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Thursday, June 2, 2016

Traverse City, Michigan / State Park, Bicycle Trail, Downtown, Breweries, Wineries

May 2016, Weekend-weekday, 3-nights, Site 19

Park beach located across US-31

This was our first time camping in Keith J. Charters Traverse City State Park. We chose this park because of the area and paved bicycle trail behind the park.

Arrival and check-in

We observed employees working in the park, although the check-in station was not manned when we arrived. I was surprised, as it was a Friday, and the check-in booth had been staffed when we departed from Petoskey State Park earlier that day. The sign did not say we needed to check-in via the yellow telephone, if we had a reservation. We wanted to add an extra night to our stay, so I used the phone to check-in and add the extra night.

Site 19

Site 19 is located near the bicycle trail, and pretty close to one of the playgrounds. We do not usually choose a site by the playground, since we do not have young children. We chose this site because it is partially sunny, and it is one of the larger sites with privacy trees. We were not concerned about activity in the playground before Memorial weekend in May. After we arrived, we saw that there were no swings on the swing sets behind this site. I presume they had been removed over the winter and had not been hung back up yet. A few trees at the back of the site provide some privacy from the playground.

Site 19

It was easy to back into site 19, as it is at the end of the one of the north-south roads that go through the park. The east-west roads are all one-way. The site is mostly level, and it has a bit of grass. The power was 20/30 amp, as were all of the sites we looked at in this park.


The beach is located on the other side of US-31, and there is a walkway over the street by site 100. It was cool during our stay, so we only walked to the beach for a brief period. I thought the beach sand was a bit dirtier than the sand along Lake Michigan or even the west bay. The photo at the top of this blog post was taken just west of the pedestrian overpass.

Facilities, sanitation station, misc.

The bathhouse in the east loop looked newer than the other buildings. There is a bicycle rack by the building. It was usually clean, although not everything worked. I observed an "out of order" stall and hand dryer in the west portion, when this side of the Women's restroom was open. The restroom area on the east side by the showers was the only section open in this building most of the time.

Women's restroom - east loop

Most of the campsites in this park are dirt with no grass, and the trees are tall pine trees with higher branches. The trees keep the sites shaded, which makes it difficult for grass to grow, and they do not provide any privacy, like bushy pines or trees with leaves. Site 19 has more grass and privacy trees than most of the sites.

This campground is located on busy US-31, and it is near the airport. The airport noise was frequent Friday afternoon, and more bothersome than the road traffic. It slowed down later that day, and was not bothersome for the rest of our stay. We had chosen a site in the back of the park to avoid the traffic noise; however, I think if we stay here again when the weather is cool, I would choose a site near the road with a view of the bay. A couple of the sites by the road are larger ones with a bit of grass.

The water spigots around the campground were covered and turned off during our stay. There was a spigot on the outside of the restroom building in the center loop, and water was available at the sanitation station. There was not much room to park/wait at the sanitation station, which had two lanes. I imagine this area is congested and chaotic on Sundays during summer months.

Checkout time is 1:00 p.m. at all Michigan state parks. I have sometimes seen people abuse this guideline; however, never as much as we observed at this park. Many campers did not vacate their site until 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon. Campers near us on site 15 were away from their campsite all day, and we assumed they were also staying Sunday night. They returned after 7:00 p.m., took showers, and then took down their tent and departed.

A portion of this campground is designated for no pets; on the sites, and on the roads around the pet free sites. This is posted on the tar, and there are signs posted on the corners. This is the first time I have seen a "no pets" area in a campground. I do not know if this is enforced during busier times; it was not enforced during our stay. We observed several people walking their dogs through the "no pets" area.

You are paying for the Traverse City area when staying in this park. Even though this park does not have features like nature hiking, roomy sites, beautiful beach, boat launch, etc., the overnight cost is more. We have stayed in close to 15 different Michigan state parks, and with the exception of 50 amp sites, the overnight rate at this park was one of the most expensive; $31 a night. Petoskey State Park was also $31 a night for a 30 amp site. At least in Petoskey the campsites are nicer, the beach is more beautiful, and there are hiking trails within the park. Petoskey State Park is over 303 acres, compared to Traverse City State Park's 47 acres. The bicycle trails by Petoskey State Park are also much nicer than the ones in Traverse City. If you are looking for a nice place to go camping, I would not recommend this park. If you have a comfortable camper, and are looking for a place to stay in the area, then Traverse City State Park is a good option. The rate at other state park campgrounds we have stayed in has ranged from $17 - $29 a night.

Traverse City bicycle trail, downtown, breweries, wineries

The Traverse Area Recreational Trail is accessible from the campground near sites 46 and 47. The trail is paved and mostly flat. It is not well marked in most areas. The only signs I observed were occasional triangles painted on the pavement, and many of those were worn off.

Heading west from the campground, a good portion of the trail travels through city traffic and on sidewalks (when traveling cross-town, and toward the bay). The drivers were always courteous when we had to cross a street or travel with traffic; however, I prefer to bicycle on a trail away from traffic and sidewalks. You can take the trail east from the campground as far as Bunker Hill Road. Some businesses had signs by the trail along this portion of the trail, which was helpful. Part of the trail when traveling east runs along Five Mile Road.

I have a separate blog post with information about some breweries and wineries in the area: Rare Bird Brew Pub, North Peak Brewing Company, Brewery Ferment, The Filling Station, Right Brain Brewery, Hop Lot Brewing Co., Black Star Farms, L. Mawby Winery, and Leelanau Cellars.

Please let me know if you have any questions, and feel free to share this post.