Bay-Zil Rail Trail


11 Reviews

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Bay-Zil Rail Trail Facts

States: Michigan
Counties: Bay, Saginaw
Length: 7 miles
Trail end points: Near Melbourne Rd., north of Zilwaukee and East Hotchkiss Road and Brooks Street (Frankenlust Township)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6490638

Bay-Zil Rail Trail Description

Eastern Michigan's 7-mile Bay-Zil Rail Trail is lined with trees and traverses picturesque farmland. The paved rail-trail follows the former Detroit and Mackinac Railway, which hauled both timber and passengers during its heyday in the early half of the 20th century.

True to its name, the trail links to the Zilwaukee Pathway on its southern end and will link to the Bay County Riverwalk on its northern end. For now, the Riverwalk is only 2 miles away and that gap is actively being worked on. In this way, the Saginaw County to Bay County Connector is helping to close a crucial gap in the larger Great Lakes Bay Regional Trail. Once fully constructed, this regional trail will consist of nearly 100 miles of trail connecting Midland, Bay, and Saginaw counties, and the many destinations along the route. More than 60 miles of the system are currently open.

The Bay-Zil Rail Trail is also part of an even bigger trail network across the entire state: the Iron Belle Trail. This project will stretch more than 1,200 contiguous miles from Detroit to the Michigan/Wisconsin border.

Parking and Trail Access

Parking is available at the Bay-Zil Trailhead, located at the north end of the trail, at the intersection of Hotchkiss Road and Brooks Street in Bay City. 


Bay-Zil Rail Trail Reviews

Did this trail for the first time today. Very nice, but short. We started from the parking lot of Ray's Bike Shop. Out to the end of the trail and back to Ray's was just under 13 miles.

Did this trail for the first time today. Very nice, but short. We started from the parking lot of Ray's Bike Shop. Out to the end of the trail and back to Ray's was just under 13 miles.

Nice trail but...

Have seen many hunters along this trail. It adjoins a lot of private property where people hunt and discharge firearms. I would strongly suggest you stay only on the asphalt trail and do not venture off it. It is very nice though.

Enjoyed a peaceful walk and plenty of wildlife viewing

Enjoyed a peaceful walk and plenty of wildlife viewing

Pleasantly Surprised!

Travelled the southern section to the trail head near the big bridge. Beautiful scenery to include birds, squirrels, snakes, and the Saginaw River. Flat, smooth and quite nice Trail surface. Will definitely return to checkout the northern section of the trail.¿


Great for scenery

I love this trail is 7 miles long. The longer the better in my opinion. While prior reviews have mentioned some upkeep that needs to be done (not completed as of May 2022) they are minor blemishes in my opinion. This trail offers fantastic scenery, wildlife, and if you’re fortunate enough you’ll see the big ships on the river, along with plans taking off and landing at James Clements Airport. I hope there is progress made to link this trail to the Zilwaukee pathway.

Nice Bird viewing in wetlands

Very enjoyable ride, nice trail.

Nice Views; Needs Maintenance

There is much that I like about this trail such as the beautiful views of wildlife along the river and wetlands, however it is in need of maintenance. As of July 2021 the trail still needs to be extended as it goes to “nowhere”; just dead ends to a narrow dirt path. There has been talk about extended the trail past this point but it has not happened yet. About 1/2 mile before the dead end the surface becomes very bumpy from roots and other plant life pushing up through the asphalt. There are many potholes that have been there for quite awhile. Many of them have been marked with bright paint as a warning but the paint is so faded that you don’t see them until it’s too late. If these things were taken care of this trail would be one of my favorite local rides.


We parked at the Hotchkiss parking area and headed back towards Saginaw. The majority of the trail was in good condition with only the last 1/3 of a mile with some trail degradation. We saw frogs, egrets, herons, and a BALD EAGLE was perched on an old dead tree about 15 feet from the trail. It was awesome. The trail did dead end so we went out and back.

Nice trail through marshland and farmland

We started the trail from the south end, which was tricky to find if you don’t know what you are looking for. There is no official parking for the trail. We parked by the cement factory. There was a very small, dirt path, maybe 60 yards, that we walked our bikes until we found an asphalt path. It looked fairly new, but the first almost half mile had weeds growing through the it. After that, it was well maintained. We saw and heard lots of birds. The path took us up to Bay City where we rode the River Walk then came back to the path. There was some parking by Hotchkiss Road, about halfway up the trail. Although there were some people on the trail, bicycling and in line skating, the trail was not too crowded.

Wonderful trail

The only negatives for this trail is that it’s a dead end and near the end there is slight degradation of the surface with plants coming though the asphalt, but it’s marked. Positives Very little traffic Wide enough to comfortably ride side by side Smooth trail with almost no bumps Incredible views of Saginaw River and adjacent marshes Lots of wildlife, have seen eagles, herons, coyote, muskrats, rabbits, deer, and more.

Good Trail with Scenery and Wildlife but Room for Improvement

This has the potential to be a great trail, but as of this writing there are a few problems. It is a new trail having opened just last fall (2016) and has limited amenities so far. I did not see any water along the way and only a couple of places to stop and rest. The only trail head with parking is at the north end in Bay City though there are plans for a southern trail head at the Saginaw end. There are also plans to connect the trail with the Bay City loop trail and with trails in Saginaw.

The trail is flat and runs along the west side of the Saginaw River through woods, marsh and farm fields. In two places bridges cross open water and the views from these bridges are spectacular.

As I road this route I saw numerous wildlife including a few birds I'm not sure I have seen before. Unfortunately you are likely to see way more Canada geese and their leavings than you may want to see. At one point I could imagine how the riders in the Tour de France feel with the crowds pushing in on both sides except this crowd was waddling along and hissing. Aside from the geese you are likely to see quite a few egrets, herons, ducks, deer, etc. I think I may have also seen a couple of Osprey.

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