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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.
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