By Joel Gaff, Jr.
While the winter weather conditions are slowly making way for warmer temperatures in Northern Michigan, anyone that knows anything about Michigan knows that if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes. And, just because it’s the middle of March doesn’t mean there won’t be more snow. Ask anyone that ran the Traverse City Trail Running Festival in 2013 or 2014.
Throughout the winter in Traverse City it can be challenging to find roads clear of snow and slop to get a decent run in, especially a long run. No one really wants to run ten or fifteen laps of the Civic Center loop to make it happen.
I’ve pieced together a combination of some of my other favorite in-town loops, like the Perfect 8, to come up with this 12-mile in-town long run loop. It’s especially great in winter because most of these roads are decently plowed. Things always get a little more dicey after a major snow event, but in general you can count on these roads to be runable.
The cool thing about this loop is that you can very easily take some shortcuts to reduce the distance, and if you’re really looking to go long, you could run the whole thing in one direction then turn around and go backwards and get a solid 24 miles (!), all within a mile or two of downtown. Woah.
Let’s get running.
Head north on Lake Ave. and make your way across 8th St to Washington St. Washington St. is lined with lots of Victorian houses and has relatively low vehicle traffic.
At mile 1.4 you’ll run into Garfield Ave. and will have to make a turn. Cross at the crosswalk and then head left (north). Just a little way up at mile 1.5 turn right onto W. Civic Center Dr.
Just before you go under the bridge, take a left onto the path that will take you up to the bridge itself. Take a left to go over the bridge and keep following the path.
At mile 2.3 you’ll take a left to peel off of the path toward the intersection of E. Front St. and the entrance to Northwestern Michigan College (NMC). Cross E. Front St. and head into the campus of NMC along College Dr.
You’ll meander through the campus for about a mile. When you see the running track on your left (at Central High School) this is where the starting line is for the Bayshore Marathon, FYI.
Bayshore Marathon starting line on the campus of Northwestern Michigan College
At mile 3.3 take a left onto E. Front St.. The road will change names and become East Bay Blvd. as you make a natural left turn. At mile 3.7 take a left onto Eastern Ave.
You’ll pass Eastern Elementary school and Traverse City Central High School on your left, and just after you pass the large parking lot at Central H.S., turn left onto Milliken Ave. at mile 4.5.
You’ll run into E. Front St. again at mile 4.8. Stay on the sidewalk and turn left. You’ll arrive at the intersection of E. Front St. and NMC again (you were already here a few miles ago). Turn right (south) to cross E. Front St. and head back into the Civic Center.
When you get back into the Civic Center at mile 5, turn right and jump back onto that multi-use path you ran on a little while ago.
Continue on the path until you get back to that bridge you ran over at mile 1.5. DON’T go over the bridge, but instead turn right just before it to head down that little path toward W. Civic Center Dr. where you’ll again make a right turn.
At mile mile 5.3 you’ll run into Garfield Ave. again. Cross when it’s safe and make a right turn, then a quick left onto State St.
You get a nice long straight shot on State St. until Mile 6.8 when you’ll turn right (north) onto Union St. Go one block to W. Front St. and turn left.
Keep running west on Front St. across Division St. (a very busy street), all the way to Cedar St. Turn right (north) onto Cedar St. just past the ACE Hardware store at mile 7.5.
Cedar St. dead-ends into the aptly named Bay St. (you’ll realize why when you get there). Turn left onto Bay St.
When you get to N. Elmwood St. at mile 8, make a left. You’ll make your way through the Slabtown neighborhood and at mile 8.8 you’ll be on Madison St. and will cross W. Front St.
Meander through the back side of the Munson Medical Center Campus and the Grand Traverse Commons (aka “The Commons”) for a few miles. At mile 10 you’ll see the burial site of world champion cow Traverse Colantha Walker. After you read up on your Holstein history, make a left turn (east) on the dirt road to head toward Silver. Dr.
Burial site of Traverse Colantha Walker - a world champion dairy cow.
Hop another left onto Silver Dr. at mile 10.1. Stay on Silver Dr. all the way until you hit W. Eleventh St. at mile 10.7, then turn right.
You’ll cross Division St. (that really busy road you crossed at mile 7.5) again, and you’ll stay on Eleventh St. until it dead-ends into Lake Ave. at mile 11.9. Turn left, and you’ll be back at Oryana just a tenth of a mile up.
Throw on a dry shirt and hoodie, and pop into Oryana for a post-run treat. They have some really great prepared foods as well as ready-to-go hot soups, sandwiches, wraps and coffee.
Joel Gaff, Jr. is the founder of Traverse City Run Co. You can slide into his DMs on Instagram at @joelga.