The DNR estimates that our 12,500 miles of Michigan state-designated trails leads the nation, so there’s probably a trail close to you. Tune up your bikes, bring sunscreen, your reusable water bottle and some snacks, and hit the trails!
Flint River Trail
Downtown Flint to Genesee Recreation Area: 24 miles
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Development of this trail network gained momentum in the early 1990s when the Friends of the Flint River Trail formed to host Sunday afternoon bike rides, organize trail cleanups, and advocate for its expansion.
Really a network of 24 miles of paved paths, the main terminus is located at UM Flint. Passing along the north and south edges of the Flint River, the trail has two spurs that connect with Mott Community College and Kettering University.
The original trail from downtown to Carpenter Road was established in the 1980s, so watch out for potholes: some of the surfaces are a bit patchy as you travel along the downtown stretch. The current path winds north along the river through several parks and natural areas to the village of Genesee at the north side of Mott Lake where you’ll spot Stepping Stone Falls. From here, the newest section of the trail (completed in 2015) continues through Genesee Recreation Area. Along with the planned Grand Traverse Greenway Trail, Flint River Trail will connect downtown Flint via the Iron Belle Trail from Detroit to the Upper Peninsula.
Genesee Valley Trail
The Mall to Chevy Commons: 4.5 miles
Built over the defunct railway that once served automobile factories, the 4.5-mile Genesee Valley Trail runs from Genesee Valley Center on Linden Road to Chevy Commons near downtown. Five years in construction, it was completed August 2015, in collaboration with the city of Flint, the Charter Township of Flint, and the Michigan Department of Transportation. It was thoughtfully designed with new paving and HAWK (high-intensity activated crosswalk) signals to provide safe passage across busy streets. Now connected to the Flint River Trail network, it’s a great way to travel between the mall and downtown, with restaurants and other amenities along the route. Make a day of it: a full tour from Genesee Valley Center north to the village of Genesee and back will rack up 32-miles for your round trip.
Buell Lake County Park
14098 Genesee Rd. in Clio: 1 mile
Just a few steps away from the Buell Lake Boat Ramp, the trail takes about 25 minutes to complete and ends close to restrooms and children’s play area.
For-Mar Nature Preserve & Arboretum
2142 N. Genesee Rd. in Burton
For-Mar includes several trails, including a planned 5k route, which can be accessed at both the north and main entrances. Hike along the bend of Kearsley Creek and explore the trails that twist through the stream’s heavily wooded flats. Trails are well maintained and path directions are marked for ease of use for families.
Flushing County Park
4417 N. McKinley Rd. in Flushing: 1 mile
Flushing Park’s trail runs along Carpenter Road with a bend close to the Flint River. The terrain is good for leisurely excursions on bike or on foot, verdant landscape of trees and lawns. Bring your dog and a pair of running shoes and enjoy one of the most beautiful park trails in the county.
Linden County Park
15349 S. Linden Rd. in Linden: 1.5 miles
Linden County Park’s trails are open year round. The main trail is a 1.5-mile loop through beautiful terrain studded with maple, oak and beech trees. It can be completed on foot in a little over 1/2 hour. The other runs through the center of the park and is perfect for biking.
There are more plans in the works for the Iron Belle Trail, which will run from Detroit’s Belle Isle Park to Ironwood in the western Upper Peninsula. Now more than 60 percent complete, the Iron Belle Trail will boast 791 miles of bicycle routes, utilizing existing multi-use trails along U.S. Highway 2. A coalition including the Michigan Fitness Foundation, DNR, MDOT, the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance and local community groups is campaigning to raise $168 million in private funding to complete the project. Once completed, it will be the longest continuous trail in the state.
Trail Etiquette: Rules is Rules
If people are falling in love with nature for the first time this season, there are some simple rules they need to know first: Don’t feed the wildlife; don’t litter (pack it in, pack it out); weed is still illegal in Michigan; and—DO NOT PLAY YOUR F***ING MUSIC ON THE TRAIL.
It’s okay for hikers and cyclists to share the trail and enjoy the outdoors, but please leave the Bluetooth speakers at home. These resources belong to the public, not just people that like Justin Bieber. If y’all are going to spend your time on the trails instead of at the mall, great, but have some respect for everyone else. The same goes for drones, too—they sound like giant wasps and make you look like a jerk. They are also illegal.
Special thanks to Katie Herzog for the trail rules inspiration.