Along Little Traverse’s trail systems, short jaunts can lead to big scenery and little discoveries like the occasional amphibious friend who might flop in front of your path. Bring a camera, a field guide, a walking stick, a snack — leave with an appreciation for these wild places just moments away from the bustle of a quaint summer town.

McCune Nature Preserve: A secluded 168-acre property, McCune is cool, quiet and sublime. Three trails, each less than a mile long, loop through the preserve’s meadow, hardwood forest and floodplain via spongy dirt paths and elevated boardwalks. Minnehaha Creek is a lovely point for lingering. Peer over the footbridge for signs of aquatic life. Take Mitchell Road east for about 7 miles and hang a right onto Maxwell Road; the preserve is a half-mile up on the right. (231-347-0991,,

Round Lake Nature Preserve: Listen as the hum of traffic on nearby M-119 fades, leaving nothing but rustling foliage, occasional loon calls and the soft thud of your feet. The dirt trails, lined by stately stumps and cushy beds of moss, thread through 54 acres back to a viewing platform overlooking Round Lake. Stay awhile in the sunshine, or head back into the woods to see what other wildlife calls this sweet spot home. Find it on M-119, just off Powell Road on the right. (231-347-0991,,

Spring Lake Park: Bring a fishing pole, a picnic or just a chilled-out state of mind. This peaceful place is ideal for sneaking in a lunch-hour escape — sit by the pond and watch swans drift about, or stroll through wetlands along the interpretive trail boardwalk. Plan ahead and bring ultra-fresh, made-to-order sandwiches from Flatiron Deli (313 Howard Street, 231-347-5190). A covered picnic shell guarantees a comfortable lunch with a fantastic view, whatever the weather. Located on the east side of M-119, near the U.S. 31 junction.

Emily Bingham is assistant editor of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s

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