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The paved Fred Meijer Heartland Trail rolls for 42 miles through farmland and forests in central Michigan as it links a half-dozen rural towns with recreational opportunities. Its route follows the corridors of two Pere Marquette Railroad branches that crossed in Edmore with connections to Grand Rapids in the south and Saginaw in the east. In 1947, the railroad merged into the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, later to become the Chessie System. CSX Transportation ended up with the rail lines in 1986, and they fell into disuse by 1994.
Midwest grocery-store magnate Fred Meijer, who got his start working in the family store in Greenville, and his wife, Lena, helped buy the former rail bed, which Rails-to-Trails Conservancy held until a citizens group could take over the trail’s development and operation in 2000. Another purchase in 2005 completed the trail from Greenville to Edmore to Alma.
The trail meets both the Fred Meijer Flat River Trail and the Fred Meijer Flat River Valley Rail Trail in Greenville. The three trails, along with the Fred Meijer Grand River Valley Rail Trail and the Fred Meijer Clinton-Ionia-Shiawassee Trail farther south, are components of the Fred Meijer Mid-West Michigan Trail Network, which will eventually stretch 125 miles from Owosso to Alma.
Technically, the trail begins on the north side of East Washington Street, just north of Jackson’s Landing Park, but note that parking near the endpoint is available only on the south side of East Washington Street. Here, the trail meets with the northern endpoint of the Fred Meijer Flat River Valley Rail Trail, which heads south to Lowell and crosses the Fred Meijer Flat River Trail, which circles Greenville. Heading north, you’ll pass an old railroad depot at East Grove and North Court Streets and cross the Flat River on a restored trestle. Here, at Water Works Park, you’ll find Little League fields and more public parking.
A trail interruption creates a 2.1-mile detour on bike lanes on Peck and South Lake Roads until you regain the trail for a peaceful stretch through prime farmland, woods, wildlife areas, wetlands, and small historic towns. A side trip on Sidney Road visits the Heritage Village at Montcalm Community College, where a cluster of 28 historical buildings depict life at the turn of the 20th century.
Before arriving in Stanton, you’ll cross Fish Creek on an 1880 trestle that was relocated here from Greenville. You’ll find a variety of eateries in Stanton and McBride, and in between you may be surprised by roaring dragsters at the Mid Michigan Motorplex.
The railroad crossroads town of Edmore is roughly halfway. You’ll find more places to eat here, as well as eclectic memorabilia at the Old Fence Rider Historical Center on South Sheldon Street. In about 3 miles, you’ll cross County Road 575 just 200 feet south of the trail’s oddest landmark, a two-story outhouse. Legend has it that a local businessman built it next to his two-story office/home so his family could have a private upstairs entrance.
The trail passes through Vestaburg State Game Area for 2.5 miles. Many white-tailed deer, foxes, muskrats, and other animals can be seen here. Ten miles past Edmore, you’ll pass a restored one-room schoolhouse in Riverdale. The town of Elwell, 2 miles farther, has limited services for trail users, but your journey ends 4 miles later in Alma, home of Alma College and the Highland Festival, as well as cafés, grocery stores, and a bike shop.
To reach the southern trailhead at Jackson’s Landing in Greenville from US 131 in Cedar Springs, take Exit 101 for MI 57 toward Kent B72/Greenville/Sparta, and head east on MI 57/14 Mile Road NE/E. Washington St. for 16.9 miles. Turn right into Jackson’s Landing Park, which is just before the intersection with the Fred Meijer Heartland Trail.
To reach parking at the northern endpoint in Alma from US 127, take Exit 123 in Alma, and head west on Bus. US 27/E. Lincoln Road. Go 2.9 miles, and turn left onto N. State St. Go 2 blocks, turn right onto Mechanic St., and then go 2 more blocks and turn right onto Park Ave. Turn right into the parking area.
Rode this trail on a Friday in late April. We had the trail to ourselves. Did not see another person for the first 13 miles. With the exception of when we went through the small towns we probably saw no more than ten people over 67 round trip miles. We did see deer, wild turkey, blue heron, and a snapping turtle. Trail is all paved, well maintained, flat, and pretty straight. Nice bridges. Great ride.
Rode from Alma to Edmore and back. Trail in good condition. Shaded. Well marked. On weekends I start in Albion on campus at the Alma College Heritage Center parking lot. The nearby building is often open (to use the bathroom!!) Some of the crossings over dirt roads are a little soft
I biked this trail today from Greenville to Vestaburg and back. I had planned on going all the way to Alma and back but wussed out at Vestaburg. This is a great trail. It is in decent shape (some rough areas, but really nothing to complain about). The road crossings are not overly annoying, but a few require caution. The towns of Greenville, Stanton, Edmore and Vestaburg are all adorable. I have found two ice cream parlors - one right along the trail in Stanton (how great is that AND they have frozen yogurt) and one a block off the trail in Vestaburg. If you start in Greenville take a spin around the Flat River trail as well, it's a slow roll because of the curves and fair amount of pedestrain traffic, but it is a nice way to finish the long ride.
Biked from Edmore to Alma and back today. The trail is in very good condition..smooth, fast, and hardly any bumps from tree roots. I especially like the signposts at almost every crossing that state the miles to the next town. I wish all the trails would have that...very nice.
In response to the comment below by buddy 2282..."I think you need to put something to make the biker dismount when they cross highways with 55 MPH posted speeds."
My answer is yep and the same should be true for the motorists...passengers would be exempt, of course.
Took a 25 mile ride from Greenville to Stanton and back. Really great ride, with the whole trail paved nicely. There are some cool creeks over historical bridges that you pass over. Short paths will actually take you right down to waters edge. I am looking forward to riding the whole trail in the near future!
I was pretty shocked to see the drag strip at some point on the trail. All of the sudden there's to cars barreling down a track heading right for us! We all had a good laugh and watch for a bit before heading on (even though you are not supposed to do so). Overall it's a pretty nice trail and someone had even set up misters on one section that felt really nice on a hot day.
Started in Sidney - our destination was to Alma and back. Our trail head parking lot did not post anything about not leaving a car overnight, like some do. We had our camping gear on the bikes. It was a rare 3 days in November with warm sunny temperatures. Rode around downtown Edmore and went to McDonald's for a parfait…good stuff.
We found a good spot for an early camp just east of Edmore, got the tent set up and made a campfire to cook over. Great star filled night with some weird bird(?) noises.
The next day we stopped in Vestaburg and went to 3D’s pizza where they let us fill our water bottles and we bought a coffee. Pizza looked good but it was not time to eat yet. Next we stopped at Riverdale Tavern for a beer. They serve all kinds of food and the inside was decorated in “up north” character. Interesting place to stop.
Next town was Elwell not much there but the Ghost Town Saloon. We went in for a beer and the bartender sat down and talked to us the whole time. Of course there was no one else there. I did notice they have very cheap food specials most days. Still it was not time to eat.
Next town would be our 2nd night of camping…but where? We wanted to stay close so going into town in the evening would be easy. So after looking at Google earth, there was a large woods next to Pine River Park. We set up at dusk, took a 15 minute nap and headed into town. Several good possibilities according to Yelp, but we were very hungry and went to China Buffet for $8.50…what a deal. Great tasting food, all hot and fresh. Some of the larger shrimp I have seen at a buffet. Thumbs up!
Next we went to Alma Brewing Company…they had a pint on sale for $3.50 and it was very good. Nice chatty bartender and relaxed atmosphere.
Next day we got up at sunrise and started the 35 miles back to Sidney.
Observations….Trail was in very good shape…we found many side trips along the trail to make it more interesting..I only listed some of the places we went. Try and find the 2 story outhouse…its not quite where it’s suppose to be.
Tips…would not recommend this ride during rifle deer season..mid November..there are tree stands everywhere. Water can be gotten at most businesses with a small purchase as a thank you. Explore the towns and everything else.
Biked this trail today from Greenville to McBride and back...a very nice trail and didn't see another cyclist the whole way, even though it was a perfect fall day. Instead of parking in Greenville..next time I would take Peck to Ferris and use the small parking area there. That would eliminate the couple miles of shared road drive and the crossing of M-91 which can be a long wait (4 lanes- no light)
Cycled from Greenville to Stanton - very level trail with nice scenery once you get out of Greenville. Note that new trail parking is available off of M-91 just to the left after the trail crosses M-91. If you pass the Pizza Hut you missed it!! Use this intead of parking at Water Works Park. No bathroom facilities though.
I got on this trail in Greenville & rode to Syndney. This is a great trail & lots of scenery after you get out of the town. :)
I rode on this trail last weekend ( 19th July 2014). I started at Alma, and rode upto Stanton, MI and back. The trail was in excellent condition. Congrats to the folks who maintain it. You are doing a great job. I was hoping there would be a lot more folks using the trail since it was a weekend and the weather was ideal. To my surprise I was alone for most of the time on the trail.
Watch out for intersections with country roads. There is loose gravel/sand and you need to slow down.
Other than the wild flowers and the farms, not much of a scenery.
But for occasional cracks and bumps the surface was very nice all through the ride.
There are several road crossing in Gratiot County where it is impossible to see anyone on the trail. The posted speed is 55 mph and the other day on my way home I almost hit a biker who never stopped at the highway. I think you need to put something to make the biker dismount when they cross highways with 55 MPH posted speeds. Also it would be a big help if the brush ane trees were trimmed back so you could see a biker coming. These crossings are an accident waiting to happen.
We rode 82 miles from Alma to Greenville and back on a lovely day and enjoyed this trail which cuts through a narrow wooded strip between farmlands and is smooth, shaded, and quiet for many miles. Unlike road riding, you can pedal alongside your friend and have a nice conversation. Towns along the way have restaurants. If you have narrow tires, take care at some road crossings which have sandy patches.
Completed the Stanton to Greenville portion of the trail. The scenery (even on a blistering hot day) is stunning. Several rest areas and portable facilities are available along this stretch which is completely paved and very well maintained. Thanks to all the fine folks who work to keep it that way.
there is a 2 story out house jus as you cross cedar lake/academy road about 4 miles east of edmore... its on the left as u go across the road about 40 yards or so... you cant miss it as it sticks up over everything. the whole trail is paved since they paved the rest of it from edmore(neff road) to alma. a lot of open fields and heavy woods/pines from stanton to edmore...if your going on a long walk or a long bike ride make sure to rest well before you leave edmore due to no benches/tables to sit on,more on the benches later in the story.. edmore to vestaburg is mostly swamp land and wet lands with no benches to sit at. once u hit riverdale you have a pavillion like structure with picnic tables and a tavern to eat and drink at.. going past riverdale the next town is elwell which is the first bench and parking that you seen since edmore..after elwell its on to alma where the trail ends.. i rode it taking my time and it took me about 5-6 hours to ride the whole thing... plus stopping resting eating drinking and pottying along the way. when you leave edmore there are no places to potty till vestaburg that is if a store or gas station is open when you travel through there... elwell has a porto john but no drinks unless you go to the ghost town which is south on pingree rd about 3/4-1 mile south.. all in all its a pretty good trail thats all paved and its come along way since i can remember it being all dirt, rocks and weeds..hope this review helps you on your journey :)HAPPY BIKING!!!!!!!
Early October of 2011 we rode 25 miles of it out and back starting at the Lake Road trail-head near Greenville. This was a great trail that ran through a variety of scenery. Farms and forest, a couple stream crossings with small towns along the way. At that time it looked like they were still working on the connection from Lake Road to Greenville. http://locojoe.com
Three cheers!! Extension of the trail from Lake Road into Greenville is currently underway and scheduled to be complete sometime this fall! It will follow Lake Road south, then Peck Road west to the former rail crossing at Peck. From there it will pick up the rail corridor again and follow that to Waterworks Park on the north side of town where it will ramp down to the very scenic Fred Meijer Flat River Trail (see link on this page). Waterworks Park is east off M-91 at the end of Charles Street. Charles Street is about 2 blocks north of the M-91 Flat River Bridge or about 0.6 miles north of M-57.
Rode from Edmore to Alma and back. Very nice ride, pavement all done, will definitely do it again as Edmore is only 40 minutes away. Hope the trail gets finished into Greenville soon.
New portion of the trail is open; at least from Riverdale to a mile west of Vestaburg as of this week. Assume the rest of the trail (to Edmore) is also open, just didn't have time to ride it.
I rode the Riverdale to Alma section today and saw a work crew in Riverdale. The foreman said that the entire section from Alma to Riverdale has been blacktopped but they are still paving the entrances to each section at the crossroads (those parts are cement). He expected to finish the work by the end of July. The work was delayed by heavy Spring rains which flooded one of the low sections.
I concure with the message that the information is not correct. 6-19-11, I rode the trail from edmore past cedar lake area. None of which is blacktopped. It appears that work is being done, like gradging and some gravel or base for paving. I did find that an offroad bike would be fine, i had a road bike and it was passable, but not pleasant.
Please some one post if and when it is paved.
Two weekends ago I rode part of this trail, which is very nice. However I'd like to let everyone know of a inaccurate detail in the description. This trailed is not fully paved from Alma to Edmore yet. It is paved from Alma west about ten miles and then the trail appears to be being prepared to be paved but currently is not. Just a heads up to those looking to ride a road bike on this trail. If someone does see that they finish paving please post it.
5 of us rode part of the trail today and stopped in McBride at the Tavern. EXCELLENT food, service and a good selection on the menu! Made for another great ride on our Michigan Trails
Alma-Riverdale is terrific, and Edmore-Greenville shows the forgotten beauty of Mid-Michigan, with bogs and woods and plenty of wildlife. I understand the section linking the two is scheduled for work now, and I saw that heavy machinery has been down that trail recently when I was out today. When these two are linked, this will be a wonderful resource.
My husband and I took our TerraTrikes on this trail yesterday from Greenville to Edmore and back again. This trail is so well maintained and has beautiful scenery. With all it's benches, a beautiful bridge with picnic area, and numerous towns to stop in along the way, we will definitely use this trail again. We had no problem finding the trailhead just outside Greenville by using the "Get Directions" tab on the map that comes up when you click on a "P". Wonderful! Great ride!
August 23, 2010
Trail runs from Alma to Edmore. Edmore to Greenville. Alma to Edmore in really, really bad shape. Overgrown grass, bad.
From Edmore to Greenville it is great. Wild life in abundance.
We stayed at Maxfields Inn. Would not recommend that. Edmore is very small & not much going on.
Would try staying in Greenville next time.
Only bad thing on trail was the arrival in what we thought would be Greenville. Instead we hit a dirt road with no directions/signs/maps on how to continue to Greenville which was another 5 miles. We ran into local bikers on the trail who said we had to do a bunch of zigzags to reach Greenville. Would have done that if that info would have been available. Other than that the trail was excellent. 35 miles back & forth to Edmore.
We tried to bike from Greenville to Syndey however even in Greenville we had to ask which way to take the trail to Syndey. Once on the trail everything was fine until we found ourselves in the city. No signs directing to where to pickup the trail. Hopefully, we will be able to obtain a map before our next Trip. The part of the trail we did ride is very nice.
We rode the Alma to Riverdale leg round trip on Saturday July 3, 2010 (on bikes). The trail is new and really nice. The trail is not easy to find in the City of Alma if you are not "from there." The parking lot is located just south of the intersection of Park St. and Center Street, cross the tracks and it is on the left side of the street. Good bike shop about 2 blocks from the parking area (Terry's). From there the trail is an extra wide concrete sidewalk that winds through town and Alma College before it changes to asphalt and heads to Elwell and Riverdale. As you go west the trail becomes more shaded. In Riverdale there is a paved parking area and porta john. There was a sign that said that there is a picnic shelter just farther on, although we did not look for it. At the Riverdale stop you are just a block or so north of the Riverdale Tavern (a local favorite for fish fry). There were quite a few people of all ages on the trail as it was a Saturday, but the trail was far from crowded. The asphalt is certainly good enough for skates. The trail west of Bliss Road was very dirty with weeds, sticks, leaves and grass clippings, so skaters may want be aware of this possibility. We found our ride very nice, pretty level, through woods and cropland.
The realively new paved section of the trail that stretches from Riverdale to Alma is a very scenic route that passes through beautiful sections of farmland, woods and open grasslands ending in the city of Alma. There are many highlights including the fish dinners and the Riverdale Tavern and if you need any repairs Terry's Cycling in Alma is an excellent shop that will quickly have you back on the trail again. This is certainly an excellent trail for families since the paved length is approximately 9 miles long (18 round trip).
My husband and I recently rode the paved section between Lake Rd in Greenville and Edmore, about 17.5 miles one way. We started at the Lake Rd end - just be aware that if you're coming from the south east (Lansing) and you're using a GPS, you will most likely end up driving on unpaved roads. This was not great for our little Ford Escort, so to leave we decided to take Peck Rd west to Greenville and thus avoided unpaved roads. If this matters to you, plan your approach through Greenville.
The Lake Rd end holds about 3 cars, same with the other points marked Parking on the trail map. A better parking spot may be where the trail intersects Derby Rd in Sidney (3 miles from Lake Rd), as it appeared to be a business or school with a somewhat large (dirt) parking lot.
The trail was not crowded at all, possibly because it may not be well known. The ride was very pleasant. We stopped to have our picnic at the historic bridge. There are also picnic tables in Stanton and McBride, or at the Depot in Edmore. Make sure to take a detour at Dave's Dairy Delight in Edmore (102 S 1st St). To get there, right where the trail changes direction, we cut through behind the Gilson St warehouse to reach Main St and rode west 5 blocks.
We wish the remaining stretch was paved as well, unfortunately riding there with a road and hybrid bike is not practical.
Work is underway and should be completed this fall to pave about 9 miles of the trail from Alma west to the Gratiot/Montcalm county line (a half mile west of Riverdale). When I road it on August 23, it had been paved west out of Alma to Winans Road (?). From there the gravel base was down to Riverdale with the last half mile only graded. When this section is paved it will leave only about 9 miles unpaved between the county line and Edmore to the west. The plans to eventually connect the southwestern paved section (Edmore to Greenville) with city trails in Greenville will be icing on the cake.
I actually started this time at Bass Lake (just west of Vestaburg) and rode to Alma and back (26 mile round trip). The trail was decent packed gravel until crossing Crystal Road on the east side of Vestaburg. There it turned ugly. The trail was completely overgrown with brush and tall weeds as high as my shoulders for the first couple hundred yards. When I emerged I had to laugh at myself because the entire front of me was covered with large burrs. From there to the county line it was a blast on my Giant Sedona ‘comfort’ mountain bike riding a lot of little dips and humps. The trail was now clear but still lined with trees and/or woods both sides. There were a few loose stones but most of the surface was packed. I don’t normally like to see a trail heavily used by ATV’s but much of this section wouldn’t be ride-able if they didn’t use it also.
By the time you read this the rest of the way to Alma will probably be paved. It is a great ride passing through some nice country alternating between woods (lots of ‘canopy’ sections), farm fields and the two small towns of Riverdale and Elwell. Take time to enjoy the scenery from the bridge over the Pine River near Riverdale.
Recent years I have really enjoyed riding from Greenville to Bass Lake between Edmore and Vestaburg. Agreeing with comments from other riders, the paved section to Edmore is a great ride. Early August seems to be prime time for wildflowers. But an unsung section that is not for the faint of heart (but one of my favorites) is from Edmore to Bass Lake. It passes through a beautiful area of the Vestaburg State Game Area. I can almost guarantee that you will see wildlife along this stretch. It is unpaved and a portion is not even navigable by tractors with brush hogs so it is not maintained and is usually quite wet. I had to carry my bike across water running across the trail between wetlands on either side. Although you are less than a mile from M46, you feel like you are miles from civilization. It is quite an adventure!
"The Morning Sun Newspaper has an excellent article concerning the segment of trail that will be moving through Edmore this spring.
The article in the Morning Sun was printed on January 29,2007 and is written by staff writer RoseMary Horvath.
According to the article, there is a stretch that goes through the downtown area that has dilapidated building that will be demolished along with the purchase of property from Anderson Agra Group. This will bring the trail up to Edmore by sometime early summber. Also included in the plan is a parking area and a park. Hopefully in the next several years the remaining portion will be completed through Alma. Something wonderful to look foward to in the Mid-Michigan area."
"The paved section of this trail from McBride to just north of Greenville is one of the nicest streches of paved trail in the state. It is not as flat as many other trails, but has nice, long sections with no road crossings.
Stanton makes a fine halfway rest point."
"I biked the paved portion of the trail on a windy morning. This trail is extremely rural. It will be a great trail one day when it has connections to GR to the southwest and Alma to the northeast. It took me forever to find the trail head. There is no signage to the trail. The only signs are when your crossing the actual trail. The western trail head is on a dirt road that is not marked very well. I decided to drive to Sidney and park there. However, at every cross road there are one or two parking spots. A nice feature that most trails dont have. Id recommed parking at McDonalds in Stanton. Very well marked cross road, but alot of the crossing are rough dirt roads. If you live in the GR area get to this trail. For the rest of us that dont live near GR can do without the trail in its current state. I'd give the trail a 6 out of 10."
" We took the trail from the Stanton praking lot toward McBride with our 8 and 10 year old children. Perfect afternoon, low traffic on the trail and cross roads. Trail well maintained and clean. Added treat of the ""back door"" peek of the Raceway. Kids loved it! Lunch at Stanton McDonalds made end to one of my best Father's Days ever. "
"My wife and I walked the trail at Riverdale heading east for three miles. There is picturesque view of the Pine River at the bridge with plenty of wild life. We did our walk on Friday May 27, 2005 on a very beautiful sunny day. We suggest stopping at the Riverdale Bar for an excellent fish dinner."
"This is one of the best trails in Michigan. It goes through some great hunting country and 3 small towns. The signage could be a little better and it would be nice to see a water fountain and rest rooms along the way. I saw 11 deer while riding in the late afternoon and enjoyed this trail very much.
Make sure you check out Fred Meijer Heartland Trail's Web site for detailed information, and I suggest you park and start in McBride or Stanton.
Take your camera on this one! One of the reasons it is so nice is because the trail doesn't not allow snowmobiling -- and this rule is enforced!"
"We rode this trail on a Friday afternoon. It was perfect weather, and there weren't many people on the trail. I believe this trail is wider than the Hart/Montague, which seemed nice. We only went about 10 miles, starting from Sydney Rd. I was kind of disappointed that there isn't more of a staging area on Lake Rd. There is room for only about two cars to park, maybe a few more if you chose to park along the sides of the road. Too bad the property owner won't let the trail continue on toward Greenville area to connect with the trail in town. Maybe in years to come, huh?
Over all, it was an enjoyable ride, we hope to go the distance on this trail at a later date."
"My husband and I have spent many relaxing Saturdays pedaling the Fred Meijer trail which is located near our cottage. In September we had a group ranging in age from age 6 to 60 on the trail with us. Our daughter-in-law even pushed our four month old grandson in the carriage on the trail.
We have made many fond memories traveling the trail. One day we saw a lonely fawn who was resting near the bridge in some high grass pop its head up to see who was coming. Another time we had 3 deer run across the trail in front of us. Another day I had a close encounter with a skunk who was sauntering across the trail. I came within 6 feet of it but it did not seem alarmed by our bikes and after giving me a dirty look it continued on its way across the trail.
We enjoy stopping in McBrides for lunch at the local tavern. In Sidney on a very cold Saturday morning we were desperate for a cup of coffee and knocked on the door of the Sidney Bar. We were invited in and given a free cup of coffee and a woman working at the bar entertained us with some very interesting stories while we warmed up.
One winter day, we decided to try to cross country ski on the trail. As we entered the trail heading south west out of Stanton in front of us on the trail were about a dozen wild turkeys.
Turkeys have to run and get up speed in order to fly away.
All but one turkey had flown away after running as fast as possible down the trail. The one left behind was a bit overweight and we laughed and laughed to see him running his legs off trying as hard as he could to get off the ground. Finally, he just wondered off the trail.
The trail almost always offers us something new in way of wild life, flowers and interesting people.
The first time we rode the trail before the bridge was in place, we had to ford the river. It was tricky stepping from stone to stone carrying our bikes.
We live in Alma and are excited about the prospect of the trail being completed from McBrides into downtown Alma in the near future. Funds are currently being raised to purchase and develop the remaining right of way. "
"Check out www.innmichigan.com/PhotoEssay/HeartlandTrail.htm to view nearly three dozen photos of the Fred Meijer Heartland Trail. The Edmore Inn is also located on the trail at Edmore. Rates are less than the competition.
East of Edmore the trail is not yet paved. Paving in Edmore is limited to a 1.5 mile section and picks up again at McBride, 4.5 miles south.
There are lots of deer, turkey and other wildlife to see. And there are many horse farms alongside the trail. "
"I too checked the trail by bike but I am disappointed that a better solution was not worked out with the race track. Mid-Michigan Motorplex contributes to the area economy, but has lost major races and money because of lack of shut down length. I would like to see more consideration for the track. Thank you"
"My wife Susan and I got an early start Saturday morning, July 20, 2002, and headed to the Fred Meijer Heartland Trail, a rail-to-trail conversion NW of Lansing, where we live, and NE of Grand Rapids. The Heartland Trail is in Montcalm County and runs from Greenville northeast through Stanton and McBride to Edmore. I think the trail is to extend from Edmore to Alma, in Gratiot County, but I'm not sure that stretch is completed yet.
About 1/2 of the current length of the Heartland Trail is paved (asphalt). The paved portion of the trail is the middle section, from Lake Road a few miles NE of Greenville, through Stanton, up to McBride Rd. in the town of McBride. This stretch is a little over 13 miles. I believe there may be plans to pave the rest of the trail in the future.
We knew that the trail was paved in Stanton, the county seat of Montcalm County, so that's where we headed on Saturday. It was about a 1-1/2 hour drive, on back roads, from Lansing to Stanton. (A slightly quicker route would've been I-96 to M-66, then up through Ionia to Stanton.) There is a parking lot for trail access in Stanton, just one block south of Main Street (M-66). There's also a port-a-potty at that point.
We headed south on the trail first, riding until the pavement ended. This was about 8 miles, one-way. Beyond that point, the trail was gravelly. We probably could've proceeded farther on our hybrid bikes, but chose not too. Use of a mountain bike would be advisable for that unpaved stretch of trail and a road bike would be out of the question.
We then backtracked to Stanton and kept going north on the trail until the pavement ended at McBride. Past McBride, the trail appeared to be grass & dirt, but a sign was posted saying that it was a rough trail beyond that point and that it was only suitable for walking and mountain bike riding. So, we turned around again and headed back to Stanton. Our round-trip ride on the paved portion of the trail was a little over 26 miles.
The ride along the Heartland Trail was pleasant and peaceful. It passed through some woodlands, but mostly fields and farms. There were a lot of fragrant wildflowers growing along the side of the trail. There were few other people using the trail--half a dozen or so bicyclist, a few roller-bladers, and a couple walking their dog. We saw plenty of gold finches and other small birds, several chipmunks, some rabbits and squirrels, and, best of all, a great blue herron. (Though we didn't see any deer, judging by the number of deer blinds I saw in the fields around the trail, I suspect that deer are plentiful in the area.) The trail also included a couple of interesting bridges, spanning rapidly flowing creeks.
Seemingly out-of-place in that setting, was a dragstrip between Stanton and McBride, where cars were racing Saturday morning. The dragstrip's end--far beyond the finish line and slow-down stretch--came right up to the trail. Huge hay bales marked the end of the strip and we stopped for a short period to see (hear, mostly) the dragsters. An ambulance driver came along and warned us not to watch from behind the hay bales, as there is always the remote possibility of a car failing to stop and crashing into (and through) the bales.
We decided to have lunch in Stanton, after finishing our ride. There IS a McDonalds right next to the trail at M-66, but don't settle for fast food--peddle a couple of blocks into town and check out the small-town business district. There are at least three little restaurants in a one-block stretch, and we chose Neuman's Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor, inside the Hotel Montcalm, a 120 or so year old building that now houses the restaurant, an antique store, and a bed & breakfast. I highly recommend it over the fast food at McD's.
After lunch, Susan did a little browsing at the antique shop and bought some gardening tools at the local hardware store, then we called it a day and headed back to Lansing. It was a very enjoyable Saturday morning and I definitely recommend a bike ride on the Fred Meijer Heartland Trail."
"My wife and I rode this trail for the first time this past weekend. We rode the entire paved trail (from McBride to Lake Road) (28.5 Miles round trip). The trail makes for a very pleasant ride. There was not much other traffic on the trail and we nearly had the trail to ourselves. I was surprised my wife wanted to do the entire trail as we have not ridden this far this year. We saw many chipmunks, goldfinch, rabbits and some deer along the trail.
The best place for stopping for a rest or refreshments appeared to be in Stanton. There is a McDonalds right next to the trail here. I look forward to when the paved sections are completed the entire length of the trail from Greenville to Alma. "
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