Looking for a fun outdoor activity in Lansing Michigan? We recommend adding a visit to the Lansing River Trail to your Michigan bucket list.
This trail not only showcases some beautiful scenery along the Red Cedar River in Ingham County, but it is also close to many additional things to do in Lansing.
Check out the Lansing River Trail map below and make a plan to spend a couple of hours traversing this scenic walking and biking trail through our state’s capital city!
About the Lansing River Trail
The heart of the Lansing River Trail is in the Crego Park area, along the Red Cedar River. The trail stretches east to the Michigan State University campus, north to the Old Town area, and south around Hawk Island Park to South Waverly Road. This all adds up to over 16 miles of paved trail to enjoy.
But as the old saying goes, “It is not the destination, but the journey.” A nice meal cannot take the place of the wind on your skin as you fly your bike along the river, and some great music down in Old Town just isn’t the same as the rumble of the train that rolls by where the Lansing River Trail runs along the tracks.
The Lansing River Trail isn’t just a walkway. It’s more than just some bike trail. It is a moment of beautiful respite on a busy work day. It is exercise. There’s so much activity on the trail that it’s hard to get a picture. It is a nice slice of the natural, and it is everything in between.
More importantly, it is where I fell in love with my wife and later proposed to her. For that, the Lansing River Trail will always have great significance for me. The fact that the Lansing River Trail has significance for so many others just makes it that much sweeter.Nathan Smathers
Your journey will take you over wooden bridges, under concrete bridges, and through some outstanding natural canopies.
History of the Lansing River Trail
The thought and planning that went into the trail spanned from the 1960s until 1975 when the first section opened. Then, it earned the designation of a National Recreation Trail in 1981.
In 1983, the longest extension took place on an overgrown riverbank railroad bed, beginning the southern branch. Next, the construction of the trail transitioned to following the Red Cedar River east to the MSU campus in 1985.
The Best Way to Experience the Trail
All of the trail and places you’ll encounter are easily traversed and accessible whether on foot or by bicycle. Taking the trail by bike is definitely the way to go because you can ride the entire trail easily in a single outing, especially if you are stopping along the way.
If you need to rent a bike for your visit to the Lansing River Trail, the MSU Bikes Service Center has you covered.
Where to Park Near the Lansing River Trail
Cars are not permitted on the Lansing River Trail. So, where do you park your car? Luckily, there are numerous areas to park and access the trail. Choose from:
- Clippert Street parking lot
- Hawk Island parking (parking fee)
- Kruger Landing
- Lot 56/Cesar Chavez Plaza
- Maguire Park
- Moores Park
- Oakland Avenue parking lot
- Potter Park (parking fee)
- Saginaw Stree parking lot
So Many Things to Do on the Lansing River Trail
The Lansing River Trail is often overshadowed by all of the amazing places it connects, including Lansing’s Old Town, where the trail begins and where you can dine at any number of great establishments after some fun shopping.
As the trail winds south you’ll pass Museum Row and Cooley Law School Stadium, where the Lansing Lugnuts play Single-A baseball. Just after you lose sight of the capital, you’re faced with a couple of options:
- Continue south along the Red Cedar River to Potter Park Zoo, Soldan Dog Park (one of Dog Fancy Magazine’s top dog parks of 2009), and Hawk Island Park. Then, head along the river to the MSU campus in East Lansing.
- Turn west along the Grand River toward Moores Park.
Potter Park Zoo
Near the heart of the trail, the Potter Park Zoo is a fantastic place to stop and visit. It houses over 500 beautiful animals, including mammals, birds, and reptiles. Plus, you can access this Michigan zoo right from the Lansing River Trail.
Hawk Island Park
Farther south at Hawk Island Park, you can rent paddle boats and canoes or swim or fish. And, the Brenke Fish Ladder is a wonderful place to spend time in peace and quiet while basking in Mid-Michigan’s splendor.
There are several other parks to visit along the trail too, including:
- Crego Park (heart of trail)
- Maguire Park
- Trager Park
Michigan State University Campus
When you’re on the eastern section of the trail, visit the MSU Broad Art Museum on the MSU campus. You get to enjoy contemporary art at this museum with free admission. Plus, you can watch as thousands of students walk this trail every single day.
Located next to the Grand River, Moores Park is a fantastic place for recreation. It has tennis and basketball courts, a public pool that’s open during the summer, and a playground for little ones. Soccer nets are set up on the green too.
On the generous amount of green space, the neighborhood hosts concerts and special events. And, you can often see geese, ducks, and other wildlife sunbathing and trotting around as well.
Where to Stop for a Bite Along the Lansing River Trail
Less than 5 minutes from the eastern end of the trail, stop in at Sansu Sushi for some delicious Japanese food. This gorgeous restaurant offers a unique dining experience with different styles of seating.
Close to Potter Park Zoo is the Blue Owl Coffee Shop, which is a great place to stop for coffee, tea, and treats.
If you continue to the northern section of the trail, stop in Old Town for shopping, dining, and fun events. This unique and artistic section of Lansing is definitely worth seeing. While you’re there, snag dinner at UrbanBeat for an ever-changing menu and beautiful atmosphere.
If barbecue is more your style, check out Meat BBQ in Old Town. As the name suggests, it offers plenty of meat options and delicious sides, like five different styles of french fries.
Lansing Michigan Lodging Options
If you’re wanting to make the Lansing area your home base for your Michigan bucket list adventures, here are a few places you might consider staying in the area:
- Radisson Hotel Lansing At The Capitol
- Courtyard by Marriott Lansing Downtown
- Lansing Home: Between MSU and Old Town
Want to camp instead? The Lansing Cottonwood Campground is very close to the southern branch of the Lansing River Trail. It offers a variety of site options, from RVs to tents, with lots to do. Plus, pets are welcome!
Explore More of the Lansing River Trail & Lansing Michigan
Because the Lansing River Trail is so long, there are many more parks and interesting places to explore along the way. It even connects to the Sycamore Trail, which crosses Sycamore Creek and runs south to Valhalla Trail and Valhalla Park.