Rifle hunting deer season begins tomorrow, and the woods is one place non-hunters shouldn’t be.

Your safety is the main reason.

A rifle bullet can travel a good distance in case of a miss. But, respect for the 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 interests.

There are several nice parklands located around the city managed by the Grand Traverse Conservation District that offer nice hiking opportunities. You won’t even feel like you’re near a city.

Hunting isn’t permitted at any of these sites.

The 140-acre Grand Traverse Natural Area in the tall hills on the west side offers nice hiking trails with grand views as an added bonus. Four to five miles of trails, some covered with woodchips, wander up, down, and around wooded hillsides, cross streams, and skirt meadows and wetlands. Tails are well marked with sign posts at intersections with maps and colored arrows posted along the trails. A couple of overlooks with benches: one on Old Orchard Trail overlooks downtown and West Bay; another on a spur off Copper Ridge Trail overlooking the Barns and across the valley to distant hills. There are six trailheads scattered around the perimeter.

There’s a plethora of hiking trails in Hickory Hills and Hickory Meadows. Stroll through the large meadow, or hike up into the wooded hills for some wonderful panoramic views of West Bay and the city far below. It’s a good climb, but worth it for scene stealing views.

On the south side of the city the Grand Traverse Natural Education Reserve offers a few miles of interesting trails that overlook the Boardman River now flowing free with the Sabin Dam removal. Trailheads are located at Oleson Bridge and Lone Pine off Keystone Road and the Nature Center off Cass Road. You can often spot wildlife and especially waterfowl along these short hikes.

On the east side Pelizzari Natural Area is located at the base of Old Mission Peninsula. There’s around three miles of trails that flow around an old orchard and remnant farm fields, through upland hardwood forests and a section of old growth hemlock forest above East Shore Drive and East Bay. Scenic and peaceful best describe this hike.

Brown Bridge Quiet Area, located about 12 miles southeast of Traverse City, offers several miles of trails from easy to strenuous. There is no deer hunting allowed in the core area that includes trails beginning from the two trailheads off Ranch Rudolf Road and the one on Brown Bridge Road. The easterly end of the property contains the 70-acre Grasshopper Creek Permit Hunting Area, a limited-permit-only hunting area regulated by the City of Traverse City. On the map that area is marked Tail 2 area, which is best not to hike during rifle hunting season.

Trails meander along a ridge with a couple of overlooks of the Boardman River snaking through the valley. You can also hike down along the river and through some of the wetland areas bordering the river. It’s a strenuous climb back up out of the valley, but well worth it. The soothing sound of the river rushing down the valley creates a tranquil mood. You can occasionally spot eagles soaring over the valley.

Another interesting, safe hike is Michigan Legacy Art Park, which is located on a 30-acre preserve within the wooded hills of Crystal Mountain. There are 49 sculptures representing aspects of life in the Wolverine State. About three miles of trails wind up and down the hills among the sculptures making it a real hike, not just a stroll in the woods. The preserve is safely tucked away in the middle of the resort, which does not allow hunting.

For mountain bikers you can’t beat the miles of well laid-out trails at Hanson Hills just west of Grayling. It’s part of the Hanson Game Preserve and no hunting is allowed. Long flowing woodland trails meander over hill and dale. There are several trail combinations and difficulty levels that offer various lengths of trail that cater to both mountain bikers and hikers, and cross country skiers and fat tire bikers during winter.

Aspen Park, in the city of Gaylord, also offers a six mile mountain bike Trail, all within the city park where hunting is not permitted. The singletrack, constructed by the Northern Michigan Mountain Biking Association, winds through stands of pine, hemlock, and maple with hill climbs and switchbacks.

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