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Even though the Paint Creek Trail is Michigan’s oldest nonmotorized rail-trail, the occasional face-lifts and renovations keep it looking as young as ever. Established in 1983, the crushed-limestone trail runs for 8.9 miles between Rochester and Lake Orion through a mostly wooded corridor alongside Paint Creek. It is also part of the developing 2,000-plus-mile Iron Belle Trail, comprising separate routes for hiking and biking from Detroit to Ironwood in the Upper Peninsula.
The trail’s many charms include a variety of wildlife, historical sites, rest stops, and a trout-filled creek that the route crosses 12 times. Maps and announcements are posted at the trailheads, where you can also pick up folding maps. Mileage markers, left over from the days when this path was a railway, announce the distance to Detroit. Free bike fix-it stations are installed at the Rochester, Tienken Road, and Goodison trailheads.
The trail follows a former segment of the Detroit and Bay City Railroad that launched service in 1872. The Michigan Central and the New York Central Railroads became subsequent operators, running trains between Detroit and Mackinaw City, and the Penn Central took over in 1968. Emerging from bankruptcy, the railroad in 1983 sold the rail bed to a commission comprised of trail advocates and local communities. The commission surfaced the 8-foot-wide trail with crushed limestone, rather than asphalt, in the early 1990s to maintain a rural experience.
Beginning at Lake Orion, you’ll follow a barely perceptible downhill slope to Rochester. Lake Orion originally grew up around a sawmill built in 1825 but later became a resort destination. Two miles south, a historical marker notes the site of the water-powered Carpenter Rudd Mill that stood here until 1926. This is also where you can connect to the Bald Mountain State Recreation Area for fishing, swimming, and mountain biking.
For the next couple of miles, Paint Creek meanders alongside and crosses the trail, presenting many opportunities for fishing. If you want to try your hand with a bow and arrow, there’s an archery range at mile 2.5. Use caution to cross at busy Adams Road in 0.5 mile.
You’ll pass some open prairie and woods before you reach the Gallagher Road trailhead at mile 5. A short side trip leads to good eats in Goodison—home of the Paint Creek Trailways Commission—at the Paint Creek Cider Mill and Goodison Cider Mill. Just before arriving at the Silver Bell Road trailhead in 0.6 mile, you’ll pass the Paint Creek Heritage Area–Wet Prairie on the right, where land managers perform spot burning to remove invasive plants and restore a prairie.
As you enter the suburban sprawl of Rochester Hills (horseback riding is prohibited south of here) after crossing Tienken Road at mile 7.8, you’ll pass several trail entrances to the 16-acre Dinosaur Hill Nature Preserve, which has nature paths and a visitor center. The trail ends in about a half mile at Rochester Municipal Park, where you’ll find parking, restrooms, and drinking water, as well as the annual Art & Apples Festival in the fall.
The Paint Creek Trail seamlessly joins the Rochester River Walk at the park. The river walk follows Paint Creek for another 0.8 mile through Rochester to a junction with the Clinton River Trail, which joins the Macomb Orchard Trail 2 miles to the east.
To reach the trailhead in Lake Orion from I-75, take Exit 81 to northbound MI 24/Lapeer Road (it’s a long exit extending 0.8 mile). Go 6.2 miles—Lapeer Road becomes S. Broadway St.—and turn right into a restaurant parking lot just past Converse Court. Signed parking for the trail is behind the shopping center.
To reach the trailhead in Rochester at the Municipal Park from MI 59, take Exit 42 for Adams Road. Head north on S. Adams Road, and go 2.6 miles. Turn right onto Walton Blvd., go 2.3 miles, and continue onto W. University Drive for 0.6 mile. Turn left onto Pine St., and turn right into the parking lot for the park, adjacent to a pond on the left. The Rochester River Walk, in the back of the lot, heads west over Paint Creek to join the Paint Creek Trail.
We started by parking at a park near Ludlow and went to Lake Orion- total round trip from there was roughly 18.5 miles. Not paved, crushed hard stone. Saw plenty of wildlife , including deer with fawns! Ride on the way to Lake Orion has a slight elevation most of the way, which made the ride back much faster. Bridge is still out but you can go around it by taking a couple side roads. Hope they fix that soon! We stopped in Lake Orion to enjoy a meal- lots of places to eat at!
Nice trail. Along the way there is a Cider place to get food and donuts. Many nice views of rivers/ponds. Many places to rest. Only downside is that when I went- the trail was shut down in the middle.
We started at the Rochester Municipal Park and made it to Dutton Road where it was posted the that the bridge was out so the trail was closed. I wish there was an app, like Waze, for bike trials so we could be alerted for things like this.
I tried to run it from paint creek cider mill heading north. It was fully covered of hard ice, temperature this days are below zero celsius. I'll try it again when the season comes
We rode this trail yesterday with our best friends who live in Clarkston and as in the past we found it to be a well maintained trail and a beautiful ride thru the countryside. We started at the Rochester park trailhead where there is ample parking and safety, the police station is right there, and clean bathrooms at the police station available. We rode just short of Lake Orion and returned with a stop, of course at the Cider Mill. The only misstep was that the Cider Mill had neither cider or coffee to go with the wonderful donuts they had and which, of course, we consumed. All in all a wonderful ride. As an added bonus we found a wonderful hamburger joint just a few miles out of town/west on Rochester Road call Jake's Wayback Burgers in a small strip mall and we highly recommend them for burgers, fries, and of course shakes.
Went out on a nice Sunday afternoon and had a great ride, enjoyed the history and scenery and vibe. Near Rochester it was fairly crowded and the only issue was walkers and other riders taking up too much of the trail for easy passing. Once away from town those issues quickly disappeared
Love this trail for walking and biking. Crushed limestone creates a smooth surface easy for both mountain and road bikes. Weekends are fairly busy close to Rochester Hills and get much quieter as you go north to Lake Orion. Gentle grade going north, easy ride going south. A Stop along the midpoint includes a cider mill, several lookouts and resting benches. At either end, great restaurants. This trail is good for the casual weekender too.
Well maintained, scenic, and with points of interest along the way. I frequent this and several other trails, and PCT stands out as my favorite.
I was a bit wary of an unpaved trail, despite having "crosstrail" tires on my bike (they are a good road tire with a smooth center section for pavement, but have extra side nubs to "grip" on loose surfaces). But a week earlier, I had taken a short portion of the Clinton River Trail and had no issues with it at all. The Paint Creek Trail is surfaced similarly, and when I traveled it yesterday, it was hard packed, and nearly rut free.
What makes this a five star trail for me is the scenery. I've been down the Macomb Orchard Trail several times now and let's be honest--mile after mile of the same trees, farmland, trees, farmland, etc. can get repetitive and a bit boring. The MOT however is nicely maintained and makes for an easy ride.
I don't know if it's the fact that the Paint Creek Trail is unpaved and more "rural" looking, or because it is located by an actual creek, that makes the scenery more interesting. I saw little wildlife (mainly chipmunks), but the trees are starting to change color, so it is more scenic than what I've been used to.
I parked off of the Clinton River Trail, in a lot which is only a short distance from where it splits off to downtown Rochester. After maneuvering the Riverwalk and a few pedestrians, I got to the actual Paint Creek Trail. I figured with loose pavement that I would run a bit slower, and I did...but I also forgot that it was uphill the entire way. Only gradually, though, so other than gearing down and traveling slower, I really didn't notice. On the way back from Lake Orion, though, I was averaging 7-8 MPH faster.
The trail ends unceremoniously at Lake Orion (through what looks like the back end of an apartment complex, and behind some stores), but I did not bother to cycle through town at all since traffic on M-24 is a bit heavy.
The one downfall was dodging "road apples." Yes, horse droppings. Thankfully it was only in one spot, but still, another trail I visited (Saginaw Valley Trail) had a separate path for equestrian traffic, which really is welcome. (Bikes and pedestrians coming on horses can also "spook" them, so it's a safety factor as well.)
Very nice trip, though. I'll go back at least once or twice to get some photos while the colors change. If you are at all wary about an unpaved trail, it seems Oakland County at least keeps these trails in very usable condition for most users, and there are no deep ruts or mud on a dry day. It is a nice change from asphalt.
Nice north/south trail between downtown Rochester and Lake Orion, MI. Many times we joined friends for a ride into Lake Orion, grab lunch or dinner and head back south.
But once I found the nearby Macomb Orchard Trail I (and our Friends) said good to the limestone path, the crowded conditions and what the horses left behind.
Sorry, but it needs to be paved.
Started out 2 miles east of Downtown Rochester at Onyx Ice arena just 75 yards north of where Clinton River trail starts and then connected to the Paint Creek trail. Stay on the side walk that runs parallel to the river and when you pass by the back of the Library don't follow the signs pointing you to downtown Rochester. Although you travel through Downtown Rochester, the trail takes you under busy Main street so u miss all the traffic! Once you go under Main Street, you ride along Michigan's version of Central Park (huge!). Beautiful ride slightly uphill from there to Lake Orion with nice out in the country scenic view once a mile or so outside Rochester. Quite a few bikers and walkers close to Rochester, but trail plenty wide to accommodate that. Actually riding through a nice canopy of trees so lots of shade on hotter days which is nice and it also blocks a lot of the wind on breezier days. It's about 10 - 11 miles between bathrooms along the trail, unless you divert about 50 yards or so east on very not busy Gallagher Road and visit the Paint Creek Cider Mill- so plan ahead. Interesting views of fields, woods, ponds, wildlife, and also some unbelievable backyards and mansions, all while traveling pretty much along the Paint Creek.
My wife and I like to stop halfway often to sit outside and share a beer and sandwich - so that is what we did in old historic (small) Lake Orion. Not much else there and the lake very private (no public access restaurants on the lake
was a little disappointing). Then back to Rochester where we stopped and explored that metropolis by parking bikes at the Library and walking the 2 blocks to downtown and exploring that some. Eventually settled in for Happy Hour outside at the quaint little Paint Creek Tavern on their deck outside overlooking Paint Creek for a drink and great $1 sliders where we relaxed for a while before riding the Clinton River Trail the last two miles back to the car - so to miss rush hour traffic driving back to Novi. Overall very nice trail, would certainly do it again.
My wife and I ride the trail on our bikes and find it a fantastic way to be together and stay active. It's a civic treasure.
Be prepared to share the road. Generally speaking, the closer you are to downtown Rochester, the more traffic. There are quite a number of fast-pedaling cyclists on the path, so stay to the right at all times. As noted in other reviews, it's uphill most of the way toward Lake Orion. If you're new to biking or exercising, go north while your legs are fresh.
Many nice sights to see--the creek, wildlife, cider mill. Make sure to check out the maps and roadsigns. There are also two bike repair areas on the trail; we've never used them, but nice to know there are there.
Easy ride going south. You definitely feel it a bit more going north. Nice ride.
One of the most beautiful trails in Michigan. The Paint Creek river winds thru the entire trail and numerous spots allow river access to fish. Biking is excellent for all levels. The trail is patrolled and is well maintained. The Paint Creek Cider Mill is at the Gallager crossing and offers food and drink. Lake Orion on north end and Rochester on the south offer much to do.
I realize it's mother nature and nothing can be done, but I quite running there and use metro, stoney creek and clinton river trail systems instead.
If you are a runner and haven't been bitten, yes bitten, by deer flies, you are in the minority. They use to leave blood stains on the back of my white running shirts and small welts on my body.
Sorry, I hate those things and haven't found a decent way to keep them away yet...I've googled it to death with no luck.
While this trail is an awesome and scenic run, it is very flat. If you're training for a hilly-trail run, this is not the trail specificity that is referred to. The Paint Creek Trail is long and flat and offers no hill training at all. For that, you can run the paved pathways that run North and South along Tienken road from Rochester Road through Squirrel.
This trail is well maintained crushed limestone. There are a few spots needing repair but those are easily avoided. The trail is well marked. The street crossings are marked and while in Rochester traffic is suppose to stop.
The trip going to Lake Orion is uphill mostly. So this direction will be slower moving. When I say uphill it's 1-4% grade (it use to be for trains after all). You will have to work to maintain 10+ mph. Need a break: there's Royal Oak Archers right on the trail. Sundays between 2-4:pm pull over, pay $10 and learn/fling some arrows.
Once in Lake Orion there is plenty to do, see, eat and drink before heading back down the trail. There are two bike shops. Both are about a half a mile away (one North and one South) from trails end.
The trip going to Rochester is downhill mostly. So this direction will see sustained speeds of 10+ mph at a casual cadence.
Just like Lake Orion, once in Rochester, there is plenty to do, see, eat and drink.
In Rochester there are two other trails to link to: The Clinton River trail leads to West Bloomfield and The Macomb Orchard trail lead to Richmond.
i LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE THE TRAIL ITS JUST WOUNDERFULL TRAIL LOVE IT
Little uphill going north. COPY AND PASTE this address to your browser for a great YouTube video of the trail http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfAm6q-rrHU
My husband & I rode the trail for the second time on July 22, 2012. Our first ride on it had been in the late fall of 2011. Both times were rewarding. This last time we parked at the trailhead behind the KFC in Lake Orion. The lot is paved and used by apartment dwellers. That area is very sunny, but the next parking lot south is in the woods, and is dusty. The majority of the ride is in the shade. We rode to 1 mile short of the trail head in Rochester. The trail was well traveled both fall and summer. Seems well maintained except for a short space less than a block long near the north end, north of the outhouse ( next to the dusty parking lot). Seems like some work was done there recently. The Paint Creek Cider Mill was open, and you can buy drinks and ice cream there. (Cash Only) The trail has many benches, including benches and rest/fishing places on the creek. Creek meanders a lot, and trail crosses it a lot.
September 8, 2010
Really nice ride. Started in Rochester; incline but not bad. Hard gravel. Well kept. Lots of bridges, creeks, beautiful "cottages".
Ended in Lake Orion. Rode around the historic town. Nice. Friendly.
Return was 2 gears easier. One of our top picks of the year.
My wife and I have biked this trail on several occasions and it is by far our favorite to date. The scenery is spectacular as you travel along the Paint Creek. It is an easy ride both ways but the return trip to Rochester is easiest as it is downhill the whole way. The cider mill in goodison is a great midpoint to stop and get some cider in season.
"This is a trail that will accomodate the vast majority of recreational cyclists, runners and walkers that want to avoid the roads. This is an excellent trail for families and occasional riders. The trail can easily be navigated with any bicycle with hybrid tires or mountain bike tires. Semislicks or Cross tires are best in my opinion.
The grade is a very mild uphill grade running from Rochester to Lake Orion.
The trail extends northeast on crushed limestone/gravel approximetely 8.5 miles from the Rochester City park and is usually wide enough to easily allow two riders alongside with a little room to spare. The trail also extends southward though mostly paved sections for a half-mile until it links with the Clinton River Trail that runs from West Bloomfield through Rochester Hills and links with the Macomb County trail.
The traffic at Tienken, just over a half-mile north of the Rochester City Park, is moderate so you can expect to wait for traffic to clear before crossing the intersection. Some motorists will stop and allow you to cross however.
In season, I will typically take a break from road riding and using the trail once a week. During the day, especially on weekends, expect to see many runners, walkers and other riders on the trail. So those wanting to use this trail for training purposes may want to use the trail in the early morning.
"Very nice ride with cider mills, lots of wildlife and flat terrain. 15 miles from Orion to Rochester. Plenty of places for lunch in Rochester and then hit the Cider Mill on the way back for a break. "
"This trail is a lot more interesting than riding in a circle around Stoney Creek Metro Park. The scenery is beautiful and we frequently see deer, chipmunks, etc. Difficulty level is Easy, if you like challenging hills, you won't find them here."
"The trail is very pretty, but it needs to be paved. Traffic is extremely heavy and it's nearly impossible to ride 2 by 2. Do not even attempt to start in Lake Orion. There are absolutely NO SIGNS indicating where the trail begins. We drove forever, until we stopped into a gas station to ask for directions. Turns out you have to take a little winding dirt road to the trailhead, that is barely noticeable from the main road. All in all, we had an enjoyable day. "
Very nice trail but the surface in many areas is getting very rocky and gravelly making for a rough ride. Motorists at the main-road crossings at Tienken and Adams are oblivious to the bikers so be careful crossing. Otherwise it's a great trail - wish it were longer!
"I enjoy biking on this trail very much! I have ridden it in spring and summer, and can't wait for autumn to see the natural beauty along Paint Creek. It has a good surface -- the trail is used by joggers, bikers, walkers, and there is evidence of horses."
"We took our Boy Scout Troop for a weekend of biking. We started from the Municipal Park in downtown Rochester. The pathway is hard-packed. The views are very nice. Several marsh areas for view birds. Road crossings almost every mile. We stopped at Clarkston Road and then went to the Bald Mtn. Rec Area for a weekend campout. We then did 15 miles of Mountain Biking. We never made it to the north set of trails. On our last day, we headed back down PCT, back to Rochester.
This trail is easy for all ages."
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