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The Lansing River Trail traces the course of three waterways for more than 25 miles across Michigan’s capital city. Visiting all four main points of the compass in Lansing, the trail provides a route for self-propelled transportation to numerous parks, cultural and commercial attractions, workplaces, and a major university.
The trail rolls through waterfront parks on the Grand River from Moores Park in the west to Dietrich Park in the north. It follows the Red Cedar River from Elm Park to Michigan State University in the east. A branch along the woodsy Sycamore Creek tributary goes south to Maguire Park, where it joins the Sycamore Trail. Another trail branch from Maguire Park heads west on a utility right-of-way to South Waverly Road. An orphaned trail section heads north along Waverly Road back to the Grand River and Frances Park.
The trail started as a paved path through the downtown Riverfront Park redevelopment project in 1975. In 1983, the city added a half-mile section of former railroad and later extended the trail to include passage to the zoo and university in the east and Maguire Park in the south. The park district completed the nearly 5-mile South Lansing Pathway south of Jolly Road in 2014 and rebranded it as part of the Lansing River Trail.
Despite the urban setting, you will experience wetlands and woodlands and probably catch sight of the trail’s resident ducks, squirrels, and butterflies. The path has sections of wooden boardwalk passing under highways and skirting out over the water, avoiding almost all contact with motorized traffic.
Starting at Dietrich Park, head south along the Grand River to Turner Dodge Park, where you’ll find the circa 1855 Turner-Dodge House, which offers tours. Past that, the eclectic Old Town area represents a revitalized arts and entertainment district. You’ll pass the Brenke Fish Ladder, which gives migratory fish a route around the dam.
Still traveling along Grand River, you’ll come to the Lansing City Market where residents have been buying locally sourced food for more than a century. In 0.3 mile, you come to the hands-on Impression 5 Science Center and the R. E. Olds Transportation Museum.
Just past the zoo you’ll arrive at another junction; a left goes 4.8 miles through the Michigan State University campus, passing wooded Crego Park and the Red Cedar Natural Area along the way. A right turn at the junction heads south through forest and wetlands alongside Sycamore Creek, visiting Scott Woods Park and Hawk Island County Park.
After 3 miles, you’ll arrive at another junction at Maguire Park near North Aurelius and East Jolly Roads. The left fork takes you to Munn Park, while the right fork crosses Jolly Road and heads west for 5 miles through a utility corridor. It’s the only section of the Lansing River Trail that doesn’t run next to water. At Jolly Road, you can also opt to head east on the 2.1-mile Sycamore Trail, which cuts south to East Willoughby Road and the 1.3-mile Valhalla Trail.
To reach the northern trailhead at Dietrich Park from I-496, take Exit 6 to northbound S. Walnut St. Go 1.6 miles, and turn right onto W. Willow St.; then go 1 block, and turn left onto N. Grand River Ave. Go 0.1 mile, and look for parking on the left immediately after crossing the Grand River.
To reach the southern trailhead at Maguire Park from I-496, take Exit 11 and head west on Dunckel Road. Go 0.9 mile, and turn right onto E. Jolly Road. Go 0.5 mile and, after crossing Sycamore Creek, turn right onto N. Aurelius Road. After 390 feet, turn left into Maguire Park.
To reach the western trailhead at Moores Park from I-496, take Exit 5 toward MI 99/ Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. for 0.3 mile. Merge onto W. St. Joseph St. and, at the first intersection, turn left (south) onto S. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. to cross the Grand River. After 0.6 mile, take a sharp left, and then make a U-turn north to stay on S. Martin Luther King. Jr. Blvd. Turn right at the first cross street onto Moores River Dr. After 0.3 mile, look for parking on your left at the park entrance.
To reach parking for the S. Waverly Road endpoint from I-496, take Exit 3 for Waverly Road. Head south on S. Waverly Road, crossing the Grand River along the way. After 2.8 miles, turn left onto W. Jolly Road. Go 1.1 miles, and turn right onto Pleasant Grove Road. In 0.4 mile, turn right into Benjamin F. Davis Park. The endpoint is located by heading west on the trail past Wise Road to S. Waverly Road.
You can also park at Lansing City Market, Crego Park, Hawk Island County Park, Lot 56/Cesar Chavez Plaza, Municipal Park, the Oakland Ave. lot, Potter Park, and Turner Dodge Park.
I am giving this a 3 because most of the trail we rode from Crego Park to the downtown was in very poor condition. Scenery etc. was great, just has to pay attention and be ready for lots of bumps. For us that takes the pleasure out of the ride. There are signs that improvement will be coming but not sure when. South of Crego Park a bit to Hawk Island Park was a new lovely path through a wooded area that we enjoyed and would give a 5 star to.
We have done this three times and branched off to different areas each time. The trails are marvelous with lots of shady area. You see deer, ducks and even an occasional transient. Don't worry, they aren't fast enough to catch you on a bike.
There are so many options on this trail and the scenery changes from asphalt to planks to bridges.
We saw a number of kayakers along the way and discovered a kayak rental which we utilized on Father's Day.
We love this trail.
Me and my wife absolutely love this trail. It's 16 miles round trip. The trail is well maintained and and has excellent scenery. I ride this trail almost every day and it never get's old!
This was my second trail trail ride. We started in Okemos and rode the entire trail on a Saturday morning. I loved riding over the boardwalks, train bridges, along the Grand River, highways, through parks and wilderness areas. It goes to Old Town, Potter Park Zoo, Hawk Park, near downtown Lansing, by the dam at the Board of Water and Light, Lansing Fish Ladder and MSU. Many sights to take in and enjoy while riding. There were plenty of curves and some decent hills. There were some parts of the trail that are starting to separate and raise from the main pavement so the ride was not always smooth, but not too bad. Following the Grand River was fun as well us going under a lot of bridges.
I've been riding this trail for years and had been more recently encouraged by the number of people using the trail. There had been times when riding areas could be sketchy - drug dealers, gang bangers, etc. With more users this seemed to help clear up the issue. Last summer there was an issue with vehicles getting broken into at one of the parking lots/accesses to the trail. I thought that this issue had been cleared up, until yesterday. While out riding for about an hour and 45 minutes we returned to find that our bike carrier (trailer hitch mount), that was cable locked to the car trailer hitch had been stolen and the cable had been cut.
I will think twice about riding this trail and if I do will have to remove the rack and lock it in the car. Hopefully this will help, unless they begin to have car break ins again.
Nice trail, but the crime is not so nice
Picked up the trailhead at Hawks Island. There is a nominal fee to park here. This is a very populated path on weekends! Diverse path as it winds it way through parks, downtown, cemetaries and lots of flora and fauna.
I've biked pretty much the entire trail with my little dog in her basket and we both think it's wonderful. The trail meanders through wooded areas from MSU to the zoo, to the river front in the downtown area, to Old Town, as well as a section that flows to a lovely family park at Hawk Island. Almost all the walkers, runners and bikers are friendly and the trail is paved and kept in good condition. Most of it follows a river and if there has been a lot of rain, one can check online to see if low lying sections are affected by rising water. It is one of Lansing's treasures!
Excellent trail. All paved, great condition, scenic.
I read some reviews that made this trail seem bad, me and the family rode on this trial from McGuire park to the MSU dairy. I must say that they were wrong. Their was plenty of wild life and the trails were clean. On the way we ran into our friendly local police officers. I will tell you that it would be wise to use a bike that has gears, a mountain bike or a road bike will work.
Quite a varied experience! The physical trail itself has a nicely paved surface throughout and is fairly well maintained. However, the scenery varies from rust-belt urban blight that's a bit scary in places, to strikingly pretty and family-friendly.
For our bike ride, we parked on Michigan Avenue two blocks east of the state capital building, and after carrying our bikes down the steps on the river side of the Lansing Center, we rode to the northern end of the trail which terminates at the Turner-Dodge house. We then turned around and rode all the way south to Hawk Island Park, then back downtown.
We started off in front of the new and cool Lansing City Market. There's a great view across the river of the beautifully renovated Accident Fund building and its oddly hideous parking structure. Riding north from there was both fun and weird. Zooming our bikes over the river and under the bridges on the boardwalk felt almost like riding an old-fashioned wooden rollercoaster with the loud clacking of the planks under our wheels. Very fun! We liked checking out the Brenke Fish Ladder and some of the restored buildings in Old Town too. But there was weirdness. After passing a few family picnics and several old guys fishing, we rode past a shirtless guy walking down the path with a 9mm pistol slung on his hip. Never seen that before. And later when returning from the north end of the trail, before we went south of town, we passed this same guy who'd met up with his buddies who were all packing either similar pistols or assault rifles. It appeared to be a right-to-carry gathering I guess. We were a little uncomfortable. We rode on.
Heading south under Michigan Avenue we passed the Riverwalk Theater and the Impression 5 Museum as well as a very pretty ivy-covered brick building along the river's edge. But from there, until we reached Potter Park Zoo, except for some nice foliage on the immediate sides of the trail, much of this section of the bike trail was really awful. The view: abandoned warehouses, dusty barbed-wire fenced parking lots with hulking rusted trucks and banged-up oil drums. The smell: municipal water treatment facility. Very few riders along this isolated stretch. Easy to feel vulnerable. Not too fun.
But then there was the wonderful length of trail from Potter Park Zoo down to Hawk Island Park. This serene path winds beneath a canopy of lush trees alongside river, creeks, and ponds rimmed with lilly pads and wildflowers. It felt sort of enchanted with the distant sounds of the zoo animals. We saw bikers, joggers, dog walkers, and families with strollers on this part of the trail.
Hawk Island Park itself was great too. Since our bike ride was on Sunday afternoon, there were lots of picnicking families, kids playing at the water-park, and swimmers at the beach. We skipped the trail extension down to Jolly Road, and instead rounded the lake on a nice looping path and headed back toward town.
Overall, we had fun. We'll definitely do the Potter Park Zoo to Hawk Island Park section again, as well as check out the MSU, Moore's Park, and Jolly Road extensions.
I decided to try out the Lansing River Trail and obtained directions to the East Lansing trailhead off Kalamazoo/Clippert St. Upon arriving at the parking lot where I had hoped to leave my car, I discovered 5 separate areas of shattered vehicle window glass. Needless to say I did not feel comfortable leaving my car there. While I would not have left any valuables in the car (like the sign suggested), I still did not feel like dealing with a broken car window when I returned from my ride. Not sure how long the broken glass has been there??? Its too bad that individuals have to spoil what could be a nice route:(
May 29, 2011. Yesterday my husband and I set out from the trailhead at Kalamazoo near MSU to find that just 1/2 mi into our ride, the trail was covered with water! Considering all the rain we've had I guess I shouldn't have been too surprised; and there were signs posted. We attempted to pedal through anyway since we have mountain bikes. We made it through the first area okay after removing our shoes and socks (the water came above our axles). It was soon apparent though we were going to have to abort our ride since every low area was covered in equally deep water, and for longer stretches. Exciting but a little slow going. It was very hard to see the trail through the murky water making it a little dangerous. It literally looked as if we were in the middle of a swamp! We had to get off and walk a couple times and that was cold! The mosquitos loved us! So, just be warned before you head out, what you're getting into. Wish someone had posted a comment here for us.
I live in Lansing, and I ride some portion of this trail 2 or 3 times a week during the spring, summer and fall. This is my absolute favorite part of Lansing! One of my favorites is the section added last summer, which heads south from Potter Park, winds back to Mt. Hope Rd, and takes you through Hawk Island Park. Hawk Island has a 1.5 mi paved path around a small lake, which is great for jogging, walking, rollerblading, etc. It also has boat rentals, a small beach, an awesome play structure, and a kids' waterpark. If you go out the south entrance to Hawk Island and cross Cavanaugh, the River Trail continues and takes you all the way to Jolly Rd, ending at a 7-11 (yeah Slurpee break!). Another little fun part is the mountain bike trails in Hawk Island - just keep an eye out for them while you're in the woods. Overall, the Lansing Rail Trail has few upkeep issues but really it's very rideable, and I think the wooden bridges are especially fun. I agree with other posters that it's not good for rollerblading, and I always go with someone unless I'm only riding the new section I described above.
I really enjoy this trail because it is an easy-going one I can ride with my kids. It also goes to places my kids want to visit: Michigan State University campus, Potter Park Zoo, Impression 5 Science Museum, the Lansing Farmers Market, Old Town and the Turner-Dodge House. It passes near the Lugnuts' Stadium and downtown Lansing, and there are several small parks with play equipment along the way for resting and playing. The newest part of the trail goes south to Hawk Island Park, but we have not tried that yet. We spent a very pleasant afternoon today riding almost the entire length from East Lansing to the Turner Dodge House (7 miles approx.) with a stop in Old Town for ice cream. (We usually visit Pruess Pet Shop, but didn't take the time today.)
There are several parking lots along the trail so it is easy to park and get on the trail quickly. However, an unfortunate aspect to the trail is that it is not being kept up. The wood in the bridges and boardwalks is deteriorating making for bumpy transitions between these and the asphalt. In many places the asphalt is pocked and worn, and its is not really smooth enough for rollerblading. We've tried. The city is making efforts to do upkeep, but there are so many places along the trail that need work,that it must be hard to do all repairs and replacements. I agree with the previous review that talks about the safety of the trail duirng the day, however, it is not well-lit and may not be a safe place to be after dark. The previous reviewer is also right about the people fishing in the Grand River on the boardwalks. They are not always aware of cyclists and runners and a friendly "hello" will give them a "heads up".
I love this trail, it is my second favorite in the state next to Ann Arbor's B2B which is saying a whole lot. Its beautiful, it can make getting around town a snap, and its decently long. That being said, there are some negative aspects that you should know about. I'm not focusing on the negative but rather giving a friendly warning. 1)its gonna be bad for your road bike rims if you ride this trail 2)all the boardwalks and bridges that are wood are unsafe when wet unless you are decently experienced -just be careful when they are wet. 3)don't ride on the part that goes along potter's park after dark. just don't. Lansing is way safer than most American cities, especially if you know how to be careful, but this is an especially dangerous place. 4)you gotta look out for people fishing! I ride this trail every nice day that I'm in town and I've noticed that a lot of people like to fish the rivers. Make sure they don't cast when you ride by. Just saying "Hello," is a great way to let walkers, kids, other bikers, and fishers know that you are passing by.
Not only does this trail connect with fantastic on-campus bike routes at MSU, but you can ride over the bridge at riverfront park and you're at Lansing Community College. I recommend checking out the statue of the Windlord if you haven't seen it (just on the other side of the river) as well as the Greater Lansing Area Sports Hall of Fame located in LCC's gvt building 3rd floor (the big building you can see from the park with a parking ramp attached).
This trail met and exceeded all of our expectations. We wanted a not too difficult ride that had great scenery. The ability to go into Old Town for a bite to eat was an added perk. The trail was well maintained, boardwalks, paved pathways were all clearly marked. We are looking forward to a return ride with friends.
Living in Lansing in the 80s and 90s, I watched the construction of this trail from riverside, railroad beds and built up bridges along the water. I have run and biked even part of it as it was finished. I recently have had the opportunity to ride the completed trail end to end and am very, very happy with it. I'm not sure what trail John was on but it can't be this one. Pavement is good, some of the wooden bridges have bumps at the ends but nothing significant. Although the 'official' train ends near Michigan State University, the path continues another couple of miles through the MSU campus.
This is a nice, winding city trail with some great sights; I especially enjoy the wildlife. Much of the trail runs through wooded areas that give the feel of a rural setting. The trail is a relatively easy ride with a few small hills and bridges. Some stretches are a bit bumpy, so roller blades and road bikes aren’t recommended. Also, many bridge approaches have 1 to 2 inch lips that can present trip hazards. I would recommend this trail to anyone looking for a relaxing, enjoyable ride.
"At one time, quite a while ago, this trail was probably nice. I just rode it this weekend and I don't plan on going back very soon. The trail is really beat up and dirty. I even saw some medical debris along the way... of course there is a hospital along side the river this trail follows. Lots of dogs and dog debris too. The trail surface is anything but flat and level or smooth... lots of holes, ruts, big cracks, bumps and even wood splinters on the many bridges. I saw very few good road bikes and the reason was because you could easily damage your ride on a trail like this. The trail was not very safe looking either and you don't want to be on it after prime time light. It's a shame this trail has obviously been neglected as far as upkeep goes. It's one that you can wreck your good road bike or handcycle on but it's OK for a mountain bike I guess. In general, the original design of the trail is unique as it winds up and down through several parks and along the river through downtown Lansing. But this trail needs lots of work and needs a good cleaning. I talked to one guy who said, ""They clean it twice a year"". Looks to me like the problem may be its not done every year?"
"The River Trail in Lansing is an amazing find, especially in such an urban area. It gives nature and exercise enthusiasts alike a chance to get outside and escape the city for a little while. I highly recommend taking the time to enjoy this asset to the community. Also, the 1/4-mile markers are a great touch. As a long-distance runner, this trail had made my training much more enjoyable. "
"I had seen the river trail for some time and had walked small sections during the winter. Yesterday was the first day up in the 70s and I had a mountain bike, so the trail was calling. The trail runs lazily down by the river from Old town by the fish ladder past the community college and the state capital.
There are plenty of places for people to stop and fish or sit and enjoy the river view. The trail leads to the Potter Zoo that reminded me of home in the Bayoues of Louisiana. The trail continued on to MSU campus.
The trail is a little narrow but does have a dividing line painted down the middle to help traffic. Many of the wooden bidges were a little slick but not bad on a warm dry day. The turns were often sharp and blind not a problem while taking it slow but would have been an issue on my road bike. Beautiful trail I will plan to ride it often. "
"Unfortunately, the trail is partly under water in early spring."
"Boy, do I miss the Lansing River Trail system! Bowling Green, where I now live, has the Slippery Elm trail, but it seems a bit remote compared to this wonderful urban walkway. Whether going for a stroll with friends or training for a marathon, this system is perfect! Please lobby local officials to continue with the planned expansion."
It's a beautiful trail -- you'd never know that you were in the middle of the city.
"This trail is nice, but it's not super smooth for rollerblading. "
"A perfect trail for jogging, walking, and easy biking.
Highly reccomendable for a romantic evening also."
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