Discover an easy joy when running through the North’s woods. Spring is the best time for trail running!

While the wide and paved TART trail is ideal for running the length of Traverse City and beyond, diverting from asphalt to dirt track has irresistible appeal.

May is an ideal time to race along the hiking trails of Northern Michigan. The hardwoods and meadows dazzle in vibrant bloom, and the air is awash with the cool scent of rain and blossoms. Mild temps and mellow breezes (wind protection in the forest) make idea running conditions. Trails present a quiet change in scenery from road traffic, and the soft ground of trail running also provides respite from the hard pounding of feet on pavement.

To combat chilly mornings without overheating, combine shorts with a long-sleeve (preferably moisture wicking), breathable shirt. Tie on well-worn trainers, and let your run turn any favored hiking tail into a fresh experience. As with any run, hydration is essential, so have a full Nalgene handy—either waiting in the car or to carry with you.

Northern Michigan offers a bevy of trail running opportunities. The Grand Traverse Commons Trails, tracing forested hills, are a close-to-home option with steep climbs for the adventurous. The Vasa Pathway is also a favorite, providing several access points and loops—3K, 5K, 10K and 25K distances allow runners of all abilities to plot their desired distance. Find wide-open expanses complemented by wooded tracts at Hickory Meadows, at the top of Randolph Street, in Traverse City. To embrace a truly wild space, the flat meadows and hilly switchbacks of the Pyramid Point trail, near Glen Arbor, provide a challenging blend of level cruising and uphill intervals.

Whichever trail you choose, be sure to enjoy the season’s prime-time blend of pleasant temps, flowering flora and empty trails. Leave the monotonous and mundane road runs in the dirt.

Andrew VanDrie writes from Traverse City.

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Photo(s) by Andrew VanDrie