Grab your bike or your favorite walking shoes and check out Michigan’s 62-mile long North Central State Trail. This crushed limestone trail that stretches from Gaylord to Mackinaw City was recently recognized by the Mid-America Trails and Greenways Conference as the best example of the state’s extensive rails-to-trails system.

“This is a perfect trail to have been chosen,” said Jim Radabaugh, the Recreation and Trails Section manager for the Department of Natural Resources. “From the shores of Mullet Lake to the rolling farm fields near Vanderbilt to the birch trees outside of Gaylord, a day spent on this trail is a day spent experiencing a little slice of Michigan.”

The North Central State Trail occupies what was once the northernmost segment of the Michigan Central Railroad. This Detroit-based railway, one of the largest and most profitable in the Lower Peninsula, constructed a land grant section of tracks northward from its primary service area to Mackinaw City in 1882. This spur line served what was then a booming area of old-growth timberland. When the Mackinac Bridge was opened for public use in 1957, passengers and freight in this area shifted to road-based vehicles, and the section of railroad line where the North Central State Trail runs today began to fall out of active use. The North Central State Trail was dedicated for public use in June 2008. That fall it was named one of the top five “Trails for Autumn” by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

Michigan is home to the largest rails-to-trails system in the country with over 2,400 miles of trails available for use all across the Lower and Upper Peninsulas.

“We have long been a national leader in both the quality and quantity of our trails,” added Radabaugh. “Michigan’s trail system is a hidden gem.”

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.

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