Home to forested trails and a secluded beach, Maple Bay Natural Area near Traverse City is a gem worth exploring year-round. Learn how to celebrate from spring to winter in this area protected by Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy.

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It’s easy to spot Maple Bay Natural Area in the heat of summer—come August, stands of bright yellow sunflowers line the property that straddles both sides of U.S. 31 in Williamsburg. But the area—preserved by Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy—deserves just as much attention in the winter and spring months, as it features a wide array of recreational opportunities as well as stunning (and easily accessible) views of East Grand Traverse Bay.

Depending on the season, the forested trail system and swath of beach at Maple Bay is perfect for hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, swimming and birding. And as winter melts into spring, visitors can watch for a variety of endangered plant species as they unfurl.

Last fall, more than a mile of trail was added to the property, which includes the new Joe and Kathy Magliochetti Trail connecting the bucolic Maple Bay Farm to the rest of the natural area. Maple Bay’s trails extend both south to the beach and north toward Petobego Pond. (Note: The trail leading down to the beach will get steep.)

Black lab at the beach

Photo by Rachel Watson

Getting to Maple Bay Natural Area

To access the trails, turn down a gravel drive on the west side of U.S. 31 between Old M-11 and Plum Drive (you’ll see a quaint white farmhouse and a small sign along the highway just south of the entrance that reads “Maple Bay Park and Natural Area”). Stop and park at Maple Bay Farm to hike the new 0.65-mile trail, or drive past the farmhouse and you’ll arrive at a parking area on top of a bluff where agricultural fields meet forests to access the two-mile trail system. For more information, including a detailed map of the property, visit gtrlc.org.

Photo(s) by Nate Richardson, Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy