Hiking the Grand Traverse Backcountry


reat views and placid inland lakes are just a few of the perks that come with tackling these trails; a wicked workout buzz and post-hike treats are part of the package, too.


Stop and listen – absolute silence. This is your first clue that a hike through Sand Lakes Quiet Area is a blissful escape from civilization. More than 10 miles of trails snake throughout this 3,000-acre preserve, meandering through hushed forests and around five oasislike lakes. You’ll find Sand Lakes about 3 miles south on Broomhead Road off M-72. Smitten with all the solitude? Bring a tent and pitch it wherever you wish; free camp cards are available at the Michigan Department of Natural Resource’s Traverse City Field Office (970 Emerson Rd., 231-922-5280).


A brisk half-mile jaunt along the Boardman River, Keystone Rapids Trail is ideal for lunchtime lollygagging. Just follow Cass Road out of town, turn right onto Keystone Road and look for a wooden sign marking the trailhead. Wander down the woodchip path as it threads through fields and clusters of hardwoods. Take a moment to survey the river from the viewing platform, then head back to the trailhead where a small dock begs you to shed your shoes and cool your heels in the water.


Up, up and up. That’s where you’re headed on the Grand Traverse Commons trails, which ramble through flat wetlands before climbing a steep, wooded hill. The trailhead is just minutes from town, behind the historic campus of the former State Hospital (1200 W. Eleventh St.). It’s a hefty hike, sure, but all that work won’t be for naught – a clearing at the top offers a stellar view of the city. Plus, the ultimate post-hike treat – a strawberry and pineapple Sunrise Smoothie – is waiting for you at Another Cuppa Joe (1200 W. 11th St., 231-947-7730), right at the bottom of the hill.

Emily Bingham is assistant editor of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.[email protected]

Note: This article was first published in April 2006, and was updated for the web February 2008.

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