8 Northern Michigan Running Trails

When the weather isn’t too hot and isn’t too cold, autumn is the perfect time of year to go for a run. And with all of the Northern Michigan running trails around, there are plenty of options to enjoy the outdoors. Originally published in the October 2015 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine, Heather Johnson Durocher suggests a few trails to try—near Frankfort, Lake Ann, Glen Arbor, Acme, Port Oneida, Manistee, Petoskey, Bellaire, and Harbor Springs—plus some Northern Michigan food and drink stops to hit along the way.


Arcadia Dunes Scenic Trails at the C.S. Mott Nature PreserveElberta/Frankfort

In autumn, the forest glows. In spring, trillium blanket the forest floor. Winding switchbacks are fun. Grab lunch and a cold one afterward at Stormcloud Brewery in downtown Frankfort.

Lake Ann Pathway, Lake Ann

Constantly changing terrain and captivating scenery (little lakes, marshes, a cedar-shrouded river) are packed into the 3.1-mile loop west of Reynolds Road. Too short? Loop around multiple times, you’ll like the path even more. On Reynolds Road, southwest of Lake Ann village. After: Sample brewer Matt Therrien’s creations at Lake Ann Brewing Co., downtown Lake Ann.

Vasa Trail, Acme

Choose from 5K, 10K, 25K loops in the Pere Marquette State Forest just east of Traverse City. Get coffee (and enjoy the athlete vibe) at Einstein Cycle’s in-shop cafe at Four Mile Road and US31 North/Munson Avenue.

Bayview Trail, Glen Arbor

Farmland, rolling hills, historic barns, Lake Michigan views—all are part of this path in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Post run, head north on M22 6 miles to the Little Traverse Inn Gastro Pub where you’ll find the brew list of a bloke’s dreams and the English pub fare to go with.

Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, Empire to Glen Arbor to Port Oneida

Pick your distance on this point-to-point trail. Paved 9.5 miles between Empire and Glen Arbor; 3.5 miles of village streets in Glen Arbor to the trailhead leading to Port Oneida; 3.5 miles mixture of pavement and crushed limestone to Port Oneida Road). In Empire the Village Inn on S. Lacore (M22) has vintage Northern Michigan bar fare and the atmosphere to go with.  At the Port Oneida trail’s end, head 6 miles north on M22 to Market 22 for truly memorable pizza and sandwiches.

The Big M Trail, Manistee National Forest

Four segments—nearly 40 miles total—each with varying levels of difficulty. Highest point offers nice views of forest. About 15 miles east of Manistee on Udell Hills Road. Head to Goody’s Juice and Java on Lake Street in Manistee for post-run re-fueling (gluten-free items available).

North Country Trail, Petoskey/Harbor Springs

The newer Skyline trail section in Petoskey, offering sweeping views of Little Traverse Bay and the Bear River Valley, is southeast of town, near Krause and Brubaker Roads. Another one worth exploring: Little Traverse Conservancy—Goodhart Farms Preserve, Harbor Springs. outfitterharborsprings.com. Post-run, try the breakfast egg wrap (four kinds, or build your own) at Petoskey’s Roast & Toast.

Grass River Natural Area, Bellaire

With seven miles of trail open year round, Grass River Natural Area offers lakes, a meandering river, rushing streams and crystal clear creeks—a haven for plant and animal life, including rare and endangered species. grassriver.org. Find coffee, pastries, wine and pizza at Moka on Bridge Street in Bellaire, and stop for a cold one just down the street at Short’s Brewing Company.


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