We all know that spending time in nature can have amazing benefits. Even a few minutes of fresh air, sunshine, and physical activity can increase your happiness and reduce stress.
Fortunately, the Hart-Montague Bike Trail offers the perfect way to spend time in nature — no matter the season. This 22-mile, paved nature trail is always available, universally accessible, and totally free to enjoy — any time you want.
Back in the 1800s in West Michigan — when rail travel reigned — a key corridor of the C&O Railroad Line cut through the Silver Lake area along what is now US-31. Like many other railroads throughout the nation, however, the rail line inevitably became defunct in the 1980s.
Fortunately, an area man named William Field saw potential in the old rail line’s path. Under his direction, the rail tracks were ripped up, and the resulting path was paved all the way from Whitehall to Hart — a total of 22 miles. This officially became the Hart-Montague Bike Trail State Park in 1991: A linear state park, free and open for public use 24/7, all-year round.
Today, the Hart-Montague Bike Trail is the most frequently used nature path in the area. Full of picture-perfect scenes at every turn, it cuts through fruit orchards, passes over creeks and streams, and winds through open fields and shaded woodlands.
On the portion of the trail closest to Silver Lake (that which runs through Oceana County), you’ll always find the most scenic views. At all times of the year, these views are constantly changing and evolving. In fact, that’s possibly the best part of this trail — it’s never the same place twice.
Here are some ideas for how to enjoy the Hart-Montague Bike Trail at different times of the year:
Spring & Summer: Enjoy wildflowers, softly blowing grasses, and newly-blooming fruit trees. Look for deer, turkeys, and birds of all sorts. The trail is ideal for biking, roller-blading, walking, and running. Consider packing a lunch and finding a shaded spot with tables for a picnic.
Fall: Hike, bike, walk, or jog. Autumn is the perfect time to enjoy the changing fall foliage. Tunnels of orange, yellow, and red hues will line your path as you make your way along the trail. Scenic outlooks make the perfect spot to stop and take pictures.
Winter: Cross-country skiing and snowmobiling are the trail activities of choice each winter. Snowmobilers must wait until 4 or more inches of snow have accumulated, at which point they can buzz along the trail at their leisure. Skiers are free to head out whenever they choose.
Regardless what portion of the trail you choose to enjoy, there are always plenty of restaurants, bars, and shops where you can stop along the way.
In Oceana County, we recommend hooking up with the trail in New Era or Shelby and riding north to Mears or Hart. Once there, check out the many area eateries and shops the downtown areas have to offer.
The Hart-Montague Bike Trail makes the perfect full-day or afternoon trip — no matter the season!
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