Perfect 8: A Downtown Traverse City Running Loop
By Joel Gaff, Jr.
I've been running this route for about ten years now, and I call it the "Perfect 8" because it's got a great mix of terrain, scenery, is all accessible from downtown, and, of course, is perfectly eight miles long. Just as with all the running routes we share here at Traverse City Run Co., you can start/finish this route anywhere you want along the loop. I've set the start/finish point downtown on Front St.
One thing to note: the pedestrian underpass along the bay near mile 7.5 has had some serious flooding in the recent year or so, so this exact route may need to be tweaked depending on water levels.
Let's get running...
Starting from Front St. and Cass St., head west on Front St. You'll get to do some window shopping for a few blocks as you head down Front St., and when you get to Union St. hang a left (south - away from the bay).
You'll pass the U.S. Post Office on your right, and just after you pass the statue of Perry Hannah - one of the founding fathers of Traverse City - you'll be in the heart of Old Town on Union St.
Union St. has nice sidewalks, some historic houses, and is also part of several of the National Cherry Festival parade routes.
A Block past Deering's Market, turn right onto 13th. St. On 13th St. you'll pass by Traverse City's Thirlby Field, a 7,000-seat stadium where several of the local high schools play football. Football has been played on this site since 1896!
At S. Maple St, turn right to head north - back toward the bay - but don't get too comfy as you head northbound, because you'll make another quick left onto 11th St. a few blocks up.
The intersection of 11th St. and Division St. is a very busy intersection. Better said, Division St. is a very busy street. Occasionally you may have to wait several minutes to cross Division St.
Once you're across Division St. the sounds of the traffic will fade as you continue on 11th St. toward the Grand Traverse Commons. This is one of my favorite parts of this run.
Continue on 11th St. and make a left turn just a short way up at Silver Dr. You'll be staring at the historic Building 50 directly in front of you.
Stay on the sidewalk along Silver Dr. (even when it crosses the street), and just before mile 2.5, you'll make a right hand turn, slightly uphill, toward Red Dr. and the Historic Barns.
Turn right off the sidewalk to head up toward the Historic Barns.
You won't actually run up by the Barns on this loop (though you certainly could - the run will just be a tad longer than 8 miles). You'll make a right turn below the Barns onto Red Dr. If you're not looking ot run a personal record time for the loop, take a second to check out the Traverse Colantha Walker headstone at the intersection.
A World Champ - Traverse Colantha Walker / photo by takomabibelot
Enjoy (or not?) the dirt surface on Red Dr. because it's the last real stretch of non-paved surface for the rest of the route.
At mile three, veer to the left to run up under the great big water tower, and around Earthen Ales on Gray Dr, before turning left back onto Red Dr.
You'll pass Left Foot Charley and Higher Ground Trading Company as you mirror the back side of Building 50 (the western side). Red Dr. will become Cottageview Rd. just past Left Foot Charley.
At about mile 3.4 you'll continue straight across Medical Campus Dr. and pass the back side of Munson Medical Center on Brook St.
After a few quick turns on Elder St., Circle Dr., and S. Madison St., you'll arrive at West Front St.
Continue across Front St. on Madison St. until you get to Wayne St. Now it's time to get to work.
Turn left on Wayne St., and head up Wayne Hill. Keep going on Wayne St. all the way to the top, where you'll be about 250 feet above downtown. There's not an obvious view point at the top, but as you continue running (or walking), you'll start to head downhill again. This is when you should look up and around. You'll have some great views of downtown and West Grand Traverse Bay.
Downtown Traverse City and West Grand Traverse Bay viewed from the top of Wayne Hill
You'll pass the five mile mark as you descend (now on Incochee Rd.), and you'll run back into Wayne St. where you should turn left (unless you want another trip up to the top).
Hang a left on Monroe St. and head toward the bay. When you get to Bay St. turn right.
You need to get across Grandview Parkway (that busy road on your left between you and the bay), and there's a little pedestrian crossing near Elmwood Ave. at mile six. You can either cross here, or wait until the intersection at Division St., but the Elmwood Ave. location tends to be a little less busy.
You get to enjoy the view of West Grand Traverse Bay for the next 1.5 miles. as you run along the TART Trail.
Just before mile 7.5 you'll pass over the Boardman River. Immediately over the bridge, make a left turn to circle under the bridge you just ran over.
(As noted above, there may be high water on the sidewalk/path here. If it's too deep to get through, follow your path backward along the bay about 0.3 miles, and at cross Grandview Parkway at the traffic light at Park St. Keep going a block or so to Front St, and turn right to continue)
Follow the path of the Boardman River as you pass under Grandview Parkway, and hop up the little wooden deck/stairs to reach E. Front St. Turn right on E. Front St.
You'll pass by the red and white awning of Paesano's Pizza - some of the best pizza in Traverse City - and a few blocks later you'll be back at Front St. and Cass St.
If you're looking for a post-run coffee (or beer), I'd highly recommend heading down to Brew at 108 E. Front St.
Joel Gaff, Jr. is the founder of Traverse City Run Co. You can slide into his DMs on Instagram at @joelga.