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Pure Michigan Trails

paved trail going through forested canopy, Pure Michigan Trails and Trail Town logos

Pure Michigan Trails

We partner with Pure Michigan® on the Pure Michigan Trail, Water Trail and Trail Town Designation Program to spotlight some of the state’s best trail experiences.

With a variety of trails developed and maintained through extensive collaboration between state and local governments, nonprofits, foundations and volunteers, Michigan is earning its reputation as the Trails State. These inviting outdoor recreation resources continue to appeal to many travelers, too.

The following trails and towns, among the best of the best in Michigan, promote healthy lifestyles, conserve natural resources, and provide a catalyst for economic activity in local communities.

Pure Michigan Trail Towns

Chelsea (Washtenaw County)

Chelsea is known for its outstanding commitment to trails demonstrated by its advancement, development and advocacy efforts. A vast trail network connects Chelsea’s lively downtown, the local sidewalk and pathways system, the DTE Energy Foundation Trail, neighborhoods, historic attractions, local parks, Waterloo and Pinckney recreation areas and more. The Washtenaw Border to Border Trail will soon run through the downtown once the trail section is fully constructed.

St. Ignace (Mackinac County)

St. Ignace has a proven track record for developing, funding, building and advancing trails integral to connecting Michigan’s peninsulas. One of the key components is the North County Trail that travels along the waterfront through the heart of the city. In addition, strong partners have helped advance several recent projects, including the development of the Silver Mountain Bike and Hike Trail and a secondary trail between Straits State Park and the downtown, among other projects.

City of Big Rapids (2022)

The City of Big Rapids, located about halfway between Grand Rapids and Traverse City, boasts the 92-mile Fred Meijer White Pine Trail and the award-winning Riverwalk that connects several parks along the Muskegon River. Big Rapids is just a short distance away from the Michigan’s Dragon Trail, a 47-mile looped mountain biking trail that is still in development, and is home to a number of public art installations, trail events and a robust wayfinding signage system.

City of Cadillac (2022)

The City of Cadillac, situated along the northern end of the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail, has become a year-round destination with trail activities for all seasons. Cadillac offers trail connectivity for snowmobilers, bikers and walkers to many southern communities along the White Pine Trail. Cadillac is also a short drive from Big M trails, the Cadillac Pathway and other recreational opportunities in the Manistee National Forest.


Village of Elk Rapids (2022)

Elk Rapids is located in Michigan’s northwest Lower Peninsula along the Grand Traverse Bay shoreline. The Village of Elk Rapids is situated near many all-season trails, including hiking, biking and paddling. In the near future, the area will connect to Traverse City and Charlevoix via the Nakwema Trail.

City of Cheboygan (2020)

Incorporated in 1889, the City of Cheboygan has a reputation as an outdoor-lover’s dream and has more miles of trails than any county in the state. It is known for having a “trail for all seasons.”

City of Trenton (2021)

Explore a quaint riverfront community with hiking and biking trails, parks and downtown shops, excellent dining options, gateway to the only International Wildlife Refuge in North America and connection to the Downriver Linked Greenways, part of the statewide Iron Belle Trail.

Orion Township (2020)

Orion Township has a long-standing dedication to enhancing trails and pathways in its community, which is home to the Polly Ann Trail, Paint Creek Trail and Iron Belle Trail. The township boasts more than 50 miles of trails.

City of Charlevoix (2019)

The city of Charlevoix is the county seat of Charlevoix County, located on the northwestern coast of the Lower Peninsula. The city has a Trail Ambassador program, a group of over 30 volunteers who work with government and community groups; they have been instrumental in gaining public support of trail expansion in the area.

City of Houghton (2019)

The city of Houghton is known as the “Gateway to the Keweenaw” and is one of the 100 best places to live, according to “The 100 Best Small Towns in America” by Norman Crampton. Situated on the hills bordering the beautiful Portage Waterway, Houghton offers a bounty of recreational opportunities all year long.

Village of Newberry (2019)

As the Moose Capital of Michigan, Newberry is situated in the middle of many great forests, lakes, streams, trails, state parks and beaches. Known for incredible snowmobiling and winter adventure, Newberry is the starting point for many visitors. Located in the heart of the Upper Peninsula, winter vacationers will find 128 miles of groomed snowmobile trails that conveniently connect to the entire Upper Peninsula.

Reed City (2020)

Reed City is known as Michigan’s Crossroads, where two of Michigan’s mightiest trails, the White Pine Trail and the Pere Marquette Trail, intersect. The city is a popular destination to base a day or weeklong trip and a leader in paving trails.

City of South Haven (2019)

The city of South Haven, South Haven Township, Van Buren County, the DNR and many other community groups, various trail friends’ groups and organizations have developed and promoted a vast network of trails in and surrounding South Haven.

Pure Michigan Trails

Paint Creek Trail - Oakland County (2023)

The aptly named Paint Creek Trail begins in downtown Rochester and meanders north along the creek to where its headwaters flow out of Orion Lake. This beautifully wooded trail travels along Paint Creek – one of Michigan’s premier cold-water trout streams – and connects to the Polly Ann Trail and Bald Mountain Recreation Area via connector paths. It was the first nonmotorized rail-trail in the state. 

Cass River Water Trail - Saginaw County (2023)

The Cass River Water Trail meanders for 37.5 miles between two counties and six townships. Featuring 13 boating access sites, two portages and thousands of breathtaking views, paddlers will experience diverse paddling elements and pass through many small towns. Paddlers can rest at one of the many picnic areas, enjoy downtown Frankenmuth or Vassar, take in the sites of the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge and more.

Canada Lakes Pathway - Luce County

Just a short short distance from Newberry in the Upper Peninsula and nestled in the Lake Superior State Forest, this all-season trail winds for 11.2 miles through wildflowers and dense forest. The six-loop trail is designed for hiking and mountain biking in the spring, summer and fall and groomed into a double track for cross-country skiers in the winter. 

Haywire Grade Trail - Schoolcraft and Alger counties

The Haywire Grade Trail was Michigan’s first rail trail, traveling from Manistique to Shingleton. It was converted into a recreation trail in 1970. 

Kal-Haven State Park Trail - Van Buren and Kalamazoo counties

The 33.5-mile former railroad line links the cities of South Haven and Kalamazoo, passing through small towns and numerous points of local historical interest.

Iron Ore Heritage Trail - Marquette County

A spectacular trail that showcases the role of the iron ore mining industry to the state of Michigan and the United States, the Iron Ore Heritage Trail is a 47-mile, multiuse, year-round interpretive trail. The trail connects communities and people to the region’s historic sites and human stories.

Leelanau Trail - Leelanau County

The 17-mile multiuse/nonmotorized Leelanau Trail runs up a Lake Michigan peninsula that is known for its abundance of cherry orchards and Riesling grape vineyards. Located in northern Michigan, the paved trail connects the popular tourist destinations of Suttons Bay and Traverse City.

Polly Ann Trailway - Oakland County

The popular linear park utilizes the an abandoned railroad corridor and crosses through some of the most beautiful and untouched landscape in northern Oakland County. Woodlands, trailside wetlands and farmlands dominate the trail landscape. Walking, hiking, cycling, horseback riding and cross-country skiing are just some of the activities enjoyed by users of all ages.

Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail - Leelanau County

The Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail is a hard surfaced, nonmotorized multiuse trail that showcases destinations within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and the two lakeshore towns of Glen Arbor and Empire. Currently the trail runs nearly 22 miles (mostly asphalt with boardwalk over wetlands, with some areas smoothly compacted crushed limestone.

Trail 45 Charcoal Grade Trail - Chippewa and Luce counties

Trail 45, also known as Charcoal Grade Trail, is a 44-mile, multiuse trail that runs from Newberry to Paradise.  Initially a snowmobile trail, parts are open year-round for multiple uses. The trail runs through Tahquamenon Falls State Park and along the M-123 Scenic Byway. 

William Field Memorial Hart-Montague Trail State Park - Muskegon and Oceana counties

The William Field Memorial Hart-Montague Trail is 22.7 miles (plus an additional 3.2 miles for the White Lake Pathway) of asphalt passing through the “asparagus capital of the world.” The trail runs through farms, orchards, waterways and forests of western Michigan between Whitehall/Montague and Hart. Michigan’s first paved rail trail was completely rebuilt in 2015.

How to apply

Application due Jan. 15

Applicants must complete the application for designation and submit it, along with all required documentation, to the DNR state trails coordinator. Applications and information can be found in the handbook.

What the designation gets you

  1. A letter from the DNR state trails coordinator and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the DNR and the applicant.
  2. A DNR press release announcing the designation.
  3. Pure Michigan® incorporates the trail into its maps and marketing material.
  4. Signage with branding is placed in appropriate locations by the designee.

Pure Michigan® Trail and Trail Trail Town Designation Handbook / Application »