Break Out Your Bike: Area Trails Beckon Riders

Bikers take a break at Paint Creek Cider Mill.

Bikers take a break at Paint Creek Cider Mill.

by Skye Donaldson
Shield Staff

March in Michigan arrived with a burst of snow, but spring is calling dorm-bound students outside. Pull your bikes out of storage and start exploring the scenic trails of Rochester.

Rochester serves as the cross section of two major “Rails-to-Trails” projects. The Paint Creek Trail and the Clinton River Trail intersect on the south side of downtown Rochester, which is only about a mile from Rochester College’s campus.

These trails are used for recreational activities, such as biking, running and walking. They connect to several major parks, including Rochester Municipal Park, the Dinosaur Hill Nature Preserve and Bloomer Park.

Cycling Clinton River Trail

You can start out at the Clinton River Trail, which runs right behind campus and spans about about 16 miles end to end. Head west on the trail and you’ll ride through Rochester and onto Auburn Hills. The trail goes all the way west to its beginning in Keego Harbor.

Cyclists enjoy a sunny day on clinton river trail

Cyclists enjoy a sunny day on clinton river trail

If you head east on the trail, you’ll ride through downtown Rochester and eventually connect to the Macomb Orchard Trail at Dequindre and 24 Mile. The Clinton River Trail mainly consists of asphalt and crushed stone terrain, where it runs along the Clinton River crossing it at times.

The trail is primarily located on an abandoned railroad track and offers riverside views, and you ride right along the river at times. Parts of the trail get almost too close to the river, but this isn’t so bad in the summer.  With some courage and faith that the sides won’t collapse and crumble, it’s great to sit on the edge of the river and stick your feet into the current.

Pedaling Paint Creek Trail

To vary the scenery some, ride over to the Paint Creek Trail, which was Michigan’s first rail-to-trail. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy transforms unused rail corridors for public use.

Bikers head north on paint creek trail

Bikers head north on paint creek trail

The former Penn Central Railroad, now the Paint Creek Trail, covers 8.9 miles from Rochester to Atwater street in Lake Orion. The trail connects with the Clinton River Trail via the Downtown Rochester River Walk near 2nd and Mill Streets.

On part of the Paint Creek Trail, you’ll feel like you are in the middle of nowhere and you can really enjoy nature. At other parts of the trail, you’ll be next to backyards, between subdivisions and only a stone’s throw from Orion Road at most times.

At the halfway point of the trail, be sure and stop at the Paint Creek Cider Mill for refreshments and donuts. The cafe is open seven days a week and features an assortment of sandwiches, pastries, ice cream, coney dogs and other treats. After a short break, hop back on your bike, continue north to Lake Orion and enjoy an abundance of wildlife, including deer, turtles and a wide variety of birds.

“App”solute Trail Info  

To assist you with more information about these two trails and others in the area, download the free app TrailLink. Available in the Apple’s App Store and Google Play, TrailLink offers trail ratings, quality reviews, and gives you helpful details such as where you can find bathrooms and parking near the trails. The app also incorporates history of the trails. It has GPS capability and functions on IOS devices 7.1 and later. Other top trail apps are available, including AllTrails and Map My Hike.

Spring Into Action

Even if you’re not looking to travel on two wheels, the trails around Rochester are great for running, walking, or any activity that will get you outdoors. The trails are especially beautiful in early spring when signs of new life begin to appear. Most trails are wooded. Though they cross suburban roads, the trail between them is secluded and quiet, so you can hear the sounds around you.

So pump up those tires, jump on your bike and hit the trails!