May 24, 2020

Bike Trail Updates

Changes, construction, and plans on trails around the North
By Craig Manning | April 7, 2018

Planning a spring or summer bike trip in northern Michigan? If so, staying aware of the latest trail closures, construction plans, and other developments is always a good idea. Not only will knowing about recent updates help you plot your route, but it will also give you something to look forward to as you survey future plans for your favorite trail. 

Northern Express has done the hard work for you, getting the scoop on the latest plans for many of northern Michigan’s most beloved trails.

The TART Trail
According to Julie Clark, the executive director of the TART system, big things are in store for Traverse City’s beloved 10.5-mile recreational trail. Recently, the Village of Elk Rapids crowdfunded $6,000 to extend the TART from Acme to Elk Rapids. Clark says that TART will work with Acme and Elk Rapids this summer to figure out the preliminary design of the trail. The plan is to have the basic questions – where the trail goes, what it looks like, and when it will be built — answered by the end of 2018. Engineering and construction would follow.

Speaking of TART expansions, there has long been a plan to connect the current main trail terminus at Bunker Hill Road with the stretch that runs from Lautner Road to M-72. TART has a design for the trail expansion and has been working with landowners to secure the necessary private easements for the project. Unfortunately, Clark says there still isn’t a firm timeline for closing the so-called “Acme Gap.”

A stretch of the main TART trail between Five Mile and Three Mile roads has been closed all winter, thanks to the construction of a sewer line. Clark says the Department of Public Works should be finished with the project soon, with the plan being to reopen that part of the trail in May. The reconstruction will include brand new asphalt and will widen the affected trail segment to 10 feet. Access the trail at its east end via M-72/Bates Rd in Acme Township, or its western end at Carter Rd in Traverse City, where it connects to the Leelanau Trail.

Boardman Lake Trail
Another years-in-the-making TART plan is the completion of the Boardman Lake Trail, which currently goes around part of the lake. (Access the trail behind Oryana Natural Foods Market, 260 E. 10th St.) Clark says that Traverse City locals should expect to see movement on that front this year. Last year, TART got a $600,000 grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund to finish the Boardman Lake loop. This summer will see both a groundbreaking and a public fundraising push for the final 1.5-mile section of the trail. Construction should kick into high gear next year, with the goal of completing the Boardman Lake Trail in 2019.

Three Mile Trail
TART finished the first phase of a trail on Three Mile Road, a 2-mile trail that follows Three Mile Rd., from the State Park beach on US 31 to South Airport Road, all the way back in 2006. For years, the TART website has said that phase two — meant to create a trail from South Airport to Hammond Road — is “in progress.” Clark says TART is collaborating with East Bay Township, the Grand Traverse Road Commission, and Norte to get the ball rolling again. Ideally, there will be a design and route in place by the end of the summer, with construction to follow.

Leelanau Trail
Anyone biking the Leelanau Trail this spring should look out for two miles of construction between Carter Road and the S-curve near Cherry Bend Road. The project includes a culvert replacement and an all-new asphalt overlay. Clark says the work should be done by Memorial Day, clearing the way for a summer of uninterrupted biking, running, and walking on the Leelanau Trail. Access the southern end of the trail and find trail parking at its Cherry Bend Rd. (just west of M-22); access its north end at Fourth Street (also just west of M-22) in Suttons Bay.

Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail
The Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail is one of northern Michigan’s newer outdoor recreation trails, with the earliest phases dating back to 2012. From the start, the plan has been for the trail to span 27 miles through the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore, from the Manning Road Trailhead, south of Empire, to the Good Harbor Trailhead, on the shores of Lake Michigan. Right now, the trail is about 22 miles long, with sections at both ends still pending construction.

Currently, TART is working with Cleveland Township to launch, design, and engineer one of the final legs of the trail. Once complete, the new section will function as the northern terminus of the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. 

Boardman River Trail
The Boardman River Trail is a new trail of dirt paths and two-tracks that has been in the works since 2010. The first phase, which spans seven miles from the North County Trail to Mayfield, has been done since 2013. The plan going forward is to finish out the other two phases of the trail — one from the Boardman Lake Trail to Beitner Road, and the other from Beitner to Mayfield. Ultimately, the Boardman River Trail will tie into numerous other northern Michigan trails — including the Boardman Lake Loop, the VASA, and the regular TART — for a lengthy 46-mile loop. Clark says that TART is currently working on a trail segment near Cass Road.

Little Traverse Wheelway
The Petoskey Department of Parks and Recreation will close a section of the Little Traverse Wheelway this spring. The Wheelway runs 23.25 miles from Charlevoix through Petoskey and up to Harbor Springs. The closure will affect about a half-mile of the trail, from near Petoskey’s Magnus Park to Ingalls Avenue and Bayfront Park West.

The Petoskey Department of Public Works will be executing an extensive improvement project on West Lake Street, which runs alongside the Little Traverse Wheelway. The project will involve the installation of a new water main and new curbs. The Department of Public Works will also be widening the sidewalk that connects Magnus Park to the nearest Wheelway entrance. To avoid any potential safety concerns, the affected section of the Wheelway will be closed for the duration of the project, which should be four to six weeks starting in early April.

Iron Belle Trail
The Iron Belle Trail is the “longest designated state trail in the nation,” starting at Belle Isle in the Detroit area and stretching all the way to Ironwood in the Upper Peninsula. The Iron Belle is actually two trails: one designated for hiking (1,273 miles; 69 percent complete) and one designated for biking (791 miles; 64 percent complete). Currently, there is a sizable gap in the bike trail near Gaylord — something that should be rectified this year with a planned 12-mile extension. Much of the new trail will run along the east side of Otsego Lake, before connecting with an existing trail that starts near downtown Gaylord.

The estimated project cost is $2.938 million. While Otsego County, Otsego Lake Township, and Bagley Township are all taking on shares of the cost, most of it should be covered by grants from the Department of Natural Resources Recreation Trail Program, the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, the Iron Belle Grant program, and the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Transportation Alternatives Program. Bidding for the project should start this spring, with construction likely commencing in the summer.

North Central State Trail
The North Central State Trail is a paved biking path that spans 61 miles from Gaylord to Mackinaw City. In fact, the North Central State Trail actually hooks into the Iron Belle system, doubling as the Iron Belle Trail for that entire Gaylord-to-Mackinaw span. Numerous projects are on the docket for the trail this year, including new signage installations along the trail and the new Iron Belle Trail connection in Gaylord. The signage project will be funded by a $25,800 grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Access the southern end of the trail in Gaylord, about one mile north of downtown, on Fairview Road (sometimes called Five Lakes Road). Parking is available across the road at the soccer complex. At the north end, you can access the Mackinaw Trailhead off Mackinaw Crossings Drive. Find more access points along the trail at


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