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The Musketawa Trail is one of the best places to get away from it all if you live and work in the western Michigan population centers of Muskegon or Grand Rapids. The 25-mile paved rail-trail rolls between the outskirts of both cities through the peaceful agricultural countryside.
The trail got its start as the Muskegon, Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad in 1886. Muskegon and Grand Rapids were in the midst of a lumber production boom, and Grand Rapids was gaining a reputation as a furniture-making center. A series of business deals over the years resulted in several railroads—the Pennsylvania, the Penn Central, and the Grand Trunk Western—using the tracks. The last owner, Central Michigan Railroad, discontinued service in 1989 and pulled the tracks the following year.
The Musketawa Trail earned its name in a contest; the winning entry combined the two counties through which it passes: Muskegon and Ottawa. By 1997, the town of Ravenna had paved the first mile, and by 2000 the entire trail was paved.
Now trail advocates are looking for connections to other parts of western Michigan’s trail network. The trail already connects to the Fred Meijer Pioneer Trail in the east, which brings it closer to Grand Rapids and the 90-mile Fred Meijer White Pine Trail. In the west in Muskegon, bike lanes bridge the gap between the Musketawa Trail and the Muskegon Lakeshore Trail.
Starting about 10 miles from downtown Grand Rapids in Marne, you’ll leave from a 40-car parking area. The village of Marne sits about a mile south of the trailhead. If you stop there for coffee, you might notice that the fairgrounds and some buildings carry the former name, Berlin. The residents changed the name during World War I to Marne to commemorate an Allied victory.
The trail sets off in a northwest direction through cropland and pastures, a common scene for the next 25 miles. Trailside growth gives partial shade in the east, while overhead utility lines in the corridor closer to Muskegon create a less sheltered border.
In about 7 miles you’ll reach the old whistlestop of Conklin, which has a small market. In another 5 miles you’ll cross Crockery Creek on a 216-foot trestle—the longest of 13 trestles on the trail—and enter Ravenna. The trailhead features an old Grand Trunk Western caboose sitting next to a restored 100-year-old railroad water tower. The business district for the town, settled in the 1840s, has markets, cafés, and pubs located less than a half mile to the right on Crockery Creek Road.
The next 12.6 miles are a straight shot, except for a slight bearing change midway, to the outskirts of Muskegon. Sprawling farm fields and occasional woodlots dominate the landscape. Closer to Muskegon, the farms disappear and housing subdivisions and business parks take their place. At the trail’s end, a 5-mile bike route heads into town to the Muskegon Lakeshore Trail and Pere Marquette Park on Lake Michigan.
If you’d like to explore the Musketawa Trail by bicycle with ride support, the Gold Spike Trail Tour is held in the late spring every year. Check out the Friends of the Musketawa Trail website for details
To reach the Marne trailhead from westbound I-96, take Exit 25 to northbound Eighth Ave. Turn right onto Eighth Ave. and then left onto Hayes St., which becomes Eighth Ave. again. Go 1.4 miles, and turn left into the parking lot immediately after crossing the trail.
To reach the Marne trailhead from eastbound I-96, take Exit 23 toward Marne. Turn right onto Jackson St. and then right onto 16th Ave. Go 0.7 mile, and turn right onto Garfield St. Go 1 mile, and turn left onto Eighth Ave. Go 0.1 mile, and turn left into the parking lot immediately after you cross the trail.
To reach parking for the trailhead in Muskegon from I-96, take Exit 1B onto northbound US 31. Go 2.3 miles, and take Exit 112 to E. Sherman Blvd., heading right (east). Go 1 mile—Sherman bears right at the intersection and becomes Black Creek Road—and turn left onto E. Broadway Ave. Go 0.9 mile and look for parking on the left. The western trail endpoint is 1 mile west of the parking lot.
Actually started at the Irwin trailhead of the Pioneer trail a couple miles east of Marne. Nice downhill grade with curves. Watch your speed. Round trip to Ravena was 32 miles. Mostly shaded with some canopies. Pavement was largely smoothe but beware the horse manure. A pretty nice ride, smoother than White Pines.
This is my favorite stretch of the trail. My wife and I like stopping in Ravenna for some refreshment or a bite to eat at one of the local dining establishments.
One of my favorites to ride. Pavement is in great shape, save for a few spots where tree roots have caused cracking. I usually ride from Muskegon to Ravenna (12-ish miles), stop for a break, then continue to Conklin.
The trail is pretty gentle, making it ideal for families, newbies, and people like me who love to rack up fast, high mileage! Very peaceful trail. The bridge over the stream in Ravenna is cool. Intersections are rarely busy.
There are not a lot of amenities, but why would you not pack water, CLIF bars, etc? On a related note, a home near Muskegon keeps a Gatorade machine fully stocked trail-side, and when you are coming back, it is no joke! $2 for a cold Gatorade, and it's amazing. Bathrooms are infrequent, so plan for that.
If I ranked trails I ride, this is an easy top 3.
We rode the trail on a great day for biking. Rode from Muskegon to Conklin and back. Great scenery. Saw blueberries fields and lots of wild turkeys. Rest rooms in trail were welcome and clean. Grade is pretty steady. Only wished to wind was BEHIND us as we pedaled back to Muskegon with tired legs and bums!
Rode from Marne to Ravenna. Round tripper 24-25 miles. Mostly farmland but trees on both times provide adequate shade. Not too busy so that was nice. I will say I don't think horses should be allowed on the trail.
Overall, very nice ride. Round trip was a bit over 10 miles. My 7 year old daughter made her first double digit ride. There are many places to stop, we picnic'd near a nice stream. The route has very gentle hills and a good amount of shading at certain points. Very enjoyable.
The section closer to Grand Rapids? Pretty nice. Get out between Revenna and Muskegon on a windy day? Oof. Plus there aren't too many places along the way to stop and fill up on water. Still a great ride out in the country. I like the challenge.
I love this Trail, but this Trail should do expansion to Downtown Muskegon since they just took off the Old Grand Trunk Tracks at the City Limits (of Muskegon/ Muskegon Heights) connects to the Trail that goes along Laketon St.
Trail was nicely maintained. Not much to see. Lack of amenities along the trail was surprising. No drinking fountains, 1 restroom, etc. Bring what you need!
Rode this trail for the first time today. What a great trail! Started at the Marne trail head and rode to Ravenna for lunch. Definitely recommend this trail.
Started on the west end (Muskegon end) and rode 15 miles out. Very nice. Pavement was in great shape and other than the prison at the beginning of the ride, very scenic. Would ride this trail again.
From mississippi and in town for golf tournament when I found this trail. It could not have been more enjoyable.
When traveling to Muskegon and heading for the trailhead you actually want to use Exit 112 Sherman Blvd. 72B is the name/number of the county road and may cause confusion.
We recently road the trail from Muskegon to Marne trailhead and back. It was in good condition. Luckily we had a cloudy day as the Muskegon to Ravenna part is quite open. It was a great day for riding and saw quite a few people between Ravenna and Marnes: walking, biking, running.
This was my first ride on the Musketawa. I live near the White Pine Trail, and have been looking for some different scenery for 20-30 mile rides. I guess I've been spoiled, because I found the trail a little boring. The farms were nice to see, but after 8 miles, I felt like I was biking through Kansas. I was happy there were a few parts of the trail that went over bridges/creeks and through the woods, but the majority of the trail is flat and cornfields. There was lots of horse manure on the trail, which surprised me. I had to ride right through a pile, as a group of bikers three abreast came at me and rudely stayed in their pack rather than move over. The trail head in Marne is very nice, ample parking. I am thinking of going back tomorrow and riding east to Walker, to check out the progress of the connection to the White Pine Trail.
We have completed this section of the trail many times now. It is so beautiful in the winter and very rarely traveled. My dogs love the chance to roam. It is not the usual boring flat land. There are hills to enjoy and woods. It goes from 8th ave. in Marne to the offices of Meijer on Walker St. It also goes under the I96 expressway to a beautiful field at Meijer offices. The field at the office is not paved but the paved area goes off to 3 mile Rd.
Mostly industrial area with a lot of farmland and woods. I would recommend this for all trail users.
Good news! Phase 1 of the Musketawa-White Pine Trail Connector is paved and open for use! It begins at the 8th Avenue staging area of the Musketawa Trail. It extends in an east/southeasterly direction for about 4.5 miles to Peach Ridge Avenue. I found it to be a beautiful ride primarily through farmland and woodlands. Three or four light industrial businesses are visible around Fruit Ridge Avenue and again at Walker Ridge Drive but the buildings and grounds are neat and well maintained. The trail starts out at 8th Avenue following an abandoned rail corridor but soon parallels existing tracks. The existing tracks are owned by the Coopersville & Marne Railway, a local train excursion company. But this section of track is not part of their normal route so there is little or no chance of seeing a train. The trail does not follow the grade of the existing tracks so there are some ups and downs that require multiple gear shifts on a bicycle. Often there is a buffer of trees and brush between the trail and the tracks and the trail sometimes meanders away from the tracks. All in all, it is not your typical straight, flat rail-trail. And since there is a tunnel under busy Fruit Ridge Avenue, there is the joy of traveling from Hayes to Walker Ridge approximately 2.5 miles without having to cross a street! Just make sure you are alert at the occasional farm crossing. Some will be disappointed that the closest amenity to the trail is a convenience store about 200 yards south on Fruit Ridge. But, if you enjoy solitude, this is a great ride!
Rode west from Ravenna about 10 miles on a super hot day. (car thermometer showed 111 degrees when we returned!). Not much shade and not much to look at on the route we took. Trail was in good shape and wasn't a bad ride. Make sure to bring anything you need because you won't find it on the trail west of Ravenna.
We live in Muskegon, so we as beginning bikers have done the trails by our house, often going east from Muskegon. I went by myself one day from Muskegon to Ravenna and back, and said to my wife a couple days ago "we should load up the bikes and go from Ravenna to Marne". Well, we almost made the whole trip, however, the scenery is so much better on that leg than the Muskegon to Ravenna trip, that I think that's the one we will always do. We biked that both days this weekend. Conklin and Ravenna are beautiful!
The 5.5 miles between Ravenna and Conklin are absolutely beautiful. An arbor of trees; picturesque farms, wild flowers and birds await you. The trail is uncrowded and well-maintained. There's a slight incline going from Ravenna towards Conklin, so it's an easy ride back to Ravenna.
Had some time for a long ride and decided to make the trip from downtown Muskegon to Ravenna on the Musketawa Trail. Found a route to link from downtown to the trail by taking the Laketon path through town towards the trail. It appears that the Laketon path has been recently added to, taking the route past US-31 and towards the Musketawa trail. The trail ends leaving you heading East towards the trail with no well marked route. Fortunately someone has posted so small stenciled signs that direct you towards the trail.
I found the trail, beginning at Sherman and Black Creek Rd, and I was off to Ravenna. Heading East is relatively easy as I had strong West wind at the back. The trail itself is in great shape with only a few minor ruts. The width is consistent, and overall I never saw any sign of neglect. Muskegon County was even trimming trees that were encroaching on the trail, very nicely cared for. Numerous riders were on trail, walking, roller blading, even had to dodge some horse patties. Looks like people are using the trail as intended. Not one sign of any litter of glass, very refreshing.
As for stop points, there are few. You better be packing fluids. Except for one sign for a store about 1/2 mile off trail, and a vending machine, there is nothing until Ravenna. In Ravenna you will need to look for some stores to recharge your fluids. The main part of town is North of the trail, near the trail head parking. I did not go past Adams Rd, so there may a store near Ravenna Rd.
The ride back to Muskegon could wear on you, if a strong west wind is present. The round trip from the Holiday Inn to Ravenna was 40 miles, a good ride on mostly level terrain.
I would rate the trail condition as 4+, and the scenery as 4. The points lost for scenery result from the trail running adjacent to high voltage lines. I did see several turkey cross the trail and the stop was worth watching.
Look forward to a revisit to find the last connection from Muskegon's Laketon route into the Musketawa Trail
I've done the entire trail twice.
The first time was on a hot windy day. Leaving from the 8th Ave trailhead, it's pretty nice and shaded until you get to Ravenna. Once you get west of there you are heading almost due west, and the prevailing winds start to come into play. Since it was close to 90 degrees that day and it was windy, I ran out of water before I even got the the Muskegon trailhead. Like a previous reviewer started, there aren't too many places to get water along the trail. I was looking for someone with a garden hose, to no avail. I had run my hydration pack and 3 water bottles dry (I must have been really thirsty - that's 5 liters of water!).
The second time I had much better luck since it was cooler and less windy.
Overall it's a nice trail, well maintained, a few ruts, but not too bad. The section between Ravenna and Muskegon is pretty wide open and there isn't much shade or shelter from the wind. Since it runs along the power lines, it's easy for the wind to slow you up if you are heading westbound. If you keep riding west past the trailhead you can find some restaurants to get a bite to eat.
" This is a trail that would be tops but for the horse manure, some of which has been there a long time. We don't know of another trail that allows horses on the pavement except this one. It is a dangerous and unsavory practice we hope they will change."
" This trail ought to be the poster child for why all states should preserve rail corridors before they are closed. Musketawa is on edge of a large city (Grand Rapids) but heads out in the quiet countryside immediately and is completely rural save for two small villages.
East half of trail is mostly wooded, west half is largely open fields with beautiful views.
In August, you can buy peaches, apricots and blueberries at numerous grower's markets within five mile radius of east end of trail.
Don't miss Arnie's Bakery Restaurants in Grand Rapids, family restaurant with on-site baked goods and no alcohol."
This trail is excellent for inline skating. I did the entire length from Muskegon to Marne. Be sure to carry water. There are only two towns along the way where you can buy a drink and no source of free water.
"I rode this trail as part of my 2002 solo tour, west to east. I enjoyed all of the trail; it was well maintained.
On tour, finding services is part of the adventure. The bench and rest area between Ravenna and Muskegon (privately provided?) were near a C-store and a good place for dinner. Ravenna had most services; unfortunately it was a laundry day and the laundromat closed early. Otherwise the town was nice. The next morning I saw momma turkey & chicks on the trail, but found no services east of Ravenna.
I would return again, and in fact am planning to do so in 2006."
"Big thank you to the owner of the property along the trail near muskegon that set up the vending/benchs and potty. Riding as family with 3 children under age 9, it was a welcomed comfort spot. A shade tree would be a nice addition. Trail is very nice. "
"This was the first trail that really got me into biking. The scenery is beautiful for the eastern half, from Marne to Ravenna. The views are amazing on a summer evening especially if you're going west.
The second half isn't as nice as the first but it's still fun. Sometimes there will be a strong headwind coming off the lake so be prepared for a great workout if there's a west wind, since you're heading due west for the second half. The road crossings get busy as you approach Muskegon if you're out during rush hour, so be careful out there.
As a local I ride this trail about twice a week or more and would have to say it's the best overall I've ridden yet. Make sure to go to the bar in Conklin (they've got Guinness on tap!)
I've also cross country skied this trail. It makes for great skiing as long as the base is thick enough that there aren't dry patches to navigate around. You still probably will have to take your skiis off at most road crossings.
There are many benches and scenic overlooks along the way that are well maintained.
The trail gets especially crowded on nice weekend days. Usually it's fairly empty, especially when you get further away from any of the parking areas."
"This is a fine ride from Marne to Ravana. Conklin is in between the two so you are never more than seven miles from a beverage or some food. This is the nicest trail I have ridden.
The trail goes through corn fields, orchards, across creeks. I have seen the suckers run, deer, hundreds of rabbits, beautiful birds. Yes there are snakes, skunks and wood chucks as well but I have not seen them often. The trail is smooth. There are a few restraunts in Ravana or you can bar hop. This trail is for most anyone. It is faily flat. Most users on this trail are polite. This trail from Muskegon to Ravana is a little dull but not a bad ride either.
The more i ride other trails the more I like this one."
My wife and I found the Musketawa Trail to be a nice ride. There are places to buy refreshments in the various towns along the way.
"The ride was beautiful. The scenery was nice, and the trail was nicely maintained.
I wish I could say the same for the facilities. There is no water available at the Marne trailhead. The single portajohn that was there was overflowing and had no toilet paper. We reported this to a staff person on site who was cutting weeds when we began our trip. When we returned three hours later, the problem had not been corrected, and there was a very distressed family with kids and elderly bikers standing around outside the john trying to figure out what to do in light of the still very bad situation, and with no place else in sight.
Therefore, sadly, I'd only recommend this trail if you plan somehow to deal with this if it happens to you."
"Finding the trail head in Marne was a little tricky because the map given on the Internet left out a few important details. Once there, things went well.
My wife and I are new to biking and this was our second ride. We met a very nice gentleman in the Marne parking area who we invited to ride with us. His company and pleasant conversation made the miles even more enjoyable.
With the exception of a few spots of damaged asphalt, the trail, in my opinion, was a smooth easy ride start to finish. The first 10-12 miles were the most scenic. The remainder of the trail was so-so.
Those who are looking for exercise or training for some bike event will find this trail very adequate. For those who want scenic enjoyment, the trail is hit and miss. All in all, it was a nice ride. "
"My wife Susan and I rode the Musketawa Trail on Saturday, July 12, 2003, along with my brother, John, and 14-year-old niece, Carolyn.
It was a perfect day for riding--pleasant temperatures and a mix of clouds & sun. We started at the trail's east end, outside of the town of Marne, and pedaled the length of the trail.
The trail is paved (asphalt) for its entire length, with the exception of boardwalk bridges and one crossing of a dirt road. Given that snowmobiles use the trail in winter, I half-expected the asphalt to be torn up. There were a few rough spots, but overall, I thought the trail was in very good condition. (Much better than the roads & trails I usually ride in and around Lansing, MI.)
The Musketawa runs mostly through farmlands and meadows, and gets into some slightly forested areas as you approach the west end in Muskegon. The topography changes subtly over the course of the ride, as you'll notice more sandy soil and evergreen trees near the west end.
You'll also pass through the small towns of Conklin (about 7 miles from the east trailhead) and Ravenna (about 12 miles from the east end). There are parking areas for trail access in both Conklin & Ravenna as well as at Marne on the east end and Muskegon on the west.
There were plenty of small critters to be seen--rabbits, chipmunks, and songbirds. Vegetation along the trail was mostly trees & shrubs, with few wildflowers. To our great surprise, though, Susan spotted cactus plants (yes, CACTUS!) growing alongside the trail in various places. Yellow cactus flowers were in bloom above the green prickly plants when we did our ride.
You'll travel through some farm areas, too, so you'll also see lots of corn & bean fields and domesticated livestock. (This landscape is a midwestern paradise!)
At the Muskegon end of the trail, there are plenty of places to eat lunch. When you reach the trail's end (just past the Muskegon prison), turn left to the traffic light, then right onto Sherman Rd. Less than a mile away from the trail you'll find restaurants (Ruby Tuesday's, Applebee's, Fazolli's) and fast food places (McDonald's, Arby's, Wendy's). We chose Ruby Tuesday's for an excellent lunch, then rode the 25+ miles back to the east end of the trail.
On the return route, we stopped in Conklin for ice cream. Just off the trail is a small party store that normally has self-serve soft-serve ice cream. The day of our ride, however, the equipment was out-of-order and we settled for prepackaged ice cream bars.
The entire ride took us just about 4 hours of riding time (plus the lunch & ice cream stops, and one short rest stop in the town of Ravenna on the return trip)."
"November 3, 01 was the first time on this trail and will not be the last. It is about an hours drive from Kalamazoo but well worth the trip. I can say it will be a regular ride in the 2002 season."
"This was the first bike trail that we have rode on.We got new Mtn Bikes and wanted to find a safe ride away from the city traffic.It was early June,cool and rain in the forecast.We arrived at the large parking lot at E.Broadway (1 of 4 lots along the trail) and prepared for the days ride.We packed rain gear in our backpacks,helmets on (safety first) and on our way.The trail begins a few twisty turns then starts a long straight downgrade that gets you up to speed quicky.The views of farmland, creeks and rivers are a welcome site.We saw Quail and Turkey crossing our path ahead,not another rider in site.The rain held off all day,but the wind kicked up later,making the trek back a little more difficult.The wood bridges with overlook platforms are a great place for resting and taking in nature.The parking lots along the route have Portajohns (restroom) and some picknic tables in the shade,near Blackmer road in Ravenna.It also had bike racks to park in.We rode to Conklin and found a party store, a stones throw away from the trail,that had self-serve soft icecream. We refilled our waterbottles with sportsdrinks and returned to the course.We headed back to homebase at this point and did not continue the remaining 7 miles to Garfield,having a severe case of saddle fatique (ouch!).We found the complete trail paved with the exception of some large rocks thrown in our path by some dirt bikers riding the trailside.The Trail is marked as off limits to all motor vehicles,but some seem to be ignoring the law.On our way back we were dodging golfball size rocks in our path of smooth blacktop.The Motorcycle rider was found later brokedown and pushing his bike home on the trail as we past.I should have got his plate number and reported it.Hope this note gets some attention that if I catch him again I'll make sure he will be sweeping the entire 26 mile Musketawa Trail with a broom.Sorry,but it made me mad.Alot of time and energy went into this trail for us all to enjoy and I will return to ride again.I believe we need more of these trails and hope you will enjoy them as much as we did. Hope you found my info useful.Thanks,Dan "
I have ridden my bike and In-Line Skated this trail and it has a very smooth surface. There are sections thru light woods but a lot of it is open fields but still very nice.
I have been on the trail biking and Snowmobiling. I was very disappointed with the condition of the trail for snowmobilers. The area is so beautiful to travel thru but the condition of the trail was awful. I have never road on such a rough trail. I would enjoy it more if it was groomed more often. I am not out to ride for the speed I enjoy a nice ride thru the countryside.
Trail is completely paved from end to end. Very nice surface. Great parking lots w/porta-potties at each one. Limited places along the route to get water and/or food. This should improve as the trail matures. Good view of prison at Muskegon end - be sure to wave as you go by.
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