Thursday, June 6, 2013

Biking Grand Rapids

I don’t claim to have any control over the weather, and I certainly don’t want to jinx it, but I think Michigan has finally settled into Spring and is moving into Summer.  That being said, it is great weather to get out in and go for a bike ride. Did you know that the League of American Bicyclists named Grand Rapids a top "Bicycle-Friendly Community" in 2009 and Outside magazine gave us the honor of being the "Best Town for Mountain Biking" in 2010? Another cool and little known fact is that the city buses in Grand Rapids are bike-friendly - each and every one is equipped with a bike rack.  There are a few spots you should plan on hitting this year if you love, or even mildly enjoy bicycling and want to bicycle around West Michigan.

The first and maybe less obvious spot for biking is through downtown Grand Rapids.  There are so many awesome buildings and little shops to see that riding your bike downtown is a great way to take it all in.  The City of Grand Rapids plans to add 100 miles of bike lanes to area streets by 2017.  But if city biking isn’t your thing, check out the trails.

Michigan has the largest Rails to Trails - old railroad lines converted to recreational use - system in the U.S. There are hundreds of miles of these trails in the Greater Grand Rapids area. The Fred Meijer M-6 Trail is a smaller trail running for nine miles parallel to Michigan Highway 6.  It is located just south of Grand Rapids.  Kent Trails are interesting and great for sightseeing.  They begin just outside John Ball Zoo and thread throughout the city. Bicyling Kent Trails, you will pass everything from industrial sites to rural farmland, with the trail winding along and across the Grand River. And there's Millennium Park. This is one of the nation's largest urban greenspaces. Millennium Park has nearly 20 miles of all-purpose trail for cycling, walking, running, and in-line skating. This trail also connects to Kent Trails.  Another option for biking is the Musketawa Trail. This trail is 25 miles and runs from just northwest of downtown Grand Rapids all along the lakeshore.  One of the most famous places to bike is the White Pine Trail State Park. At 93.5 miles, this is Michigan's longest rail-trail. If you are looking for a good place to start, enter the trailhead just north of downtown Grand Rapids and ride through swamps, forests, open farmland, towns, and cities.  If that sounds like a bit much for you, then try Reeds Lake Trail. This 4.2-mile trail follows around a beautiful lake just feet away from the quaint shops and dining district of East Grand Rapids.

With the weather improving daily, why not try one of these trails today and get your daily recommended allowance of Vitamin D, exercise, and fresh air in beautiful West Michigan?

--Megan Cooperider lives in Grand Rapids, MI and occasionally blogs for Central District Cyclery.