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The Fred Meijer White Pine Trail State Park connects a bustling Grand Rapids community to the forests, farmlands, and friendly towns of Northern Lower Michigan. At nearly 93 miles, it is the state’s second longest rail-trail. More than a dozen towns that tended to trains running between Grand Rapids and Cadillac now cater to hikers and bikers by offering food, lodging, or camping.
Asphalt covers much of the trail and long-range plans call for paving its full length as funds become available. Currently, the 29 miles between Big Rapids and Sand Lake remain unpaved.
Horses are prohibited from the trail, but snowmobiles are allowed from Russell Road (north of downtown Rockford) to the trail’s north endpoint in Cadillac. The trail isn’t groomed for cross-country skiing, although it is an approved use.
Officially opened in 1995, the trail follows the rail bed of the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad that laid the first tracks from Grand Rapids to Cedar Springs in 1867. By 1873, the railroad ran from Cincinnati to Little Traverse Bay. Its prime business of hauling lumber out of Michigan’s old-growth forests dwindled at the end of the century, replaced by a brisk tourism trade to northern fishing camps and resorts. Subsequent owners include the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1918 and the state in 1975. Operations ceased between Grand Rapids and Cadillac in 1984.
Beginning near the stadium for the West Michigan Whitecaps Minor League Baseball team just north of Grand Rapids, you’ll head north 21 miles through mostly rural terrain. The first of several historical railroad trestles crosses the Rogue River as you enter Rockford about 8.2 miles from the trail’s start. Rockford has many opportunities for dining; you can also enjoy a picnic at the scenic overlook of the Rogue River Dam. After passing through Cedar Springs, the pavement ends as you approach Sand Lake, about 12 miles past Rockford.
It’s another 7 miles to Howard City; heading through town, you’ll find groceries and cafés available. Morley, in 7 miles, has an ice-cream shop, and Stanwood, in 6 miles, has a convenience store and café. You’ll enter the Muskegon River Valley and reach Big Rapids in 9 miles. You can connect to the Big Rapids Riverwalk to head into town to grab a bite or take a rest stop. Leaving town, a 319-foot bridge provides a scenic Muskegon River crossing.
Six miles north is Paris, where the trail runs through Paris Park, featuring camp-in cabins, a canoe launch, and a fishing concession along the banks of the Muskegon River. Continuing 6.4 miles to Reed City, trail users can catch a view of the Yoplait Yogurt factory and cross the junction with the Pere Marquette Rail-Trail before taking a covered bridge over the Hersey River. The trails intersect at the Depot, a reconstructed replica of Reed City's historic downtown railroad depot.
The trail continues for 12 miles to the outskirts of Le Roy, and in another 5 miles you’ll arrive in Tustin, which has railroad memorabilia at the Pine River Museum. Heading north another 11.2 miles takes you to the trail’s end in Cadillac on Lake Cadillac, where you can enjoy swimming beaches and an outdoor amphitheater for concerts.
Parking and access to the trail are provided at each community along the trail. Camping is available in Belmont, Cedar Springs, Sand Lake, Morley, Paris, Reed City, and Cadillac, and Hersey and Evart (both on the Pere Marquette State Trail).
To reach the trailhead in Comstock Park from I-96, take Exit 31B, and drive 1.5 miles north on US 131. Take Exit 91 to West River Dr., and turn right. Go 0.8 mile, turn left onto Lamoreaux Dr. NE, and look for the parking lot immediately on the right. The trail endpoint is just over a half mile south, in Walker, at N. Park St. NE.
To reach the trailhead in Cadillac from US 131, take Exit 177 onto northbound Bus. US 131/S. 43 Mile Road toward Cadillac. Go 1.9 miles, turn left onto South St., and then turn right onto S. Lake St. Go 0.2 mile, and look for parking on the left, just across W. Chapin St. Take the pathway in the back of the parking lot 0.2 mile south to reach the trail endpoint at South St. and S. Lake St.
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