Traverse Area Recreation Trail (TART)

#8 in Best Things To Do in Traverse City
Courtesy of Gary Howe

Key Info

Price & Hours



Free, Hiking, Recreation, Sightseeing Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend


  • 4.0Value
  • 2.0Facilities
  • 4.0Atmosphere

One of the best ways to see Traverse City is via the Traverse Area Recreation Trail, otherwise known as TART. TART is a network of connected, multiuse trails that cover ground in both Grand Traverse County, the nearby Leelanau Peninsula and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore. These trails, which are primarily used for biking, pass through the center of town (Tart in Town trail), along the water and to natural attractions, including Clinch Park and Traverse City State Park (TART). You could also use the TART system to ride through the beautiful wooded areas that can be found along the Boardman Lake Trail, the Boardman River Trail and the Leelanau Trail, the latter of which ends at Suttons Bay, another small, charming lakefront town. Plus, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore also has its own TART trail that covers 20 miles of terrain. 

Recent visitors who utilized the TART system had great things to say about this Traverse City asset. People were pleased with how well-maintained and well-marked the trails were. Others remarked that it's important to study up on your chosen trail before you take it on – some travelers were surprised that some trails had very steep inclines while others were disappointed that certain trails weren't scenic enough. Some visitors also noted that trails can get crowded, so be sure to time your ride or hike outside of peak hours. TART doesn't have any set hours and there is no admission fee required to ride along its pathways. For more information on Traverse Area Recreation Trail, visit the official website.

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Time to Spend
#1 Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is one of the few places in the world that visitors can see perched dunes. The lakeshore's towering dunes, which stretch 35 miles long Michigan's eastern coast, were formed by glaciers. The slopes left behind by the glaciers turned into dunes as a result of Lake Michigan's tide pushing sand up onto the shore overtime. It's this unique phenomenon that garnered the park National Lakeshore status in 1970. 

Today, Sleeping Bear Dunes is enjoyed by more than a million visitors per year, who flock to the park to experience the dunes and enjoy an eyeful of the lakeshore's vibrantly colored waters, forested hiking trails, beaches and bevy of outdoors activities. First-time visitors won't go wrong starting their journey with the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, a 7 1/2-mile drive that takes travelers through forested landscapes and along sand dunes to various overlook points. For hiking, you're spoiled with more than 100 miles of trails. For an easy trek, check out the Empire Bluff trail, a 1 1/2-mile round-trip hike that takes visitors directly to the edge of the dunes. The Pyramid Point trail is a more moderate, hilly option, while the 9-mile Alligator Hill trail takes hikers away from the dunes and higher up to provide sweeping views of the lake and the forests that flank it. If you're looking to do more than just hike, know that you can also bike, kayak, canoe and even scuba dive here. During the winter, the park is open to visitors for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding and more. 

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