Category Archives: Snow Rides

Riley Trails – Winter Fat Biking

2.7 + miles – Winter Multi-Use Trail – Holland, Michigan

Highlights: Winter riding near the Lakeshore.

riley-trails-sign-2Trailhead: Riley Trails is located on the north side of Holland on Riley St about 4.5 miles west of US 31.  The entrance is on the south side of the road and is marked  with stone pillars holding a wooden sign with red letters.  At the trailhead there is a pit toilet and a few informational boards with maps.

Driving Directions >>

Riley Trails are on 300 acres of county land that was used as a land fill up until 1979.  There are now 7 miles of marked mulit-use trails at this park.  This is not a destination ride, but it is becoming a popular place for locals to put a few miles on their fat bikes in the winter.  Most of the time you will not even know that you are riding around an old dump.  The trails were originally used for mainly cross-country skiing in the late 1980s.  In 2006 management of the property was turned over to Ottawa County Parks and several improvements were made over the next couple years.  The trail system was also remarked and mapped.

After this was done the number of both summer and winter trail users really increased.  The trails are not groomed, but with all of the skier and snowshoe traffic they are usually packed well enough for fat bikes most of the winter.  Although, after significant snow you may want to give it a few days for things to get packed down again.  Also, if there is a big thaw and then a freeze the trails can get too rough to ride.  The warm weather always seems to bring out the walkers and runners and when their footprints freeze things get a little bumpy until they get filled with snow again.

All of the trails are open to exploring on fat bikes, but below I will describe a loop that is most likely to rideable in the winter. If you get out here and the riding conditions are not favorable there are  couple other options nearby.  See the “In the Area” section below for other rides.

The Ride:  in 2012 a 4.5 mile mountain bike loop was pieced together with many of the existing trails.  In the winter the beginning and end of this loop can usually be ridden.  The back half usually doesn’t get enough traffic to pack the snow.  I will explain how to connect the beginning and end of the bike trail with the service road for a winter loop of about 2.7 miles.


This start of the mountain bike trail.

This fat bike ride starts in the southeast corner of the parking lot by a green sign that shows the map for the “Riley Trails Mt. Bike Course.”  Ride past the sign and follow the brown fiberglass posts with mountain bike trial markers.  This first section of trail is fairly straight and flat with just one small hill to climb over.  It makes a right angle as it follows the north and then east borders of the property.  You will see a few side trails heading off to the right, but you will want to stay straight following the bike markers.  At about 0.7 miles you climb a small hill up to a service road.


The service road at Riley Trails

At this point the trails split off in several different directions and many of these are usually not packed well enough to ride.  However, the service road is usually plowed.  You will want to take a right on the road heading towards the hill from the old landfill.  After about 0.1 miles you will see the mountain bike trail markers heading across the open area to the left.  If the trail looks like it has had some traffic you can try to continue on the marked bike loop.  Most of the time this will not be good to ride and you will want to continue on the service road and go around the gate as it curves to the left.  You will be on this road for the next 0.75 miles as goes around the old landfill.  After a straight section the road curves to the right and then back to the left and you will see a chain link fence that is the southern edge of the property.  The road will go back to the right away from the fence, but you will want to go to the left of the snow pile and pick up the trail along the fence.  The trail will climb up a hill through some pine trees and then after you go back down you will be right next to the fence again.   Continue straight as the mountain bike trail joins back in from the right.  From here you will be able to follow the brown mountain bike markers for the rest of the ride.   After paralleling the fence for about 0.2 miles a marker points you to the right into the pines.


Nearing the left turn off on the service road.

You will be in this section of fairly thick pines for about the next 0.6 miles.  This part has some small hills that keep the ride a little more interesting and is also really nice when there is new snow hanging in the trees.  At about 2.2 miles into the ride you turn to the left and leave the pines and enter the hardwoods.  In another 0.1 miles you climb a little rise and then you will want to stay to the right when the trail tees at the top.  Next you drop down the biggest hill of ride and soon you will see the trees opening up to the pond on your left.  This section is more open and tends to drift and be a little rougher than the rest of the trail.  At times you may have to push your fat bike for the last couple hundred feet here.  The bridge over the pond on the left takes you back to the parking area and the end of the loop at 2.7 miles.

Next you can go for another loop or check out the trail map and try to explore some of the other trails.  Staying on the trails closer to the the parking is usually best.


Entering the pines section at Riley Trails.


The mountain bike trail markers.

Ride Map:

Ride Photos: 

GoPro timelapse photos of the winter fat biking loop at Riley Trails.

Post Ride Beverage: Try Big Lake Brewing just 2.5 miles away at 977 Butternut Drive #4.  This place is all about the beer.  If you are hungry you can get takeout from one of the nearby restaurants.


Big Red at Holland State Park

In the Area: About 1.25 miles west of Riley Trails you will find a Lake Michigan beach access off the end of Riley Street.  The township usually does good job of keeping the bike paths plowed, making this is an easy ride on the fat bike out to the lake.  If the beach is not snowed in you can ride south for about 3.5 miles to Holland State Park.  If the beach conditions are not good for riding the bike path along Lakeshore Drive is a good alternate route.  Combining the beach and bike path would also be a good option for a loop.


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Merrell Trail – Winter Fat Biking

6.4 miles – Winter Single Track – Rockford, Michigan

Highlights: Groomed snow at the top trail in West Michigan.

Trailhead: The start of the Merrell Trail is somewhat hidden off 10 mile road just east of US 131 in Rockford, MI.  After exiting the highway head east  and make a quick right hand turn at the first stop light.  The pavement ends in about 300 feet and it turns to a narrow gravel road that leads to the trailhead.  The parking is just past the big water tower, you can look for this if you are not sure where to go.  In the summer there is portable toilet, but in the winter all you will find is a plowed parking lot and information board.

Driving Directions >>


The start of the Merrell Trail is just up the hill from the parking area.

The Merrell Trail opened in 2012 and quickly became a favorite of local mountain bikers.  The trail gets it’s name from the Merrell outdoor shoes.  Merrell is a brand of the footwear  giant Wolverine World Wide which is also headquartered in Rockford, MI.   Wolverine provided much of the funding to have this trail professionally built and their employees also worked with the West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance to help with the build.  The result is fast and flowing single track that is fun to ride in both summer and winter.

The trail is currently being groomed for fat biking in the winter by volunteers with snowmobiles pulling drags.  Make sure to check trail conditions on their Facebook page before heading out.  The trail will occasionally be closed when there is a big thaw.

The Ride: The trail starts by the sign board on top of the small hill to the west of the parking area.  Note that the direction the trail is ridden changes based on the day of the week.  On Tues, Thurs and Sat start to the left and follow the yellow markers.  Sun, Mon, Wed and Fri start to the right and follow the red markers.  I should also mention that this trail was designed for bikers, but it is considered a multi-use pathway.  All other users are asked to go in the opposite direction.  I will be describing the yellow direction below.

The first 0.4 miles of trail heads almost straight south and serves as an access to the main loops.  After this stay to the left and continue on to the 0.75 mile Chameleon Trail.  You will soon start seeing the rolling terrain that this trail is known for.  At the end of Chameleon there is a cut back that you could take over to Mix Master for a shorter loop of about 2.75 miles.

To stay on the main trail continue slightly left to pick up the Wilderness Trail.  This trail twists around in some fairly thick pines for a little while and then opens up back in the hardwoods.  This section is probably some of the finest trail you will find in West Michigan.  It is fast and flowing with  big berms in the corners.  It is a little slower on the fat tires in the snow, but still fun to ride.  At about 2 miles into the ride you get down near the bottom of the valley and the end of the Wilderness Loop.


The snow covered bridge that leads to the Sawtooth Trail in the summer.

The Wynalda Loop heads off to left here and if it looks like it has been packed, head up that way.  The other option is to continue straight to post 8 and pick up Siren.  The Wynalda Loop at 1.75 miles is the longest named trail at Merrell.  This loop has a decent amount of climbing and is definitely harder in the snow.  2 different sections of this trail run along the edge of the treeline by the sports fields.  Winds from the north or west can drift these open parts over and you may have to do some hike-a-fat-bike at times.  This loop then dumps you out almost right back where you turned off.  Stay to the left again and follow Siren along bottom of the valley.

Continue on Siren until you get to post 6 which is  the turn off for Phaser. Along the way you will pass the snow covered bridges at the start the Sawtooth Trail.  Sawtooth is too tight to be groomed and usually not passable in the winter.  The turn off for Phaser is also easy to find because the rest of Siren is not groomed either.  Phaser is 0.75 miles long and takes you back up and out of the valley.  As you top out at the end of the trail you will see a picnic table and an information board with a trail map.  This is good spot to take a well earned rest.


The Moonlander by the trail map at marker #4 on the Merrell Trail..

From here the Mix Master Trail is a fun winter ride as it twists it’s way through the west part of the property.  After another rolling 1.5 miles this trail spits you back out on the straight connector heading back to the parking lot in less than a 0.5 mile .  If you still want to put on some more miles, at the end of Mix Master you can take a hard right and head out for another loop by connecting back up with Chamelon.

All these trails and names may sound a little complicated, but if you look at the map below it will make more sense.  The start of each trail is also marked by a metal sign with the trail names in cut out letters.

Ride Map:


Here is a photo of the map posted at the trailhead.  *Click the map to see a larger version*

The winter route in Strava:

Ride Photos: 

GoPro timelapse photos of the winter fat bike trail at Merrell.

Post Ride Beverage: The Rockford Brewing Company looks worth checking out, but we have not made it there yet.  If you are a Rockford local please give us your recommendation in the comments below.

In the Area:  Make sure to come back and ride Merrell in the dirt.  Rockford is also home to another one of West Michigan’s top mountain bike trails at Luton Park.  This stacked loop trail system has just over 9 miles of rolling single track.  Luton Park can be found 4 miles west of Merrell, right on 10 mile road.  Luton is a multi-use trail and at times some sections will get packed well enough to be ridden in the winter.  See more at Friends of Luton Park on Facebook.


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Yankee Springs – Winter Fat Bike Trail

6.5 miles – Winter Single Track – Yankee Springs Recreation Area

Highlights: Groomed snow at one of West Michigan’s most popular mountain bike trails.

Trailhead: The trail starts at the Deep Lake Unit at 2526 South Yankee Springs Road Middleville, MI.  Parking is just past the contact station on the right.  In the winter this will be the only thing that is plowed.  At the trailhead there is room for about 30 cars, 2 changing rooms, a pit toilet and an information board with a trail map.

A Michigan Recreation Passport or $9 day pass is required for non-resident vehicles.

Driving Directions >>


Yankee Springs Fat Bike Trail Parking

The Ride:  The Deep Lake Mountain Bike Trail, which is typically just called “Yankee” by locals was one of the first bike trails in West Michigan.  This is where a lot of us first learned to ride technical single track and it still remains a favorite.  In 2015 the West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance obtained permission from the Michigan DNR to start grooming part of the trail for winter fat biking.  For the most part the winter trail follows to same track as in the summer other than a couple spots that are too tight to get the snowmobile through.  The groomed parts include the 2 mile warmup loop and then the 4.5 mile front loop of the main trail.

To pick up the warmup loop, saddle up on your fat bike and ride back past the contact station towards the road where you came in.  You will see the start of the trail on your left about 200 feet from the entrance.  Most of this loop runs through an area that had a controlled burn done a couple years ago.  It is still pretty open on the forest floor here, especially in the winter.  This shorter loop must not get as much traffic as the main trail and can be a little softer at times.  After 2 miles of pedaling the trail spits you out right back out in the parking area near the pit toilet.

GoPro video of the warmup loop in 150 speed.

To continue on to the main loop, go right to cross the road and you will see the trail heading down a slight hill.  You pass through on open area and then just after you get back into the trees you will cross a bridge over a small creek at about 0.6 miles into this loop.  Just before the bridge you will see the trail going up a hill to the left.  If you take this you will cut back to the trailhead for shorter 1.25 mile loop.  In the winter the bridge is used to get you across the creek in both directions.  You will be back here again at the end of the 4.5 mile main loop.

After climbing out of the creek valley the trail dips down into another little low section before you start ascending up on the ridge that runs on the west side of Deep Lake.  For about the next mile the trail twists along the top of this ridge.  Without the leaves on the trees you will have a view of Deep Lake for most of this section.  At about 1.8 miles the trail swings to the west.  You will ride through a horseshoe section of trail that is called “The Peninsula” where you can get a good idea of how far ahead, or behind, you are from your friends.  After this you will be in the toughest part of the winter loop as the trail slowly climbs up to the cut back at about 2.5 miles.  You will know that you are at the turn back point when you see the guard rails on the corner of Deep Lake Road.  This road is seasonal and in the winter there is only snowmobile traffic.  If you want to get in a couple extra miles you may be able to follow the packed snowmobile tracks to the north for about a mile up to Chief Noonday road.


The guard rails at the corner.

To continue on the main loop take a left down a 0.2 mile perfectly straight section of trail that is shared with snowmobiles.  Watch for a post with both orange and brown arrows pointing you left toward Deep Lake.  For the next 0.75 miles you are rewarded for your climb with some slightly down sloping trail.  In the summer this is wide sandy section of trail is known as the “speed zone.”  It is not as fast, but it is still a fun in the snow.  After this the trail parallels Gun Lake Road and then cuts to left and back over the creek bridge you crossed near the beginning.  This is the only part that is a little hard to follow in the winter.  About 200 feet after the creek, the trail climbs up a hill after a sharp right.  This is the cut back that was described for the 1.25 mile loop above.  The last 0.6 miles has a few short climbs and then ends on the entrance road directly across from the start of the warm up loop.


The fat bike trail marker pointing back toward Deep Lake.

GoPro video of the first section of the main winter loop.

GoPro video of the second section of the main winter loop. (this video was on a different day)

Ride Map:
Yankee Springs Trail Map:

If this map does not show above, click here to download or print >>

Post Ride Beverage: For years we would go to Sam’s Joint to get something covered in their award winning barbecue sauce for lunch.  Unfortunately, the owner retired and it closed a couple years ago.  The best place to go now is probably the Terrace Grille at Bay Pointe Inn.  It is a little too fancy for me, but the food was very good.  Make sure to check their hours in the off-season.

In the Area:  The Deep Lake Unit is also home to one of the largest rustic campgrounds in Michigan.  Come back after the snow melts to spend a night and ride the rest of the 11 mile loop.  The first half of the back loop is some of my favorite single track in the area.



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