Michigan Trail Tuesday: Fred Meijer White Pine Trail, Rockford to Cedar Springs
Michigan Trail Tuesdays is a new feature that will showcase a different trail or trail segment each week. The Mitten State is home to thousands of miles of trails, including the new Iron Belle Trail that runs from Detroit in the southeast to Ironwood in the western Upper Peninsula.
The Fred Meijer White Pine Trail State Park covers 92 miles from Grand Rapids to Cadillac, and it is one of the most popular trails in the state for walking, running, biking, skating and even snowmobiling (in select sections). This post will focus on the trail section that runs from Rockford to Cedar Springs, a paved section that is 7.4 miles in length. The White Pine Trail follows the former path of the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad, and it is the second longest “rail trail” in the state (the State Line Trail in the Upper Peninsula is 107 miles long).
We started our journey in downtown Rockford, where there is ample parking in city lots. The dam is a popular spot for relaxing or fishing on the Rogue River, and from there the trail heads north on the river’s east side. The White Pine Trail follows the Rogue River as it heads north and out of town on a wide and mostly flat paved path. A little more than two miles from Rockford you will reach 12 Mile Rd., where there is a small parking area.
North of 12 Mile Rd. the trail is still smooth pavement with plenty of room, only the scenery has changed from views of the river to quiet woods. Halfway between 12 Mile Rd. and 13 Mile Rd. you will pass the Maas Family Nature Preserve on the west side of the trail. This preserve features a rare oak-pine barrens ecosystem filled with colorful flowers and the endangered Karner blue butterfly. The next crossing is 13 Mile Rd., and shortly after that the trail curves and crosses Summit Ave.
After crossing Summit the trail will appear to fork – the main trail is to the left, while the right is a short path leading to Trestle Park and a great place for a break. The park has benches alongside Stegman Creek, with view of a historic and beautiful culvert. The Michigan historical marker on site gives its history: “The Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad (GR&I) reached Algoma Township in 1867. A series of wooden trestles were built across Wicked Creek, later named Stegman Creek. In 1885, after repeated fires and floods, the GR&I hired James House to cut fieldstones from his farm and built this culvert to stabilize the trestle. Eventually the GR&I abandoned the trestle and buried it intact within a wall of dirt above the culvert.”
The White Pine Trail continues on, and when it reaches 14 Mile Rd. (M-57) the trail passes under a bridge, where it then begins to bear northeast as it approaches Russell Rd. There is a spacious parking area at Russell Rd., which also marks the point of the trail where snowmobiles are allowed to the north. The trail remains wide with smooth pavement as it passes between subdivisions before entering the woods again. Shortly after crossing Little Cedar Creek the trail reaches Indian Lakes Rd. The North Country Trail follows Indian Lakes Rd. to the west, while the White Pine Trail continues on north. The next major intersection is at 16 Mile Rd. After roughly another mile of hiking the White Pone Trail reaches Cedar Springs and 17 Mile Rd. (also called Muskegon St.). If you’re feeling adventurous the trail continues on to the north, and if you’re thirsty we recommend a stop at Cedar Springs Brewing Company. Check out the pictures below for a better idea of trail conditions and scenery. The Friends of the White Pine Trail website features a map and more information. Check out our post on the #Hike100NCT program on the North Country Trail this summer to learn how hikes like this could earn you some prizes.
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