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he automotive industry has the most impact on Macomb County’s economy, but it’s the freshly picked apples and squeezed cider that leave lasting impressions on visitors to the Macomb Orchard Trail. Named for southeastern Michigan’s heritage of bountiful apple and peach production, the 24-mile paved trail runs from Rochester’s suburbs in metro Detroit to farms and forestland surrounding Richmond.
The trail follows the path of the Michigan Air Line Railroad, which connected Romeo with Richmond by rail in 1871 in an attempt to build a cross-state railroad. The Grand Trunk Western Railroad took control in 1881 and held on to it as a subsidiary of Canadian National Railway in 1971. Trail supporters urged Macomb County elected officials to buy the rail bed when the Canadian National put it up for sale in 1998.
Beginning on the outskirts of Rochester, you’ll start at the junction of the Clinton River Trail and the Macomb Orchard Trail on Dequindre Road, where a barn roof–shaped gateway arch is emblazoned with the trail’s name. The trail heads northeast through suburban sprawl for about 7 miles on a paved trail and multiuse paths/wide sidewalks until it reaches orchard country.
Your first orchard stand—Verellen Orchards—is 0.1 mile north from the trail crossing with Van Dyke Road. Another mile up the trail at 30 Mile Road crossing, you’ll find the sixth-generation Westview Orchards by taking a 0.3-mile side trip west. Pick-yourself apples, peaches, cherries, and strawberries are available in season, and a cider mill operates in the fall.
At mile 10, you arrive at the trailhead in Romeo, settled in 1822, and a stop on the Underground Railroad. A half mile east is the town’s Main Street historic district, where you’ll find antiques shops and cafés in buildings that represent a mix of nine architectural styles.
Leaving town, the trail passes a Ford Motor engine factory. Then, for the next 6 miles to Armada, the trail is surrounded by farmland. The brush and tree cover around the trail gets thicker too, as the utility lines above your head since Rochester leave the trail for another corridor. Food is available in Armada about a half mile north of the trail via Church Street. One of the houses you’ll pass is an old railroad depot erected in 1924 and relocated to Church Street after passenger and mail service ended.
If there seems to be a lot of activity for such a small town, you might have arrived in August during the Armada Fair, an annual event since 1872, or the Lions Club Cider Dayze, also in August, or the Apple Fest in October.
Back on the trail, you’ll resume a route through woodlots and farmland for 6.7 miles to the gazebo at the trailhead in Richmond. This town, included in the Detroit metro area, also celebrates its agricultural roots at the Good Old Days Festival.
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