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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.
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