Taste and Trek

Winery trails let visitors head outside for hiking, biking, snowshoeing, and more
Snowshoers among the vines at Black Star Farms. Photo courtesy of Grand Traverse Bike Tours

There’s nothing like the great outdoors. That’s no secret at Michigan wineries around the state, where trails for hiking, biking, and snowshoeing and other winter activities abound.

The pairing of wine and trails is a natural one. Wineries often afford stunning views of vineyards that make the experience of trekking the trails special, and afterward you can relax with a glass of wine made from those very same vineyards.

In short: “It’s fun — you get out there, you get a little exercise, you get some fresh air, and you come back and have something to eat and enjoy some wine,” says Nick Wierzba, owner of Grand Traverse Bike Tours, which partners with wineries to offer equipment rentals for their trails.

While many wineries have their own trails, some wineries partner with larger organizations to provide opportunities for on-foot transportation and outdoor activities. One of the foremost organizations is Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation (TART) Trails, a nonprofit formed in 1998 when a handful of trail groups came together to create a vast trail system in northwestern Michigan.

TART’s Leelanau Trail stretches close to 20 miles, from Traverse City to Suttons Bay, past farms, orchards, and vineyards and near multiple wineries. The trail is open year-round and is groomed in winter for activities such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and fat-tire biking. Among TART’s sponsors is Shady Lane Cellars, which recently added a 3-mile cross-country trail that loops around the property and connects to the Leelanau Trail.

Farther down the state, Mt. Tabor Trails connects two wineries in Southwest Michigan: Round Barn Estate and Tabor Hill Winery & Restaurant. The trails vary from easy to difficult and encompass a variety of terrains and views, including woodland and vineyard. Guests are permitted — no, encouraged! — to bring a glass of wine from one of the wineries with them on the trails.

Individual wineries in every corner of the state also have on-site trails for warm-weather and cold-weather exploration. A few include Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery and Rove Estate in Traverse City and Virtue Cider in Fennville.

If you don’t want to bring gear along with you or are new to the activity, consider renting equipment. In Northwest Michigan, Grand Traverse Bike Tours and Suttons Bay Bikes offer rentals for all types of bikes — from youth and tandem bikes to mountain and fat-tire bikes — as well as cross-country skis and snowshoes. Grand Traverse Bike Tours also hosts self-guided and guided tours for all seasons that take guests to wineries around the Traverse City area.

No matter where you travel in Michigan, trails can help you experience the most of what the state has to offer.

“Year after year after year, [for] us as an organization in this region, but also nationwide, there’s been an increase in folks who want to get around by foot,” says Kate Lewis, community engagement manager for TART Trails. “They want to be able to walk to places; they want to be able to bike to places. When you are a resident, you want to get around that way, but also when you’re a tourist, you want to get around that way. You want to slow down, and you want to enjoy the region and all it has to offer, and the best way to do that is by walking, hiking, and biking.”

This article originally appeared in the 2022 Michigan Wine Country magazine.

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