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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 22 miles between Big Rapids and Howard City 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 28 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 Howard City, about 19 miles past Rockford.
In Howard City, 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, Howard City, Morley, Paris, Reed City, and Cadillac, and Hersey and Evart (both on the Pere Marquette State Trail). View the TrailLink map for all options and detailed directions.
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