighborhoods, the YMCA, the public library and the Grand Traverse Nature Education Reserve trail system that parallels the Boardman River.
As you leave Hull Park take note a few very busy street crossings at Woodmere, Garfield and Hastings streets. Continue east along the TART past businesses, over wetlands and into rural terrain for about seven miles. The original TART ends at Bunker Hill Road, but if you are interested in visiting the newest section of the trail, follow signs along the road that lead to Lautner Road. It is here that you will find two additional miles of paved trail that ends at M-72 East.
Need an excuse to visit the TART and other northern Michigan trails? The Cherry Capital Cycling Club is having its annual Leelanau Harvest Tour September 18 to benefit TART Trails. Last year the Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation Trails Inc., received $7,000 in proceeds that helped spur additional projects along trails like the Leelanau Trail, Boardman River, Vasa Pathway and TART. The 15-mile Leelanau Trail begins at the TART's northern trailhead and continues north into Suttons Bay.