One of the last places we visited on on Tour of Michigan was the Grand Traverse Commons Natural Area.  This is 140 acres located on the former grounds of the Traverse City State Hospital – a late 19th century asylum and psychiatric hospital.  It became the Munson Medical Center in the 1950s, and closed in 1989. Redevelopment into multi-use residential and commercial use began in the 2000s, but much of the land was preserved in its natural state.  There are numerous hiking and biking trails in the Natural Area now, with multiple trailheads.  In the winter it’s a popular snowshoeing and x-country skiing area.

On a loop hike through the park we ran across a charming area called the Fairy Trails.  Along the trail were lots of these tiny themed fairy dwellings, largely made of natural materials.

Traverse City Fairy Trails

So many very cute and clever fairy houses.

Peter Pan, Mary Poppins fairy houses

The first houses were apparently built in 2016.  Since then many more have been added, and in fact, people are encouraged to add their own as long as they contain natural materials and are built near the trail head.  We were impressed that people have actually left them alone and not vandalized them…which is probably what would happen if they were here in California.  Sigh.

Hansel and Gretel, Circus, and another Peter Pan fairy house

Just a lovely little site that really made us smile!

Further into the woods is the Hippie Tree.  It started as one tree that over the years has been brightly spray-painted, but now there are multiple trees that have been painted.

Hippie Tree

According to local legend the un-quiet spirits of former residents of the hospital reside there.  I didn’t feel anything like that – for me it was a whimsical, happy place.

Hippie Tree

And with this stop, our Tour of Michigan comes to an end. We had a wonderful visit, and packed a lot into a short time, thanks to our expert guides!

Additional Information:

History of Traverse City State Hospital

Trails at Traverse City Commons

The Fairy Trails

The Hippie Tree



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