Want To Hike (Or Bike) Coast To Coast? Great Lake-To-Lake Trails Can Make It Happen!

Want To Hike (Or Bike) Coast To Coast? Great Lake-To-Lake Trails Can Make It Happen!
The Awesome Mitten - Great Lake-to-Lake Trails
Photo courtesy of N. Richardson

In case you’ve been searching for another reason to tout Michigan as an outdoor enthusiast’s dream land, let’s take a take a minute to talk about the Great Lake-to-Lake Trails project. Beginning in 2008 as a vision of the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance, the ongoing goal of the project has been to develop cross-state trails that may take you coast to coast across Michigan. With thousands of multi-use trail miles already in place across the Mitten (ranked #1 in terms of Rails-to-Trails miles), why not connect them to create super-corridors to even further enhance local communities and the state as a whole? Never heard of a super-corridor? That’s probably because I made the word up. In all seriousness, though, picture it: a trail that, regardless of the direction you choose, will spit you out at either one Great Lake or another (I’m already sold). These trails are meant to connect communities, enhance transportation options, and elevate outdoor activity and fitness opportunities statewide, an incredible vision that already has started to take shape.

Of the five Great Lake-to-Lake Trails (two in the UP, three below the bridge) envisaged by the masterminds behind this work, Route 1, running across the Lower Peninsula from South Haven to Port Huron, has received a considerable amount of attention. Fifteen different trails – totaling almost 180 miles – bring you through farms, woodlots, river valleys and quaint small towns in west Michigan before crossing through Metro Detroit and heading into the Thumb. Quite the journey! If the views (and exercise) alone aren’t enough, the folks behind the scenes are working hard to ensure that these multi-use corridors highlight history, arts, and tourism along the way.

The Awesome Mitten - Great Lake-to-Lake Trails
Great Lake-to-Lake Trail Route 1 (click to enlarge). Image courtesy of N. Krupiarz

As the desire for multi-use transportation options grows, and as more and more people ride the rising tide of Pure Michigan’s immensely successful tourism campaign, the momentum for this type of work can only get stronger. Calhoun County, sitting just west of the midway point along Route 1, is of particular interest. Here, three regional powerhouses collide: the Great Lake-to-Lake Trail, the Iron Belle Trail (Ironwood to Belle Isle), and the North Country Trail, America’s longest scenic trail, running from New York to North Dakota. Professional Engineering Associates, Inc. (PEA), a Michigan-based firm with a strong history of civil engineering, landscape architecture, and land surveying, is working with the Calhoun Country Trailway Alliance to formalize a route, connecting existing trail segments to close the gaps across Calhoun County. Once completed, this trail will not only provide improved access to the beautiful landscape and heritage of the Kalamazoo River Valley, but it also will form a more complete and cohesive picture of this trail hub – a place where three amazing regional trails merge.

The Awesome Mitten - Great Lake-to-Lake Trails
Image courtesy of Professional Engineering Associates, Inc.

Seriously, did you know that, nestled among west Michigan’s rural landscape and small towns, one of America’s most famous scenic trails overlapped with a statewide *and* a lake-to-lake trail? Until I did a little digging and talked to the folks at PEA, I had no idea! Just one more reason to keep exploring all that Michigan has to offer. I can’t wait to see how the Great Lake-to-Lake Trails project progresses, and I hope to hike coast to coast one of these days…maybe I’ll see you out there!

Have you hiked the North Country Trail? Would you trek coast to coast on a Great Lake-to-Lake journey? Let us know below!

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Like many Michiganders, I have found myself continually drawn back to our great state after various explorations elsewhere (Virginia for graduate school, offshore Rhode Island for work). I just can't seem to stay away from all the awesome that the mitten has to offer. I am a proud Michigan State Spartan (Go Green!), and a nerd, plain and simple. I'm trained as a marine biologist, and have a soft spot for invertebrates (pun intended?). I love to read, bake, laugh, read, do yoga, camp, drink craft beer, and read. I'm happiest exploring the outdoors - especially the coasts of our Great Lakes! Come outside with me.