On the trail: safe haven for hiking, mountain biking during firearm deer season | GO
Rifle deer hunting season kicks off in just under a week, and the woods are a place non-hunters shouldn’t be.
Your safety is the main reason, but respect for hunters, who only have a narrow window of time to enjoy their sport, is another good reason. Non-hunters have the rest of the year to pursue their outdoor activities.
Fortunately, there are several attractive outdoor sites that do not allow hunting and are therefore safe for hiking and biking for the rest of the month.
A collection of columns from Record-Eagle Outdoors columnist Mike Terrell:
The Maplehurst Natural Area, one of the more recent areas opened by the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, is non-hunting and has a few miles of trails that can provide a good workout depending on the trail choice.
The natural space opened its doors just a few years ago. November is a wonderful month to get out along the ridge trails which offer breathtaking views of the vivid blue waters of Torch Lake through the trees with the leaves down. From spring to the end of October, you barely see the blue through the thick coat of leaves.
Another good news is that the Stream Trail now has a bridge over the creek. It wasn’t ideal for mountain bikers before, as crossing the creek was not easy – that is, tiptoeing while pushing a bike. I have been wet more than once. Now you can cross.
The Stream Trail is my favorite section of trail on the reserve. It offers fascinating views of sinkholes and deep ravines, as the trail often runs along the side of the ridge with deep drops along the outside. It keeps you on the edge of your pedals. I will stop every now and then just to take in the view, trying to see the bottom of the chasms, looking through the trees at the mesmerizing views of the lake. As I pedal I focus on the trail, which rarely flows straight along odd-shaped, curved, and bent ridges.
The GTRLC trail builders have done a great job around the flowing trails in the ridges. You have a drop of over 200 feet when you exit the meadow area of the trailhead and find yourself briefly on Torch Lake Drive below. The trail crosses the bottom of a former alpine ski area that closed in the mid-1950s. You can see where the day lodge was as you walk across.
The 140-acre Grand Traverse Natural Area in the high hills on the west side of town offers beautiful hiking trails with awe-inspiring views as a bonus. Trails, some covered with wood chips, climb, descend and skirt wooded hills, cross streams, and skirt meadows and wetlands. They are well marked with signs at intersections with maps and colorful arrows posted along the trails.
There are a plethora of hiking trails in Hickory Hills and Hickory Meadows. Take a stroll through the Great Prairie or climb up the wooded hillsides to admire magnificent panoramic views of West Bay and the city below. It’s a good climb, but well worth it for some stunning views.
The Grand Traverse Nature Education Reserve offers a few miles of interesting trails that overlook the Boardman River which now flows freely with the removal of the dam. Trailheads are located at the Oleson Bridge and Lone Pine off Keystone Road and the Nature Center off Cass Road. You can often spot wildlife, especially water birds, along these short hikes.
Pelizzari Natural Area is located at the foot of the Old Mission Peninsula. Trails run around an old orchard and remaining farm fields, through upland deciduous forests and a section of old-growth hemlock forest above East Shore Drive and East Bay. Quaint and peaceful best describes this hike.
Brown Bridge Quiet Area offers several miles of easy to strenuous trails.
The trails meander along a ridge with some lookout points of the Boardman River winding through the valley. You can also hike along the river and through some of the wetlands bordering the river. Deer hunting is not allowed in the central area. The trails start from the two starting points of Ranch Rudolf Road and that of Brown Bridge Road.
For mountain bikers, miles of wooded trails wind through hills and valleys in Hanson Hills, near Grayling. As part of the Hanson Game Reserve, no hunting is permitted. There are several combinations of trails and difficulty levels that cater to both mountain bikers and hikers.