With 111 parks, scenic sites, and recreation areas, Michigan boasts the largest state park system in America. Recreation culture runs strong in the Wolverine State, and Michigan’s numerous public lands are certainly reflective of how much we value our natural assets. From the Saharan sand dunes of Silver Lake to the rugged profiles of the Porcupine Mountains, Michigan’s state parks feature a diverse array of natural beauty. It’s an ambitious endeavor to visit them all, but you can get a pretty good scope of the state parks within a one-hour radius of Grand Rapids. Check these out:   

White Pine Trail State Parkstate parks

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Grand Rapids’ closest state park starts right here in the city! White Pine Trail State Park is one of several “linear” state parks across the Mitten. Whether you bike a mile through Riverside Park, or the full 184-mile round-trip to Cadillac, the White Pine Trail is sure to make for a satisfying experience. Experience a slice of small-town Americana and Northern Michigan charm—it all starts in downtown GR!

Bass River State Recreation Areastate parks

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At the Bass River-Grand River confluence lies a true hidden gem: 1,665 acres of hidden bayous, pristine lakes, and winding trails. Mountain bike single-tracks lace the woods near the western entrance. Canoers, kayakers, and paddleboarders can choose a slow float, winding creek, or open water on which to paddle. Equestrian trails venture into the seldom-traversed heart of the park. When you’re done adventuring, cool off at one of the many rope swings on Max Lake.

Yankee Springs State Recreation Areastate parks

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The hilly terrain of Yankee Springs state parks is a haven for backpackers, boaters, and bikers. Hikers on the 4,600-mile North Country Trail often stop overnight at Deep Lake, while Gun Lake hosts countless kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and sailboats daily. If you’re a mountain biker, test your skills at the annual Lord of the Springs event on 38 miles of glorious singletrack!

Ionia State Recreation Areastate parks

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Most GR-Lansing commuters barely regard the Ionia exit on I-96, and that’s too bad. This charming small town on the Grand River is home to one of the most versatile state parks around. Fall is the perfect time in Ionia to pitch a tent or rent a mini-cabin! Hike the trails around Sessions Lake, or bike into town on the Grand River Valley Trail. In the winter, Ionia keeps the trails well maintained for cross-country skiers and snowshoers.

Hoffmaster State Parkstate parks

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A 38-minute drive from downtown is all it takes to reach the golden sand beaches of Hoffmaster State Park. With its myriad of trails and dunes, it’s no wonder many locals call Hoffmaster one of their favorite Lake Michigan state parks. Hoffmaster is adjacent to Ottawa County Parks’ North Ottawa Dunes, so there’s always plenty of trails for hikers, skiers, and snowshoers to explore!

Saugatuck Dunes State Parkstate parks

Believe it or not, Saugatuck Dunes is actually a shorter drive than the beaches of Holland. And if you prefer to avoid the beach crowds, it’s a better option anyway. Miles of trails cut paths through the dunes, all leading out to a vast expanse of completely undeveloped Lake Michigan shoreline. If “long walks on the beach” is your thing, Saugatuck Dunes is your place.

Grand Haven State Parkstate parks

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If one state park could be picked out of the line-up as the most quintessentially ‘Michigan,’ it’d be Grand Haven. You can’t beat those rosy sunsets at the pier, kite surfers bobbing on the waves, the smell of campfire smoke wafting over the beach… this is what being a Michigander is all about.

Holland State Parkstate parks

Speaking of iconic Michigan moments, taking in a sunset behind Holland’s “Big Red” lighthouse is definitely near the top. But there’s more to Holland State Park than the beach. Climb the steps to the top of Mt. Pisgah, rent a paddleboard on Lake Macatawa, or have a campfire and spend the night. Holland has a campground right on the beach, and another tucked back in the woods to suit all sorts of camping styles.

Newaygo State Parkstate parks

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“Up North” is a special phrase to Michiganders. It conjures images of towering pine forests, quiet lakes, and sweeping dune vistas. It’s the vacation capital of the Midwest. Just about any given Friday, there’s a long line of vehicles headed up 131, and for a good reason. The traffic usually disperses past Rockford, but you don’t have to go much further than that to experience one of the gateways to the north. Newaygo State Park is just 44 minutes from downtown, and it has all the Northern Michigan comforts you need to unwind from a week of fast-paced city life. A rustic campground on the shores of Hardy Dam Pond, lofty vantage points to take in a good sunrise, and thousands of acres of Manistee National Forest land all around you.

Muskegon State Parkstate parks

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If chilly weather doesn’t stop you from taking the tent or RV out for a weekend, head to Muskegon State Park. The campground is open year-round and sees few visitors in the offseason. If you’ve ever wanted a beachside campground all to yourself, you can make that happen here!

Across the street is where the party’s at. Just as camping and hiking season starts to wind down in Muskegon, winter sports are ramping up. The Muskegon Winter Sports Complex is one of the park’s best assets, complete with a luge track, hockey rinks, and trails for cross-country skiers, snowshoers, fat-tire mountain bikers, and even ice skaters. Yes, you can ice skate on a trail through the woods at Muskegon State Park! If you still need some coaxing on the merits of going outside in the winter, Muskegon will change your whole outlook on the season.

Duck Lake State Parkstate parks

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Another park just above that invisible “Up North” demarcation line, Duck Lake is a great place to see fall colors on the lakeshore. With acres of forests, undeveloped lakeshores, and one of the best beach views on Lake Michigan, Duck Lake State Park is sure to take your breath away.  

Kal-Haven Trail State Parkstate parks

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For 33 miles, the Kal-Haven Trail cuts through orchards, blueberry patches, vineyards, and small towns along this former railroad corridor. As the name implies, you can find trailheads at Kalamazoo and South Haven, as well as at numerous villages along its route. Make sure you go through the covered bridge over the South Branch Black River!

Van Buren Trail State Parkstate parks

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Between the Kal-Haven Trail and the Van Buren Trail, South Haven is becoming somewhat of a biking hub of the state parks. This 14-mile linear state park heads through more vineyard-and-blueberry country on a southeast beeline toward Hartford. With fall colors peaking soon, it makes for a perfect day trip or out-and-back ride.

Van Buren State Parkstate parks

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According to Google maps, Van Buren State Park is exactly 59 minutes from the corner of Fulton and Division. So if any of your go-to adventure pals are sticklers on the “one hour or less” rule, Van Buren is still in the cards. It’s worth the drive to see the towering dunes, the lofty overlooks, and the wooded trails. A paved spur trail connects the state park with the Van Buren Trail as it heads toward South Haven, making it easy to head into town for food, drinks, and things to do.

About the Author

Nick Meekhof  graduated from Calvin College with a major in writing and a minor in geography. A farmer for the first twenty-three years of his life, Nick currently works for the Michigan Department of Agriculture. When he’s not traversing the state conducting orchard inspections, he can be found exploring the rivers, forests, and small towns all throughout the Great Lakes State. His current goals include kayaking one hundred Michigan rivers, swimming in Lake Michigan during every month of the year, and visiting as many Michigan breweries as possible.Follow Nick’s adventures on Instagram: @puremichiganguy



Grand Rapids’ bike trails are growing bigger and faster than ever! Bike lanes, signage, and miles of new bike trails are being installed all over the city. Local businesses host cycling events year-round and bike racks are a storefront staple. Between construction projects and the downtown parking scene, biking is quickly becoming a fun alternative to getting around. Whether you’re looking for a bike trail to get downtown, a scenic riverside loop, or a 90-mile journey toward the great white north, Grand Rapids is where it’s at!

Lemery Park Trail

1.9 miles one way

bike trails Grand Rapids

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The city of Wyoming has some incredible green spaces tucked among its dense neighborhoods, and Lemery Park is one of these hidden gems. The park features a 1.9-mile bike trail along Buck Creek. It’s a great place to take in a quick ride along the water, but you can double the distance by biking through Palmer Park via the Buck Creek Nature Preserve.

Buck Creek Trail

2.1 miles one way

bike trails Grand Rapids

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Just down the road, you’ll find the Buck Creek Trail winding its way through Grandville. Never straying too far from the creek, this bike trail weaves through the southwest suburbs all the way out to the Grand River confluence. Parking is available at Wedgwood Park and downtown Grandville.

Plaster Creek Trail

2.8 miles one way

bike trails Grand Rapids

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The foliage is dazzling along the Plaster Creek Trail, which hugs the banks of its namesake creek from Ken-o-sha Park to the Kroc Center. In addition to the paved trails, mountain bike trails are also interspersed throughout the greenway. You can get your fill of both styles on your ride!

Kentwood East-West Trail

3 miles one way

bike trails Grand Rapids

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The name is self-explanatory; it’s a bike trail that runs east-west through Kentwood. Starting at Kellogsville Park, the East West Trail traverses creeks, wetlands, and southside neighborhoods for three miles before joining the Thornapple Trail. More on that later.

Oxford Street Trail

3.1-mile loop

bike trails Grand Rapids

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South Dakota’s Black Hills might be famous for a different sort of bike scene, but this Grand Rapids neighborhood has a quality bike trail as well! Beginning on Oxford Street near Godfrey Avenue, the Oxford Street Trail connects the Black Hills to Millennium Park, the Kent Trails, and the rest of the downtown trail network. At 3.1 miles, it’s a scenic spot to train for 5Ks. The route includes views of the Grand River, the downtown skyline, and a restored urban prairie.

Interurban Trail

3.5 miles one-way

grand rapids bike trails

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The Interurban Trail cuts a path through suburbia on the south side of Grand Rapids, connecting Godwin Heights to Kelloggsville. The simplest way to ride its length would be to start at Ideal Park in Wyoming, at the confluence of Buck and Pine Hill Creeks. After a short ride through the woods, the bike trail heads north over streams and through neighborhoods up to 36th Street.

Cannon Township Trail

4.8 miles one way

grand rapids bike trails

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On Grand Rapids’ northeast side, the Cannon Township Bike Trail offers a beautiful ride past lakes, over wetlands, and through wooded valleys. This is an excellent place to take in fall colors in a natural setting. Parking is available at the Cannon Township Hall, Townsend Park, and the village of Cannonsburg.

Standale Trail

5.7 miles one way

grand rapids bike trails

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2018 marks the 40th anniversary of the capture of Big Sid, a circus python that escapes its cage and roamed the streets of Standale, Michigan for over a month. Some spent the summer searching for the snake, while others stayed inside out of fear. Ultimately, it was a young couple on bicycles who found and helped capture Big Sid.

Today, you can bike the Standale Trail through the very farms and fields that Sid called home for one infamous summer. The trail connects Walker City Hall with the Millennium Park bike trail network. It features boardwalks, hills, bike trails, and a pedestrian tunnel. Be sure to stop in town for some ice cream, smoothies, or some Standale-brewed craft beer!

Flat River Trail

7.2 mile loop

grand rapids bike trails

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It’s a bit of a hike to get out to Greenville, but the Flat River Trail is one of the best loop bike trails in West Michigan. This 7.2-mile route follows a long, C-shaped arc along the Flat River through downtown Greenville. A couple of lakes are thrown in for good measure. There is hardly a curve on this loop in which something scenic isn’t revealed around the bend. The trailhead is conveniently located on M-57, right next to Castle Brewing Co.

M6 Trail

9.6 miles one way

grand rapids bike trails

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When M6 was installed as a way to get around Grand Rapids’ sprawling south side, planners of the highway had the good graces to include a bike path. You’ll find surprisingly lofty vantage points along this 9.6-mile corridor, high above the road where you can see the profile of 92nd Street Hill, some of the highest elevation in Kent County.

Thornapple Trail

10 miles one way to Caledonia

grand rapids bike trails

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If you start at 44th and Kalamazoo, it’ll be a 10-mile ride down the Paul Henry Thornapple Trail to get to Caledonia Lakeside Park. The plans are much bigger than that, however. Local municipalities are working on paving their own segments of this former railroad corridor, and soon you’ll be able to ride a bike trail all the way out to Vermontville, 42 miles away!

Kent Trails

15-mile network

grand rapids bike trails

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The pioneer of the Grand Rapids bike scene, we owe a lot of credit to the Kent Trails system. It was ahead of its time and still serves as the central hub to which future bike paths aim to connect. From the trailhead near John Ball Zoo, you can enjoy this unabridged bike trail network through Millennium Park all the way to Jenison, Grandville, Wyoming, or Byron Center.  Trail highlights include the Grand River, Buck Creek, the Sand Mines, and the Hopewell Indian Mounds.

Ada Township Trails

16-mile loop

grand rapids bike trails

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Another great loop option, the Ada Township Trails run a hilly course around the northeast side of Grand Rapids. Beginning in downtown Ada, the loop offers wide panoramas of the Grand River, boardwalks over wetlands, and an endless array of fall foliage.  

Millennium Park

18-mile network

grand rapids bike trails

Recent transplants to Grand Rapids likely won’t remember when Millennium Park was just a 1400-acre sand mine, but today it is one of the finest parks in all of Michigan. Kent County Parks has invested deeply in Millennium Park, which now plays host to numerous bike races, running events, concerts, and even the X-Games.

The 18-mile network of bike trails is one of Millennium’s best assets. Frequent intersections allow for loops of any distance to be made. This makes Millennium an excellent destination for beginners through experts, and the varied terrain means there’s something new around every bend.

Musketawa Trail/Pioneer Trail

33.6 miles one way

grand rapids bike trails

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The Musketawa is another trail that’s been around for some time. This 22-mile linear bike trail runs from Marne all the way to Muskegon, stopping through small towns and bucolic farmlands along the way.

Recently, Kent County Parks built a connector route through Walker called the Pioneer Trail. This greenway provides a vital link between the Musketawa and the White Pine Trail, extending the route to Muskegon by eleven miles. It also gives Northwest-siders a convenient way to bike downtown.

Grand River Greenway

40 miles one way

grand rapids bike trails

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The project has been in the works for decades, as Ottawa County Parks quietly acquired riverfront parcel after parcel. The objective was announced just two years ago: the Grand River Greenway, a 40-mile swath of preserved natural areas along the southern shore of the Grand River. In addition to a water trail for paddlers and a habitat corridor for wildlife, the Greenway also includes plans for the Idema Explorers Trail, a bike trail path that will connect downtown Grand Rapids to Grand Haven’s lakeshore. Segments are still under construction, but keep an eye on this project. They’re making strides every day.

White Pine Bike Trail

92 miles one way

grand rapids bike trails

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Some state parks are 92 miles long and only 20 feet wide. Such is the case of White Pine Trail State Park, West Michigan’s premier long-distance bike path. Many area bikers are familiar with the picturesque stretch that runs from downtown Grand Rapids up to Rockford, but few have attempted the daunting century ride to its terminus in Cadillac. The White Pine Trail crosses six major rivers, seventeen towns, and countless creeks and farms through Northern Michigan.

About the Author

Nick Meekhof  graduated from Calvin College with a major in writing and a minor in geography. A farmer for the first twenty-three years of his life, Nick currently works for the Michigan Department of Agriculture. When he’s not traversing the state conducting orchard inspections, he can be found exploring the rivers, forests, and small towns all throughout the Great Lakes State. His current goals include kayaking one hundred Michigan rivers, swimming in Lake Michigan during every month of the year, and visiting as many Michigan breweries as possible. Follow Nick’s adventures on Instagram: @puremichiganguy.


The leaves are changing, the temperatures are dipping, and Halloween costumes are popping up on grocery store shelves. It’s shaping up to be another beautiful fall in West Michigan! One of the best ways to take advantage of the autumn weather is to get off the couch, off the pavement, and perhaps even off the grid. Thankfully in Grand Rapids, we have no shortage of hiking trails just minutes from downtown. If ghost towns, bayous, hidden beaches, and the longest trail in America pique your interest, take some time this season to check out these 15 hiking trails near Grand Rapids you need to explore:

Aman Park

hiking trails Grand Rapids

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Aman Park is one of those places that seem to magnify whatever season it is. In the spring, the scent of budding flowers is almost intoxicating. In summer, the amount of lush greenery is staggering. In autumn, the fall colors are overwhelmingly vivid. In winter, snow sticks to the trees and the banks of Sand Creek in a way only Robert Frost could describe.

Located just seven miles west of Grand Rapids, Aman Park features 339 acres of wooded bottomland and towering bluffs. A meandering trail network allows hikers to observe various ecosystems all while feeling far removed from the city.

Knapp Valley Forest

hiking trails Grand Rapids

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Become one with the forest on Grand Rapids’ hilly northeast side. Knapp Valley Forest’s 87 acres of secluded trails provide the perfect daily dose of nature for anyone looking for a quick hike close to the city. Kent County Parks has done an excellent job keeping this quiet tract undeveloped, and under the radar.

Crahen Valley Park

hiking trails Grand Rapids

One of the best overlooks in the Grand Rapids area can be found at Crahen Valley Park, where biking and hiking trails traverse the hilly terrain just northeast of town. You might be able to see farther in the winter, when the leaves are off the trees, but the fall color explosion is hard to beat. The trail heads down a steep bank into Crahen Valley. You’re free to roam the numerous ravines, creeks, ponds, and prairies, before coming back up on the other side. As of now, Crahen Valley is mostly undeveloped, but there are big plans for the future. This includes a snowboarding hill, paved bike paths, and a fat-tire mountain bike trail. Until that happens, hikers are free to explore this unspoiled valley undisturbed.

Cascade Peace Park

Hiking Trail Grand Rapids

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Wendell Berry’s “The Peace of Wild Things,” inscribed on a large boulder, makes for a romantic first impression as one enters the wooded sanctuary of Cascade Peace Park. Topping out at almost 200 acres, there is plenty to explore along the wooded ravines of the Grand River valley. Four miles of trails wind through forest glades, spacious meadows, and leafy views of the river down below.

Lepard Nature Preserve

Hiking Trail Grand Rapids

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Don’t let the name scare you away; the only leopards you’ll find in Caledonia’s Lepard Preserve are of the amphibious kind. It’s a smaller park that often gets overlooked. If you’ve ever driven south on the East Beltline and noticed a stretch of woods gilded in October gold, chances are you’ve peered into the enchanting Lepard Preserve. A short loop follows a seasonal creek bed through deciduous trees and gently sloped ravines. When you get your fill of exploring, head down the road to EB Coffee & Pub, a combination coffee shop/brewery for some après-hike beverages.

Grand River Park

Hiking Trails Grand Rapids

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On the southwest side of Grand Rapids, Grand River Park has three miles of trails that showcase a wide range of scenery. The low-lying, riverside paths offer great views of the river, wetlands, and meadows blooming with wildflowers. Head further in, and you’ll find the higher elevation trails, where you can get an overview of the entire park through the fall foliage. The westernmost hiking trails give hikers a taste of “ravine country,” a local ecosystem of steep riverbank bluffs that line the Grand from Jenison all the way up past Allendale.

Grand Ravines Park

grand rapids hiking trails

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Just a couple miles downstream from Grand River Park, the ravines reach their most dramatic depths at the aptly named Grand Ravines Park. This is one of the most magical places to take in fall colors in West Michigan. The trails here include long, steep hiking trails to the heart of the ravines, a hundred feet below the bluffs’ sharply defined edges. Hiking the ravines during or after a heavy rainstorm is particularly satisfying, as the trickling creeks turn into torrents and temporary waterfalls.

Ottawa County Parks is fully invested in making Grand Ravines accessible for everyone, including off-leash dogs and those in wheelchairs. In addition to the dog park and paved trails, Grand Ravines also features a covered bridge, a kayak launch, and a 70-foot high suspension bridge. There’s always a new way to explore Grand Ravines!

Provin Hiking Trails

hiking trails Grand Rapids

If you’re ready to take your hiking game to the next level, Provin Trails are your provin’ grounds. The hills are steep, the hiking trails are sandy, and the routes are numerous. If you’re gearing up for a long day-hike, a big backpacking expedition, or if you’re trying snowshoes for the first time, a few laps at Provin Trails might be just what you need to test your readiness. The sandy, hilly terrain is a perfect match for the wilderness that awaits in Northern Michigan. It’s all right here on Grand Rapids’ northeast side. After your hike, reward yourself with some homemade cider or wine from Robinette’s Apple Haus, which is adjacent to the park.

North Country Trail

hiking trails Grand Rapids

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If you didn’t think backpacking was possible in Kent County, you’d be wrong. Did you know that the longest trail in the United States travels right through Grand Rapids’ backyard? The North Country National Scenic Trail is over 4,600 miles long—more than twice the length of the Appalachian—showcasing America’s northern tier of states from North Dakota to Vermont. It’s crazy to think that while on a walk in West Michigan’s woods, you’re on the same trail that stretches from the Missouri River badlands to the Appalachian Mountains. In addition, the NCT’s national headquarters are located right here in Lowell, MI!

Locally, the trail meanders through the Rogue River, Lowell, Middleville, and Barry State Game Areas, as well as a number of Kent County Parks. In addition to numerous private campgrounds adjacent to the trail, you can also camp for free in Game Areas between September 10 and May 15. Click here to see a map of the NCT’s route across West Michigan.

Seidman Park

hiking trails Grand Rapids

Another Kent County Park gem, Seidman Park showcases a plethora of habitats along its extensive trail system. Boardwalk trails traverse wetlands and paved hiking trails line the park’s perimeter, but the majority of pathways are natural-surfaced hiking trails. Boulder-strewn Honey Creek surges through the southern portion of the park. The hilly northern half hosts sweeping meadows, towering forests, and even an inland sand dune. The North Country Trail meanders through Seidman’s 435 acres. There’s always a chance you might stumble across a troupe of backpackers during their 4,600-mile journey.

For those who enjoy a spookier walk in the woods as Halloween nears, Seidman also delivers, as it’s reputed to be haunted by the ghost of the “Ada Witch.” Maybe do a double-take when looking over your shoulder!

Yankee Springs State Recreation Area

hiking trails Grand Rapids

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Yankee Springs is one of GR’s nearest units in the Michigan State Park system, and the designation is well-deserved. There isn’t much you can’t do at Yankee Springs. The 5,200-acre park is loaded with options for camping, skiing, fishing, horseback riding, kayaking, paddleboarding, mountain biking, and backpacking. The park includes several miles of Gun Lake shoreline, widely regarded as one of the best recreation lakes in southern Michigan. It also has some of the highest elevation in the area. The North Country Trail weaves through it all, passing places like McDonald Lake, Graves Hill, Devil’s Soup Bowl, and Turner Creek.

Eastmanville Bayou

Grand Rapids hiking

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If you haven’t explored West Michigan’s bayou country yet, you’re in for a treat. The Grand River widens and slows as it nears Lake Michigan, creating brackish backwater lakes, the ideal habitat for turtles, herons, and bluegill. These bayous are often given colorful names, like Jubb, Dermo, Ripps, and Lloyd. You can find them on either side of the river as far upstream as Allendale. Eastmanville Bayou is one of the more developed parks, with trails running the narrow ridge of land between the bayou and the river. You’ll be transported straight into the southern Louisiana swampland, without having to watch out for alligators!

Pro tip: Wait till winter, when the mosquitos have died off and the ice is thick enough. You can hike back on the frozen bayou for a unique perspective.

Hemlock Crossing

Grand Rapids hiking

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As you head out closer to the lakeshore, you’ll notice that wind and sand are the primary factors that shape the land. This is true at Hemlock Crossing in West Olive, where you’ll notice two things: The trails become sandy and hilly, much like the dunes that rise out of Lake Michigan, and also the Pigeon River begins to wind, widen, and slow down—more bayou country. The trails are well marked and scenic. You can supplement your hike with a visit to Ottawa County’s Nature Education Center, located on site. They are open year-round and are happy to rent a pair of snowshoes for anyone looking to dabble in winter hiking.

Rosy Mound Natural Area

hiking Michigan

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Thirty miles west of Grand Rapids you’ll find the golden sunset shores of Lake Michigan, nicknamed the ‘Gold Coast’ for a good reason. The lakeshore is filled with hidden gems like Rosy Mound, a park with a one-mile trail that leads back to a hidden beach. It’s a short hike, but a mile over sand dunes is about the toughest mile there is, so don’t underestimate the trail.

The sweeping view of Lake Michigan is well worth the effort. Depending on the lake temperature, the lakeshore can either be the first place or last place to experience fall color changes. This makes a trip to Rosy Mound feel kind of like a “bonus” week of peak color out of season. Whether you’re high up on the dunes or down at the waterline, sunsets at the Mound are always rosy.

Saugatuck Dunes State Park

hiking Lake Michigan

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A little further south, Saugatuck Dunes features a windswept, wilderness-like haven for hikers seeking that “off-the-grid” feeling. Along with the North Country Trail, Saugatuck Dunes is another local area where you can really rack up the distance. The park features thirteen miles of trails, not counting the lakeshore.

Lake Michigan has been high in recent years. This has created some spectacular sand cliffs along the shore, some higher than ten feet. If that’s not indicative enough of nature’s power, consider the fact that Michigan’s most famous ghost town was once swallowed up by the very sand dunes on which you tread, buried a couple hundred feet below the surface of the hiking trails.

The woods are beautiful and the weather’s even better. Get out on those beautiful hiking trails and explore!

About the Author

Nick Meekhof  graduated from Calvin College with a major in writing and a minor in geography. A farmer for the first twenty-three years of his life, Nick currently works for the Michigan Department of Agriculture. When he’s not traversing the state conducting orchard inspections, he can be found exploring the rivers, forests, and small towns all throughout the Great Lakes State. His current goals include kayaking one hundred Michigan rivers, swimming in Lake Michigan during every month of the year, and visiting as many Michigan breweries as possible.Follow Nick’s adventures on Instagram: @puremichiganguy



I’m sure you’ve noticed – it’s summer!! Grand Rapids is the place to be when the weather warms up. Summer in the city is jam packed with festivals, concerts, parties, and your pick of fun outdoor patios to chill with a cold drink in hand. But, summer is also the time to plan road trips, top off your gas tank, and hit the open road in search of fun, adventure, and relaxation.

These are our top picks when it comes to road trips that will excite, entice, and help you enjoy summer to the fullest!

Traverse City, MI

traverse city

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Distance from Grand Rapids: 143 miles north; 2 hour and 15-minute drive 

Why we love it: TC is chock full of scenic beachy get-aways on Lake Michigan, cherry flavored everything, delicious cuisines – oh, and wine! Enjoy a round of amazing golf, get rustic in the Traverse City State Park, or indulge in the finer things in life at the lovely Traverse City Resort and Spa. About 55 percent of Michigan’s wine grapes are grown near Traverse City, the Leelanau Peninsula, and Old Mission Point Peninsula; and they have the wineries to prove it. When in Rome….

TIP: Wineries, while awesome, can have erratic schedules and unexpected tasting fees. Know before you plan your road trip here. Or even better, book a guided wine tour with friends – don’t taste and drive.

Three Oaks/New Buffalo, MI

warren duns

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Distance from Grand Rapids: 105 miles SW; 1 hour and 40-minute drive 

Why we love it: The go-to destination for avid cyclists and sun bathers alike, when you plan a weekend in Three Oaks or New Buffalo, set aside time to hit the beach. Part of Michigan’s Harbor Country and located just over the Indiana border on Lake Michigan, this location has it all: sand, sun, bike trails, and Hello Donuts (the best donut place ever). If you’re looking for a legit hike, Warren Dunes have six miles of trails and a dune that’s 260 feet high and begging to be climbed.

TIP: Plan your packing, some hotels offer complimentary beach towers and sand chairs at the front desk. The New Buffalo Lakefront Park fills up fast on the weekend, so also consider checking out Warren State Park that boasts three miles of Lake Michigan shoreline.

Upper Peninsula Waterfall Tour, MI

Michigan waterfall

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Distance from Grand Rapids: 319 miles to Upper Falls, McMillan Township; about 5-hour drive

Why we love it: 

There is nothing more majestic than a natural waterfall. Appealing to all ages, hit the road and head north to explore these treasures in the Upper Peninsula. On this roughly 8-hour waterfall tour map, you can hit up 9 waterfalls in a single swoop! Start in Ironwood Township to enjoy Potawatomi Falls, ogle at Gabbro Falls, and continue along the path enjoying Munising Falls , Miners Falls, and more! The scenic tour ends at the big daddy of them all, Tahquamenon Falls.

TIP: While the actual waterfall road trip tour is 8-hours, the drive up to the start in Ironwood is pretty far – make sure you book accommodations in advance.

Sleeping Bear Dunes Tour, MI

sleeping bear sand dunes

Photo courtesy of @t_stael | Instagram

Distance from Grand Rapids: 160 miles NW; 2 hour and 45-minute drive 

Why we love it: Dunes are so crazy fun. A favorite destination in northern Michigan, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was named “the Most Beautiful Place in America” on ABC’s Good Morning America. After exploring lighthouses, museums, and wineries, try your hat at the Dune Climb at least once. And bring your bike along – there are many paths to explore on your road trip, especially Pyramid Point!

TIP: Hit up the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive: a 7-mile scenic route that takes you to the spectacular overlooks of Lake Michigan, Glen Lake, and the Sleeping Bear Dunes. There are two picnic stops along the way as well.

Indiana Dunes State Park, IN

indiana dunes

Photo courtesy of @_plate | Instagram

Distance from Grand Rapids: 132 miles SW; 2-hour drive

Why we love it: Located along the southern tip of Lake Michigan, the Indiana Dunes have world class beaches, biking, hiking, and more. With 15 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, enjoy the sun and surf, scale a 200-foot high dune, or visit a “tree graveyard” (places where forests have been buried by sand and then are re-exposed by wind erosion). There are camping options, hotels, motels, cabins, cottages, and adorable bed & breakfasts to choose from. Make your reservations early and hit the open road.

TIP: Bring your workout gear along and try any of these 10 fitness finds at the Indiana Dunes – like the 3 dune challenge!

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, MI

pictured rocks

Photo courtesy of @t_stael | Instagram

Distance from Grand Rapids: 355 miles north; 5 hour and 30-minute drive 

Why we love it: The natural beauty of Pictured Rocks is simply breathtaking, and not too far away! The stretch of coast from Munising to Paradise provides you with unparalleled vistas and true serenity. Some must-sees include Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum & Whitefish Point Lighthouse, Munising Falls and Miners Falls. Kick back on a Pictured Rocks Boat Tour where all ages can enjoy the beauty of this national lakeshore; seek out views of Miner’s Castle and other stunning rock formations along the way.

TIP: The best way to get up close and personal with the Pictured Rocks is by kayak. Stop by Paddler’s Village and sign up for their six hour sunset paddle for a truly glorious view.

Mackinac Island, MI

Mackinac island

Photo courtesy of @ohwhatasighttosee | Instagram

Distance from Grand Rapids: 240 miles north; 3.5 hour drive– Ferry transit required

Why we love it: While Mackinac Island holds a special place in the heart of many Michigan-born children (horses + fudge + bikes = joy), it’s also the perfect place for a reunion of friends, bachelorette party, and or date weekend. Sign up for a guided Legends and Lore Trek and explore some lesser known part of the island or check out the Observation Tower at Mission Point. Bike around the island (of course!) or tour the exterior of the island by kayak. Get the full experience out of your road trip by booking an overnight stay on the island – and what’s more – no cars are allowed. So go ahead, have another glass of wine!

TIP: It can cost more to stay on the island, but if you sign up for the hotels’ newsletters and monitor their social media channels, you can find some really great deals.

South Haven, MI

south haven

Photo courtesy of @ktmulcahy | Instagram

Distance from Grand Rapids: 37 miles west; 45-minute drive 

Why we love it: South Haven is one of our very favorite Michigan places. Not only is it super close to Grand Rapids, it’s the epitome of adorable. It’s packed with wonderful restaurants and pubs, great shopping, and of course, the lakeshore. For a taste of nature, drive just three miles south to Van Buren State Park. Climb some legit sand dunes, lounge on the beach, walk through woodland trails, and don’t forget to pack a picnic. Then head back to South Haven and spend the evening pub hopping in and around the downtown area – you’re never going to want to leave, we promise.

TIP: Southwest Michigan rivals Traverse City as the hot spot for Michigan-made wines. Don’t leave this area without exploring the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail.

Nordhouse Dunes, MI

Nordhouse dunes

Photo courtesy of @em0c0nn0r | Instagram

Distance from Grand Rapids: 115 miles NW; close to a 2-hour drive 

Why we love it: Bring a tent and sense of adventure with you to the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness. Located within the Manistee National Forest along an extremely isolated shoreline, camp rustically along the coast of Lake Michigan two nights or even weeks at a time! Backwoods and hammock camping are the norm in this picturesque escape; it’s where you can truly get away from it all.

TIP: All food, water, gear, etc. has to be hiked in and out so pack light and prepare to unplug -there is no cell reception.

Detroit, MI

road trips

Distance from Grand Rapids: 157 miles SE; 2-hour 20-minute drive 

Why we love it: Summer is hoppin’ in Detroit! Visit Greektown, explore the Eastern Market, hang out in Greenfield Village, or catch a Tigers game at Comerica Park. What’s more, get a group together and take advantage of the Motor City Bike and Brew Tours. We can’t think of anything better than getting a tour of the city, with a cold beer in hand while excersizing, can you?

TIP: If you’re looking for things to do in the area, check out this article, “Actually Cool Things to do in Detroit When Someone Visits.” It’s full of awesome summer ideas!

Lake Michigan Small Town Tour

Leland michigan

Photo courtesy of @northernwayoflife | Instagram

Distance from Grand Rapids: 2-6 hour drive, depending on the destination

Why we love it: If you’re looking to get some serious miles under your belt this is the road trip for you. Michigan is peppered with adorable towns you may not even know exist! Start in Saugatuck, then head north to Holland or Muskegon. Travel even further north to hit up Pentwater, Ludington, then take M22 over to Frankfort, Glen Arbor, Traverse City and Leland. Check out Charlevoix and Petoskey on your way home! Spread this out over a weekend or a week on your road trip; you won’t run out of place to eat, explore, and enjoy, that’s for sure.

TIP: While many of these little towns are quaint, they can get busy in the summer, so book your accommodations in advance.

Red Arrow Highway from New Buffalo to St. Joseph

st joseph

Photo courtesy of @lauradekreek | Instagram

Distance from Grand Rapids: 109 miles to New Buffalo; 1 hour and 40-minute drive 

Why we love it: A popular summer cruise, head north from New Buffalo on Red Arrow Highway along Lake Michigan to explore the coast villages of Union Pier, Lakeside and Harbert along the way to St. Joseph. This stretch of road is known for its art galleries and awesome antiquing, so brush up on your vintage must-haves and bring your pocket book along for the ride.

TIP: You’ll be passing by Warren Dunes State Park, so budget some time to enjoy the view!

Manistee, MI


Photo courtesy of @samadhiqu33n | Instagram

Distance from Grand Rapids: 120 miles NW; close to a 2-hour drive 

Why we love it: Manistee’s downtown is adorable, but have you ever ventured further into the Huron-Manistee National Forest? Make plans to hike the Manistee River Trail, a 23-mile loop or any of the 245 miles of hiking trails within this extensive north country trail network. If hiking isn’t your thing, rent a kayak or canoe and spend the day on the scenic Manistee River or learn about Manistee County’s rich history at the Arcadia Area Historical Museum, then grab a drink at the Iron Fish Distillery to end the day right.

TIP: The beauty of the Manistee River Trail is that it really is a trail for all skill levels. Many parts are flat, and any elevation changes are short in distance. It really is for everyone!

Ann Arbor, MI

road trips

Photo courtesy of @carsonhart | Instagram

Distance from Grand Rapids: 132 miles SE; close to a 2-hour drive 

Why we love it: Foodies unite! Home of the University of Michigan, this incredibly walkable city has an infinite supply of coffee shops, wine bars, and any kind of food you can think of – and it’s all really, really good. Check out this list of essential Ann Arbor restaurants and wear your stretch pants to this culinary destination. If you’re an outdoorsy type, explore the Bird Hills Nature Area, Island Park, or U of M’s Nichols Arboretum.

TIP: For something truly unique, gather some friends and rent a late-night private karaoke room at Blue Karaoke or check out Whirlyball of Ann Arbor – you have to go to find out what it is!

Chicago, IL

chicago roadtrip

Photo courtesy of @remo_daut | Instagram

Distance from Grand Rapids: 176 miles SW; close to a 3-hour drive 

Why we love it: Oh Chicago, we love you so. Just a few hours outside of Grand Rapids, Chicago takes summer in the city to a whole new level. Spend some time at the city beach, rock out at a festival like Lollapalooza or Pitchfork, party at one of many Chicago street fests, catch a free movie in the park, or wind down on a summer boat tour down the river. Sometimes all you need to do is put on your walking shoes and get to exploring, fun will find you in this awesome city.

Tip: Rush hour is a thing here, even in the summer. so plan your arrival time appropriately.

We love the changing seasons (that’s a requirement living in Michigan, right?), but nothing beats  a beautiful summer day. And what makes summer even better – you guessed it – outdoor yoga. In this neck of the woods, it’s a real gift to get outdoors and practice yoga with friends. Fresh air and mindfulness works wonders on the soul, and here are the top outdoor yoga classes happening this summer in Grand Rapids. Add them to your calendar and start unrolling that new yoga mat – here we go!

Yoga on the Green with MVP

Dates: Every Wednesday Evening from June 13th – August 15th

Cost: Free

Location: MVP Athletic Club, Crahen (115 Crahen Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525

Well, this is the best thing ever. Join MVP every Wednesday evening this summer for a free outdoor yoga class open to the public at MVP Athletic Club, from 7-8pm. Participants must be 12 years of age or older. No pre-registration required, just show up!

BYOM (Bring your own mat.)

Yoga at Meijer Gardens with Dean Jeffery

Photo Credit | @deanj914 Instagram

Dates: June 19th, July 24th, August 21st, and September 15th

Cost: $7.00 per session for members, $17.00 for non-members

Location: Fredrick Meijer Sculpture Park

Meet up with friends at Fredrick Meijer Gardens for a refreshing and meditative session of yoga with well-known instructor, Dean Jeffery. Each class will feature a different outdoor location at Meijer Gardens including Michigan’s Farm Garden, The Sculpture Park, and the Japanese Garden. Open to all levels and ages, bring a yoga mat and get ready for some fun! Pre-register online here.

Free Outdoor Yoga Series with Grand Rapids Parks & Downtown GR Inc.

Dates: Throughout the summer

Cost: Free

Locations: Across the city!

Grand Rapids Parks and Downtown GR Inc. are teaming up to offer a free outdoor yoga series at participating parks below. Find the nearest location to you and join in!

Heartside Park – Wednesdays, 12:15 – 1:00 pm, throughout the summer

Look Out Park – Thursdays, 7:00 – 7:45 pm, throughout the summer

Grand Central Station – Thursdays, 5:00 pm – 6:15 pm, throughout the summer

6th Street Park – Mondays, 12:15 – 1:00 pm, throughout the summer

Blue Bridge – Wednesdays, 5:30pm – 6:15pm, throughout the summer

Funky Buddha Yoga Summer Series

Photo Credit | @funkybuddhayoga Instagram

Dates: Sundays, June 3rd – August 26th

Cost: Free

Two locations: Centennial Park in Holland (5:30-6:30) and Wilcox Park in Eastown (6:30-7:30)

Come join fellow yogis and Funky Buddha aficionados every Sunday in Holland or Grand Rapids for some power flow and fun! All classes are free to attend and are taught by Funky Buddha’s excellent staff and trainees. All ages are welcomes (family friendly!) and no pre-registration is required. Get the whole family outdoors to stretch, sweat, and breathe.

AM Yoga Summer Series at Donkey

Photo Credit | @donkeytaqueria Instagram

Dates: One class per month starting 6/10/18

Cost: Donation based

Location: Donkey Taqueria (665 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Start summer right with AM Yoga and Donkey Taqueria. They are here to show you that yoga and tacos make for the perfect combination. Offering one class a month (starting June 10th at 8:30 am) AM Yoga is offering a donation-based yoga sweat session on the patio of Donkey. Bring a towel, mat, water bottle, and a friend! They are kicking it up a notch this year with raffles for Donkey and AM Yoga swag at each session – see you there.

Waterfront Yoga at Reed’s Lake with Seva Yoga

Dates: Thursdays throughout the summer (9:00 – 10:00 am)

Cost: Regular class rates for Mind Body apply

Location: John Collins Park on Reed’s Lake

Join Melissa from Seva Yoga for awesome outdoor morning flow sessions at John Collins park every Thursday morning throughout the summer. Pre-register with Seva and sign up early – only 15 people can attend each class!

Yoga at Fulton Street Farmer’s Market

Photo Photo Credit | @fultonstmarket Instagram

Dates: Every Tuesday at 10:00 am throughout the summer

Cost: Donation based

Location: Fulton Street Farmer’s Market

Have your veggies and yoga too! Fulton Street Farmer’s Market is offering donation-based yoga classes on the Market plaza all summer long. These sessions are suitable for all levels and take place every Tuesday at 10:00 am starting June 5 and ending August 28. There are a number of different local yoga studios and teachers donating their time to lead these sessions, so you’ll get to experience a fun variety of yoga styles and instruction!

Yoga Flow & Trail Run at Robinettes

Date: Saturday, June 23rd 9:30 am – 11:00 am

Cost: $15

Location: Robinettes

Create the perfect marriage of yoga and trail running! Join Yoga Fever for a 40 minute all levels yoga flow followed by a 2-mile trail run at Robinettes. The yoga class will be on the front lawn of the apple orchard, bring your yoga mat and your best running pal to join in the combo fun!

Yoga in the Park with Yoga Blue Studio

Photo Photo Credit | @yoga.blue.studio Instagram

Dates: Tuesday’s at 7:15 pm

Cost: Donation-based

Location: Heritage Park (4264 Canal Ave. SW, Grandville, MI)

Join Grandville stretch staple, Yoga Blue Studio, for an awesome outdoor yoga session at Heritage Park every Tuesday throughout the summer. Bring your family, friends, your mat and a water bottle. There’s no cost associated, but donations are accepted.

Did we miss an outdoor yoga event you’re looking forward to? Please tell us about it by commenting below!


Blow the dust off those running shoes and line up your favorite playlist because it’s time hit up some scenic running trails in Grand Rapids. I’ve been an avid runner for many years, have trained for countless races, and I’m always looking to switch up my running route. Thankfully, there are so many beautiful running trails around Grand Rapids to explore. Whether you’re in the mood to pound the pavement or explore a new West Michigan trail, I’ve got you covered. Here’s my list of top 10 scenic spots that keep me fit, recharged, and coming back for more!

Reeds Lake

reeds lake

How could I not kick off our list with Reeds? It’s a must. Head over to East Grand Rapids to enjoy this incredibly scenic 4 mile run around gorgeous Reeds Lake. A total runner’s hub, you’ll also encounter power walkers, those out for a Sunday stroll, and lots and lots of dogs. There’s a paved trail around the entire lake with well-marked pedestrian signs so you won’t get turned around. Enjoy the super cute cityscape, drool over the amazing home architecture, and feel a refreshing breeze coming across the lake. This place has it all.

Riverside Park

running spots Grand Rapids

Riverside Park, I love you. Located on the West Side, Riverside is classified as the largest urban park in the Grand Rapids parks system. This awesome green space has an abundance of paved pathways, perfect for an evening run. It’s also flat (for those who hate hills as much as we do) and situated along the Grand River. Fun fact: this is the longest river in the state of Michigan! Along the way, you will run into walkers, bikers, and probably a few disc golf enthusiasts here and there. Pack some treats for a post-run picnic; it’s easy to spend the day there.

White Pine Trail

kent park trails

This one is a doozy. Recently renamed the “Fred Meijer White Pine Trail State Park” thanks to a generous donation, it’s a rail trail that extends from Ann Street in Grand Rapids (Riverside Park) to Cadillac (92 miles) and lies on the path graded for the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad. The paved section you would most likely frequent in Grand Rapids is a 22 mile stretch between Comstock Park and Sand Lake. The entire trail passes through 15 Michigan cities. It’s a great escape from busy roads and distracted drivers. GR tip: use this trail for a cross training bike day, you will love it!

Provin Trails

provin trails

This little gem of a trail run is tucked away off 4 Mile Rd between Dean Lake Ave and the East Beltline. A real reprieve from city living, enjoy many interconnected loops of natural-surfaced, sandy colored trails in a heavily wooded forest. Find some serious nature here and gear up for inclines, declines, roots, and of course, relaxation.

Ah-Nab-Awen ParkAh-Nab-Awen Park

Once the site of a Native American village, this fun, foot-trafficked park located in the heart of downtown GR draws tourists and locals alike. Start your run here and dive head first into side streets and cityscapes or run along the beautiful Grand River. The possibilities are endless.

John Ball Zoo – Kent Trails

kent trails

A fun family space, this is also where the Grand Rapids Running Club meets for many of their coordinated group events! From this starting point, it’s a cinch to jump onto the Kent Trail System, a 15-mile rail trail in Kent County that is part of a network of running trails in and around Grand Rapids. It stretches from John Ball Park and Millennium Park all the way to Byron Center. If you’re looking for a scenic space with lots of options that isn’t too far away, you struck gold.

Millennium Park

millenium park

This awesome Grand Rapids staple is part of the Fred Meijer Millennium Trail Network, offering 12 different trail options and running trails ranging from 0.3 to 4.1 miles. Some are paved shoreline trails while others offer a more natural surface, this a great place to run un-abandoned, without a plan, and without getting lost. Bring your swimsuit along for the ride and cool off at the Millennium beach after you get your sweat on.

Roselle Park

roselle park ada

A hop, skip and a jump away from Grand Rapids, Roselle Park is part of the Ada Park System and is comprised of 240 acres of natural preserve. The main trail is paved (2.5 miles) and features an overlook and canoe landing on the Grand River. There’s also a fun silo climbing wall, natural streams and many well-marked running trails to explore and enjoy.

Cascade Peace Park

running trails

Looking for quick, non-paved running trails that are easier on the joints? Then Cascade Peace Park is a great option! Weave your way through 8 trails that interconnect so you can easily find your way back. The main trail is 1.6 miles and you can find the trailhead on either Grand River or Bolt Dr.

Egypt Valley Trails

running trails

Not only can you hit up this 7.1-mile trail for a breathtaking run, but it’s also phenomenal for hiking and biking.  Egypt Valley Trails are located near Ada and feature beautiful wildflowers, wooded terrain, and minimal traffic. They’re accessible year-round and you’ll see numerous activities along the loop. Dogs are allowed but must be kept on a leash.