With the end of another school year fast approaching, and my wanderlust tickling me as it does pretty adamantly a few times a year, I decided to plan an excursion to a new-to-me trail.

This running route would need to be within driving distance—a daytrip that would get me back home in time for kids getting home from school—and ideally with a friend, because that’s just more fun. I chose Leelanau Peninsula, because there’s still so much of this area so close to home that I either haven’t discovered or did so long ago, as a child, that it needs revisiting, and I asked the one person who knows running trails out that way like no one else: Lisa. (This would mark the second time we took off on this kind of adventure together; last fall she showed me Alligator Hill near Glen Arbor. I’ve also spent a day of running near Frankfort as well as in Glen Haven.)

“I’ve got the perfect place to show you!” Lisa tells me when I shared my plan.

We scheduled a day this week and were on the road by 8:30 a.m., making the 45-minute drive toward the Bay View Trail between Glen Arbor and Leland in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Lisa tells me this will be a 4-6 mile route, which sounded perfect to me. I’m still taking it fairly easy following the marathon less than two weeks ago. It would be hilly, she said, but we’d take it easy. Better yet.

Getting there:

  • From Traverse City, we took M72 toward Empire, taking the right turn onto Maple City Road, toward Cedar.
  • We followed this to M22, where we turned left. (We took a scenic tour onto Little Traverse Lake Road, just for fun, and wow, what a gorgeous area…lots of quaint and beautiful cottages along this road.)
  • Back on M22, we headed west, toward the trailhead off Thoreson Road.
Photo courtesy http://www.nps.gov/slbe/planyourvisit/trailbayview.htm
Map courtesy http://www.nps.gov/slbe/planyourvisit/trailbayview.htm

One other car was parked in the lot when we arrived. Lisa showed me where we’d go – the Bay View Trail is a total of 8 miles, divided into loops – and we were off.

At the trailhead.
At the trailhead.

From the get-go, the scenery is stunning. We start out on a mowed path that takes us through rolling hills. It’s a cool morning, with a smattering of puffy clouds in the sky, but it’s on the muggy side. We took the Low Trail to start, a .4-mile stretch, then turned right (#5 on the map) and headed toward Thoreson Farm. We circled around the property — Lisa is a big fan of barns, and I’m really starting to appreciate them more myself — before hopping back onto the trail. The cool thing about these farm properties part of the Lakeshore is that they are no longer in operation, or residential homes, but instead maintained and preserved for their history. They’re simply beautiful pieces of land.

We climbed some hills...
We climbed some hills…

We’re back on the High Trail, heading north about a mile toward Miller Barn. But first, a few stops to soak up the amazing views. Something I love about Lisa: as we’re making our way up, up, up a winding path toward what I know is going to be a fantastic view, Lisa keeps telling me, “Don’t look up yet, don’t look up. Just keep looking at your feet. I’ll tell you when to look.”

Then, these views at Lookout Point…

My wonderful friend Lisa.


Beautiful day, grateful runner.

You go up…you must come down…


We make our way to Miller Barn, which is just off the main trail.

Miller Barn, a beautiful barn at least 100 years old according to the Lakeshore volunteer we meet who happens to be working at the property, was a perfect spot to snap a few fun photos.

We get back onto the trail, which takes us up and over more hills and this peaceful path.


Before heading back toward the trailhead, we come upon a small family cemetery in the woods, overlooking Lake Michigan. I’m immediately taken back to visiting Camp Innisfree — now The Leelanau Outdoor Center — as a fifth- and sixth-grader. These were overnight trips, taken during the school year, and I remember trekking to the cemetery as part of our nature and history walk through the grounds which are on Pyramid Point. I’m in awe of how long it’s been since I’d been there…and how this memory came flooding back.

This is an especially beautiful part of our route, high up on a ridge and we see patches of blue through the tree branches–Lake Michigan in all of its expansiveness is just below, to our right, as we leave the gated cemetery and follow the narrow, winding path.

We make it back to the trailhead, happy and warm and hungry. We decide to head to Leland for lunch. Anyone who has visited this Lake Michigan beach town falls in love with it–it’s quaint and full of history. You’ll definitely want to walk through Fishtown while you’re there. Fishtown, which still operates as one of the only working commercial fishing villages in the state of Michigan, features shanties that now house gift and clothing boutiques, art galleries and specialty food shops. (Another favorite spot in the village not to miss: Van’s beach. We’ll definitely be making our traditional visits there this summer.)

We decide to eat at The Cove Restaurant, in Fishtown and overlooking the Leland River as it flows into Lake Michigan. I order the whitefish tacos. We learn the whitefish is freshly caught, up near Mackinaw City. Served with avocado and salsa, they’re divine. Lisa orders a Bell’s Oberon with her lunch and I go for the Manitou Amber from Brewery Terra Firma in Traverse City. Delicious.

Fishtown cheese!
View from The Cove. The Leland River.
Post-run lunches are the best. Whitefish tacos, French fries, Manitou Amber Ale (from Brewery Terra Firma in Traverse City, MI.)

I can’t wait to run this trail again this summer. Hope you all get the chance to check it out, too!

Have you run the Bay View Trail? What’s your favorite trail on Leelanau Peninsula?

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