GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — If you’re looking for a fun way to take in the fall colors it may be time to check out all the progress that’s been made on West Michigan’s Dragon Trail.

The trail system has been in the works for years and it’s right on track for completion, and some people in the area say they’re already seeing an economic benefit. 

Martin Hall with the West Michigan Mountain Bike Alliance said the Dragon Trail was being planned and talked about since 2015 with construction beginning in 2019.

The trail is a collaboration between Mecosta County, Newaygo County, Consumers Energy, The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the West Michigan Mountain Bike Alliance. Hall said getting all parties on board was no small task.

“It’s just so exciting for me because it was all a concept and now it’s starting to come together,” he said.

The overall layout includes 11 sections totaling about 50 miles of trail. This summer 10 miles were completed. It includes an ADA section for wheelchairs and mobility devices.

“It’s not just a mountain bike trail, it’s a multi-use natural surface trail. So we have hikers and bikers and cross-country skiers, and we have some mushers who have come out and used the trail during the winter with their sled dogs. We allow everything but motorized vehicles on it,” Hall said.

The economic impact is also starting to pay off for area businesses and hotels.

Julie Burrell from the Right Place said thousands of visitors have visited the trail this year with more expected this fall.

“They just installed some trail counters in early summer and it’s already seen 20,000 visitors at the various trail heads. The peak season for the trail is in the fall,” she said.

At the Fat Belly Deli, owner Jake Butler said a lot of his customers are visitors to the Dragon Trail and they keep coming back.

“The word of mouth is phenomenal. It’s bringing a lot of folks from out of town from all around. It’s been pretty amazing. The feedback on the trail has been outstanding. It’s just a cool thing,” he said.

One trail user said it’s definitely one of the more popular destinations already.

“Right now you can do a complete circuit if you use paved and gravel roads and the sections that are already done, and some of us have been doing that,” Tom Anderson from Big Rapids said. “The fun part is this trail and the way it winds and all the ravines that go down into the great big reservoir. There’s a trail that goes around that and then follows along. You’re always looking way down the hill. It’s pretty fun.”

The Dragon Trail is set to be completed in 2024 but you can get out and enjoy the fall colors for miles already. 

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