Traverse City’s Maple Bay Beach: The Short Hike through Maple Bay Natural Area is Worth It

Maple Bay Beach Traverse City

Traverse City’s Best-Kept Secret: Maple Bay Park & Beach

Maple Bay Natural Area covers 400 acres and includes a historic farmhouse, cedar woods, and a beautiful half-mile beach along East Grand Traverse Bay.

Traverse City - Maple Bay Natural Area - Shade at Beach - Smug Mug

It’s a hidden gem in Grand Traverse County, prized for its shoreline and sandbar.

Find it about 25 minutes east of downtown Traverse City, MI and just 5 minutes from Elk Rapids.

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The Beach and Sandbar

Rivaling Torch Lake, the crystal clear waters, sandbar and endless beach here (2,500 feet of shoreline along East Grand Traverse Bay) are magnets for locals and those lucky enough to know about this secret beach.

Maple Bay Beach Traverse City (1)

The water in Traverse City Area is always so blue and clear. At Maple Bay Natural Area, the water here is no exception.

Boaters pull right up to the beach, or anchor a little way out on the sand bar and swim to shore.

Traverse City - Maple Bay Natural Area - Beach Area & Water - Smug Mug

Kick off your shoes and take a stroll along the beach where the water meets the sand.

A Great Waterfront Hammock Spot

Traverse City - Maple Bay Natural Area - Hammock - Smug Mug

Make it an extra relaxing time and bring a hammock.

Hang the hammock overlooking the water, relax with a book, or take a nap to recharge.

The Hike at Maple Bay

To start your adventure at Maple Bay Natural Area, turn into the gravel drive on the west side of US-31. The white farmhouse lets you know you’re in the right place.

Maple Bay Natural Area Traverse City

Pass Maple Bay Farm and continue on the gravel road to the parking lot.

Maple Bay Natural Area Hike - VanderWeide

The wooded trail system starts here with a hard-packed trail that turns sandy as it enters the woods.

Maple Bay Natural Area Hike - VanderWeide

Choose to explore 1.75 miles of trails or head to the incredible beach.

Traverse City - Maple Bay Natural Area - Trail - Smug Mug

The hike to the beach is just a short walk but be prepared for a somewhat steep, sandy trail, about one-third of a mile.

The Sunflowers

Sunflowers bloom at Maple Bay Natural Area from late July- early August. The exact location of the flowers varies, as the crop is rotated each year.

Maple Bay Natural Area Sunflower Field Traverse City
Maple Bay Sunflower Field

It’s likely that, if you time your drive right, you’ll find bright yellow fields of sunflowers stretching into the distance on both sides both sides of the North US-31 highway.

The Farmhouse

At Maple Bay Natural Area, you’ll also find Maple Bay Farm.

The restored farmhouse has a root cellar, a sugar shack, garden, and a pole barn building. It’s just off of the highway.

The sugar shack is occasionally open for maple syrup-making demonstrations in the springtime. The community garden is tended by volunteers growing produce for the local food pantry.

The old farmhouse is owned by the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy (GTRLC) and serves as a hub for demonstrations, community gardening, volunteer training events, and remote office space.

Where is Maple Bay Natural Area Located?

Maple Bay Natural Area is just 30 minutes north of Traverse City off North U.S. 31 between Traverse City and Elk Rapids, MI.

Maple Bay Natural Area Address:

10849 US-31, Williamsburg, MI 49690

Maple Bay Park on Instagram

Maple Bay Natural Area Instagram
Maple Bay Beach Traverse City MI

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