Traverse City Eco-Tours

One part history, two parts nature, three parts pure enjoyment, The River’s Eco-Tours offer a range of guided recreational experiences for both novice and seasoned adventurers alike. If you’re looking to deepen your appreciation for this beautiful corner of paradise, then you’ve come to the right place!

BE SURE TO DOWNLOAD OUR Eco Tours Brochure!

Choose from the following, expertly crafted adventures
All prices include equipment rental and guides
Minimum group size is five (5). Smaller groups can be accommodated for the 5-person minimum charge.
Children under 18 must be accompanied by a responsible adult.
Don’t see what you’re looking for? Customizable trips are available for groups of six (06) or more.
Help protect the beauty of our region: Text “CONSERVE” to 80100 and donate $5

Call (231) 883-1413 to book your tour today!

photo credit: Grand Traverse Conservation District

photo credit: Grand Traverse Conservation District

The Ultimate Up North Adventure
Hike, Bike and Paddle the Boardman River highlands

Guide: Tree Sturman
Difficulty: Intermediate to Advanced
Ages: 12 and up
Cost: $85 per person
Duration: ~4-hours
Distance: ~8.5-miles- 3-mile, dirt-road bike ride; 3.5 mile, fast-water paddle; 2 mile mostly level terrain, on-trail hike (one steep, ~60’ vertical foot stair climb)
Distance from downtown: 10-miles (~20-min drive)
Begins and ends at: Brown Bridge Quiet Area East Overlook Parking Lot
What to bring: Backpack, water, sunscreen, bug spray, high-energy snack, dry bag (for electronics), clothing and footwear appropriate to hiking/bicycling/paddling (your feet might get wet!).

Whether you’re an adventure seeker, history buff, nature enthusiast, or just looking for a fun and active day out of doors, this ultimate “Up North” experience is just what the doctor ordered.  This guided, four-hour adventure will take you through the heart of Boardman River highlands a unique geological formation steeped in natural and human history. Your guided experience begins at one of the most unique vistas in the Lower Peninsula, the site of the largest dam removal in Michigan history.   A three-mile, downhill bike ride takes you through a mosaic of Northern Michigan landscapes ending up at the gateway to the Boardman River, one of the best cold water trout streams in the Midwest.  Drop off your bikes, grab a kayak, and get ready for an hour-long, fast-water paddle you will never forget.  Your trip concludes with a two-mile nature hike that just two years ago would have been underwater!  This is not your run-of-the-mill recreational experience; so bring plenty of water, sunscreen, a high-energy snack, and most of all a thirst for adventure!
Pit toilets are available after the bike ride and the paddle.
Call (231) 883-1413 or click below to book your tour today!

photo credit: Grand Traverse Conservation District

photo credit: Grand Traverse Conservation District

“Just right,” guided paddle and nature hike
A Family-Friendly Boardman River Experience

Guide: Tree Sturman
Difficulty: Easy
Ages: 8 and up
Cost: $45/adult, $35/child 17 and under accompanied by an adult (over 18)
Duration: ~2 hours
Distance: ~3-miles- 1.5-mile, slow-water paddle with 1.5-mile, level-terrain, on-trail nature hike
Distance from downtown: 4-miles (~10-min drive)
Begins and ends at: Boardman River Nature Center Parking Lot
What to bring: Backpack, water, sunscreen, bug spray, high-energy snack, clothing and footwear appropriate to hiking/paddling (your feet might get wet!).

You haven’t experienced Traverse City until you’ve paddled a mile (or two!) on the Boardman, the river that began it all!  From Petoskey Stones to lumber barons and everything in between, this family-friendly, two-hour guided paddle and nature hike is sure to tickle your fancy and enhance your appreciation for the beauty and wonder of the Traverse region.  After exploring our local Nature Center, we’ll head down to the River for a one-and-a-half-mile, slow-water paddle down the Boardman.  Upon disembarking, we’ll reverse course, and hike back along the river valley through babbling brooks, cedar trees, and much, much more.  Birds and other wildlife abound so bring your camera and be prepared to make some “Up North” memories. Bring plenty of water and sunscreen. Restrooms and drinking fountains available before and after the trip.
Call (231) 883-1413 or click below to book your tour today!

photo credit: Leelanau Conservancy

photo credit: Leelanau Conservancy

Exploring an urban oasis
A Family-Friendly Bike Ride and Paddle

Guide: Tree Sturman
Duration: ~2.5 hours
Distance: ~8-miles- 6-mile (round trip), paved-surface, level-terrain bike ride with 2-mile, flat-water paddle
Begins and ends at: Clinch Park/The River
Difficulty: Easy to Intermediate
Ages: 10 and up
Cost: $55/adult, $45/child 17 and under accompanied by an adult (over 18)
What to bring: Backpack, water, sunscreen, high-energy snack, clothing and footwear appropriate to bicycling/paddling.

Traverse City is all about water, and this trip is no exception!  Your guided, two-hour adventure begins with a leisurely bike ride along Grand Traverse Bay before heading north up the Leelanau Trail to one of Traverse City’s best-kept secrets.  Drop off your bike, grab a kayak, and get ready to explore the wooded shoreline of Cedar Lake a favorite hang out for loons, eagles and all manner of waterfowl.  Along the way you’ll learn all about the region’s unique natural and human history, from the epic glaciers that shaped our landscape to the rough and tumble taverns of early Greilickville.  This highly satisfying experience will leave you with a newfound appreciation for the beauty and wonder of the Traverse region.

Outback-VASA-TourOutback Bike Tour
A guided, off-the-beaten-track ride through TC’s mountain biker’s paradise

Guide: Ty Schmidt
Difficulty: Advanced
Offered: Mornings and select afternoons
Ages: 15 and up. (Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult over 18)
Cost: $65 per person (bike rental included) Cost is $35 if you bring your own bike.
Duration: ~4-hours total, including 2 hours in transit and 2-hours of trail riding.
Distance: ~31 miles including 16 mile (round trip) paved-surface transit ride to ~15-mile, unmarked single-track loop.  Multiple grade changes.
Distance from downtown: ~8-miles
Begins and ends at: Clinch Park/The River
What to bring: Backpack, plenty of water, high-energy snack, clothing and footwear appropriate to intense mountain biking.

Join elite mountain bike racer Ty Schmidt for a fast-pace journey you (and your muscles) won’t soon forget! This eco-tour will take you eight miles to the east of Traverse City to the VASA, an extensive network of trails made famous by the VASA cross-country skiing race held there every winter.  Located amid the pristine beauty of Pere Marquette State Forest, the VASA is a mountain biker’s paradise with miles of unmarked, single-track trails known only to the people that frequent the system. Bathrooms are available when you arrive at the VASA (after an 8-mile ride)

Peddle-through-the-MeadowPedal through the Meadow
A scenic bike ride across a pastoral landscape

Guide: Ty Schmidt or Katie Tomczyk
Difficulty: Intermediate
Offered: Mornings and select afternoons
Ages: 12 and up. (Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult over 18)
Cost: $35 per person (bike rental included) Cost is $15 if you bring your own bike.
Duration: 2-hours total (includes transit), 1-hour of trail riding
Distance: 6 mile (round trip) transit ride to ~1.5-mile loop.  One, ~60’ vertical climb up a paved road.
Distance from downtown: ~3-miles
Begins and ends at: Clinch Park/The River
What to bring: Backpack, water, high-energy snack, clothing and footwear appropriate to mountain biking.

A hop, skip and a jump from the Downtown District sits one of the hidden treasures of Traverse City.   A three-mile neighborhood pedal leads to a one-and-a-half-mile trail ride across a picturesque, open meadow filled with songbirds and scenic vistas.  Along the way, we will ascend to the most coveted overlook in the City.  You’ll be amazed by just how beautiful a meadow can be. There are NO Bathrooms at this location.

Explore-the-ShoreExplore the Shore
An eco-tour for kids

Guide: Katie Tomczyk, State Certified Special Education Teacher
Offered: Drop in, every Friday 10am-11:45am. *Wednesdays and select weekends by appointment for groups of 6 or more. Call for availability
Difficulty: Easy
Ages: *3-12. Ages 6-12, no adult supervision required. *Ages 3-5 must be accompanied by an adult (over 18).
Cost: Ages 3-5 $5 (adult free), Ages 6-12 $10. Limited to 10 children so arrive/book early.
Duration: 2 hours
Distance: Spanning from the east to west sections of Clinch Park beach.
Begins and ends at: Clinch Park/The River
What to bring: water bottle, sunscreen, clothing and footwear appropriate to playing on the beach

Where summer fun meets nature exploration Explore the Shore offers the perfect combination of games, stories and hands on adventure.  Join Katie every Friday morning to discover what makes the Great Lakes so Grrreat! Activities include:

  • Environmental and kinesthetic group games
  • Short stories about Lake Michigan and Grand Traverse Bay
  • Beach crafts
  • Sand/rock science
  • Water, species, boat study
  • Point to point mystery beach walk

Multiple bathrooms available at Clinch Park

Photo Courtesy TART Trails

Photo Courtesy TART Trails

The Nature of Beer
An inspiring bicycle tour of TC breweries

Guide: Katie Tomczyk
When: Fridays 12:15-2:30pm, private parties of 4 or more may schedule at other times. Call for availability
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Ages: 21 and up
Cost: $35 (Bike rental included) Cost is $15 if you bring your own bike.
Duration: 2 hours
Distance: 3-10 miles depending on route choices of group
Begins and ends at: Clinch Park/The River
What to bring: water bottle, sunscreen, clothing and footwear appropriate for biking, a backpack to carry possible purchases.

Come explore our finest local brews and give back to our valiant TC brewmasters! Before you begin your tour, your host-est with the most-est, Katie, will help you craft a custom tour to meet your unique interests. Your beer-venture will stop at a minimum of three local breweries and may include: a trip along Boardman Lake, a pedal upon the beloved TART Trail, or a bicycle ride though TC’s historical downtown district.  Bring your TC Ale Trail Passport and collect stamps along the way. With so much to experience and so many breweries to choose from, you might just want to try this trip twice! Bathrooms available throughout the tour.

History-MountainHistory Mountain Eco-Tour
Amazing History, Beautiful Scenery, and Serious Mountain Biking

Guide: Ty Schmidt or Katie Tomczyk
Difficulty: Advanced
Offered: Mornings and select afternoons
Ages: 12 and up. (Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult over 18)
Cost: $45 per person (bike rental included) Cost is $25 if you bring your own bike.
Duration: 2-hours total (includes transit), 1-hour of trail riding
Distance: 6 mile (round-trip) transit ride to ~2-mile loop.  Rigorous elevation changes.
Distance from downtown: ~3-miles
Begins and ends at: Clinch Park
What to bring: Backpack, lots of water, high-energy snack, clothing and footwear appropriate to intense mountain biking, money for food/shopping.

Stamina is required for this intense, eco-history tour through the woods and meadows of the Old State Hospital one of Traverse City’s most spectacular historical destinations. From the largest willow tree to the most prized heifer in Michigan, you don’t need a history degree to appreciate the dramatic landscapes and unique stories that make this eco-tour a one-of-a-kind adventure. This guided, two-hour adventure begins with a calf-busting climb to the best vista in TC (worth it!) and continues with a meandering ride through glacial hills, a burgeoning botanic garden, and one of the premier adaptive historical restorations in the country. Your alpine efforts will be well rewarded with a stop at the Grand Traverse Commons where you can grab a tasty treat, sample some local libations (21 and older), or browse a variety of unique stores at the famous Mercato.  This is definitely a biking experience you won’t soon forget! Bathrooms available midway through the tour.
History Mountain: Bike & Hike

Nature-History-and-ShoppingNature, History, and Shopping: oh my!
A unique hike through the grounds of the Old State Hospital

Guide: Tree Sturman or Katie Tomczyk
Difficulty: Intermediate (but worth it)
Ages: 12 and up. (Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult over 18)
Cost: $15 per person
Duration: ~1.5 hours
Distance: ~2-mile loop.  ~40’ elevation changes
Distance from downtown: 3-miles (~5-min drive)
Begins and ends at: Left Foot Charlie, Grand Traverse Commons
What to bring: Water, high-energy snack, clothing and footwear appropriate to hiking, money for food/shopping.

Join us for an invigorating hike through the woods and meadows of the Old State Hospital one of Traverse City’s most spectacular historical destinations. From the largest willow tree to the most prized heifer in the country, you don’t need a history degree to appreciate the dramatic landscapes and unique stories that make this eco-tour a must-experience adventure. This guided, two-hour hike spans spring-soaked hills, meandering woodland paths, and the burgeoning Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park.  After a quick stop at the Visitor Center, we finish our journey along level terrain as we trek through the Grand Traverse Commons, one of the premier adaptive historical restorations in the country.  Your trip concludes, back where your started, adjacent to Building 50, where you can grab a tasty treat, sample some local libations (21 and older), or browse a variety of unique stores at the famous Mercato. Bathrooms available at the beginning and end of the tour.

The Mini – Maze

Guide: John Roe
Difficulty:Intermediate to Advanced
Ages: 14 and up. (Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult over 18)
Cost: $40 per person (bike rental included) Cost is $20 if you bring your own bike.
Duration: 1.5 – 2 hours
Distance: 12-15 miles
Distance from downtown: ~8-miles, about a 15 minute drive.
Begins and ends atVASA Trail head on Bartlett Rd.
What to bring: plenty of water, high-energy snack, clothing and footwear appropriate to intense mountain biking.

This ride is a maze of unmarked single-track trail that wanders through the Pere Marquette State Forest on trails known only to locals.  It takes the pavement out of the Outback Bike Tour to provide a pure single-track roller coaster of a ride. Restrooms/changing rooms and water are available at the Trail head.

Call (231) 883-1413 or click below to book your tour today!

BE SURE TO DOWNLOAD OUR Eco Tours Brochure!

Tree-Sturman-ProfileTree Sturman, Eco-Tours Director

A native New Yorker, Tree spent his childhood exploring the cultural and natural history of the lower Hudson River Valley.  Degrees in Human Ecology and Public Horticulture reflect what has become a lifelong love of teaching and learning.  Through his many journeys—from Maine to Oregon—Tree has developed a unique perspective and deep understanding of the diverse forces that shape our northern landscape.  Each Eco-Tour therefore is carefully crafted to capture the essence of our region—from pre-history to the present—and promises to leave you with an enhanced appreciation of Up North Michigan!