Michigan Trails Magazine and Website are dedicated to providing you with the most accurate maps and information on Michigan's growing network of non-motorized, multi-use trails.
This website is published by trail people for trail people with information you need to enjoy a great day (or more) exploring Michigan trails. Use it to plan your next trail adventure.
We have personally hiked, biked or rollerbladed every trail presented in this website to verify trail routes, surface conditions, public access areas, amenities and points of interest.
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We are pleased to present the 2017 edition of our Michigan Trails Magazine and Website, with even more non-motorized, multi-use trails for you to explore and enjoy. Whether you like to run, hike, rollerblade, ride a bike, walk your dog, ride your horse, cross-country ski, or zoom along on your snowmobile, we've got your trails.
As you look through the following pages, you find long multi-day trips through the vastness of northern Michigan, day rides through quaint country towns and major metro areas, along rivers, lakes, forests and farms, or a peaceful stroll on one ofMichigan's many scenic riverwalks. Every trail is unique in its own way. Each offers its own adventure and a healthy way to reconnect with the great outdoors.
There are all manner of ways to enjoy the natural beauty of Michigan, but for many of us, there's nothing like the joy of exploring a new trail for the first time - or revisiting and old favorite - breathing the fresh air and discovering the sights and sounds that unfold as you travel along your Journey.
The mission of Michigan Trails Magazine and website is to provide you with the most accurate maps and information available so you can plan and enjoy a great day on the trails. Published by trail people for trail people, we've personally hiked, biked or rollerbladed every trail presented in the following pages to verify trail routes, surface conditions, public access areas and points of interest.
The Michigan trails movement has been gaining momentum for several decades and continues to make great strides as state, county and local agencies and trail groups work to build, improve and expand our network of non-motorized, multi-use trails. Michigan is the #1 Trails State in the nation with more than 2,700 miles of rail-trails alone, and those miles of trails continue to grow. Our "Trail Governor" has launched a statewide initiative through the Michigan DNR to build a biking and hiking trail across the state - Michigan's Iron Belle Trail - from Belle Isle Park in Detroit to Ironwood in the Upper Peninsula. Many segments of the trail have already been built, and many more are currently under construction or in the engineering phase. As you read through the following pages, you will find updates on several sections of the Iron Belle Trail - and many other new trails - and the stories of the people who are working to make dreams come true.
Here are a few of the highlights you will read about in our 2017 edition and some other new trails under development or in the planning phase:
The BayZil Rail Trail
We heard through the grapevine that a new rail trail was under construction last summer between Bay City and Zilwaukee, and just had to check it out. It was a little tough to find, since it only makes one road crossing, but it was well worth the hunt. The new 6.2-mile BayZil (Bay City to Zilwaukee) Rail Trail is part of a long-range plan by the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance to create a non-motorized trail system connecting the communities of Midland, Bay City and Saginaw. This new trail will also be part of Michigan's Iron Belle Trail system. What we discovered is one of the most beautiful rail trails in all of Michigan. It was built on an abandoned rail bed that runs through a complex of marshes and the Crow Island State Game Area along the west bank of the Saginaw River with two bridges crossing Dutch Creek and an unnamed bayou. A great blue heron and several other birds were perched on the railing of the Dutch Creek Bridge when we crossed it, and the marshes and waterways were teaming with waterfowl. It was like going on a nature safari. If you're into bird watching, this is your trail. Even if you're not, we highly recommend it. Bring your camera. We attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony last fall at the new trailhead on Hotchkiss Road, which is the only public access for the trail. Trail developers are currently working on a plan to connect the trail to the Bay County Riverwalk trail system to the north and a new trailhead at the southern end, as well as another new trail connecting it to the Zilwaukee Pathway. Visit our BayZil Rail Trail page.
River Bends Park to Lake Saint Clair Trail
The communities between Shelby Township and Lake Saint Clair Metropark have been working on this trail system for several years and it's almost done. It includes several individual trail segments that go by different names, forming one continuous trail and a great day ride. The section between Rochester and Metro Parkway will be part of Michigan's Iron Belle Trail system. The most scenic parts of the trail are in Clinton River Park, where the trail hugs the edge of the Clinton River, and the newest section (completed last year) between downtown Utica and River Bends Park. Construction will continue this summer on two sections of the trail between River Bends Park and the city of Rochester where the trail will eventually connect with the Clinton River Trail and Macomb Orchard Trail (both are part of the Great Lake-toLake Trail system). The connection may be completed within the next two years. Visit our River Bends Park to Lake Saint Clair Trail page.
Michigan Air Line Trail
If, like us, you're a true believer in the Great Lake-to-Lake Trail (see map on page 26 of 2017 Michigan Trails Magazine), here is some exciting news. On February 8, 2017, after seven years of negotiations, grant applications and rallying public support, the Michigan Air Line Trailway Council closed on the purchase of an abandoned railroad right-of-way between the Huron Valley Trail and West Bloomfield Trail through the communities of Commerce, Walled Lake and Wixom. The $2,610,000 price tag was funded by grants from the Federal Transportation Alternatives Program and the Michigan DNR Trust Fund. It's part of the original Michigan Air Line Railway that once ran from Port Huron to Niles, and is a critical link in the Great Lake-to-Lake Trail system. The right-of-way will be open to foot traffic this summer. The council is now raising funds and applying for grants to develop the trail. As part of the project, the Michigan Department of Transportation is building a magnificent pedestrian bridge over the M-5 highway in Commerce Township that will link the Michigan Air Line Trail with the West Bloomfield Trail. The project will go out to bid this fall with construction scheduled to begin next spring. It should be completed by fall 2018.
Pavement on the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail State Park
The 93-mile Fred Meijer White Pine Trail State Park (Michigan's longest rail trail) was opened for public use in 1995, and has gone through several stages of development since then. Today, 42 miles of the trail are still undeveloped. The trail is currently paved at the southern and northern ends and between Big Rapids and Reed City in the middle. The undeveloped sections are open for public use, mowed and maintained during the summer, and groomed for snowmobile use during the winter. Two years ago, the Michigan DNR submitted a plan with funding to surface the remaining undeveloped sections with finely screened and compacted limestone, but after a series of public meetings, it was widely rejected by trail users who insisted on asphalt pavement. Working with the West Michigan Trails & Greenways Coalition and Friends of the White Pine Trail, the Michigan DNR is currently developing a plan and seeking grants to pave the rest of the trail. From what we understand, paving should begin on the section between LeRoy and Reed City in the spring of 2018. The section between Sand Lake and Big Rapids should be paved by 2020. Visit our Fred Meijer White Pine Trail State Park page.
Tawas Bay Bike Trail and Alabaster Bike Path Arboretum
The last section of the Alabaster Bike Path Arboretum was completed in 2015, so we went to Tawas City last summer to check it out. It was a beautiful day for a bike ride. The Tawas Bay Bike Trail and Alabaster Bike Path Arboretum form one continuous 13.4-mile trail following the contours of Tawas Bay from the lighthouse at Tawas Point State Park to the Dyer Road Trailhead in Alabaster Township. The bike path arboretum is a unique concept with over 150 labeled trees along the trail. Aside from the beautiful views of the bay, one of the fascinating features of the Alabaster Bike Path Arboretum is the new section that goes through an abandoned gypsum mine and offshore shipping port. Visit our Tawas Bay Bike Trail and Alabaster Bike Path Arboretum page.
The Dragon Trail is Coming
One of Michigan's most unique and ambitious non-motorized hiking and biking trail projects is currently underway that will encircle Hardy Pond (the body of water above Hardy Dam and part of the Muskegon River) in Mecosta and Newaygo counties. Five years in the planning, the trail got its name when developers noticed how the shape of the pond resembled a mythical Chinese dragon. The 47.5-mile trail is being developed by Consumers Energy (which owns the property around the pond) in collaboration with a wide range of local governments and organizations and Michigan State University Extension. It's rare to find any body of water in Michigan with no cottages built around it. The trail will be developed along the edge of the waterway with stunning views and 23 bridges linking several parks and campgrounds, including Newaygo State Park. They hope to complete the trail in two years. We'll keep you posted.
Here in our website and in the 2017 edition of Michigan Trails Magazine you'll discover more new trails, and improvements or extensions to many other trails that you'll want to revisit and enjoy, time and time again. Michigan Trails Magazine and this website are entirely funded by our advertisers. Please do business with them. Without their advertising support, this magazine and our website would not be possible.
See you on the trails.
Rob Pulver, editor
Michigan Trails Magazine