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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.
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