Hike the Trail at Calvin College and Explore the Ecosystem Preserve to Become a True Outdoor Explorer

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From Hiking Trails to Educational Resources, Calvin Eco Preserve is a Gem for Grand Rapids Families

1750 East Beltline Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546-5649

*Please note that the Bunker Interpretive Center is closed until further notice due to the Coronavirus.

Located near the heart of Grand Rapids, the hiking trails at Calvin College Ecosystem Preserve and Native Gardens are sure to help you escape city life momentarily with wildlife galore and its alluring gardens.

The walking trails at Calvin Eco Preserve cover 44 acres of wetlands and forest (the preserve itself is 100 acres) and are always free and open to the public. Trails are mostly wooded with lots of wetlands so come prepared with bug spray May and throughout the summer months. 

Covered in wood chips and mostly flat, this is a great spot for younger hikers (my preschooler thrived). There are plenty of water features (streams, swamps, and ponds) with places to stop and look for wildlife. We love a good bridge and this stop had plenty of them.

There are several different configurations of trails that you can take, making it a great place to go for a little hike or a big hike depending on your kiddos. It’s helpful to take a peek at the trail map before you go to visualize where you might like to explore. The trails are marked, but not exceptionally well.

Calvin Ecosystem Preserve Trail Details

  • Trail Difficulty: Easy

  • Dogs Allowed? No dogs allowed

  • Facilities: Bathrooms are located inside the Bunker Interpretive Center, so not always available

  • Stroller Friendly? Not particularly, mostly wood chip covered trails

  • Time of Year Accessible: The trail at Calvin College is open dawn to dusk year round, see the website for current Bunker Interpretive Center hours (varies by time of year)

trail at Calvin College

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Thanks to our sponsor, Kent District Library.

With over 120,000 free items in our digital collection, including movies, TV shows, eBooks, audiobooks, comics, music albums and more, Kent District Library is your library at home. And don’t forget to visit our Facebook page for a variety of online programs including yoga, storytimes and STEAM activities.

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trail at Calvin College

Get Expert Guidance and Explorer Essentials from the Bunker Interpretive Center

Near the main parking lot you’ll spot the Bunker Interpretive Center (the hours vary seasonally, so check the website if you don’t want to miss it).

Inside you’ll find seasonal educational displays, friendly staff, and interactive activities for kids. They offer a range of programs for toddlers to adults, so check in to see what’s coming up for your nature-obsessed kid…or for yourself!

trail at calvin college

One of the recurring perks you can pick up in the Bunker Interpretive Center is a Discovery Field Pack to enhance your visit to Calvin Eco Preserve.

The packs are free to borrow (but must be reserved online in advance) and filled with activities and supplies to make your family feel like real explorers!

Calvin Eco trails boy looking over water

Hurry, Scurry, Slither–Wetlands, Forests, and Flowers Attract an Array of Animals

Naturally, 100 acres of forest and wetlands attract a wide variety of animals. Calvin has downloadable documents with every species they’ve seen on their property–so cool!

You could make your own creature scavenger hunt as you hike the trail at Calvin College. 

Calvin Eco trails stream

The Native Gardens were still growing roots under the soil when we visited, but I think we’ll be back soon to see all its natural beauty. Outside the Bunker Interpretive Center you can find 21 themed garden beds that feature plants that call Michigan home. 

The plants featured in the Native Gardens have a mutually beneficial relationship with local birds, insects, and butterflies–and it’s not uncommon to see them visiting the flowers for a bite to eat. 

Calvin Eco trails birdhouse

Time to Get Growing! Start Your Garden at…the Library?!

Sometimes seeing a beautiful, natural garden leaves me overly confident that I will be able to produce a similar garden. If you leave Calvin Ecosystem Preserve and Native Gardens feeling inspired to get your hands a little dirty, Kent District Library is here to help you get started!

Calvin Eco trails bridge

Did you know that KDL offers a phenomenal free Seed Library? In return, they ask that you save the seeds your plant’s yield and return them to your local KDL branch for people to use the following year. Saving seeds produces stronger plants that are better suited for Michigan’s climate.

Naturally, the library has many helpful books and resources available to help you get started. The library also offers a great list that breaks down plants by how easy or difficult it will be to harvest the seeds. 

This would provide some awesome, hands-on learning opportunities to teach your children about plants, seeds, and where our food comes from!

Parks & Trails MAP 

All the West Michigan Parks and Trails Your Family Needs to Know About

Discover even more trails using this list of Family-Friendly Hiking Trails around Grand Rapids.

And once the playgrounds open back up, you’ll be able to easily find them on this list of Favorite Grand Rapids Playgrounds.

Bonus: Here’s a map of all the playgrounds, trails, and dog parks around West Michigan to find your next family adventure!

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