Of all of the different ways to enjoy the natural beauty of West Michigan, my personal favorites are walking and biking. There are several trails and walks available throughout our state. The city of Kalamazoo provides its bikers and pedestrians the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail.
Visitors can enter the trail from just about anywhere, but its current origin in South Haven and ends at D Avenue in Cooper Township. The River Valley Trail has trail markers every tenth of a mile for the entire 14 miles that it through the city of Kalamazoo. Part of the trail is still under construction, but by the end of this fall, it will span the all the way to Comstock Township.
The Kalamazoo River Valley Trail provides a paved trail with an “ever changing landscape [with both] urban neighborhoods and [also] hilly and windy curves,” said Kyle Lewis, trail program coordinator. Some of the landmarks you’ll see include a tunnel under US 31 and several parks, including Markin Glen County Park, the Kalamazoo Nature Center, Verburg Park and Mayors’ Riverfront Park.
The trail has been free of charge since it first opened in September of 2008. In 2010, the trail attracted about 50,000 visitors and in 2011 it increased to 134,000. The trail is available to use from sunrise to sunset, but please keep in mind that these times vary depending on the time of year.
Lewis plans and implements special events and programs that coincide with the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail and its partnerships with various local parks and nature centers. When asked about his favorite part of the trail, Lewis described the 6 mile stretch from Parchment to D Avenue, which “doesn’t cross any roads and [is] off-road. [It follows] the river [and includes some] windy curves.”
Along with offering a unique and beautiful tour of Kalamazoo, the trail also hosts various events as well as “educational programs in partnership with Kalamazoo Nature Center and the Audubon Society of Kalamazoo” throughout the year. Some these going-on and upcoming events include the Trick-Or-Trail Fun Run and Walk the Zoo.