With more than 12,500 miles of state-designated trails that connect communities, provide health and economic benefits, and attract outdoor enthusiasts, it’s no wonder Michigan is known as “The Trails State.”
To showcase these resources, Gov. Rick Snyder recently proclaimed Sept. 17-24 as the state’s third official Michigan Trails Week. The declaration originated in 2014 to highlight Michigan’s trail system; this year, the weeklong celebration culminates on Saturday, Sept. 24, which is National Public Lands Day.
“Michigan’s vast network of hundreds of miles of trails attracts hikers, bicyclists, equestrians, off-road vehicle users, kayakers and snowmobilers,” said Paul Yauk, statewide trails coordinator for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “Our goal is to further strengthen Michigan’s reputation as the nation’s “Trails State” and build greater awareness about one of the best and most diverse trail systems in the country.
“I encourage residents to get out and enjoy the many state, county and local trails available across Michigan,” said Yauk. “Whether walking a familiar trail, hiking a more challenging Upper Peninsula trail, running a hilly course or bicycling a paved linear trail, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to enjoy our state’s outstanding trail system.”
The diversity of trails is demonstrated by:
4,010 miles of hiking trails.
1,398 miles of equestrian trails.
3,660 miles of ORV trails.
1,483 miles of bike trails.
6,204 miles of snowmobile trails.
973 state park trails.
Hundreds more miles of local, county and federal trails throughout the state.
According to a 2013 report by the Outdoor Industry Foundation, outdoor recreation generates $18.7 billion in consumer spending in Michigan, generating approximately 194,000 jobs a year. In addition, at least 63 percent of Michigan residents participate in outdoor recreation each year.
Here are just a few Michigan trail highlights:
Jump on the Iron Belle Trail, the longest designated state trail in the nation, and hike or bike your way between Belle Isle Park in downtown Detroit and Ironwood in the western Upper Peninsula. Explore pristine forests, paddle cool rivers and visit charming towns all across the state. The 791-mile bicycle route is 64 percent complete and utilizes existing multi-use trails. In the Upper Peninsula, the route follows U.S. 2, a designated national bicycling route. Visit www.michigan.gov/ironbelle to learn more.
Michigan is home to a wide variety of hiking trails across the state, which showcase Michigan’s natural and cultural resources. A number these trails are maintained by the DNR and can be found in Michigan state parks, state forest lands or wildlife preserves. Many of these trails make unbelievable day hikes, including the Jordan Valley Pathway, Blind Sucker Creek Pathway, Mason Tract Pathway and Shingle Mill Pathway.
Mountain bikers in Michigan recently scored a major win with the opening of the first 5-mile loop of the DTE Energy Foundation Trail near Chelsea. Located in the heart of the Waterloo State Recreation Area, the cutting-edge, sustainable trail is open to mountain bikers, trail runners, hikers and cross-country skiers and has been made possible by an innovative partnership between the DNR, the Potawatomi Mountain Biking Association and a $255,000 grant from the DTE Energy Foundation.
In July, community members and trail enthusiasts celebrated the completion of the 22-mile William Field Memorial Hart-Montague Trail improvement project. The trail was named after the late William Field, who led the effort and had the vision to develop one of the first “Rails to Trails” parks in the state. The paved trail winds through rural and wooded terrain and through the communities of Hart, Mears, Shelby, New Era, Rothbury and Montague.
Michigan offers trails for boaters and paddlers too. The DNR is in the process of developing a policy to include water trails – some overseen by other entities and some yet to be developed – into a statewide system. The 30-year plan will help develop a state system of water trails. Helping lead the charge is the Land Information Access Association.
Michigan has the largest rail-trail system in the nation. Across the state, more than 2,600 miles of old railroad lines have been converted for recreational use.
Michigan is constantly upgrading its ORV trails, using dollars generated by the sale of ORV licenses and trail permits to fund restoration of existing trail and link even more communities.
To learn more about DNR trails, visit www.michigan.gov/dnrtrails. To learn more about Michigan Trails Week visit www.michigan.gov/trailsweek.