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Sep. 21

A Hopping Good Time in Pure Michigan Trail Towns

In 2014, the Michigan Trailways Act was revised to add the DNR’s ability to designate trails and towns as Pure Michigan® Trails and Trail Towns. This program is designed to acknowledge Michigan's position as the preeminent Trails State in the nation. This program is a statewide partnership of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Travel Michigan (Pure Michigan/Michigan.org) and Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance.

These trails welcome bikers, hikers and often cross-country skiers or snowshoers in the winter months. The trails chosen were deemed to provide users with a quality trail experience, provide clear information for users, have broad community support and have a sustainable maintenance and marketing plan. Pure Michigan® Trails include the Iron Ore Heritage Trail in Marquette County; Leelanau Trail in Leelanau County; Polly Ann Trailway in Oakland County, Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail in Leelanau County, Trail 45, the Charcoal Grade Trail, in Luce County; and the William Field Memorial Hart-Montague Trail in Muskegon and Oceana counties.

There are also 11 distinct Pure Michigan® Trail Towns, each boasting at least one brewery within a short drive, for those looking for a pre or post trek beer experience.

  • 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. This town is home to Raven Brewing & BBQ.
  • 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. Home to Clam Lake Beer Co.
  • Charlevoix – 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. South of downtown and north of Norwood is Bier’s Innwood Brewery.
  • Cheboygan – 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.” The first Cheboygan Brewing operated from 1872-1911, with the current brewery in operation since 2011.
  • Elk Rapids – 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. Just outside of the downtown area sits the Short’s Brewing Production Facility & Tap Room.
  • Houghton – 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. In the heart of downtown and the regional “Copper Country” sits the Keweenaw Brewing Company.
  • Newberry – 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. The Lower Tahquamenon Falls are found in Newberry, with the Upper Falls 37 miles to the north in Paradise. It is here you’ll find Tahquamenon Falls Brewery & Pub – the only Michigan brewery operating within a state park (Tahquamenon Falls State Park).
  • Orion Township – This area 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. It sits as a spoke to three regional breweries: Rochester Mills Production Brewery & Public Taproom in Auburn Hills, HomeGrown Brewing Company in Oxford and Parkers Hilltop Brewery in Clarkston.
  • Reed City – 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. Along this trail, you’ll find the Reed City Covered Bridge which spans the Hershey River and downtown, you’ll find Reed City Brewing Company.
  • South Haven – 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. This is also home to the Kal-Haven Trail State Park which stretches for over 30 miles between Kalamazoo and South Haven along a former rail bed (a highlight being the Donald F. Nichols Covered Bridge). There are two breweries in this port town: Harbor Light Brewery (named for the historic lighthouse that sits on the Lake Michigan shore) and Three Blondes Brewing.
  • Trenton – The eastern most Trail Town is 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. Just six miles up the road, you’ll find Wyandotte Beer Company.

The 4,600-mile, seven state North Country National Scenic Trail (which stretches through Michigan’s Lower and Upper Peninsulas) also has its own set of Trail Towns, and you can read about the breweries along that historic route here: Something’s Brewing Along the North Country Trail.

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