#MITrailsWeek: Paul Henry-Thornapple Trail

The western terminus of this trail is in Grand Rapids, a city most of us are pretty familiar with. The eastern terminus is 42 miles away, in the sleepy town of Vermontville. What was once part of a rail-line that connected Grand Rapids and Jackson is now well on it’s way to becoming a paved trail, suitable for biking, hiking and cross-country skiing.

I explored the small section between Vermontville and Maple Valley High School, the school shared with the neighboring town of Nashville. Speaking of the high school, several students in their building trades program built the trestle bridge that now connects the trail over the Thornapple River.

What you will find on the trail is an easy hike through some beautiful countryside. This area is known as Maple Valley, due in part to the large number of maple trees that dot the landscape. Those maples produce the sap that eventually becomes maple syrup, which is celebrated in Vermontville on the last full weekend of April. It is also why Vermontville picked up the moniker Sweetest Little Town in Michigan.

Those trees also make a beautiful backdrop for a fall walk.

A few things to note before you head out on this stretch of the Paul Henry-Thornapple Trail:

  • It’s surrounded by private property, so stick to the trail.
  • If you are going during the fall or winter, be sure to wear hunter’s orange. Deer hunting is a big deal in Maple Valley.
  • The trail is dry, but much of the land surrounding it is virgin wetlands, meaning bug spray is a must.

Happy hiking!

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