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Cycling the trails in Grand Rapids

There's nothing better than getting out on a cycling trail in Grand Rapids.
There's nothing better than getting out on a cycling trail in Grand Rapids.
Thomas Scheidel

West Michigan, and specifically Grand Rapids, is developing quite a reputation for excellent bike trails. There are paved rail trails, dirt mountain bike trails, and hard packed gravel trails crisscrossing the area. In 2010 Outside Magazine ranked Grand Rapids as the best city in the USA for mountain biking, and GR has only added trails since then.

The Grand Daddy of the GR area trails is the White Pine Trail, which runs from Comstock Park north to Cadillac. The White Pine holds the distinction of being the longest linear state park in Michigan. Large portions of the 93 mile trail are paved, with a few sections still gravel. The plan is to pave the whole thing over the next couple of years. The trail runs through quaint little towns like Rockford, Sand Lake and Reed City. Be aware that, while the riding is smooth and often lonely between cities, once inside the city limits the cyclist is likely to encounter a plethora of baby strollers, skateboarders, and dog walkers.

On the northwest side of Grand Rapids, the Musketawa Trail runs 26 miles to the outskirts of Muskegon. A highlight on the trail is Fenien’s Irish Pub in the tiny village of Conklin. It’s a great place to stop and rehydrate. The trailhead was originally outside the village of Marne, but was recently extended to Grand Rapids. The current plan is to connect the east end of the Musketawa with the south end of the White Pine, which would enable cyclists to take a single trail system all the way from Cadillac to Muskegon without having to travel surface roads.

To the south of Grand Rapids, the Paul Henry-Thornapple Trail is being pieced together. While much of the trail is still under development, when completed it will be a 42 mile multi-use trail that runs from Kentwood south to Vermontville. One of the currently paved sections in Middleville follows the Thornapple River while other finished sections traverse the area’s abundant farmland.

The Grand Rapids Bike Park sits right in the heart of the city and is a mountain bike only venue. There is a pump track and a three mile single track through a small wooded area. The GR Bike Park was an abandoned little league baseball complex that was taken over by the city and developed by the West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance with the support of the International Mountain Biking Association. Other area trail systems developed by those two groups include Luton Park and Merrill Trails, both in Rockford.

This only scratches the surface of what west Michigan has to offer cyclists. Michigan is the number one trails state in the USA with over 2,600 miles of multi-use trails. Check out the West Michigan Trails & Greenways Coalition web site for digital maps and more information.

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