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Tradition says that Michigan has 11,000 lakes. The eastern section of the Lakelands Trail State Park passes through a chain of them as it rolls from the town of Hamburg and Lakeland to the outskirts of Jackson almost 40 miles away. In fact, Hamburg Township, where the trail starts, is 10% covered in water.
The trail, dating to the 1990s, is in various stages of improvement. Asphalt covers the eastern 7.5 miles from Hamburg to MI 36 west of Pinckney; the next 4 miles to the township line near Barton Road and MI 36 is hard limestone; slag and sand comprise the surface for the next 9 miles into Stockbridge; and the final 5 miles southwest to Munith is open but mostly unimproved. Horseback riding is permitted in the trail corridor, but snowmobiles and off-road vehicles are prohibited.
The Lakelands Trail follows a section of the former Michigan Air Line Railroad opened in 1884 as part of a planned rail line across southern Michigan. It was absorbed by the Grand Trunk Western Railroad in 1928 and became disused in the 1970s.
From the eastern endpoint on Whitmore Lake Road, the trail runs parallel to E Michigan 36. Passing the trailhead on Hamburg Road, you’ll cross through Winkelhaus Park, the site of the old Hamburg House Hotel from about 1835 to 1968.
Heading west, the trail is paved as it passes sports fields at Manly Bennett Park and Zukey Lake, one of a chain of eight lakes in the Huron River watershed, and home to a well-known lakeside tavern dating back to the 1930s. You’ll continue through a growing residential area to a trailhead and old railroad depot at Pearl Street in Pinckney. Four miles south is the 11,000-acre Pinckney Recreation Area, known for its mountain biking trails.
The Lakelands Trail changes to hard-packed limestone about a mile west of Pinckney as the countryside becomes mostly farmland and forest. The trail brushes the northern edge of the 535-acre University of Michigan Edwin S. George Reserve, a fenced research and educational preserve.
Crossing MI 36 again, the trail surface deteriorates and is more suitable for horseback riding, hiking, and mountain biking for the next 8 miles through the small burg of Gregory to Stockbridge, where the trail veers southwest. You’ll find trail parking on South Clinton Street and places to eat a few blocks north.
Improvements to the trail are complete in Stockbridge, which has paved the trail section running through the village. Beyond Stockbridge, there is a trailhead on Hawkins Road, between Munith and Jackson, in the northwest outskirts in Jackson. Crossing Portage River via a pedestrian bridge, the trail continues south through the western outskirts of Blackman and towards downtown Jackson. The trail's southwest end is in northwest Jackson by the intersection of E Parnall Road and Cooper Street/M-106.
This section is surfaced with limestone gravel. There are restrooms at several points along the trail and their locations are marked on the TrailLink map.
In 2018, the trail was renamed the Mike Levine Lakelands Trail State Park for a Michigan trail champion and donor.
Short-range plans call for connections to the cross-state Iron Belle Trail (north–south) and Great Lake-to-Lake Trail (east–west) are in the works.
Parking is available at a number of locations along the trail. Visit the TrailLink map for all options and detailed directions.
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