KalHaven jnemo Explore the Kal-Haven Trail State Park

Explore the Kal-Haven Trail State Park

The 33.5-mile linear Kal-Haven Trail was built using the abandoned South Haven and Kalamazoo railroad route. The railroad route was in use from 1870 through 1970. Using limestone and a slag surface, this excellent trail is perfect for biking and hiking, which is one of the reasons that it should be on your Michigan summer bucket list. 

KalHavenTrail darcielong Explore the Kal-Haven Trail State Park
photo courtesy of @darcielong

About the Kal-Haven Trail

The Kal-Haven Trail State Park in Van Buren County offers one of the best things to do in Michigan during the summer months as there are so many things to stop and see along the way.

While the main trailheads are at either end in South Haven and Kalamazoo, there are several access points along the way, including Bloomingdale and Grand Junction. In fact, the village of Bloomingdale is considered to be the “midpoint” of the trail and provides a welcome rest area with points of interest to explore (Depot Museum) and vault toilets.

The Kal-Haven Heritage Trail project includes panels that inform visitors about the area’s natural and cultural history. A mobile app aids in finding the locations of the 31 panels as you walk, run, hike, or bike the trail. And don’t miss stopping at Camelback Bridge along the way for a great photo opportunity!

Kal Haven Trail Map Explore the Kal-Haven Trail State Park
Kal-Haven Trail Map

Exploring the Kal-Haven Trail

If you start your trip from the eastern trailhead on 10th Street in Kalamazoo, you’ll enjoy seeing the refurbished caboose that serves as the trail office and information center. Be sure to fuel up before hitting the trail as there aren’t a plethora of places to eat or drink along the way (though there are plenty of bathroom break opportunities).

Next, make a point to stop in Kendall and look around. This small town was once the home of a successful company that produced barrel staves with a steam saw-mill from the oak forests surrounding the area. 

As you continue to bike down the trail, the chances are that you will get hungry. There are several great places near the trail in Gobles for grabbing a quick bite to eat, including The Den Cafe which is known for its soups, subs, and pizzas.

After you finish your lunch, it is time to get back on the trail and continue toward the beautiful town of South Haven. This wonderful beach town has plenty to offer, including one of the best Lake Michigan beaches.

Shermans rach bogo Explore the Kal-Haven Trail State Park
photo courtesy of @rach_bogo

Before you head to the beach, make sure that you stop at Sherman’s Dairy Bar for some of the best ice creams you will ever eat. From excellent cones to great sundaes, milkshakes, and malts in almost any flavor you can imagine, Sherman’s Dairy Bar is someplace that everyone in your group is going to enjoy. 

Once you grab your ice cream from Sherman’s, head on down to the fabulous beach and enjoy the incredible lake views, stay on the beach until sunset to see one of the most beautiful sights in the world. There is nothing quite like the sun setting over the water on a warm Michigan summer night. 

After the sunset, chances are you are ready for a drink. There are many great places along the shore and throughout South Haven where you can relax and unwind for the evening. Admiral Jack’s is a favorite bar that provides a wonderful Tiki feel. Captain Lou’s is another beautiful spot to enjoy the afternoon and evening while you are in South Haven.

KalHaven driftwoodshoreshouse Explore the Kal-Haven Trail State Park
photo courtesy of @driftwoodshoreshouse

Campgrounds Along the Kal-Haven Trail

When you are in South Haven, you will want to stay for at least the night. After enjoying a fantastic ride on the Kal-Haven trail, there is nothing quite like camping under the stars, which also should be on everyone’s Michigan bucket list

Kal-Haven RV Park Campground is located a half-mile from Lake Michigan and just a quarter-mile from downtown South Haven. The campground is open from May 15th through October 15th. There are spaces for primitive tent camping as well as RVs.

If you are looking for a unique campground a little further away from town, Kal-Haven Outpost is the perfect place for you. There are some excellent primitive sites surrounded by woods as well as pull-through RV sites. Kal-Haven Outpost also offers large and small cabins, perfect for family get-togethers. 

No RV? No Problem!

We've included local campgrounds in most of the #MIAwesomeList posts to help you get the most out of your Michigan summer bucket list adventures!

No RV? No worries. You can save up to 25% on your travel costs this summer by renting an RV through RVshare!

Whether you want to pull it behind you or have it all set up at your destination, renting an RV is the best way to enjoy all your summer adventures in Michigan!

Browse Available RVs

Additional South Haven Hotel & Vacation Rental Options

If camping isn’t your thing, no worries! South Haven hotels and vacation rentals offer a variety of lodging options, including these:

Photos Along the Kal-Haven Trail


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Kal3 Kal-Haven Trail

Kal-Haven Trail

Kal3 Kal-Haven Trail
Photo Courtesy of Van Buren County Community Center

August is moving past quickly and the summer season is drawing closer to an end. While living in Michigan is great, and definitely has its perks, endlessly good weather is unfortunately not one of them. Soon enough we will all be trading in our swim trunks for snow pants, barbecues for snowplows, and bicycles for skis and snowboards. With that in mind, and a few handfuls of sunny days still to come, we can leave off lamenting for summer for now and mount up our bikes for a couple more good rides. And where better to prolong that summer feeling than on the 30 mile-long Kal-Haven Trail, biking or hiking across lush forestry and a bit of stunning Michigan scenery and history.

Kal1 Kal-Haven Trail
Photo Courtesy of Van Buren County Community Center

With trailheads on 10th Street in Kalamazoo and North Bailey Avenue in South Haven, the Kal-Haven Trail measures out to an impressive 33.5 miles of terrain for all non-motorized vehicles during the summer. Year round the trail is monitored and maintained by the Van Buren County Road Commission, so the trail is kept in a clear but natural state, perfect conditions for mountain biking.

Besides the joy of riding through the rough, the trail itself has a bit of history to be appreciated. The trail was originally cleared as part of a rail system completed in 1870 that ran between Kalamazoo and South Haven on mainly lumber-related business. Along this trail a whole infrastructure and even a few towns were built. Now, 140 years later, the train bed has been converted to a limestone-slag base and the remnants of the train and early Michigan industry can still be seen along the path.

Kal2 Kal-Haven Trail
Photo Courtesy of Van Buren County Community Center

Now, biking and running are great for the warmer months, and I do love a good trek on a nice day. But,as we’ve already established, the mercury is soon to fall and if we’re going to be doing anything outdoors it’s likely to involve snow. But, lucky for us, the Kal-Haven Trail is open all year round to all types of recreation, not the least of which include snow-showing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling. A four-inch snow base is required for the latter of course, but that is rarely a concern at the height of a Michigan winter.

With a year-long smattering of whatever wandering sport might be your pleasure, The Kal-Haven Trail is a good, winding journey along some very interesting terrain. As I said, the trail is open year round from 8 AM to 10 PM, with day passes available at the trailheads and along the path at $3 a person or $7 for a family. Season passes are also available for those sporty return customers at $15 a head or $35 for the family unit. If you are up for the journey and willing to take in some marvelous scenery, pack up your particular recreational fix  and take a little day-trip along The Kal-Haven Trail.

For more info on the Kal-Haven Trail, check out its page at the Van-Buren County Community Center website.


Chris Dier-Scalise, Feature Writer


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