Grand Ledge - Hastings - Battle Creek - Eaton Rapids

Here's a Capital idea: a fall color excursion that starts in the State Capital and takes in scenic farm and woodlands, rivers, and a unique geological formation that is about 300-million years old. The 150-mile loop is best enjoyed from mid to late October.

Best Enjoyed: Mid to Late October
Approximate Length: 150 miles

Surprisingly, this tour begins in the city, at Lansing's Fenner Arboretum. The nature park on E. Mount Hope Road offers miles of walking trails and wooded and landscaped areas featuring native Michigan plants and trees. Enjoy another urban oasis by taking the Old Lansing Road/I-69 southwesterly out of Lansing to Woldumar Nature Center, a 150-acre preserve on the Grand River. Hike more than five miles of trails, and enjoy exhibits and interpretive programs.

Head north to M-43 and travel west to Grand Ledge, which takes its name for the 60-foot high sandstone rock ledges that line the Grand River through town. You don't have to be a rock climber to enjoy the 300-million-year-old outcroppings; the riverside trail in Fitzgerald Park is a nice, scenic hike along the natural wall. Note the town's restored Opera House and shop for crafts by local artists at Ledge Craft Lane.

Follow M-43 west to where M-37 drops south to Hastings, on the Thornapple River. The handsome Barry County Courthouse has been serving the community since 1893. Historic Charlton Park, a recreated 19th century town, is open only seasonally, but you can enjoy the autumn color that lines the shore of Thornapple Lake.

Depart Hastings on 179 west to M-43 south to Gull Lake and Turners Corner, then jog east and south on East Gull Lake Road to the W.K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary. Trumpeter Swans, Canada Geese, and ducks are at home at the 180-acre Sanctuary and Wintergreen Lake. Also of interest are the birds of prey enclosures, gamebird display, and nature gift shop.

For an interesting detour, continue south along Gull Lake to M-89, to 42nd Street south to Augusta and the Fort Custer Recreation Area. The Kalamazoo River runs through the 3,033-acre retreat, which features 25 miles of trails for hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riding (bring your own horse) across a mixed terrain of farmland, second growth forests, old prairie, and three lakes. Forestry enthusiasts or anyone up for a hike or picnic in the woods may want to detour to the W.K. Kellogg Experimental Forest, also in Augusta.

Back on the color tour, enjoy the country roads north of the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary by taking B or C Avenue east to 40th Street north, jog slightly to Kellogg School Road and continue north through Hickory Corners to Gilkey Lake Road and Cobb Road, on to Pifer Road east to M-37. Follow M-37 south to M-89, and proceed southeasterly to Battle Creek.

Best known as "Cereal City" and the home of Kellogg's, Battle Creek was a stop on the Underground Railroad. It is the site of the Sojourner Truth Monument in tribute to the one-time slave who became an abolitionist and women's rights activist. Learn more about the area on the city's self-guided Heritage Mile Walking Tour. Also in Battle Creek, you can pick up a portion or enjoy all 17-plus miles of the Linear Park Pathway that takes bicycle and foot traffic along rivers and through a variety of scenery.

Stroll the gardens and rolling landscape of the 72-acre Leila Arboretum and Children's Garden

From Battle Creek take Verona Road east to 9 Mile Road north. Turn east on N Drive North. Browse the dried herbs, herb products and gifts at the Southern Exposure Herb Farm shop, housed in a restored 1840's barn. Continue east on N Drive North to 15 Mile Road, and follow that north to Junction. Head east to Baker Sanctuary, one of the first sanctuaries for the world's oldest living bird species, the Great Sandhill Crane. Michigan's largest bird stands four to five feet high with a wingspan that can reach six or seven feet. Walk the two-mile Meadow and Marshland Trail and watch for 200 other species of birds and other wildlife that has been spotted at the refuge. Cross over I-69 and step down S Drive North, 17-1/2 Mile and Q Drive North to Old 27. Follow Old 27 south to Marshall. Hungry? Stop by Cornwell's Turkeyville USA for a snack or a meal from the all-turkey menu.

Take a self-guided stroll through picturesque Marshall, and its designated National Historic Landmark District. The unusual architecture of the 1860 Honolulu House Museum, built by the first U.S. consul to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) blends Italianate, Gothic and Polynesian styles. Refresh at Schuler's Restaurant and Pub, a fourth-generation family business that has been welcoming guests since 1909.

Follow BR I-94 east out of Marshall to Michigan, and continue east to the charming college town of Albion, the home of Mother's Day. Get out of the car to enjoy the Whitehouse Nature Center's six walking trails, a forested 25 acres, ponds, tall-grass prairie, arboretum of Michigan trees and Interpretive Building. Head east on State Route 99 and follow it as it travels north through the rolling countryside through Springport, first settled in 1835. Proceed to picturesque Eaton Rapids, located at the confluence of the Grand River and Spring Brook. Enjoy the riverside Island Park or stroll the historic downtown district.

Plan an extra night at the end of this trip for an overnight at the former auto baron's residence overlooking the Grand River, The English Inn. This 1927 Tudor mansion was designed at built for former Oldsmobile Corporation General Manager and President Irving Jacob Reuter. Before leaving Eaton Rapids and heading back to Lansing via M-99 north, visit Granny's Cider Mill or Theisens Bittersweet Orchard for seasonal refreshments, and bring home a taste of fall in the form of a gallon jug of fresh-pressed cider.

Fenner Nature Center
2020 E. Mount Hope Road
Lansing, MI 48910
Phone: (517) 483-4224
Fenner Nature Center features 130 acres of mixed habitat with approximately four miles of trails, through maple groves, pine forests, swamp forests, old fields, and three different ponds. Fenner Nature center is an ideal place to hike, view or photograph wildlife, picnic, or just relax. The Visitor Center houses an exhibit room, library/ classroom, gift shop, restrooms and staff offices. Fenner Nature Center is in a convenient location and offers free entry to visitors so that they may enjoy the beauty of nature. Our building is handicap accessible. Two main trails have a blacktopped surface for easy use for strollers, wheelchairs and those with mobility impairments. Benches are also located around the trails for rest and relaxation. Picnicking is permitted.
Woldumar Nature Center
5739 Old Lansing Road
Lansing, MI 48908
Phone: (517) 322-0030
Your adventure awaits! Woldumar Nature Center consists of 188 acres of fields, forests and wetlands along the Grand River. The trails are open from dusk to dawn every day and guided tours are available by appointment. Woldumar Nature Center provides programs year-round for all ages and can include walks, hikes, camping, campfire programs, cross country skiing, traveling naturalist and many more. An official Michigan Wildlife Viewing Area.
Fitzgerald Park
133 Fitzgerald Park Drive
Grand Ledge, MI 48837
Phone: (517) 627-7351
Fitzgerald Park is a 78-acre day use facility best known as the home of the Ledges - ancient sedimentary rock outcroppings lining the shores of the Grand River. This year around site provides three miles of nature and hiking trails, picnicking, two softball diamonds, a volleyball court, basketball court, two horseshoe pits, playground, disc golf course, nature center, two miles of cross country ski trails, sledding hill, and canoe/kayak access to the Grand River. Motor vehicle entry fee required.
Grand Ledge Opera House
121 South Bridge Street
Grand Ledge, MI 48837
Phone: (517) 627-1443
The historic Grand Ledge Opera House is the perfect location for wedding ceremonies and receptions. Built in 1884 as a roller skating rink, it soon became an old-time opera house showcasing traveling vaudeville and local entertainment. The exterior is faithfully restored to its original appearance while the interior is renovated to provide a modern, two-level community center with period decor. The beautiful gardens and gazebo provide a romantic setting that is sure to make your event memorable. The entire facility is air conditioned and smoke-free with serving kitchens on both levels for licensed caterers under contract with the facility. We are located in downtown Grand Ledge alongside the Grand River.
Historic Charlton Park
2545 S. Charlton Park Road
Hastings, MI 49058-8102
Phone: (269) 945-3775
Recreation area, Boat Launch, Beach, Historic Village, education programs (by reservation), museum and picnic areas, gift shop. This Barry County Park set on Thornapple River and Lake offers approximately 333 acres of natural, rolling terrain for hiking trails in the spring, summer, and fall with x-country skiing trails in the winter. Open year round. Museum & village open May through October.
W.K.Kellogg Biological Station-Conference Center
3700 E. Gull Lake Dr.
Hickory Corners, MI 49060
Reservations: (269) 671-2400
Phone: (269) 671-2400
Located at Michigan State University's W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, the KBS Conference Center is a year-round venue for meetings, conferences, seminars, trainings, receptions and retreats. Situated on 32 acres along beautiful Gull Lake in Southwest Michigan, the facility utilizes several buildings once part of a summer estate belonging to cereal pioneer W.K. Kellogg. When hosting functions, guests may choose from relaxing, contemporary spaces including the KBS Auditorium, Terrace Room and Carriage House classroom, as well as unique areas such as the W.K. Kellogg Manor House, a historical attraction, and the rustic Spruce Lodge, located at the W.K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary. To honor the biological station's commitment to environmental/ecological education and research, the Conference Center strives to be a green business and to promote sustainability. A portion of the Conference Center's proceeds is used to fund KBS student scholarships and internships. Our naturally landscaped grounds, welcoming staff, memorable cuisine and variety of overnight lodging accommodations all contribute to providing the perfect atmosphere for your professional or private event. Contact us today to speak with our event planning team!

Fort Custer Recreation Area
5163 W. Fort Custer Drive
State Highway M-96
Augusta, MI 49012
Reservations: (800) 447-2757
Phone: (269) 731-4200
This recreation area has three lakes as well as the Kalamazoo River, high rolling meadows, soggy wetland, and abundant woods. There are 22 miles of hiking, biking, and horse trails. 219 modern campsites, two cabins, and three rustic cabins, Activities include Eagle Lake beach, picnic shelters, hunting, fishing, mountain biking and cross country skiing areas. Park hours Monday-Sunday 8am-10pm. Day use admission charge.
Sojourner Truth Monument
Corner of Division (M-66) nd Michigan Avenue
Battle Creek, MI 49017
Phone: (269) 965-2613
The 12-foot high sculpture of Sojourner Truth was dedicated in 1999. For more information, contact the Sojourner Truth Institute. It was designed by internationally recognized sculptor Tina Allen. Free Admission.
Battle Creek's Linear Park Pathway
35 Hamblin Avenue
Battle Creek, MI 49017
Phone: (269) 966-3431
The Battle Creek Linear Park offers a beautiful and safe trail for walking, jogging, cycling, and skating. It joins many picturesque spots for fishing in the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo rivers, canoeing or a picnic. Over 18 miles of paved pathway winds through wooded areas, open fields, parks, and even some commercial areas. Marker posts along the way let you measure your progress in miles or kilometers and to set training goals. Historical, cultural and point of interest signs are also found along the way. Open daily 5:30 AM to 1/2 hour after sunset. Free admission.
Leila Arboretum
928 W. Michigan Avenue
Battle Creek, MI 49017
Phone: (269) 969-0270
A 72 acre garden with more than 2,000 species of trees and shrubs, many dating back to the 1920's, laid out in the manner of famous European gardens. The Arboretum is open to the public year round during daylight hours. Admission is free, but donations play an important role in maintaining this natural resource. Come for a casual stroll or run the one or two mile loop. Open daily dawn to dust.
Southern Exposure Herb Farm
11269 N Drive North
Battle Creek, MI 49014
Toll Free: (866) 554-4372
Phone: (269) 962-1255
Set in the peaceful, rolling countryside, (just 15 minutes from Battle Creek or Marshall). Southern Exposure offers walking gardens, ponds, and three restored farm buildings, each providing a charming, restful setting and impeccably furnished with antiques, country quilts and china. Open approximately April 1 through mid-December. Special occasion dining available year-round by appointment only. Open 10 am-6 pm daily. Free admission
Bernard W. Baker Sanctuary
21145 15 Mile Rd.
Bellevue, MI 49021
Phone: (269) 763-3090
Michigan Audubon Society's first sanctuary and remains one of the largest. Established in 1941 primarily for the protection of Greater Sandhill Cranes and their nesting and migration-staging habitat, the refuge has made a significant contribution in restoring Michigan's crane population. In recent years, more than 5,000 Sandhill Cranes have been recorded at Baker Sanctuary on a single October day and as many as 13 pair of cranes have nested there in the spring. Access to certain areas of the Sanctuary is restricted. A resident manager coordinates crane viewing at the Kiwanis Youth Area, adjacent to the sanctuary, Saturday and Sunday each weekend in October from 4pm-7pm, and hosts Crane Fest the second full weekend in October each year. The sanctuary contains nearly 900 acres of varied habitat and more than 200 bird species have been recorded at Baker Sanctuary. In recent years, three prairie restoration projects and a wetland restoration have taken place on the meadow and marshland trail off 15 Mile Road. Several geo-caches have been established as well. Pets on leashes are permitted (meadow and marshland trail only) as is cross country skiing (in season). Nature study, bird watching, and wildflower viewing (in season) are encouraged from dawn to dusk daily on both trails. Removal of anything is prohibited. Open daily dawn to dusk. Free admission.
Cornwell's Turkeyville, USA
18935 15 1/2 Mile Road
Marshall, MI 49068
Toll Free: (800) 228-4315
Phone: (269) 781-4293
Family-owned restaurant nestled on a 400-acre farm where turkey is king. We serve sandwiches, pies, and our famous turkey dinners. Over the years the menu has grown and we've added an ice cream parlor featuring homemade ice cream, gift shops and a professional dinner theater. Camp at the Camp Turkeyville. Cornwell's Turkeyville USA offers a full calendar of events, including flea markets, antique and arts & crafts events. Open 11am to 8pm daily. Event hours 10am to 5pm. Free admission.
Honolulu House Museum
107 N. Kalamazoo Avenue
Marshall, MI 49068
Phone: (269) 781-8544
The Honolulu House Museum was built in 1860 by the first U.S. consul to the Sandwich (Hawaiian) Islands. The exterior architecture is a blend of Italianate, Gothic and Polynesian. The interior features beautiful paint-on-plaster wall and ceiling paintings restored to the splendor of the 1880s. Period furnishings and authentic replicas of the carpets fill the rooms. Marshall Area historical artifacts are also featured. Check website for times open. Admission fee.
Schuler's Restaurant and Winston's Pub
115 S. Eagle Street
Marshall, MI 49068
Reservations: (269) 781-0600
Phone: (269) 781-0600
Welcoming you since 1909! Our reputation is built on warm hospitality and generous portions of America's classic foods. Treat yourself to the best of Michigan dining, including favorites such as Prime Rib and Lake Superior Whitefish. Our bread and baked goods are made in-house by our Master Baker. Schuler's private label California wine anchors our wine list and our newly-remodeled Pub bar features craft brews (including Schuler's Brew, made for us by Bell's) and ice cream drinks (Brandy Alexander, anyone?). Our famous crackers and Heritage Cheese spread are available for purchase in the lobby. Thursday night grill specials on the outdoor Patio during the summer and Sunday Suppers--comfort food at its best--Sundays from 11am-4pm (dinner menu available until 9pm). The Centennial Dining Room is a tradition and Winston's Pub provides more casual fare in a unique setting. Come join us at An American Classic...Schuler's Restaurant & Pub!

Whitehouse Nature Center
611 East Porter Street
Albion College, off Hannah, just south of Erie Street
Albion, MI 49224
Phone: (517) 629-1000
Hike one of the five marked trails through 144 acres of woodland, marsh, meadows, prairie, wildflower garden, and arboretum. Grounds open dawn to dusk all year. Interpretive building open weekdays 9:30 AM-4:30 PM and on Saturday and Sunday 10:30 AM-4:30 PM.
The English Inn, Restaurant and Pub
677 S. Michigan Road (M-99)
Eaton Rapids, MI 48827
Toll Free: (800) 858-0598
Phone: (517) 663-2500
A former auto baron's residence overlooking the Grand River, this 1927 Tudor mansion will make you feel as though you're in the English countryside. It is part of a 15-acre estate which includes the original pergola, swimming pool and gazebo, as well as an artesian well, fishpond, annual and perennial gardens and nature trails, award-winning restaurant and pub. Six antique filled guest rooms located within the main house and four in our two cottages. Breakfast included. Fine dining at the English Inn. Authentic English pub on the garden level. Alfresco dining on the terrace during the summer months. Reservations are recommended.