***This article originally appeared in the Summer 2013 issue of Traverse Bay Family Magazine. It has been reprinted with permission.***

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While I haven’t been able to carve out time to hike as much as I like (one of the downfalls of being self-employed — something always has to take a backseat), there are several places that my family and I love to take short day hikes and explore.

East TC – Reffitt Nature Preserve (3 Mile / Parsons)

Run by the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, the Mitchell Creek Nature Preserve is super easy to find and get to. The trailhead is located adjacent to the TART trail on 3 Mile. This particular property runs between 3 Mile and 4 Mile roads and encompasses 87 acres of wetlands, Mitchell Creek and forests.

Inside the nature preserve, there is a trail that runs 1.7 miles from the start, around the loop and back to the start. You can also walk shorter portions of the trail–see the whole map with mileage details at http://bit.ly/reffitt. This particular trail is also good for trail runners and has several varieties of birds as well. Be sure to bring your field guide. Bug spray would probably be good too :).

On the other side of the TART trail from the trailhead, there is a bridge over Mitchell Creek with stairs leading down to the water. Our girls are frequently delighted by the large fish that can be found there.

Central TC – Boardman River Nature Center (Cass Rd)

My girls love to play at the Boardman River Nature Center hiking trails. In addition to the many programs they have at the Nature Center, they also especially love to hike on Trail #2 — Fox Den. This particular trail is only about 1/2 a mile in total and goes through the woods, a field with tall grasses & plants, a marshy area with a boardwalk and even meanders around a stream with plenty of space around it to explore. There are several signs along the trail and its fairly equal in both sunny and shady so layers are recommended.

This is my favorite trail because the kids can walk along quite a distance by themselves even at at young age and it’s not too long to carry them the rest of the way. It’s also excellent for exploring. The wildflower, insect, butterfly & tree field guides are useful here. You can see maps of this and all the Grand Traverse Conservation District Trails at http://bit.ly/BoardmanRvr.

West TC – DeYoung Natural Area (off Cherry Bend)

The DeYoung Natural Area is located on Cedar Lake and is run by the Leelanau Conservancy. The trailhead is located off of Cherry Bend Road but is also accessible via the TART trail. There is a trail that runs through the wetlands on the shores of Cedar Lake. Last time I was there, the beginning was full of an invasive tree/bush/plant that made it very neat to walk through. I believe they have been working on eradicating it, though, so I’m not sure how much of it is left. Once you get past that, there is a vast cedar swamp and even a wildlife viewing platform over the lake. You can view the full property map & trail map at http://bit.ly/DeYoungNC.

Greater GT Co. – VASA

If you are a little further out of town, the best option that I know of for day hikes is the extensive network of cross-country trails used for the VASA Cross-Country Ski Race & the Iceman Cometh bicycle race. The main trailhead is located on Bartlett Road in Traverse City but the system is so extensive that I have stumbled across portions of the trails from various back roads and two tracks. You can visit http://bit.ly/163vfQg for more info.


These are our families favorite places for day hikes in Grand Traverse county.  Do you have a favorite spot for hiking?


Jen S.

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