The White Pine Trail is Michigan's second longest rail-trail, following the former Grand Rapids and Indiana rail bed for 93.5 miles through five counties. This massive trail showcases a variety of landscapes, from swamps to forests to open farmland, plus numerous towns and cities. You will run across existing and in-development trails, too, as this corridor is the backbone of the state rail-trail system.
Currently, the trail offers a mix of paved and unpaved surfaces, so a mountain bike or a hybrid bicycle is best to tackle the distance and terrain. However, by the end of 2015, the corridor’s 40 miles of ballast-, gravel- or grass-surfaced trail will be cleared away and replaced with crushed limestone. The new surface will allow people to travel the entire length from Grand Rapids to Cadillac on any type of bike.
The southern tip of the White Pine Trail is just north of Grand Rapids in Comstock Park. Heading north from here you'll have 21 miles of paved trail through mostly rural terrain. Several historic railroad trestles along the trail's length have been renovated for stream and river crossings. Just 8.2 miles from the trail's start, the town of Rockford has a scenic overlook of the Rogue River Dam, with plenty of picnic tables and benches from which to stop and enjoy the calming sound of the flowing, beautiful water. Heading north from Rockford you pass through small towns, such as Cedar Springs, Pierson and Morley.
Big Rapids is located at mile 53.1 and has the distinction of housing the trail's longest bridge. Whites Bridge spans 319 feet over the Muskegon River. Big Rapids is also home to Ferris State University, which boasts an 880-acre campus with state-of-the-art facilities. Just north of Big Rapids is Paris; here the trail runs directly through Paris Park, which features camp-in-cabins, a canoe launch and a fishing concession along the banks of the Muskegon River.
Heading north to Reed City, trail users can catch a view of the Yoplait Yogurt factory. A covered bridge is your ticket over the Hersey River in Reed City. Reed City is also on the east-west route of the Pere Marquette Rail-Trail.
The tiny village of Tustin, at mile 83, has a wonderful railroad museum. Heading north another 11.2 miles takes you to the trail's ends in Cadillac but not before circling around Lake Cadillac, where you can enjoy swimming beaches and an outdoor amphitheater for concerts.
Only a determined few will ride the White Pine Trail in one fell swoop. A slower approach, using the many campgrounds or bed-and-breakfast inns along the way, allows you to soak up this trail's rural natural beauty and small town charm. Another benefit to taking your time is that it increases your chances of spotting the tiny endangered Karner Blue Butterfly.
Winter travelers: take note that, when there are four or more inches of snow on the trail, snowmobiles are allowed from Russell Road (north of downtown Rockford) to the trail's north endpoint in Cadillac.
Parking and access to the trail is provided at each community along the trail. Camping is available in Belmont, Cedar Springs, Sand Lake, Morley, Paris, Reed City, Hersey, Evart and Cadillac.
To reach the trailhead at Comstock Park (space for about 50 cars), take US Highway 131 to West River Drive Exit 91. Turn right onto West River Drive and go for either 0.6 mile (if from southbound ramp) or 0.9 miles (if from northbound ramp) to the traffic light at Mill Creek Avenue and 4 Mile Road. Turn slight left on Mill Creek; the parking lot is about 500 feet farther on the left. You will have to drive about 600 feet to the north to cross over the trail to the parking area.
To reach the northern endpoint in Cadillac, take US Highway 131 north and exit at State Route 115; go northwest for 0.5 mile. Take North 41 Road 1 mile north to North 44 Road and go west on North 44 Road about 0.5 mile.
To reach the Big Rapids trailhead, take US Highway 131 to Big Rapids Exit 139. Take State Highway 20 east to Maple Street. Proceed straight for 0.1 mile to the depot staging area and turn south.
To reach the Belmont access (restrooms, drinking fountain, parking for about 100 cars), take US Highway 131 to Post Drive Exit 95; turn east onto Post Drive and go for 1 mile (from northbound US 131) or 1.2 miles (from southbound US 131). The road changes names to Jupiter Avenue where it curves to the right and heads south. Continue another 0.1 mile on Jupiter Avenue and turn left onto Belmont Center Drive. Go 0.2 mile east to Belmont Avenue and turn right. Continue a short distance south to the trail crossing (approximately 6260 Belmont Avenue). Turn left immediately upon crossing the trail; parking is about 300 feet to the northeast.