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The 13-mile Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation (TART) Trail provides trail users with extended waterfront access in Traverse City, the self-proclaimed Cherry Capital of the World, brushing by swimming beaches and a bayfront state park as it weaves through town. The trail then makes its way east through the country-side before terminating in Williamsburg.
Sitting at the head of Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay, Traverse City, founded in 1847, was once the site of a sawmill that processed timber harvested in northern Michigan’s old-growth forests. The city grew into a manufacturing center with the arrival of railroads, but in recent years has relied on tourism and agriculture for its livelihood. It hosts the annual National Cherry Festival in July, as well as craft-beer and winemaking events.
The TART Trail—TART being an appropriate acronym in light of the area’s cherry growing—runs east–west using the rights-of-way of highways and a working railroad. The multiuse trail is paved throughout, marked by red and green TART logo arrows. A partnership of trail volunteers and local governments conducts maintenance, including snow removal in the winter.
Beginning at the junction with Leelanau Trail, another TART project on East Carter Road, you’ll pass through a commercial area and emerge onto a wide sidewalk trail alongside Southwest Bay Shore Drive/MI 22, which becomes West Grandview Parkway as it enters town.
The trail crosses the busy four-lane highway at North Elmwood Avenue and skirts West End Beach (where there’s parking) and Clinch Beach, which are big draws for tourists. The Clinch Park Marina sits between the two beaches. You can opt instead to stay on the trail along the south side of the parkway until Division Street, at the end of West End Beach, where there is another crossing. You’ll then continue along the north side of the parkway and through Clinch Park, eventually crossing the Boardman River. A bronze sculpture of a parent’s attempt to help a child ride a bike may catch your eye before the trail heads south and passes beneath East Grandview Parkway alongside the Boardman River.
A bike lane and sidewalks along Woodmere Avenue lead you to the 2-mile Boardman Lake Trail along the east side of its namesake, which starts at Hull Park and ends at Medalie Park. If you want to make this connection, travel for a few blocks, pass the library, turn right on Hannah Avenue, and proceed 100 yards to the lake.
The trail then wends its way through the hustle and bustle of downtown Traverse City, providing easy access to shops, pubs, and eateries. Just west of Boyd and Railroad Avenues, a restored depot honors the history of railroad days gone by.
You’ll travel alongside the tracks of the regional Great Lakes Central Railroad for the next 6 miles from the depot to Bunker Hill Road. Along the way, you’ll pass Traverse City State Park, which offers camping, cottages, parking, and beach access to the East Arm Grand Traverse Bay.
The off-road trail ends at Bunker Hill Road, where a 2-mile connector on county roads takes you to an orphaned trail section stretching from Lautner Road to MI 72 in Williamsburg. Future plans call for connecting to that isolated section through a proposed development.
southern trailhead in Greilickville. To reach the trailhead from US 31, take the highway north into Traverse City, where it becomes Division St. Where Division dead-ends at the intersection with MI 22/
W. Grandview Pkwy., near the waterfront, turn left onto Grandview, go 1.9 miles, and turn left again onto E. Cherry Bend Road. After 0.4 mile, turn right into the trailhead parking lot. The western endpoint for the TART Trail is 0.9 mile south.
To reach the easternmost parking at Traverse City State Park from I-75, take Exit 254 toward Traverse City. Go 0.4 mile off the exit; then go 0.6 mile north on Bus. Loop I-75, and veer left onto MI 72 E./N. James St. in Grayling. Follow for 0.7 mile, turning left to stay on MI 72 W. Go 17.5 miles, and turn right onto County Road 571. After 2 miles, turn left onto Nash Road NE. Follow for 6 miles and, just after the intersection with MI 66/US 131 N. in Kalkaska, continue straight on MI 72 W./W. Mile Road for 15.8 miles. At the traffic circle in Williamsburg, take the second right to stay on MI 72 W. for 0.5 mile. At the next traffic circle, take the first exit to stay on MI 72 W. for 0.8 mile. Turn left onto MI 72/US 31 S. and follow for 3.6 miles. Turn left into the Traverse City State Park parking lot. The trail runs along the southern border of the park. Follow the trail and county-road connector 6.7 miles to reach the eastern endpoint at Bates Road.
I was in traverse City for a quick couple days for the first time last week we went up there to bike and brewery hop before meeting a larger group in Grand Rapids. I have to say I was very impressed with the trail system and how well maintained it is. Once I got used to the signage I found it very easy to navigate and my GPS was able to follow it which was helpful as well.
starting at the eastern end at the corner of Bates and M72 the trail goes a couple miles to Lautner. From there, there are no signs or directions where to go next. Very confusing. Why can't just a few dollars be spent to tell riders where the trail goes from there? Very poor..wouldn't recommend.
During the winter i use the trail from Bunker Hill to Aero Park. It is usually cleared of snow and passable within 2 days after a storm. During the summer I ride from Bates road. Thank you Tart Trail for taking such great care of the trail and letting me enjoy my daily commute to work.
Maybe it was because I rode it on such a glorious Monday morning, but the Traverse Area Recreation Trail (TART) was one of the best trails I have biked. It is nicely paved so it was not as strenuous or bumpy as gravel can be. I loved that it was only 11 miles. I did an out and back and it didn't take long at all. For such a relatively short path, it was loaded with scenery. I parked at the trail endpoint in Acme just outside of Traverse City with the light breezes from the Grand Traverse Bay to my left. In the warm summer months, I recommend starting in Acme, because I had a nice westerly tailwind "pushing" me on the return.
There are a number of other trails which spur off the TART with others planned (pending funding) so there are a number of opportunities to explore the area and make a larger trip out of it.
Also worth mentioning what others have previously posted: be careful at all crossings. Some of them are tricky. This is a tourist town and is congested. Use the crosswalk signals and be patient.
If you are into geocaching, there are a number of caches along the trail, but there were a bunch on the opposite side of the railroad tracks which is separated from the trail by a fence. I chose not to search for those because climbing the wire fence would have damaged it and looked a little hard to do.
This is a great trail for families and everyone I passed seemed to be so very friendly! Highly recommended.
"I just received an email about a change in the crossing at US 31/37 Grandview Parkway mentioned in another review here. They are moving it to make it safer. The left turners who don't yield as instructed to by signs will no longer be an issue with the trail crossing to the east of the intersection instead of the west. Last night I noticed the paint markings on the concrete, so hopefully they will be making that change this summer yet!"
Several people have written about the dangers on this trail. It is true that when you are crossing the road down by the bay that the west bound traffic has a red light and is stopped while the east bound traffic has a green light and visa/versa. There is no way to deterimine if its safe to cross the road unless you look at the walk/dont walk lights alone and obey them to the T. Its another MDOT debacle. Be very careful when crossing any intesection on this trail. One lady who was stopped at the light actually waved me to cross in front of her not realizing she was waving me right in front of traffic that had a green light. I saw two girls almost get hit 4th of July weekend too. Someone will get killed on this trail soon unless they take a servious look at the dangers that they have created and fix them!
"I just want to say I live in Traverse City and have biked, walked, roller bladed, run, and cross country skied on this trail many many times over the last several years. I love this trail, and I think it's one of Traverse City's finest gems. I'd like to give people unfamiliar with the area a heads up on a particular street crossing, though. On the western end of the trail, at Division Street and Grandview Parkway, is a VERY dangerous crossing. You can be on the north side of the trail (bay side) waiting to cross and look up and see that the light is red but not see that it is green on the other (east) side. So westbound traffic is still zipping along not stopping!! I've nearly been hit by oncoming traffic there at least twice and I live here and know how the light cycles! It's very easy to forget that because most lights here don't work that way! Also, there is a sign for left turning traffic to yield to people crossing the trail, but they NEVER do it!! If you're from out-of-town and don't know any better this could potentially be a *very* dangerous crossing for you - so please keep it in mind and be extra cautious at that part of the trail. I wish MDOT would change the light or a sign would be put up to warn trail users or something! Every time I use that part of the trail I'm always so tempted to bring a big sign with me and stake it in the ground there so people will be warned and not get hurt. It's just so crazy and dangerous it's unbelievable it's been left like that for so long. I'm really amazed no one has been hit/killed yet!
On September 16th we rode south from Acme to the Traverse City waterfront area where we ran out of signs pointing us in the less than obvious direction. Fun trail but somewhat confusing north of Traverse City where you are directed to ride northbound in the left lane against traffic. One traffic crossing was more dangerous than normal but I don't think is was the one mentioned in an earlier review.
"I like this trail because it goes through Traverse City and you are never far from water or help as I ride a wheelchair bike/handcycle. There are a couple of dangerous problems where the trail runs right along the road over on the East Bay side near Bunker Hill road. The second is on the Leelanu Trail section where the trail crosses several roads.
One of the crossings is probably Michigan's most dangerous trail crossing where the trail goes over Cherry Bend Road through an S curse area. I have aired my complaints several times to the areas highest athorities but I think they are waiting for someone to be killed there before it gets fixed. Don't let your kids ride the Leelanu section!
***REPLY FROM TART Trails, Inc.***
Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation Trails, Inc. (TART Trails, Inc.) is working with the Leelanau County Road Commission to make the sight distance better at the aforementioned crossings. TART Trails, Inc. is concerned with safety on our trails and we are willing to work with the appropriate entities to improve trail hazards to ensure a safe trail experience for all trail users.
If anyone has any questions or concerns about the trails managed by TART Trails, Inc., please contact Missy Luyk, Trail Program Specialist with TART Trails, Inc., at firstname.lastname@example.org or 231-941-4300. The TART Trails, Inc. Web site can be found at www.traversetrails.org."
"This organization now also manages the Leelanau rail trail that runs 26k from Traverse City To Suttons Bay Mi. The trails can be traveled together with only one short section of city sidewalk The Leelauna trail is paved for about 6k and then is gravel, packed dirt, and ballast surfaced. Enjoy the area, Northwest Michigan has much to offer."
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