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An easy, flat, and well-maintained trail system, the Kent Trails provide transportation and access to nature in the bustling, second-largest metropolitan area in Michigan. The southern trail section passes through residential areas intermingled with woods, creeks, and fields, while the northern section runs along Grand Rapids’ namesake river through a large urban park featuring wetlands, recreational areas, and a historic bridge. The trail system provides connectivity to numerous other trails.
Users can choose one of two trailheads in Byron Center at the southern end of the trail: one at 84th Street Southwest and another just farther east at Douglas Walker Park. Starting from the trailhead at 84th Street Southwest, the first few miles are heavily wooded, despite the suburban development that surrounds the trail. Charming footbridges cross the trail periodically. Heading north, the foliage eventually grows thinner and reveals a more suburban environment interspersed with cornfields. At MI 6/Paul B. Henry Freeway, the trail links to the Fred Meijer M-6 Trail, which is well marked.
At 44th Street Southwest, you’ll proceed along Spartan Industrial Drive to Pine Creek Drive along sharrows; note that trail signage is limited. You’ll then reach another heavily wooded section and cross over Buck Creek. The trail cuts left onto Prairie Street Southwest—a high-traffic area—before heading north on Ivanrest Avenue Southwest in East Grandville toward the Grand River. (This road segment has a 40-mile-per-hour speed limit and poorly signed sharrows, and in one short section at its northern end, there is no sidewalk.)
You can avoid Ivanrest Avenue via a longer but more scenic detour on the Buck Creek Trail and Grand River Pathway. To access the Buck Creek Trail, stay on Prairie Street Southwest for two blocks past Ivanrest Avenue, and turn left onto Wayburn Avenue Southwest. After one block, turn right onto the Buck Creek Trail. Head west on the trail and then north along Canal Avenue Southwest, cross Chicago Drive Southwest, and then turn right followed by an immediate left onto Broadway Avenue Southwest. You will need to either ride in traffic or use sidewalks along these short sections of Canal Avenue, Chicago Drive, and Broadway Avenue. Cross the railroad tracks and turn left onto the trail as Broadway approaches the Gerald R. Ford Freeway. The trail veers right underneath the freeway and then intersects again with the Grand River Pathway, which provides a scenic route along the river.
Returning to the Kent Trails, you’ll enter Hopewell Indian Mounds Park. A heavily wooded section of the trail parallels I-196 and the Grand River and eventually crosses left over a scenic truss bridge—a high point of the route. Upon entering the 1,500-acre Millennium Park, you may continue along two forks of the Kent Trails or take one of multiple connections to the Fred Meijer Millennium Trails (pay close attention to signage).
The western fork wends along the northern bank of the Grand River and through wetlands until reaching its endpoint at Johnson Park, which offers picnic areas, parking, restrooms, and water. The eastern fork features a beautiful wooded area along the Grand River, which transitions to meadow and a connection to the Butterworth Trail, a reclaimed landfill site featuring pathways and wildflowers along the Grand River.
To reach the southern trailhead at 84th St. from US 131, take Exit 74 for 84th St. toward Byron Center, heading west. After 3 miles, turn right into the trailhead parking lot (immediately beyond a small hotel and across the street from a fast-food restaurant).
To access the southeast trailhead at Douglas Walker Park, start by following the above directions to the 84th St. trailhead. After you exit onto 84th St., go west 1.2 miles. Turn right onto Douglas Walker Park SW and then right again into the parking lot.
To reach the Butterworth St. trailhead from US 131, take Exit 84A, and head west on Wealthy St. SW, crossing the Grand River. After 1.3 miles, bear right onto Garfield Ave. SW, then immediately left onto Butterworth St. SW, crossing under I-196. In 0.6 mile, turn left into the parking lot at the Kent County Parks Department. The trailhead is approximately 0.2 mile north along the trail at Butterworth St. SW.
The title says it all. This trail is very relaxing to ride and seems to be very well maintained when compared to other Michigan trails. You can ride from Byron Center to John Ball Park or with a little creativity snake your way through the West Side of Grand Rapids to downtown Grand Rapids and connect with the White Pine Trail and take that (paved) all the way to Rockford or even Cedar Springs or beyond to Sand Lake. The entire trail is nicely paved and easy to ride. There are some nice stops along the way for food and beverages or just taking a short rest at River Side Park or along the Rogue River at Rockford. Byron Cenger to John ball Park or with a little
I went down the trail 6-24-13. The trail was horrible because it had long patches of mud. I barely made it through the mud and fallen tree limbs. It had a 12 inch tree fallen over the trail.
I called the city of Grandville about the condition. They told me they would get to it when they can. It sounded like it was going to be dead last on their priority list.
Having ridden all of Kent Trails north of M6, I would like to respond to the previous post of 'travelguy'. Due to the lack of signage, I am sure there is a lot of misunderstanding regarding the extent of Kent Trails. The continuous dedicated pathway heading north from Byron Center does indeed stop at 44th Street but the Kent Trails route does not. From there the Kent Trails route follows surface streets for a bit. From the 44th Street intersection with Spartan Industrial Drive, the route heads north on Spartan Industrial 1/4 mile and then right onto Pine Creek Road. At the end of the Pine Creek cul-de-sac a dedicated pathway starts up again. At Prairie Street the dedicated pathway stops again where the route follows Prairie west 3/4 mile and then Ivanrest north 1 mile where a dedicated pathway starts up again and continues on to John Ball Park. Unfortunately signage is woefully lacking to guide you between the missing sections of dedicated pathways.
Trail Link's map accurately shows the trail continuing north of 44th Street and on to John Ball Park. On Trail-Link's main page for Kent Trails, click on the link under "Explore Related Content". Here you will see that Kent Trails is part of the Kent County Park system and that it is much more than the 5 mile stretch between 44th Street and Byron Center. Kent Trails includes the 12.5 mile route from Byron Center to John Ball Park as well as some side routes.
The northern sections include some great riding that is shaded and often within view of the Grand River. A river crossing on a former rail trestle is also part of the route. And the extensive Millennium Park trail system is also accessible from this northern section. You can mix and match for variety each time you go out!
First off, I'm not sure why a lot of reviewers say they do the "section between 44th and Byron Center". That's not a section of the trail, it's the entire lengh of the trail. It goes no further on either end. There is another trail that connects to it in near the halfway point, but that's not part of Kent Trails.
Now that I've cleared that up, I will just say that it's a great trail with quite a bit of variety. From the south end heading north, you start off near some apartments, then suburbia, then farmland, then forrest. I used to take this trail for a wellness class at GRCC, but got hooked on it after that.
Might not be considered a long trail by olympic cyclist standards, but if you're walking or jogging, it's more than long enough.
Shady, beautiful trail, avoids traffic, scenic view of creek and river.
EXCELLENT for Bicylists.
I use this trail for commuting to work. Recently acquired a snow bike in hopes of using to continue commute through winter. Unfortunately the trail is not cleared in winter, which is a shame. Grandville does clear the Buck Creek Trail in Winter, it would be nice if they would do the same for the River Trail.
This is a nice trail that connects Jenison to Grandville and the Kent Trails. It is very shaded and runs right near the river. However, if you are riding a bike, I would skip this section of trail.
I live in Georgetown Township, and love to ride the Kent Trails/Millenium Park. I was thrilled to have this trail. However, the far west end of the trail near the Grand River is a mess. With any moderately heavy rain (which happens several times a year), the river floods and the trail is completely flooded. Not a little wet, but 3-12 inches of water! People walk around the flooding, which is creating large ruts on the high side of the trail.
Past the flooded trail and along the banks of the river, the trail stays wet in the shade and grows a very slimy, greasy, slippery scum that is dangerously slick. One of the few times I rode this trail (on my way back from Rockford), my bike slid out from under me while riding relatively slow in a straight line. I messed up my shoulder, ripped my clothes, broke my helmet, and dinged up a brand new bike. I talked to the Kent County Parks department about the trail conditions, and they were unimpressed with my observations.
My advice *if you are going to bike the trail* is to find another access point to the trails/Kent Trails/Millenium Park. It is probably fine if you are looking for a place to walk.
I find this trail mostly easy. I bike the 44th to 84th a lot and going towards 84th is slightly uphill, but there is a McDonalds and an ice cream shop nearby and makes it worthwhile before you coast back down to 44th.
If you keep going and want to go in the other direction past 44th, it continues over behind RambleWood Apartments, and goes in a direct path down to Prairie Parkway. From there you turn left on Prairie Parkway and turn right on Ivanrest and continue past 28th street (I'd recommend walking across it, its a short light), then go past Chicago Dr (have to ride on a road for less than a mile). The trail pick up at the Treatment plant and continues down past the highway. It will look like it ends at a road but it continues and you can turn right or left...
by turning left-you ride on the right side of the road and can go past the ferry (not exactly sure where it goes from there).
By turning right- you ride on the left side of the road and ride for about 1-3 miles and turn left at the bridge to go over the Grand River. Once on the other side of the bridge it breaks off into 3 different ways.
Going to the left-I think this leads to Millennium Park or Johnson. Not quite sure though
Going straight-this is just a shortcut to lead you to Millennium Park and Johnson Park, there are no signs to tell you that i believe.
Going to the Right-This will lead you along the river and will eventually come to another fork. Going to the left brings you to John Ball park. If you keep going and ride on the trail it eventually goes all the way up to Wealthy St. by the bridge going back over the river.
By going to the right you may come across signs and will bring you to Millennium park (by turning to the right and riding on the road till you see a sidewalk at the next street you can go all the way up to standale) and if you go past that it goes to Johnson Park.
Makes a nice little connector trail so that you can park in Jenison and ride to the Kent Trails or Millinium trails. It can be impassable in the spring when the river and creek rise. Can be buggy or muddy also depending on the season. Mid summer on is OK. I have heard that there is also going to be a connector from Grandville to this trail in the near future. I'm guessing it will follow Buck Creek under the expressway.
It would be nice if they had a way to connect some of the sections together, but when you are on the trail (not on the streets between the trail sections) it's pretty nice. We've done the section from 44th to Byron Center a lot of times. Make sure you turn left at the end and get some ice cream before you had back to 44th.
The other sections that follow the river can be nice, but it can be pretty buggy if you should happen to stop. It's pretty shaded, and scenic. I like that they made the road on the south side of the river one way, making the other direction for the trail users only.
"I ride the Southern part of this trail frequently because I find it to be a great family ride. I park in Byron Center and ride to 44th Street and back about 11 miles... good for the kids. This portion of the trail is some farmland, some residential, some wooded.
This week I rode the entire length of the trail for the 1st time. I really enjoyed it... it has a bit of everything. It does get a bit urban going across 28th Street and Chicago Drive but once you get past the City of Grandville you are back on the trail. Plug your nose going past the wastewater plant. The portion along the Grand River is real nice and you cross the river eventually and have your choice of Millenium Park to the left of John Ball Park to the right. I first went to John Ball Park, primarily because the trail signage disappears after you cross the river. I then rode down to Millenium Park. Very nice park, however, the geese were not real excited about sharing ""their"" trail with me.
Then I headed back to Byron Center. The days ride for me a great workout at 32+- miles.
Overall, a good family trail, fairly flat. Only downside is Urban section through Grandville and in some of the wooded areas the trail is getting rough due to tree root growth under the trail, but a small price to pay for a great ride.
Thumbs up for Kent Trails!!"
The trail website has moved to http://www.accesskent.com/CultureLeisureAndTransit/Parks/kent_trails.htm
"I started my trip at the McDonalds in Bryon Center across from the southern trial head. There is parking at the trail head but I feel safer leaving my car at McDonalds. The abandoned railbed goes through a large golf course, under the new M-6 highway, takes a surface street/ parking lot detour near Ramblewood Tennis club around 44th, and finally ends at praire ave in Grandvilles industiral armpit. PAY ATTENTION TO THE BANNERS FLYING OVERHEAD. They are the only way you are going to traverse this part of the trial. Traffic is aweful in this area. Lots of semi-trucks. The trail proper returns near the water treatment plant (stop and read the poetic signs there). Shortly after the treatment plant the trail ""T's"" at the grand river. You are now on one-way street road where half is dedicated to bicycle traffic and the other half is for vechiles traveling east. There was no traffic in this area when i was there. Nice benches allow for breaks. Good directional maps in this area too. Traveling to the west will take you pass the paddle-wheel boat and a boat lauch before ending in a parking lot. To the east the trail eventually crosses the Grand River on an impressive tressle bridge that goes forever. After crossing the river the trail ""T's"" again. To the west the trail proper turns into a road used by earth moving equipment at a nearby dig. This road connects to another trail that leads to a nice park and building. the trail was still being developed at this time. Back at the Grand River bridge traveling to the east takes you along and under the highway until you come out by the Coke Cola plant. Signage for the trail ends even though the street has marking for a trail going up-top of Johnson park. Unless your going to pinic, dont go up this hill. Its over a 300' climb in a very short distance. I had to get off and walk it was soo steep. I think this is at the backside of the zoo, although i never actually saw the zoo. Nice overall trail though. Too bad an alternate route (non-street sidewalk) couldnt be developed through the industrial area of Grandville. This trail is also in relativly close proximity to White Pine and Musketawa trails, although no true trail routes connect to those trails at this time. Grand Rapids is definatly a rail-to-trail bikers heaven."
"On Sunday, May 2, 2004, we took our tandem bike to ride the trail. We arived at Bryon Center and although parking was limited, we found room to park. The trail was beautiful. Since it was early spring all the wild flowers are in bloom. Most of the trail runs along side residential areas but it was still nice.
At one point you ride along the Grand River and then you cross a neat old trestle bridge. They list a park called Johnson Park but just before it, about 1/4 off the trail on Maynard Road to the north, is a beautiful park called the Millennium Park, which has a nice beach, picnic area and a play area. It is still being completed but is very nice. We had a nice picnic there.
We encourage everyone to make the trip there. This was a very nice trail. We could see that during the summer it might get a little congested but when we rode it, it wasn't. "
I started at the zoo and followed the trail. It's nice until you hit Butterworth. Then you are on a bumpy road that smells like sulpher. Then you proceed along the trail and hit the water treatment plant. The odor was not pleasant. Just past that you are in Grandville and have to cross 28th Street. At this point the trail continues but on sidewalks and cross streets.
I gave up and turned around. This is not a nice trail. I much prefer White Pine Trail for sure!
"We start in Byron Center -- the trail head is by the giant chicken. Ride to John Ball Park, visit the zoo and ride back! A great outing!!"
I rode this trail as part of my 2002 tour. It's a pleasant enough ride. Mind the signs at the detour near the north end.
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