While most of Michigan’s state parks are large and spacious plots, offering recreational opportunities and wildlife viewing, the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail State Park is a bit different.
This park, also known by locals as the White Pine Trail — extends from Cadillac to northern Grand Rapids — creating a linear rail trail park that spans 92 miles.
If you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy some excellent biking, hiking, or walking opportunities, the White Pine Trail is the place to do it.
Getting to Know the White Pine Trail
Michiganders who loved exploring trails have lots of room to explore on the White Pine Trail, which extends from north Grand Rapids, starting on Ann Street, and runs all the way to Cadillac.
In all, the trail extends over five counties: Kent County, Montcalm County, Mecosta County, Wexford County, and Osceola County.
The trail is named for Fred Meijer, the well-known Michigan businessman who founded Meijer stores and made a donation to the creation of the trail.
The trail sits on a rail path that was originally graded for the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad. Once the railroad ceased operations, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources took over the rail bed and began converting it into public rec land in the 1990s.
Over time, sections of the trail have been transformed into the asphalt-paved trail that visitors are familiar with today. In 1998, the trail’s first 13 miles, spanning from Reed City to Big Rapids, were paved. Thirteen more miles were paved the next year.
As of November 2022, all but 22 miles of the trail are paved. The remaining section, which spans from Big Rapids to Howard City, is scheduled to be paved in 2023. The unpaved section is currently packed with gravel and natural ballast.
Navigating The White Pine Trail
If you love being outdoors (and let’s be honest, being outdoors in Michigan is awesome), then the White Pine Trail is a great spot for walking, running, rollerblading, hiking, biking, skiing, and even snowmobiling.
Since the trail is used year-round, it’s not uncommon to see walkers and runners out for a quick trip or cyclists out on a warm summer day.
It is a tree-lined trail that winds along the edges of the local communities while still providing you with an escape from the sights and sounds of city life.
In the summer, the green leaves of the trees provide the natural shade that you need to stay comfortable all while giving you a glimpse into the natural state of Michigan.
As you bike, hike or walk along the path, you may discover some of the wildlife creatures that are native to this part of the state.
Finding the White Pine Trailheads
If you plan on exploring the White Pine Trail, there are several trailheads you can use to start your journey.
In Cadillac, you can find a trailhead off of Lake Street, which you can find off of exit 180 on U.S. 131. Turn west on Division Street and follow it for a mile and a half. From there, you’ll continue on Lake Street, turn south and arrive at the trailhead.
Just south of Cadillac, you can find the 44 Road Trailhead off of US 131. You’ll have to take it to the M-115 exit and briefly head northwest. A short jaunt along North 41 Road leads to North 44 Road and you’ll head west on 44 to find the trailhead.
In Big Rapids, you’ll want to get off US 131 at exit 139 and take M-20 through town. Once you cross the Muskegon River, head to the depot staging area and head south.
The Russell Road trailhead can be found on the M-57 exit off of US 131 by heading east on M-57. Head to the Summit Avenue-Russell Road intersection; the trailhead is just a touch north of that.
The Rogue River Park trailhead can be found off of exit 95 on US 131. You’ll want to take Post Drive to Belmont Road and follow Belmont Road to the Rogue River Park entrance before turning left there.
Exploring Communities Along the White Pine Trail
If you love exploring small towns and communities in Michigan, there are lots of them on the White Pine Trail.
Along 92 miles of trail, trekkers can wind their way through Comstock Park, Rockford, Belmont, Sand Lake, Cedar Springs, Howard City, Pearson, Morley, Stanwood, Paris, Big Rapids, Reed City, Paris, Le Roy, Ashton, Tustin, and Cadillac.
These communities often cater to tourists and there are spots all along the trail where you can use the bathroom, grab a bite to eat, stop and enjoy the scenery, or even go fishing.
Great Spots to Eat Along The White Pine Trail
What you may not know is the White Pine Trail has several breweries along its 92 miles and they’re perfect spots to stop and enjoy a brew.
Rockford Brewing Company | Rockland
also known as RBC, offers up traditional pub snacks and handcrafted beer offerings like Hoplust IPA, Eddie Van Hazy, and Rogue River Brown.
Cranker’s Brewery | Big Rapids
This place will make you feel like you’ve stepped into a brewery-Coney Island hybrid. You can get breakfast, lunch, or dinner here and you can get beers like Keto IPA, Bulldog Red Ale, and Professor IPA.
Clam Lake Beer Co | Cadillac
This spot offers brick-fired pizza, Angus burgers, and more than 40 beers on tap. The beer offerings include Iron City IPA, Pan’s Shadow, and the Skinny Dipper, as well as wine and cocktails.
If beer isn’t your thing, there are other great spots to stop for a bite to eat. Trailside Treats in Belmont offers ice cream and lots of other frozen goodies. Dam Dogs in Rockford offers a menu with more than a dozen unique hot dog combos and Custard by the Dam is another great spot to get sweet treats.
Awesome Points of Interest Along The White Pine Trail
Nature lovers can get definitely get their fill of beautiful Michigan scenery along the White Pine Trail, but there’s so much more to keep your eyes peeled for.
In Comstock Park, trekkers can take a detour through Lydell Park and follow Mill Creek. They can also pass by LMCU Ballpark to take in the sights and sounds of the West Michigan Whitecaps during baseball season.
The Rogue River Dam Overlook between Rockford and Cedar Springs is a great spot to rest, refill your water bottle, and enjoy the majesty of Michigan in front of you.
If you’re up for some shopping on your journey, the Rockford Footwear Depot has shoes, gear, and apparel, and you may just find something you need for your travels.
Lodging Along the White Pine Trail
If you’re making plans to visit part of or the entire trail, you may consider staying close to it.
Thankfully, there are several options available to you. If you’re looking for a rustic experience, Paris, Cedar Springs, Cadillac, and Reed City are a few spots that offer camping opportunities.
Mitchell State Park in Cadillac is a popular spot for boating, fishing, and camping and has a canal that runs right through the park.
Cedar Springs RV Resort offers modern camping and an RV park just a little bit South of Grand Rapids. It also has a stocked lake for fishing, a swimming beach, and an outdoor pavilion.
Paris Park in Mecosta County is located in Paris and offers nightly camping and cabin reservations.
If you prefer staying at a hotel, Big Rapids and Grand Rapids (not officially part of the trail) have many hotel options available.
Get Out and Explore the White Pine Trail For Yourself
Whether you’re looking for new hiking trails, new spots to bike to or you just want to get outside and see more of Michigan, the White Pine Trail is one trail worth the journey.
Not only will you see unforgettable, gorgeous Michigan scenery, but you can also get in some exercise, explore a new town, enjoy a good meal and forget all your troubles for while.
The Michigan DNR and the volunteers who help maintain the White Pine Trail have spent years making it one of the state’s best trails and there’s never been a better time to explore it for yourself.
Whether you want to feel the cold during a brisk winter ski, bike on a warm summer day, or take a leisurely fall stroll, the trail is the perfect spot for activity at any time of year.