Sunday, October 14, 2012

White Pine Trail

A couple of days ago, I rode from Belmont to Sand Lake on the White Pine Trail.  The  entire trail runs 92 miles from Grand Rapids to Cadillac; the ride I took was about 17 miles (each way), passing through the towns of Rockford,  Cedar Springs, and Sand Lake.  This segment was paved, with a smooth asphalt surface.  Like other rail-trails, the White Pine Trail is fairly straight and level. 

North of Belmont, the trail passed through woods high above the Rogue River, which could be occasionally seen through the trees.  Approaching Rockford (about 4 miles), houses were visible, and then the trail crossed the river on an old iron bridge.

Rockford surprised me.  It felt like one of the tourist towns along the lakeshore, transplanted to the Rogue River.  The industrial buildings once served by the railroad had been repurposed as delis, restaurants, and wine bars.  A microbrewery was under construction right next to the trail and the smell of hops and roasted malt showed they had already begun brewing.  The river runs right through  town and many people were enjoying the nicely landscaped park where a dam creates an artificial waterfall and others strolled scenic paths along the riverbanks. 
North of Rockford, the trail ran alongside the river and then through farmland and forest.  From Cedar Springs,  the trail paralleled Northland Drive all the way to Sand Lake.  Cedar Springs (about 7 miles from Rockford), and Sand Lake (about 5 miles further) seemed like typical rural Michigan towns, with local family restaurants and some small stores.  After Sand Lake, the trail's pavement ended but the trail continued with a gravel surface.  A sign indicated it was 30 miles to Big Rapids.  The gravel/ cinder surface was rideable, but less fun, and I was getting tired at that point, so I only rode a half mile before turning back to Sand Lake.
Overall, this segment made a great ride.  Numerous trailheads provide access to the trail, so either shorter or longer trips could be put together.  Riding south from Belmont, the trail connects to Grand Rapids.

Officially, the trail is the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail State Park.
The Friends of the White Pine Trail provide trail information and promote various events on the trail.
The Rails to Trails Conservancy also has information in the trail, including user reviews and photos.

Belmont Trailhead
Rogue River Park
6300 Belshire Avenue
Belmont, MI 49306

Rockford offers several access points.  [pdf map]

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