Biking the White Pine Trail provides a simultaneous exercise in solitude and solidarity. The trail allows for an escape from the buzzing cars on the roadway and fosters a sense of camaraderie with every passing exerciser and dog walker. Home to a range of cyclists, runners, and the occasional rollerblader, the trail traces a defunct railway’s intended path through a series of small towns and communities. Kent County’s section, which covers 17.5 miles from Riverside Park to Cedar Springs, makes for a pleasant ride whether setting out on a full day cruise or attempting a new land speed record.

Before You Begin

Wear a properly fitting helmet that's strapped under your chin, and make sure to obey all stop signs. The Comstock Park section is home to the most road crossings, but they are common throughout the entire trail. It can be tempting to maintain momentum, but crossing cars have no stop or yield signs. Cyclists do not have the right of way on these crossings, and they can be especially busy around rush hour.

Cyclists are naturally the fastest movers on the trail. It will be a common experience to pass runners and walkers. When passing, always give a heads up by calling out, “Passing on your left!” or something similar. This gives pedestrians a quick warning to stay to the right and avoid any accidental collision.

It’s a good idea to bring water, cash, and a bike lock for city exploration. Also download the My City Bikes Grand Rapids app for a mobile map to reference along the way. My City Bikes also has tips and safety information for mountain and trail biking and biking on roads. For information specific to Grand Rapids, visit GRDrivingChange.org, a joint safety campaign between the City of Grand Rapids and the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Cycler on the White Pine Trail in Grand Rapids
Let’s get started.
Photo credit: Matthew Medendorp

Riverside Park to Comstock Park

(three miles, approximately 15 minutes)

Located just north of Grand Rapids, Riverside Park is an expansive waterfront green space with plenty of space to play. Featuring a boat launch, sports fields, a disc golf course, and a plethora of picnic shelters, it’s a gem of the City of Grand Rapids Park & Recreation Department. The well-maintained bike lanes allow for a traffic-free cruise.

There is parking at the trailhead as well as several other lots scattered throughout the park – both along the trail and next to the little league baseball fields. There should be no problem finding parking, unloading bikes, and getting started.

Riverside is a popular Grand Rapids park, so it’s generally a good idea to be considerate and keep speed under control while biking through.

Comstock Park to Belmont

(4.5 miles, approximately 27 minutes ride time)

Comstock Park is a small, unincorporated town north of Grand Rapids. The trail is a straight shot to the downtown area and provides a front row seat to this vibrant community. Stop trail-side for some ice cream or take a detour to check out Mill Creek as it winds through Dwight Lydell Park.

Along the way, you’ll pass Fifth Third Ballpark, home of the West Michigan Whitecaps. If there happens to be a game in progress, you can catch the smell of popcorn and hear renditions of “Take Me out to the Ball Game” during the seventh inning stretch.

White Pine Trail bridge in Grand Rapids
Bridge over troubled highways. Wave to those stuck in traffic during rush hour.
Photo credit: Matthew Medendorp

Belmont to Rockford

(four miles, approximately 24 minutes of ride time)

The Belmont trailhead features bathrooms but no water fountains. Keep an eye out for other bikers and runners joining at a sharp intersection. From this trailhead, it’s a cool four miles to downtown Rockford. The overarching green canopy and prairie grasses along the trail keep you company, alongside the occasional darting rabbit and warbling songbirds. With good weather, the sun casts shadows across the pathway and makes for a beautiful ride through forests.

Rockford to Cedar Springs

(7.4 miles, approximately 45 minutes of ride time)

After crossing a scenic trestle bridge, the trail enters into Rockford. There are a few opportunities to diverge from the path, but stay on the White Pine Trail by following the signs to downtown Rockford. This is an excellent place to pause for an extended break. Take a minute to refill water bottles and rest your legs at the Rogue River Dam Overlook.

Rogue River Dam Overlook in Rockford, Michigan
The Rogue River Dam Overlook at sunrise is one of the few times to find it empty and unoccupied, save for friendly neighborhood waterfowl.
Photo credit: Matthew Medendorp

Downtown Rockford is a can’t miss rest stop along the trail where you can take advantage of all its shopping and eating destinations. Some places of note: Rockford Brewing Company is located immediately trail-side and is a great place to swing in to refuel with snacks or a meal. The cheese curds are highly recommended (it’s high time to start earning back those calories burned on the ride). Also check out Sweetland Chocolates & Coffee for a caffeine boost and something sweet, Dam Dogs for hot dogs or salty snacks, Custard by the Dam for ice cream, and Speed Merchants Bike Shop for any last minute mechanical issues. Just past downtown, the trail passes Rockford Footwear Depot – home to over 23,0000 square feet of shoes, apparel, and gear.

Rogue River passing under bridge on White Pine Trail
Glimpses of scenic Rogue River spotted from the trail.
Photo credit: Matthew Medendorp

Just past downtown Rockford, the White Pine rolls along the Rogue River for some of the most scenic stretches of the trail. Depending on the day, expect to see a number of paddlers floating their way down the Rogue. Expectedly, this is among the busier sections of the trail. Traffic drops as the trail pulls away from the river and through residential areas up to Cedar Springs – quite literally up. A nicely-graded hill climbs steadily for a mile or so, with its peak conveniently located under a bridge with a well-placed bench, perfect for catching your breath. 

Grafitti on bridge along the White Pine Trail
Some helpful bridge graffiti for a self-esteem boost.
Photo credit: Matthew Medendorp

From here, bike into Cedar Springs. Dubbed the “Red Flannel Town” for its historical production of “drop seat” long johns and union suits famously worn by old-timey lumberjacks. Main Street is only a few blocks from the trail and this charming, small town is worth the exploration, including a stop at Cedar Spring Brewing Company.

Now take it all backwards, but fear not, there’s a reward at the end. Stop in Comstock Park for a well-deserved burger and beverage of choice at Elk Brewing. Try its namesake-inspired elk burger, or upgrade any burger with an elk patty. Be sure to check the specials board for the deals of the day, which include $2 beers on Tuesday and half off chicken wings on Sunday. And of course, there's always the house-made kettle chips. In short, it's the perfect way to finish off a day of cycling on the White Pine. 

Trip Summary

Total Mileage: 17.5 miles one way, 35 miles round trip.

Total Ride Time: Approximately one hour 20 minutes one way, approximately two hours 40 minutes round trip. Ride time is based on an average speed of 12 miles an hour. Check out the route below, which includes additional suggestions for things to do while on the trail.

Discover more trails to explore by checking out the My City Bikes Grand Rapids app and the Grand Rapids Biking Trails page.