This bustling resort town on the Lake Michigan shore prides itself on being a four-season hub for outdoor recreation. Its miles of trails and pathways draw hikers, backpackers and cyclists in spring, summer and fall – and in winter they bring in skiers and snowshoers by the carload.
Surrounded by thousands of acres of public parks and forests, Traverse City is blessed with an abundance of opportunities for outdoor adventure. Unfortunately, much of that territory isn’t easily explored by the casual visitor because it hasn’t been accurately mapped by someone who understood the needs and priorities of recreational users.
That’s why Traverse City Tourism, the region’s destination marketing organization, has linked up with Michigan outdoor writer Jim DuFresne, who has spent the last four years creating high-quality recreational maps of more than 200 hiking and biking trails in the state. His company, MichiganTrailMaps.com, produces detailed maps complete with GIS coordinates, satellite imagery, topographical data and on-the-scene field research that provides travelers with information about what they’ll encounter along the way.
MichiganTrailMaps.com has begun to research, map and post online the major trails in the Traverse City area. Traverse City Tourism, in turn, posts the maps on its own website and distributes printed versions at its Visitor Center – which is creating a special brochure section dedicated to trail maps.
“Biking, hiking and the whole outdoors experience are a big part of our tourism product, and having accurate maps is an important step in making it more accessible and more attractive to our visitors,” said Traverse City Tourism president Brad Van Dommelen.
DuFresne is no stranger to backcountry trails and pathways. A tireless outdoorsman (he’s been hiking since he was an 11-year-old Boy Scout) he spent more than 30 years writing trail guidebooks for Lonely Planet Publications, authoring books on hiking New Zealand and Alaska and almost a dozen about various parts of his native Michigan. His “Backpacking in Michigan” is still the standard guidebook.
He and a partner started MichiganTrailMaps.com in 2010, when they realized that hikers, cyclists and other outdoor enthusiasts were relying on “poor and even inaccurate” maps that lacked information about conditions or attractions along some very beautiful routes. They decided to create an on-line archive of maps that could be searched not simply by location but by activity, distance and degree of difficulty, each map accompanied by a written introduction and guide.
The maps can be downloaded free of charge, but many users prefer to pay $4.95 per map for the detailed “Classic Trails of Michigan” series, which features laminated, brochure-style printed version that can easily tucked into a pack or jacket pocket. Its latest effort, produced in partnership with the Grand Traverse Hiking Club, is a map of the new 21-mile Fife Lake Loop Trail just southeast of Traverse City, a newly-created segment of the 4,600-mile North Country Trail that stretches from New York to North Dakota.
The company’s relationship with Traverse City Tourism began several years ago at a tourism trade show where DuFresne and Van Dommelen. MichiganTrailMaps.com had already mapped many of the better-known trails in the Traverse City area, especially in the nearby Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (they spent three weeks there, mapping the remote Manitou Islands) so it wasn’t hard for the two men to imagine ways to work together.
“They’re not just drawing maps,” said Van Dommelen. “They’re taking the time to actually get out there on the trails and see what it’s like. We’ve always told people what a great experience they can have here, but now we’re giving them the tools to truly enjoy it – to find these places, navigate their way through them, and know ahead of time what they’ll be able to see and do.”
For more information about products created by MichiganTrailMaps.com go to www.MichiganTrailMaps.com. For detailed information about hiking, cycling trails and other outdoor activities and attractions in the Traverse City area, contact Traverse City Tourism at 1-800-TRAVERSE or visit their website at www.traversecity.com.