This Michigan bucket list item is brought to you by My SMART Team at EXIT Realty 1st.
As Michiganders, we value our warm summer days. Like cooped hens with cabin fever, we escape to the outdoors every chance we get. As many of us look to get in shape this summer, the great outdoors offer the perfect opportunity to get moving.
Walking trails provide an easy, no-training-needed workout. The trail system in Jackson stretches for miles across the natural, rolling countryside, past pristine lakes and through beautiful parks. For beginners, the trail at Cascades Park (a.k.a. Sparks) is just over a mile and is filled with people of all running and walking levels.
About Falling Waters Trail in Jackson Michigan
In Jackson County, MI, the Falling Waters Trail is a 12-foot-wide, 10.5-mile-long paved pathway that connects the City of Jackson and Village of Concord. The trail is an important community link that was built on an abandoned section of the Michigan Central Railroad.
Opened in 2007 and dedicated as a Jackson County Park, it passes through marshes, lakes, natural springs, and parks — all of which offer great recreation opportunities.
The crowning jewel of the trail system in Jackson is the Falling Waters Trail, 10.5 miles from the village of Concord to Weatherwax Drive. This rail trail then continues another 3.4 miles as the Inter-City Trail.
After a jaunt through Downtown Jackson, the trail system continues for another mile as the Armory Arts Walk for a total of 16 miles. Below, I will walk you through what you can expect to find, as well as some of my favorite places to stop along the way.
A Rich Native American and Railroad History
The Falling Waters Trail gets its name from the region’s numerous lakes, rivers, and springs. In fact, it passes through lakes and springs that form the headwaters for four major rivers in Michigan.
Also, the Potawatomi Tribe was the earliest recorded inhabitants near the trail. They referred to the area as “The Land of Falling Waters,” and the name honors their presence.
In regards to transport, the value that the Falling Waters Trail brings to Jackson County dates back to when it was part of the Michigan Central Railroad. This Michigan Air Line section of tracks was used for more than 100 years.
Snyder Station used to be alongside the railroad at Moscow Road in Spring Arbor Township (about mid-trail), while Concord and Lime Lake had depots with ticket agents.
The Falling Waters Trail Route
Since the Falling Waters Trail is paved, it’s ideal for biking, running, and walking. It winds through the outskirts of Jackson where there are few road crossings. You’ll mostly see countryside and woodlands until you get to Concord, which is teeming with Victorian homes.
Weatherwax Drive Trailhead
Although you can start at the Concord trailhead at the intersection of Main and River streets, we recommend starting at the Jackson trailhead about mid-Weatherwax Drive between Horton and Kibby roads.
There’s plenty of parking and a restroom here. Use this map to get a better idea of the trailhead location.
Looking for lunch before you hit the trail? Don’t miss Kibby Cobb Market, Prime Cuts, Key Largo Lounge, or, if you end here instead of starting here, you can enjoy a meal at Knight’s Steakhouse.
About 6.5 miles from the Weatherwax trailhead (4 miles from the Concord trailhead), you’ll come across Lime Lake and Lime Lake County Park in Spring Arbor. It’s a great place to stop for a break, and restrooms are available. Also, you can do many recreational activities here.
The lake is 96 acres and 27 feet deep with a boat launch and swimming area, so you can go fishing and scuba diving. The park is 321 acres and has playground equipment and picnic areas.
This former limestone quarry is popular with divers who enjoy the views of unique rock formations at the bottom of the lake.
Falling Waters Historic Park
At about 7.5 miles into the trail (3 miles from Concord), you have the chance to visit the preserved Potawatomi Tribe’s village at Falling Waters Historic Park in Spring Arbor. It’s located about ½-mile north of the trail near where Hammond Rd and Cross Rd intersect.
The walk-through museum-like park is free and features a log cabin, artifacts, root cellar, and more. Additionally, interpretive signs are posted along the trail to provide a look into the past.
As you continue on the Falling Waters Trail toward the Concord trailhead, you’ll pass through some wetlands and by Reynolds Lake, which is another good spot to rest or go fishing. This area is full of birds and other wildlife.
Before the trail ends at River Street in Concord, it crosses over the Kalamazoo River.
Whether you are ending or beginning your trip in Concord, make sure to stop for breakfast or lunch at the Concord Café. Or, how about taking a trip through the turn of the century at the Mann House?
Where to Get a Bike
If you want to bike the Falling Waters Trail, you have two options — rent a bike or bring your own. The Weatherwax trailhead has a Jackson County BCycle kiosk that allows anyone to rent a bike for a small fee for a few hours.
Of course, there’s an additional fee for more time. Annual memberships are available, which allow you to check out bikes with a B-card.
Jackson has two bike shops if you want to purchase a new bike or need to repair your current bike. On Two Wheels is located on Laurence Avenue and has a host of name-brand bicycles and accessories. The staff will fit your bike and help you choose the right helmet.
Experience Cycling With Other Enthusiasts
To enjoy cycling the Falling Waters Trail with other cycling enthusiasts, you could join the Cascades Cycling Club. This group is available to riders of all ages and interests. It has organized rides almost every day and goes mountain biking on various trails. There’s even a Pedal & Whine Bike Tour for adults to join.
Other Nearby Trails and Points of Interest
At the Weatherwax trailhead of the Falling Waters Trail, the trail continues east as part of the Martin Luther King Equality Trail — which was previously the Jackson Inter-City Trail – and the Armory Arts Walk.
Equality Trail/Inter-City Trail
This part of the trail stretches for 3.4 miles and is made on the same abandoned section of the Michigan Central Railroad.
On the Inter-City Trail, you will pass by the King Center, which offers a playground, picnic shelter, two outdoor basketball courts, a tennis court, two ballfields, and a community center.
It passes through Ella Sharp Park, where you can play golf, miniature golf, disc golf, basketball, tennis, and softball. The property also features the Ella Sharp Museum, which has gallery exhibits, historic 19th-century buildings, and a planetarium.
Armory Arts Walk
Once you get to the Armory Arts Village and Art 634, you are on the Armory Arts Walk, which continues along the Grand River until North Street. Art 634 is a former wagon factory turned art gallery. Stop by on a 2nd Sunday Open House to peruse the shops of all kinds of art.
The Armory Arts Village formerly Michigan’s First State Prison is now an apartment building once listed on MSN as one of the most unique buildings worldwide in which to live. Call ahead to book a tour with the Original Jackson Historic Prison Tours and learn about How Prison History Changed Jackson, Michigan and the World.
Halfway up the trail is a beautiful bridge that leads to Lions Park. This park features two softball fields, one tennis court, a playground, a picnic shelter, and two basketball courts.
More to Explore Near the Falling Waters Trail in Jackson Michigan
In Spring Arbor, there’s the Ye Ole Carriage Shop, a museum that showcases Jackson-made automobiles and has a diverse collection of memorabilia.
On top of that, the Falling Waters Trail is part of a much larger trail — Route 1 of the Great Lake-to-Lake Trail that stretches from South Haven to Port Huron. That trail is part of the even more massive Iron Belle Trail from Ironwood in the Upper Peninsula to Detroit, which connects more than 2,000 miles of trails across Michigan.
Using existing trails, networks, and new connections, the Iron Belle Trail extends more than 2,000 miles from the far western tip of the Upper Peninsula to Belle Isle in Detroit, with a route of bicycling, and a route of hiking. The trail is 70 percent completed.https://www.michigan.gov/dnr/places/state-trails/iron-belle
Where to Grab a Bite
For a bite to eat before you start the Falling Waters Trail, you can get coffee and a quick bite at Daily Grind & Food Hub near the intersection of Horton Road and Weatherwax Drive. It serves breakfast and lunch sandwiches.
If you prefer pizza, C & J Family Pizzeria is near the same intersection and serves burgers, subs, hot dogs, wings, onion rings, and more.
To fill your belly midway through the trail, you can either have a picnic at Lime Lake County Park or take a detour into Spring Arbor. In the same group of shops on Spring Arbor Road are Ixcanul, which serves Guatemalan and Mexican cuisine, and Laughlin’s Slice of Spice, which serves wood-fired, brick oven pizza.
When you get to Concord, the best restaurant to stop at is Cadet Tavern. It’s located on Main Street near its intersection with Hanover Street. The restaurant has a varied menu of pizza, sandwiches, chicken strips and wings, burgers, and subs.
Camping & Lodging in Jackson, Michigan
Whether you’re from out of town or a local, the area has some great campgrounds.
Additional lodging options include:
- Hampton Inn Jackson
- Bloomfield Haven Getaway
- Holiday Inn Express & Suites Jackson
- Home W/bar – Mins to Olcott Lake & Wineries