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The Fred Meijer Grand River Valley Rail Trail is one component of a network of trails in mid-west Michigan that, when complete, will stretch 125 miles from Alma to Owosso. The trails are named after Fred Meijer, the grocery magnate and philanthropist who generously contributed financially to the development of the trail system.
The Grand River Valley Rail Trail extends from Ionia to Lowell, passing through Saranac on the way. Although taking a more direct route, the trail runs in the same general direction as the Grand River.
As of 2014, the easternmost 8 miles of the trail are improved. They include 1 mile of asphalt through the village of Saranac, 2 miles of asphalt heading into the city of Ionia, and 5 miles of crushed limestone in between. The remaining miles still have the original railroad ballast. While open to the public, this section of trail is best suited to sturdy hiking boots and mountain bikes.
The highlight of the trail is its trek through the Ionia State Recreation Area, which features a mixture of open fields and dense woodlands, as well as recreational access to the Grand River. The scenic area, filled with wildflowers, waterfowl and other wildlife, spans much of the distance between Ionia and Saranac.
In Ionia, the trail links with the Fred Meijer CIS Trail, which opened in 2015 and heads east through St. Johns to Owosso. In Lowell, the Grand River Valley Rail Trail will ultimately connect to the Fred Meijer Flat River Valley Rail Trail, which will whisk trail users north through Belding to Greenville.
Dedicated trail parking is not yet available at either end of the Fred Meijer Grand River Valley Rail Trail, but parking is plentiful in downtown Ionia, just a few blocks north of the corridor.
We tried to go West from Saranac, but the trail was unfit for riding. The Michigan Trails book said it was going to be finished by June 2019, so we wanted to give it a try. Not able to ride it. We rode on April 22, 2019.
Going East from Saranac was great. The crushed concrete was in good shape. Of course not quite the same as the paved areas, but really quite enjoyable. No traffic through the Ionia State Wildlife area, very peaceful and enjoyable. Nice bridge over the busy M66 highway in Ionia.
This is a nice trail with trail access in both towns and at the Ionia State Recreation picnic area off Riverside Dr between the 2 towns. The Park is a nice place to stop for a picnic (has a covered pavilion) and to use the restrooms. Signage is poor on the trail, but at the crossroads, you head south to the picnic area off Riverside Dr, or north to a primitive boat launch on the Grand River.
We live in the Lowell area and I was excited to find this new trail for us to ride. But when we went to the beginning (corner of Grand River and Montalm Ave) all we found was an overgrown area that once was rr tracks. It was piled with loose rocks and there was no way you'd be able to ride a bike on it. We were disappointed. Hopefully it gets finished soon. The section starting in Saranac heading to Ionia good though. We ride that often.
I love riding this trail. You do need bug spray and I suggest you find a spot for it on your bike as it does ware off. Last summer it ended at Burger King, With the Bridge finished over 66 I am looking forward to a longer ride. I have to say a bathroom stop in the middle woul be nice.
I love the ride from Saranac to Ionia and back. Granted there are days the Mosquitoes will carry you off you need bug spray and sunscreen. I see a lot of wild life. I wish they would finish the trail to Lowell.
This trail is my favorite thing about living in Ionia! So far, I have only ridden this trail to Saranac and back since I usually have road tires on my bike and the stretch to Lowell is unimproved. This ride is a decent workout without being overwhelming and I haven't noticed any flooding like the Ionia River Trail experiences.
I rode this trail on the longest day of 2014. I started in Ionia, rode to Saranac where I got a snack, and then rode back. (rhymes are intentional.)
About half of this trail has tree cover, but for the rest of it, the sun will bake you in the summer. It is wide, totally flat, and had few other riders. Mile markers help you know where you are. Mile 125 = Ionia, Mile 132 = Saranac.
This is a nice leisurely ride offering mostly woodland scenery. The Grand River, for which it is named, is rarely visible.
Rode this trail today with a road bike with 28 mm tires, a very smooth and wide trail, can be ridden with almost any bicycle. Other than totally paved trails this is one of the better trails I have ridden.
Just getting a new hybrid bike, this trail is great with both paved and crushed limestone. I just started riding it this year, since it was completed last year and I am glad it is there now. So nice to have a place to ride and very serene as it follows the river!
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