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The Traverse Area Recreation Trail (TART) is packed with urban excitement as it winds 11 miles through the infrastructure of Traverse City. The rail-trail cuts a west-to-east path from Carter Road to State Route 22 (M-22), where it connects with the 15-mile Leelanau Trail. Twists and turns combined with a mixture of surfaces (wooden boardwalks, asphalt trail and wide concrete sidewalks) could lead to confusion, but red and green TART logo arrows clearly mark the route.
Picturesque waterfront views abound along both the west and east arms of Traverse Bay. You dip down to the water's edge and skirt the swimming beaches and marina on the west side of town and then travel high above the water along 5 Mile Road on the East Grand Traverse Bay side.
Starting at Carter Road, a 0.5-mile trail segment behind restaurants and a major grocery store takes you to the intersection of SR 22 and SR 72. From here you head straight to the waterfront, a 2-mile stretch of trail next to glittering West Grand Traverse Bay, with a public marina capped by West End and Clinch beaches on either end. Just past Clinch Park, a bronze sculpture of a parent and his child's attempts to ride a bike catches your eye, before the trail turns south.
Taking a 0.5-mile jog away from the waterfront, the trail then wends its way through the hustle and bustle of downtown Traverse City, providing easy access to a wide array of shops, boutiques and eateries. An underpass helps you avoid the heavy traffic of US 31 and SR 72 and eases the transition between the waterfront and downtown.
For the next 6 miles, the trail is a commuter's dream. In fact, statistics show that 17% of TART's users report commuting between neighborhoods, restaurants, bike shops, offices, parks, beaches, the marina, the public library and other destinations that are connected along this route.
At mile 3, a restored depot honors the history of railroad days gone by. A bike lane and sidewalks along Woodmere Avenue at this juncture lead you to pretty, paved, 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 and travel 100 yards to the lake.
Back on TART, the next 4 miles from the depot to Bunker Hill Road is a lightly active rail-with-trail corridor. This is where many of the residential neighborhoods are located. Mile 5 marks the back entrance to Traverse City State Park, where campers enjoy getting out on the trail to access Traverse City's many eateries, miniature golf courses and other tourism attractions located alongside the trail.
Mile 8.5 marks the start of a 2-mile connector on Bunker Hill and Lautner roads until the trail resumes for a final 2-mile stretch from Lautner Road to the end at SR 72 in Williamsburg. Traffic along Bunker Hill Road is generally light, but use caution because it moves fairly fast.
To begin north of Traverse City, from the south, follow US 31 north to SR 37; turn left. Go for 0.5 mile to SR 72. Street parking is available along the trail. To start at Bunker Hill Road, on the northeast side of Traverse City, follow US 31 west and north through town to Bunker Hill Road; turn right. Proceed for 0.25 mile to the trailhead on your left.
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 email@example.com 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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