Howard Christensen Nature Center in Kent City, MI

Hiking and Walking Trails Directory Grand Rapids

Directory of Hiking & Walking Trails – Grand Rapids & West Michigan

Hiking West Michigan kids is a snap – so many places to choose from, and so much beautiful scenery at each location that it makes it one of our top choices for recreational activities.

Most of these walking trails are free (some charge a small fee or a parking fee). We’ve checked a lot of these hiking trails off of our list and can’t wait to add some more before the year is over.

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Directory of Hiking & Walking Trails – Grand Rapids & West Michigan

Find your next adventure by searching the features below.

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About Howard Christensen Nature Center in Sparta
16190 Red Pine Dr., Kent City MI 49330
Park Website
check mark 40x40 navy blue Open: Trails open year round from 7 AM to sunset; Interpretive Center open Friday-Sunday 11AM- 4PM.
check mark 40x40 navy blue Stroller-Friendly? Playground or main areas only, Not on trails
check mark 40x40 navy blue Dogs Allowed? Yes, on leash
If you've ever wanted to feed a giant snapping turtle, see a fairy house or an owl roosting forest, then head over to Howard Christensen Nature Center.

This fun park also boasts many different interest areas, including two floating docks, two overlook towers, an amphitheater, interpretive center and campfire sites available for rent.

Located in Northern Kent County, Howard Christensen Nature Center is 135 acres of natural ecosystems with a wide variety of plants and wildlife. Some of the plant species were imported in the 1940s and are only found in a few places in Michigan.

The kettle lake is home to Jaws, the resident snapping turtle. Miles of swamp and ponds were once part of a manmade lagoon.

Howard Christensen Nature Center was originally developed as an environmental education center for Kent Intermediate School District.

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Hiking Trail Details
check mark 40x40 navy blue Trail Difficulty: Easy
There are 12 different well-marked natural surface hiking trails at HCNC. Each is designed for walking, running, snowshoeing and cross country skiing.

Trails range from 0.25 miles to 1.5 miles. Pick up a trail map at the Welcome Center and decide which habitats you'd like to explore. Options include wooded, marsh, bog, farmland, forests, ponds and lakes.

Wildflowers and wildlife are abundant and vast.

Some unnamed trails are meant for limited activity to allow wildlife privacy, but are used during special programs.

About the Interpretive Center
Hundreds of animal displays, both taxidermied and live. There are also picnic tables, a critter room, bird wall, fossils and a rain garden. The nature center hosts classes throughout the year.

Facilities at Howard Christensen Nature Center
Restrooms & interpretive center are on-site. There is a retreat center available for rent.

What's Unique About Howard Christensen Nature Center?
Help us chart the progress of Chrishaven Lake's evolution into a bog with the Citizen Science Project. Simply stop by our Chronolog station on the south dock. Take a landscape photo, as directed by the Chronolog sign, and email it to [email protected] with the subject line HCN-101 and we will be able to chart the lake’s progress through a time lapse video.

Howard Christensen Nature Center Features & Amentities
Dog Friendly, Hiking Trails, Interpretive Center, Lake or River, Picnic Tables, Restrooms

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Etiquette & Tips for Hiking & Walking Trails

Here are some things to keep in mind while hiking the walking trails in Grand Rapids.

  1. Stay on the right side of the path when others are approaching.
  2. Wait your turn on the stairs.
  3. Pack in and pack out your trash.
  4. Bring sunscreen and bug spray (we keep a set in the trunk of our car so we’re always prepared!)
  5. Bring water for everyone.
  6. Binoculars and/or a compass can making any hike an adventure for a child
  7. Check for ticks when you’re done (Read this helpful info about ticks in West Michigan)
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Saugatuck Dunes State Park trail

It’s easy to forget how lucky we are to live where we do. West Michigan has incredible scenery! And we have so many well kept trails and state parks in our area with different things to see.

I have friends in other parts of the U.S. who miss their Michigan home, saying that all the trails where the live are all the same, and not as varied or well-kept as in Michigan.

So don’t take this place for granted, friends! And don’t wait to experience Michigan in all four wonderful seasons on a trail near you.

West MI Trail Directory »
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West Michigan Walking Trails and Hiking Map

We’ve taken a map of West Michigan and plotted favorite family walking trails, parks and more on it to make it easier for you to find your next outdoor destination. Use the map or look below for reviews on all of our best walking trails in Grand Rapids and beyond.

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7 thoughts on “Howard Christensen Nature Center in Kent City, MI”

  1. Be careful when going to aman park. You will need bug spray. Lots of mosquitoes!! Other than that highly recommended 🙂

  2. We went to the Calvin College Nature Preserve. I didn’t realize their trails were free and open until sunset. Grabbed fellow mom, Allison Hoogheem Kampmueller and her kids, and off we went! It was beautiful! Thanks for posting the info.

  3. We went to the Calvin College Nature Preserve. I didn’t realize their trails were free and open until sunset. Grabbed fellow mom, Allison Hoogheem Kampmueller and her kids, and off we went! It was beautiful! Thanks for posting the info.

  4. Mel – you have officially made my job easier at church as I plan out hikes for our high school students to train on before we head to Colorado. Muchas Gracias sister!

  5. This is so great. We’ve been looking for trails that are near and a little further.
    this is so helpful. thank you!

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