It seems these days there is always a new list coming out with Traverse City or a surrounding town on its Top 10 or Top 25. Best small town to visit in America, best beach, best waterfront restaurant and on and on.

If you are like me, you have a love/hate relationship with the lists. I want to know where I should be visiting but do not necessarily want anyone else coming here.

This week another such list came out in Runner’s World: 25 of the Best Running Trails in the U.S. Our very own Vasa Pathway made the list. To those of us who run the trail, this is not a surprise. But I think a large portion of the local population mostly associate the Vasa Pathway with skiing and mountain biking.

The article calls the Vasa Pathway a “gem of a trail network” and gives much-deserved kudos to TART Trails for being well-marked and -maintained. I cannot disagree with this assessment. TART volunteers spend hours and hours year-round to maintain the trails, clear debris, prevent erosion and perform many other behind-the-scenes tasks so that we are able to get out and enjoy it.

While I do not run the trail as much as I ski it, it is the place to go for a long run. If you are a runner and have never run the area trails, I suggest you give it a try. I was a trail convert from a road runner years ago and subsequently, due to aging knees, only run trails as they are much more forgiving to your body then asphalt and concrete.

Along with being easier on your body, trails are beautiful places to run. They are quiet and peaceful, and the health benefits of being in the woods are numerous. You never know what wildlife you may see — deer, skunk, porcupine, raccoon, beaver, owl, the occasional bear this spring — and you never have to worry about cars, because who has not had to jump in a ditch at least once because a driver did not see you?

An added bonus: all those hills. Yes, the first time you run up the 6K hill on the Vasa Pathway 10K trail, or to the top of the Grand Traverse Commons trails, or at Hickory Hills, you want to puke. But it gets easier every time after that and ultimately makes you very strong and fast on the flats.

Another benefit of trail running is that you never have to run the same route unless you want to. Especially at the Commons and Vasa Pathway, there are so many single-track trails intersecting the main trails that you can always pick one and see where you end up. You never know; it could be your new favorite.

If I have not convinced you to run our top 25 trail, you can always hike it instead.

As far as the rest of the list goes, there are a couple of places I would like to visit — and knowing there is an amazing trail nearby makes a visit that much more appealing. I am a firm believer in earning your meals and showers through exercise and sweat, even on vacation. Plus it is a great way to explore a new place.

Kelley Peterson is an avid trail runner and cross-country skier. The Traverse City native serves on the North American Vasa board. Contact her at

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