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The Southern Links Trailway is a 10-mile rail-trail that connects the communities of Columbiaville, Otter Lake and Millington in central Michigan. While the trail is paved with smooth asphalt, an adjacent path is offered for equestrian users.
Trail users will have to trek uphill whether starting at the trailhead in Columbiaville or Millington—the midpoint just north of Otter Lake is the high elevation mark. Fortunately, because the trail’s corridor was once home to a railroad, the climb is gradual. Weary trail users will appreciate the downhill slope for the remainder of the one-way trip.
Most of the trail’s route is tree-lined, and the colors are spectacular in the fall months. Views from the trail feature a mixed rural landscape, including fields, wetlands, forests and farmland. Local wildlife such as rabbits, chipmunks, woodchucks, frogs and turtles all call the area home, and fleeting encounters between the animals and trail users are not uncommon.
Restaurants in the small communities of Millington, Otter Lake and Columbiaville welcome trail users with friendly service and great food. An active friends group is responsible for keeping the Southern Links Trailway in pristine condition, so be sure to thank volunteers as you encounter them on this great trail.
Parking for the Southern Links Trailway is available at trailheads in Columbiaville on Water Street; Otter Lake on Detroit Street; and Millington at the school complex on Gleason Street.
Whether your a beginner or an avid cyclist..this is a great trail. Plenty of shade and sun alike with countryside views it's definitely a peaceful ride!!
try to ride this trail twice a week during the warm months. i like the gradual grade where i can work on improving my speed and stamina.
My daughters, dogs and I have walked this trail around the Otter Lake start for the past few years. Otter Lake is the middle of the trail and we've walked in both directions. We've now moved over towards Millington where the trail starts and I've been out on it a couple of times from this end. It's very well kept and I can vouch for the food at McPhersons. We go over there for lunch quite a bit. My goal this summer is to start here in Millington and do the whole 10 miles and finish in Columbiaville.
My wife and I put off exploring this path for a couple of years now. WHAT WAS I THINKING! Awesome ride yesterday, beautiful countryside and pleasant weather. Just a fantastic day. We'll be back.
20 miles round trip, straight, paved, with mild elevations through beautiful rural areas, good mix of sun and shade in summer, with restrooms at both ends and in the middle! Benches every once and a while if you need a break, well-maintained. A relaxing, peaceful ride. Don't run over those chipmunks or little garter snakes sunning themselves on the pavement! ;-)
I walked 4 miles on the trail with a friend and it was absolutely beautiful. Very well maintained. Wide paths. Great scenery. Best path I have been on in a long time! I will be back with my bike! So peaceful out there.
Outstanding trail. I picked it up in Columbiaville (plenty of parking) and rode to Millington where I took the advice of several other reviewers and visited McPherson's Restaurant for breakfast. The cinnamon roll...ahhh...the cinnamon roll!
The trail is completed paved and very well maintained with several rest areas with facilities available. It is a shaded trail which was welcome since it was 90 degrees by the time I finished my adventure. Lots of wildlife; foxes, chimpmunks, finches.
This has become my favorite trail in Michigan because it is so peaceful.
What a beauty..small towns of Columbiaville, Millington sand Otter Lake showcase their Heritage in spite of limited resources. Friends of the trails volunteer just as Americans have done for years. I admire their dedication. The Friends truthfully enjoyed biking visitors in comparison to the Paul Henry Trail which had ditches blocking the way, structures placed in the way and access denied to the trail. We had to return to main roads. Signs are limited on PaulHenry.
I am impressed with the ability of a small town to write a grant and receive so much help from the various governmental agencies..
I live along a section of this trail and it makes it very easy to go for an evening ride or run.
Great rail trail. Beginners will appreciate the ease of inclines. 20 mile loop is no problem even for a beginner! Love this trail!
Just want to pile on with the other positive reviews for this trail.
As others mentioned, it is very smooth and well-maintained. It is also wider than some other trails I have been on, which was nice for two people to cycle side-by-side (when no one else was in sight, of course!)
It's pretty flat, which can be good, or bad depending on your desires. Ample parking at both ends of the trail, in Columbiaville and Millington.
It really does have an "up-north" feel. I cycle a lot in Oakland County, and this trail is prettier than some of the rail trails there.
The folks who live nearby are lucky to have such a nice trail close by.
Decided to try this trail on my trip further north this past weekend. What a pleasant surprise. Trail was impeccably maintained. Scenery far exceeded my expectations. Wildlife galore. That "up north" feeling in Michigan's heartland. Near the top of the trails I've ridden so far.
Beautiful trail! Lots of nature and wonderfully paved! Great for walking, biking, running, or really any activity! Definitely worth the trip!
I love this trail. I've walked it for about 3 years and it's the best thing that's happened to this area! I've taken some great pictures on my walks. Everyone is so friendly and respectful of others. I appreciate how bikers either ring a bell or let you know they're passing you; especially when you're walking a pet. My experience today could have been a disaster for two bikers, my dog and me. They came up way too fast for the trail and without a warning.It startled my dog and me. I told them when they stopped that they should have a bell on their bikes and the answer was a sarcastic laugh and "I'm not putting a bell on my racing bike!". I won't be as trusting and maybe I shouldn't have been but I will gladly continue my walks as usual.
Rode from Columbiaville to Millington and back on my beater hybrid bike - clocked in at 20.1 miles.
Completely smooth surface and well-groomed with plentiful areas to pull off and have a rest. Port-a-potties at both the start and the finish. Hardly anyone around on this cool Friday afternoon and would have loved to have explored the quaint little town of Otter Lake but was running low on time. Subtle elevation changes shouldn't be a challenge for even the most novice bicyclist.
Just wish it was 5-10x longer, but you can't have everything!
Very well kept and very smooth paths. Excellent for a road bike. Would highly recommend!
What a beautifully maintained trail. It had just been resurfaced when we biked it. Very scenic, and not crowded at all. We spent more time in the car to get there than we did on the trail, but it was worth it.
I was so pleased with this trail. Pavement is new/smooth and a nice mix of shade(tree coverage) and sun. I saw a deer, chipmunks and heard lots of bird. I hope someday that they are able to extend this to my area.....we need more paths like this for people to get out and get fresh air and exercise.
I finally did this rail trail. It was very wooded making it excellent for shade and a very cool ride. Lots of forest - its almost like they paved a road in the middle of a forest. Plenty of wooden bridges, marshes, ponds, lakes. The best part of the ride is in Columbiaville at the Holloway Reserve. Very nice large fresh body of water. Not too many downfalls other than the ravines can be pretty steep ion some areas (same as deep as 20 feet) so watch out if you stray off the beaten path. THis is a 10 mile paved trail. You feel very secluded on this rail trail.
We started in Columbiaville so we could lunch in Millington at Mcpherson's restaurant. What a treat. 10 miles is very doable for most people and north of Otter Lake it really becomes scenic. Anyone who likes to bike this is a must.
have ridden this rail trail many times,definitely one of the better ones . ironically both trailhead ends are at 760 ft. elevation but half way between them at Willard rd its 890 ft..this is due to the fact that it's the dividing point between the cass river water shed and the flint river water shed .with that said , because it's a rail trail , the slope is gradual. A great ride for all ages. 20 miles round trip or Otter Lake is about in the middle . I believe there are porta-potty's at all three locations.
I love this trail. Very peaceful...along the water. Columbiaville is a great little town to visit.
We met our friend at the Columbiaville trail head. She left her car there and rode with my wife and I to Millington. We wanted to ride the entire trail but did not want to back track. 10 miles was all we wanted. We would leave the bikes and drive back to Millington and get the truck. What a great time we had on this trail. It was mid-week and not crowded. Most of the trail is tree lined and shaded. The fall colors were spectacular. Got ourselves a couple of subs at the local store in Otter Lake (about half way) and went down by the lake and had a picnic. They have a nice park there. I think there might be an admission fee in the summer. Not sure. Was informed by a local man that the bar in town served a great burger. Next time. With our belly’s full we started toward Columbiaville and to our nice surprise discovered you can almost coast the entire 4.5 miles to Columbiaville. Nice gradual decent. My wife said to me she was glad we decided to go the way we did. Neither one of us were tired. Then our friend informed us she left her car keys in my truck back in Millington. Her good looks kept my disposition under control. My wife chuckled and said she was glad it was not her. As our friend and I were deciding what miracle we were going to pray for to get us back to Millington without peddling we looked up the trail to see my wife (Miss Determination) already a half mile back up the hill. Bike riding with two great looking gals on a beautiful autumn day in Michigan. Where else would you rather be!!
My husband and I live in Otter Lake, so this trail is very accessible to us. We love the ride between Otter Lake and Columbiaville. It is beautiful, all in the country and a very easy ride. The trail is well maintained and a pure joy to use.
What a great trail! After reading other reviews, my husband and I rode this trail a week ago from Columbiaville to Millington and back again (all 20 miles) and the trip was awesome! We typically ride the Polly Ann Trail (PAT)on week nights from Leonard to Oxford and back (11 miles) so when we moved from the pea gravel on the PAT to the completely paved Southern Links, it was like dying and going to heaven. What a difference pavement makes! But the best part was running into the couple in both Millington and Otter Lake who were maintaining this beautiful trail. They were trimming trees and cutting grass and it was evident from their conversation, the pride they take in the trail. Thank you so much to the Friends of this trail for making this treasure available to the cyclists of our region!
I rode this trail on Labor Day Weekend. Saturday was cloudy and cool. It was perfect. Slight shower but I survived. The trail is smooth and has nice manageable grades. I love the downhill part heading towards Millington. What a great trail. Some horse riders actually didn't pick up the poop when I saw them, but it was not as bad as other trais.
Outstanding trail. Well kept, drive 40 min., to ride this trail:)
This was a first time out on this trail for my husband and me. What a lovely little secret this trail is. We decided to start in Otter Lake and head to Millington. The trail is wonderful, mostly flat, scenic and serene. Lots of pretty wild flowers along the way, wetlands, deer, birds singing. What more could you ask for. After our 5 easy miles to Millington, we decided to eat breakfast at McPhearson's Family Restaurant, as another reviewer had done. Oh yeah~~~ a great omelet, endless good coffee and a giant, homemade cinnamon roll to die for! (That went in the bike bag for later!) We highly recommend going there for breakfast after a ride. Small town friendly and darn yummy. We headed back and thoroughly enjoyed the ride back. Next time, we will do the whole length. Columbiaville is a sleepy little village, with a quaint and cool new vintage/antique/gift store at what used to be an opera house. We will be sure to pack a picnic and have lunch by the water on the next trip. There will be many more now that we have discovered this lovely trail! Thanks to those who keep it looking so very nice!
My husband and I (59 & 62 yrs young) biked between Otter Lake and Millington yesterday! There was low traffic, and easy grades. You go slightly up hill coming out of Otter Lake followed by a nice drift that lasted about 1/4 mile.It feels easier going to Millington than coming back. Our round trip was 13 miles because we went into town for a little "libation" and grilled bratwierst at McKatim's. The pond sites, the sounds of the birds and frequent encounters on the trail with rabbits, frogs, turtles, chip minks and wood chucks provided a serenity and joy rarely found these days. My favorite experience was observing the variety of delicate wild flowers! Thank you for this "trail therapy!"
We are getting back into biking, and just love this trail. It is fairly flat, paved, and the scenery is wonderful. Otter Lake makes a nice half-way point to "refuel." Hardcore speedy bikers will need to watch out for families and us slower folk; there are a few stops to cross roads.
My wife and I began our ride at 6:00 am, finished at 8:20 am. 21 July 2012. The trail was EXCELLENT. One of the best kept, I have seen in Michigan. The country side was beautiful! We rode from Columbiaville to Millington. Breakfast at McPherson's in Millington. This was OUTSTANDING!!!!! We split an omelet that was just incredible, and a fresh made cinnamon bun that was big enough for an entire family to share. My sincere thanks to those volunteers who do such an outstanding job taking care of this trail! We marveled at how thoughtfully some of the benches were placed in order to capture the first rays of sunshine. This was not accidental, but well thought out I am sure. Well done, and thanks again to all the trail keepers, and staff at McPherson's, you made our day a special one! Mark and Judy from Armada Mi.
Not sure if you are ready for a 20 mile ride? Start at the staging area in Otter Lake and ride to Columbiaville (9 mile round trip) or Millington (11 mile round trip). Then decide if you want to complete the trail. Come again, as the scenery changes each time you cycle this well-surfaced trail through woodlands, wetlands and farm fields. Enjoy the wildlife that greets you along the way. This trail is well used, but never crowded. One of our favorites.
My wife and I rode this trail for the first and last time about 6 weeks ago. The trail for horses is to the edge of the paved biking/hiking trail and is about 10 to 12 inches wide. Our horses were flat shod and we found the trail to be dangerous! The pavement was sealed with a tar and was extremely slick, our horses slipped many times when stepping on the paved trail, or attempting to cross over to the other side when the other edge looked wider. There are many fences along the side of the trail(split rail) that allow next to no room to ride. Your stirrups and legs drag along the fence as you try to stay on the gravel to prevent another slip. If you ride with boots, trail-tac etc, you may be better off, but beware in warm weather the surface is nothing but grease. I was very disappointed that the trail is not more horse friendly.
This trail is great. My first ride, but I traveled this route many times in the early 70s only on the rails.
September 26, 2010 This trail was in tip top shape mostly new. This was the first time we had been on a trail where the trail was paved across the dirt crossroads. It is wooded and very well kept. The trail head in Columbiaville offers good parking and there is a little diner within walking distance. Millington is also a quaint little town to explore. We continued on to Vasaar along paved roads which made it a 37 mile loop. Our first time riding with a group (thanks Chain Gang!) This is one of our picks for top three trails of the year.
This trail is pretty new and in great shape. In fact, this listing only includes the 4.6 miles from Columbiaville to Otter Lake. There is another 5.5 miles that extends from Otter Lake to Millington that will not be officially open until July 10th. The entire length is asphalt and is in excellent condition. All road crossings are marked with 3 orange safety poles on each side of the road. It's a great trip the whole length of the trail and you will not be disappointed.
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