Off the Beaten Path: 6 Fall Hikes and Trails Around Grand Rapids

Just because the air starts to turn cooler and the leaves start to fall doesn’t mean it’s time to take refuge indoors just yet. Instead, grab your jacket, lace up your hiking boots, and explore the local trails. Below are six ideas to get you started.

Provin Trails Park

Featuring interconnected loops through pine needle-littered forest and a sand dune, all stunningly close to the city, Provin Trails Park offers a quick escape for those looking to breathe in some sanity and the scent of pines. Located off Four Mile Road and close to the East Beltline, it’s a quick dip to get away from the city.

Trail Length: approximately two miles

Trail Conditions: Natural surfaces. Sandy and wide on the main paths, some side paths are narrower and rooted. Some elevation up sand barrens.

Seidman Park

Tucked away in Ada Township is Seidman Park, a wetland preserve with natural trails, bubbling creeks, and more than six miles of trails for an afternoon of exploration.

The 4,350-acre park is broken into color-coded trail segments and explores a stunning combination of forest and wetland. The 4.25-mile perimeter loop is a worthy starting place, but the several interconnected trails offer a day’s worth of customizable exploration. Bring a picnic lunch and a blanket if you’re so inclined, it’s a good place to sit awhile and breathe in some tranquility.

Trail Length: over six miles

Trail condition: Wide and well maintained, but rocks and roots are plentiful.

Cascade Peace Park

A hidden gem controlled by Cascade Township, Cascade Peace Park can only be located by typing the physical address on Google Maps, not by typing in the park. The parks’ address is: 8900 Grand River Avenue, Grand Rapids. The park takes it namesake from Wendell Berry’s “The Peace of the Wild Things” inscribed on a stone marker a quarter mile into the trail.

Then trail weaves in several color-coded loops through a combination of forest and grassland for a 2.7 miles interconnected system. Its meadows intersperse an old-growth forest of mature hardwoods, making the 198 acres an ideal habitat for warblers, hawks, and owls if birdwatching is your thing.

Trail Length: 2.7 miles

Trail Conditions: Dirt, roots, and grass.

Hiking a trail in the PJ Hoffmaster State Park, which leads to a beach on Lake Michigan.

Hiking a trail in the PJ Hoffmaster State Park, which leads to a beach on Lake Michigan.

Photo by Experience Grand Rapids

PJ Hoffmaster State Park

The lake is often associated with hot summer days spent lounging waterside, but don’t discount it in the fall. Lake Michigan’s shores are far emptier and the water, though a bit chillier, is still worth ducking under for bragging rights.

PJ Hoffmaster State Park is the perfect place for such a fall outing. Combining the aforementioned pristine beaches with miles of forested trails, Hoffmaster strikes the perfect balance for a Michigan getaway. The dune climb takes you up 193 steps to a breathtaking lake vista and the more than 10 miles of trails take you from lakeshore to dune to wooded enclaves.

Make sure to check out Little Black Creek area in the north end of the park. Home to bald eagles in the winter, it boasts a plentiful bird and butterfly population in the warming months.

Note: Because this is a state park, you’ll either need a recreation pass on your license plate or pay an entry fee, but it is well worth the fee.

Trail Length: over 10 miles

Trail Conditions: Sandy, generally well maintained, but still offering some challenge.

North Country Trail – Lowell to Fallasburg

In development since the late 1960s and officially approved in 1980, the North Country Trail spans Vermont to North Dakota. While most celebrated and better-known hikes such as the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide trails makes hikers choose either a southbound or northbound route, the North Country Trail makes its way in a horizontal nature across the Midwest, showcasing Michigan’s shoreline, a large loop in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and hugging the Bayfield Peninsula in Wisconsin. It seems to be a little-publicized fact that such a storied trail passes through Kent County.

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This stunning 10 miles starts in Lowell and travels through the Lowell State Game area, a 10-mile contiguous stretch. State Game areas permit camping from September through May making this the perfect place for a short, introductory jaunt into backpacking on your way to Fallasburg Park. Just remember to follow proper regulations.

Trail Length: 10 miles

Trail Conditions: Naturally surfaced. Well maintained, but it is the North Country Trail so expect more of a true trail feel.

Maas Family Nature Preserve

Just North of Rockford and right along the White Pine Trail is a small jaunt that takes you along the forested Rogue River and offers an interactive experience with conservation strategies. Home to the rare oak-pine barrens ecosystem, the Maas Family Nature Preserve has been deliberately managed through a combination of forest thinning, invasive species removal, and prescribed burning.

In addition to being a rare ecosystem, the preserve supports endangered Karner blue butterflies. Visitors are asked to stay on the trails at all times in order to protect their habitats. Make sure to read through the preserve guidelines before you visit, and be smart and respectful in general.

Trail Area: 0.5 Acres

Trail Conditions: Wide, naturally surfaced.
This is just a small sampling of what the Grand Rapids area has to offer. Check out the video below for inspiration, and for more trail, hikes, and parks head over to Experience Grand Rapids trail page.

Hiking the Rogue River Trail – A River Guide’s Perspective

The Rogue River National Recreation Trail is a beautiful hike traversing the right side of the Rogue River. Stretching a total of 40 miles, the trail passes through gorgeous side creeks, steep canyons, and provides plenty of river access. I hit the trail in mid-September and found amazing Fall colors, enjoying the cooler weather.

Length: Trail stretches 40 miles from Grave Creek to Foster Bar
Season: May through September
Water: Plentiful from side creeks – bring a water filter
Toilets: Available at certain campsites. For those without, plan to pack it out or bring a trowel
Wildlife: Prepare for bear activity by bringing materials for a bear hang or staying at sites with bear precautions
Shuttle: Organize a shuttle before you go, usually through Galice

Exploring the River Corridor

As a Rogue River guide I am familiar with parts of the trail but was surprised by many other sections. The river has carved through a steep landscape. Each small fold in this canyon collects its own side creek, some obvious from the river (like Tate Creek) but many best accessible from the trail itself. I walked right next to waterfalls I had never known existed and hung a hammock almost in the water to enjoy an afternoon. The National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act recently protected many of these tributaries and I can see why.

The View of Whiskey Creek From the Rogue River Trail

The View of Whiskey Creek From the Rogue River Trail

Between creeks I walked through diversity. Lava flows and oak stands intersperse old growth forest (old growth forests are natural forests undisturbed by humans or natural disaster for at least 120 years). The end of the trail has a Jurassic feel with ferns, lichens and mosses in every direction.

This lack of disturbance is apparent on the trail: giant trees, a huge variety of plants, layers of growth and decomposition. While some historically important areas were carved out of the forest such as riverside ranches and old Native American farming terraces, it’s a lot of fun to walk through an old and natural place.

Appreciating the Rogue River

As a rower, walking the trail sometimes felt strange! But as a boater there was still a lot to enjoy from the trail’s perspective. The track provides a birds-eye view of most of the major rapids. I could pick out my line as well as more creative lines I never realized before from the raft. Simply, the rapids were pretty and impressive when viewed in their entirety from above.

The view of Quiz Show Rapid from the Rogue River Trail

The view of Quiz Show Rapid from the Rogue River Trail

While hiking I saw the beginnings of many major Rogue rapids. When a creek floods, it pushes rocks and debris into the river, obstructing the flow and creating a rapid. Areas abundant with side creeks such as Howard or Kelsey Canyon combined with the steep gradient can create the multitude of fun rapids we enjoy on river trips. Finding the subtler side creeks solidified this connection for me, making it fun to do the Rogue the slow way.

The view from Inspiration Point on the Rogue River

The view from Inspiration Point on the Rogue River

Corresponding to a raft trip, Mule Creek Canyon is a special place for a hiker too. It is beautiful, narrow, dramatic, and entertaining. I made my way down to a rapid known as The Coffeepot for a quick lunch stop and enjoyed watching boats wrestle the boils and currents. The trail travels on a ledge high above the canyon. In this section it culminates at Inspiration Point, a lookout onto a double waterfall. Here the land and water intertwine. The water carves into rock, the rock dictates waters’ momentary flow.

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The Nuts and Bolts of Hiking the Rogue River Trail

On the Rogue River trail, there are plentiful camps, good signage, and great opportunities to see wildlife. Some camps are directly on the river (which are sometimes shared with boaters), while others are set back next to creeks or off the trail. It is even possible to stay at a few of the lodges if you are looking for a bed at night. The BLM and National Forest Service have done a good job marking the trail, but watch out for poison oak. Along with a map, I found it easy to navigate.

Osprey are common along the Rogue River

Osprey are common along the Rogue River

Wildlife such as osprey catching fish, deer, eagles, and salamanders are common. But it is also possible to see black bear which necessitates a few precautions. Be ready to hang packs, lock food in bear boxes, or put things in fences for the night. Make sure you have some great shoes and plenty of water. If you want to learn more about hiking the Rogue River Trail, check out the Rogue River Trail Guide and map from the BLM and Forest Service.

Rogue River Trail Highlights

Mile 0.0Grave Creek Trailhead and Boat Ramp. Consider parking and shuttling your car through Galice Resorts.

Mile 1.7Rainie Falls. Early campsite opportunity and upstream view of one of the largest rapids on the Wild and Scenic Rogue River.

Mile 3.2Whiskey Creek. Great campsites located just before and for another half mile after the bridge crossing. Consider visiting the historic cabin at the juncture past the bridge.

Mile 9.1Bunker Creek. A fantastic creek and small campsite for hikers only.

Mile 13.2Meadow Creek. A large campsite set just above the water before Kelsey Canyon.

Mile 15.0Kelsey Creek. A large creek with a beautiful, shaded creekside campsite just before crossing the bridge. A fun scramble downstream to the river and upstream to explore the creek.

Mile 22.7Rogue River Ranch. A historic ranch with a museum and opportunity for camping at Tucker Flat campground. Here the trail joins a road for about a mile until Marial Lodge.

Mile 23.5Inspiration Point in Mule Creek Canyon. A narrow section of trail that affords a view of the Stair Creek waterfalls on river left.

Mile 26.5Blossom Bar Rapid. A large rapid on the Rogue river. There is a campsite available for hikers here. Consider stopping to watch boats navigate the technical rapid.

Mile 27.4Paradise Lodge. The largest river lodge on the river, the path skirts to the right of the property.

Mile 30.2Brushy Bar Guard Station. A peaceful section of the trail slightly off the river with a pit toilet available.

Mile 32.5Tate Creek. A great scramble to a natural waterslide, many camps available starting at this point into Tacoma down the trail.

Mile 39.5Big Bend Trailhead. After navigating fenced pasture, the trail ends at a road just past Illahe Lodge.

Mile 40.6Foster Bar Boat Ramp. Follow the road and signs for Foster Boat Ramp for the raft take-out.

Off the Beaten Path: 6 Fall Hikes and Trails Around Grand Rapids

Just because the air starts to turn cooler and the leaves start to fall doesn’t mean it’s time to take refuge indoors just yet. Instead, grab your jacket, lace up your hiking boots, and explore the local trails. Below are six ideas to get you started.

Provin Trails Park

Featuring interconnected loops through pine needle-littered forest and a sand dune, all stunningly close to the city, Provin Trails Park offers a quick escape for those looking to breathe in some sanity and the scent of pines. Located off Four Mile Road and close to the East Beltline, it’s a quick dip to get away from the city.

Trail Length: approximately two miles

Trail Conditions: Natural surfaces. Sandy and wide on the main paths, some side paths are narrower and rooted. Some elevation up sand barrens.

Seidman Park

Tucked away in Ada Township is Seidman Park, a wetland preserve with natural trails, bubbling creeks, and more than six miles of trails for an afternoon of exploration.

The 4,350-acre park is broken into color-coded trail segments and explores a stunning combination of forest and wetland. The 4.25-mile perimeter loop is a worthy starting place, but the several interconnected trails offer a day’s worth of customizable exploration. Bring a picnic lunch and a blanket if you’re so inclined, it’s a good place to sit awhile and breathe in some tranquility.

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Trail Length: over six miles

Trail condition: Wide and well maintained, but rocks and roots are plentiful.

Cascade Peace Park

A hidden gem controlled by Cascade Township, Cascade Peace Park can only be located by typing the physical address on Google Maps, not by typing in the park. The parks’ address is: 8900 Grand River Avenue, Grand Rapids. The park takes it namesake from Wendell Berry’s “The Peace of the Wild Things” inscribed on a stone marker a quarter mile into the trail.

Then trail weaves in several color-coded loops through a combination of forest and grassland for a 2.7 miles interconnected system. Its meadows intersperse an old-growth forest of mature hardwoods, making the 198 acres an ideal habitat for warblers, hawks, and owls if birdwatching is your thing.

Trail Length: 2.7 miles

Trail Conditions: Dirt, roots, and grass.

Hiking a trail in the PJ Hoffmaster State Park, which leads to a beach on Lake Michigan.

Hiking a trail in the PJ Hoffmaster State Park, which leads to a beach on Lake Michigan.

Photo by Experience Grand Rapids

PJ Hoffmaster State Park

The lake is often associated with hot summer days spent lounging waterside, but don’t discount it in the fall. Lake Michigan’s shores are far emptier and the water, though a bit chillier, is still worth ducking under for bragging rights.

PJ Hoffmaster State Park is the perfect place for such a fall outing. Combining the aforementioned pristine beaches with miles of forested trails, Hoffmaster strikes the perfect balance for a Michigan getaway. The dune climb takes you up 193 steps to a breathtaking lake vista and the more than 10 miles of trails take you from lakeshore to dune to wooded enclaves.

Make sure to check out Little Black Creek area in the north end of the park. Home to bald eagles in the winter, it boasts a plentiful bird and butterfly population in the warming months.

Note: Because this is a state park, you’ll either need a recreation pass on your license plate or pay an entry fee, but it is well worth the fee.

Trail Length: over 10 miles

Trail Conditions: Sandy, generally well maintained, but still offering some challenge.

North Country Trail – Lowell to Fallasburg

In development since the late 1960s and officially approved in 1980, the North Country Trail spans Vermont to North Dakota. While most celebrated and better-known hikes such as the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide trails makes hikers choose either a southbound or northbound route, the North Country Trail makes its way in a horizontal nature across the Midwest, showcasing Michigan’s shoreline, a large loop in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and hugging the Bayfield Peninsula in Wisconsin. It seems to be a little-publicized fact that such a storied trail passes through Kent County.

This stunning 10 miles starts in Lowell and travels through the Lowell State Game area, a 10-mile contiguous stretch. State Game areas permit camping from September through May making this the perfect place for a short, introductory jaunt into backpacking on your way to Fallasburg Park. Just remember to follow proper regulations.

Trail Length: 10 miles

Trail Conditions: Naturally surfaced. Well maintained, but it is the North Country Trail so expect more of a true trail feel.

Maas Family Nature Preserve

Just North of Rockford and right along the White Pine Trail is a small jaunt that takes you along the forested Rogue River and offers an interactive experience with conservation strategies. Home to the rare oak-pine barrens ecosystem, the Maas Family Nature Preserve has been deliberately managed through a combination of forest thinning, invasive species removal, and prescribed burning.

In addition to being a rare ecosystem, the preserve supports endangered Karner blue butterflies. Visitors are asked to stay on the trails at all times in order to protect their habitats. Make sure to read through the preserve guidelines before you visit, and be smart and respectful in general.

Trail Area: 0.5 Acres

Trail Conditions: Wide, naturally surfaced.
This is just a small sampling of what the Grand Rapids area has to offer. Check out the video below for inspiration, and for more trail, hikes, and parks head over to Experience Grand Rapids trail page.

Source https://www.experiencegr.com/articles/post/fall-hikes-and-trails/

Source https://www.nwrafting.com/rogue-river-rafting/hiking-the-rogue-river-trail-a-river-guides-perspective

Source https://www.experiencegr.com/articles/post/fall-hikes-and-trails/

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