Bay County Riverwalk/Railtrail System


Bay County Riverwalk/Railtrail System Facts

States: Michigan
Counties: Bay
Length: 17.5 miles
Trail end points: W. Youngs Ditch Rd. (Bay City) and Killarney Beach Rd. (Tobico Marsh)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt, Boardwalk, Concrete
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6016105
Trail activites: Bike, Inline Skating, Wheelchair Accessible, Walking, Cross Country Skiing

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Bay County Riverwalk/Railtrail System Description

The Bay County Riverwalk/Railtrail System shows community at its best, offering plenty of sights, sounds and activities along its route through Bay City and its parks, and through the residential and agricultural areas of Portsmouth, Hampton and Bangor townships. There are dozens of places to access and jump off the trail, and each one offers convenient parking and facilities, as well as clear signs to help you navigate the route.

The trail's striking scenery is as diverse as the type of path you will follow. As scenery changes from woodlands and marshes to riverfront views and ball fields, the trail surface changes from asphalt to sidewalk alongside major roads, to boardwalk along the waterfront and back to asphalt through the residential neighborhoods and rural township lands.

The trail is shaped like a noose, with access points all along it. One starting point is on the northern end at the Bay City State Recreation Area (fee parking) where you will be treated to a sweeping vista of Saginaw Bay and the adjacent Tobico Marsh. In the first mile, the path—also known as the Frank N. Andersen Nature Trail—connects with hiking trails to the west and an overlook platform with views of the marsh and the bay. Keep your eyes out for the interpretive signs along the trail, and stop to visit the nature center with its exhibits on what there is to see while you are here in this unique topography.

After 2.5 miles you leave the recreation area and travel through fields of wildflowers along a utility corridor that travels to downtown Bay City. At mile 7, follow the wide sidewalk connectors to and through Bay City's commercial and entertainment district, where you can access ball fields, a skate park and playgrounds at Defoe Park.

A half mile later you arrive at Liberty Bridge, which marks the start of the 9.5-mile Bay City Loop part of the system, traveling through downtown and the surrounding agricultural lands. A half mile into this loop, you reach the heart of downtown, where eateries will tempt you with a variety of ethnic cuisine.

From downtown, the trail continues to a bustling marina and the popular waterfront Veteran's Memorial Park, featuring beautiful gardens, riverside benches and memorials of shipbuilding days gone by. The waterfront section features several ball fields, picnic areas and playgrounds.

At mile 9 bird-watchers will enjoy the stretch of trail that follows a boardwalk for a few blocks over the Saginaw River. A mile later, the trail courses through a distinctly residential district, where private gardens are resplendent with delightfully bright blooms. After Youngs Ditch Road near mile 13, and about halfway through the loop, the corridor opens up for a smooth pass through agricultural lands and countryside that will appeal to nature lovers.

Be sure to print a copy of the trail map before you go. The map consists of 4 pages and covers the loop as well as the newer extension to the Bay City State Recreation Area.

Parking and Trail Access

The easiest access point for the trail is in Bay City at Veterans Memorial Park. Coming from the north or south, take Interstate 75 to Bay City and take Exit 162. Go east (toward Bay City) on Business I-75/State Route 25 for 2.5 miles. This becomes Thomas Street in town. When you reach John F. Kennedy Drive, you can turn left or right to either of the park's entrances.

Bay County Riverwalk/Railtrail System Reviews

We decided to do this trail in October as we thought the fall color would be pretty. The weather had other ideas though. The day was cloudy, breezy and cool....but we still ventured out. We started at Veterans Park and went counter clockwise around the loop. This took us through residential areas. There were many benches along the way to rest along with drinking fountains. There were also little parks mixed in with the trail. The colors along the route were pretty. We had the trail virtually to ourselves (probably due to the weather). As we made our way outside of town and towards the state park the breeze made it more difficult to ride (we commented on how nice it would be on the way back). We were very disappointed when we reached the end off of Killareny Beach road. There was no beach access. After all that and we could not get to the water. We ventured off the trail to the Tobico Marsh Nature trail. Climbing to the top of the overlook platform gave us a nice view of the marsh. We made it back to the riverfront and wound our way through the parks until we reached where we parked. What an enjoyable ride! The trail was well maintained (there were places that were in need of repair but for the most part it was in good shape). There were not many shaded areas but I would like to go back in the warm weather and see what the city has to offer along the river.

Our family did the 9.5 mile Bay City rail trail loop. Our family enjoyed this trail and found that going through a city with lots of riverfront makes it unique and interesting. We disagree with other reviewers who did not recommend this trail for children. Our children, ages 7 and 9 enjoyed this trail and we felt that we were safe on it.

However, please note the following. First, there are two main bridges, Liberty Bridge on the north and Lafayette Ave on the South. You are crossing these bridges with traffic on narrow sidewalks adjacent to traffic lanes and will need to walk your bikes across these. We were there on a Sunday afternoon in June (12:30pm-4pm) and yes, it is a city with traffic, but the traffic is not very heavy. There were about 5 crossings of roads where we had to wait for traffic to pass before crossing, all of the rest of the crossings we would arrive and there was no traffic at all. Kids may not be used to this if they normally have been riding more rural trails. So before we started, we talked about walking bikes over bridges and having Daddy be the leader at all road crossings where we looked carefully in both directions and then all crossed together. With these rules in place, we did not have issues. We did not feel unsafe around the people on this trail either. There were lots of cyclists and walkers on all parts of the trail on Sunday afternoon and all appeared to be friendly.

Except for bridge crossings, all of the rail-trail that goes through the city is an extra wide sidewalk that is well marked with many signs and spray painted arrows on the trail. There are many little circle “pocket parks” throughout the city on this trail that have landscaping and benches and many of these also had water fountains. This trail had more water fountains than we have seen on other trails. There is one section of the trail that crosses beside Pizza restaurants and other fast food (Center Ave, near letter “i” on map) if you get hungry. On the north side of Veterans Park, near Liberty Bridge, the rail trail crosses right beside a miniature golf-arcade-ice cream stand (near letter “n” on the map).

We parked in Veteran’s Park and went south, to Bigelow Park and around the loop. We would recommend that route for kids, because you end up near the ice cream stand-miniature golf place at the end of your ride, a great reward stop for a ride! If you child is not ready for a full 9.5 mile ride, we recommend just riding the west side of this loop starting at Veteran’s park and heading to Bigelow Park and then stopping there (about 2 miles---marks “n” to “c” on the map). You won’t be in any traffic and can make playground and ice cream stops and have a fun afternoon and a great introduction to riding.


We parked at the M15 parking lot and went clockwise around the loop. The trail was flat for the most part except slight inclines over the bridges. Because a lot of the trail is in a residential area and shares sidewalks you need to pay attention to trail markers. The trail could be better marked but if you watch close you should be ok and not leave the trail. Had a nice picnic along the river with a great view. Next trip will be in the summer when the river will be full of boaters having fun. If you plan to make the entire loop please take heed of this warning. This trail crosses many busy roads and the bridge sidewalks are very narrow and real close to fast moving vehicles. I would recommend you DO NOT take any child under the age of 13 on the entire loop. That being understood the trail has a lot to offer and I highly recommend you add this trail to your list of trails to ride.

Has too many crossroads. Crosses many busy roads. Not recommended for kids.

I put my bike in the back of the truck and go up to the nearest place to park from my house, about 10 miles. Today I did 12.5 miles on a recumbent bike. There's plenty of shady spots to stop and rest, drinking fountains and bathrooms, though I wish there were a few more of those. Along the river you get to enjoy a good view and a good breeze off the water. Lots of people use it so you can always find someone to talk to if you want. Everyone says hi when you pass them. I'm thinking of adding the Trail System to my WILL and leave money to help maintain it for others in the future to enjoy. Thanks for a good thing.

I have no idea what some folks are talking about. Perhaps if I was ant-sized (as in Honey I Shrunk the Kids) the miniscule imperfections might pose some minor inconvenience but this fortunately is not the case. This trail has hardly a blemish. It is a fantastic ride/walk showcasing the town and local nature areas. I highly recommend this ride for any type of bike/rider. I've been enjoying this route for years and hope further additions are made.

The entrance to the trail looked good so I wanted to try it out. Big mistake. The trail has deep cracks running from one side to the other every foot or so, broken up glass, and lots of meandering people. Not a good ride at all...especially if you're on a road bike. Mountain bikes or cruisers might be a better fit for this trail. There was some nice looking homes along the way, but overall it was one of the worst rides I've been on in years. Will use the trail for occasional walks, but not for riding.

The Family and I took our bikes for a ride here today, lots of birds to see and hear. Very clean trail, no trash anywhere.

Part of this ride are nice. The Northern section through the Marsh and the dirt section near the marsh are worth the ride. The Bay City Loop is not so great because you are in to much car traffic and city streets

Please note spelling for this Trail. It's a pleasant walk from the visitor centre at the Bay City State Park north along this trail. It would make for a very easy family cycling journey. At about the midpoint of the trail, a path leads off to the left through a marsh towards an observation deck, a nice spot for birdwatching or just enjoying the sights and sounds of the marsh. It is best approached from the south trailhead, as there is ample parking in the State Park.

I ride this at least 5 times a week all spring summer fall love this trail. It is easy to connect from this trail to the one that goes out to state park also using the light on Wilder Rd at Patterson you can see the trailhead of the other trail.

I've ridden the Bay City loop twice, and loved it both times. It is nice to be make a loop without having to back track over the same trail to get back to the car. There is plenty of great parking spots along the river, and the trail goes through a combination of neighborhoods and a woods area. Another nice feature of this trail is that you can bike into downtown at both bridges where there are restaurants, ice cream shops, and shopping. Traffic in the city has been minimal on the two weekends I was there, and it was easy and safe to ride into the downtown area.

"I was in Bay City today and explored a small distance of the trail. I was so facinated I came home and looked for the map on the internet since I plan to return and bicycle the whole trail this summer, I was disappointed that I can hardly read the map because the print is so small."

"I live within walking distance of this trail in Bay City and it is great. The trail is paved with asphalt and goes through neighborhoods, into the country by farm fields and then back into the city again. It connects to the Riverwalk in Bay City by way of sidewalks on two bridges. You can see a map of this trail at the Bay Area Community Foundations homepage"

I was ordered to check this trail out. I got distracted the first time. It was snowed in the 2nd time. But do so want to RIDE it! It looks very inviting.

The newer section of the trail by Essexville is O.K. but there's not much shade. The downtown Bay City sections are fair at best. On a scale of one to ten I would rate this trail a seven on its best day.

"From my review last year, the rail-trail was completed last fall. It now makes a complete 10-mile loop. The ride is even better now."

"I only live a few miles from the M-15 trailhead and have ridden it numerous times. It is a well maintained ashphalt trail, which runs partly on an old railroad grade. One thing which is not mentioned, is the trail also connects to the Bay City River Walk, which is an additional 4 miles that runs along the Saginaw River in downtown Bay City. There's plenty too see and do, restaraunts and parks along the way. It's well worth the ride."

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