Hike the Trail at Calvin College Nature Preserve to Become an Incredible Outdoor Explorer


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

Calvin College Ecosystem Preserve and Native Gardens
1750 East Beltline Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546-5649

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 College Nature 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 throughout the summer months. 

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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 College Nature 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 Nature Preserve 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
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 College Nature 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 Nature Preserve. 

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
Calvin Eco trails bridge
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