It’s no secret that Michigan is a great trail state, hosting more than 2,400 miles of rail-trails, and exciting developing trail network projects like the Great Lake-to-Lake Trails, which is building momentum. The initiative includes plans for five developing routes connecting dozens of trails across the state. Showcased below are just a few of the many rail-trails to be explored in Route #1, which spans 275 miles across the entire Lower Peninsula from Lake Michigan to Lake Huron. And as a nod to winter—we thought we’d showcase some of the snowy wonderlands to be found there this season.
Kal-Haven Trail Sesquicentennial State Park
The cross-state route gets off to a great start with the Kal-Haven Trail, which begins in South Haven on the shores of Lake Michigan. From there, the crushed-stone pathway heads 34 miles east, connecting a handful of charming Midwestern towns and traveling through open farmland and canopied woodlands on its way to Kalamazoo, where a refurbished caboose serves as a visitor center. In the winter, the trail—managed by the state’s department of natural resources—can be enjoyed for cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.
Kalamazoo River Valley Trail
With vibrant Kalamazoo at its center and forested trail spiraling out to the city’s east, west and north, the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail offers the best of both worlds: a scenic quiet experience, plus lots of urban amenities. Operated as a Kalamazoo County Park, the trail is a true outdoor gem; the nearly 21-mile paved pathway connects several parks and winds along its namesake river for much of its journey. When the snow hits, the trail is not plowed, so it offers a winter’s paradise for nonmotorized uses such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Mike Levine Lakelands Trail State Park
A panoply of picturesque backdrops keeps this 26-mile rail-trail experience fun: lush woodlands, rolling farmland, creeks, small ponds, a chain of lakes, wildlife-rich marshes—it’s all here. Located in southeast Michigan, the Mike Levine Lakelands Trail State Park, named after one of the state’s trail champions, is bookended by two small towns, Munith and Hamburg (north of Ann Arbor). In winter, it’s a popular spot for cross-country skiing.
Huron Valley Trail
The Huron Valley Trail offers a pleasant natural escape tucked into the Detroit suburbs. The 12-mile paved route forms a “Y” shape anchored by South Lyon on its southern end. Connecting several parks, this community gem provides access to many recreational amenities for residents and visitors, including sports facilities, picnic shelters, swimming opportunities and a golf course. With its close proximity to neighborhoods, it makes a great option for getting out of the house in the winter for a brisk walk or ski.
Clinton River Trail
Spanning 16 miles, the Clinton River Trail connects a handful of cities between Sylvan Lake and Rochester in the north Detroit metro area. Paralleling and frequently crossing its eponymous waterway, the rail-trail provides an escape into nature for residents by connecting them to parks and other greenspace. Celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2019, the trail is a well-established local favorite. Volunteers with the Friends of the Clinton River Trail often host outings on the pathway, including community events to ski, snowshoe or take a snowy hike in the winter.