Howard Christensen Nature Center in Kent City, MI

Hiking and Walking Trails Directory Grand Rapids

Hiking & Walking Trails – Grand Rapids & West Michigan

Hiking West Michigan is a snap – there are so many places to choose from, and so much beautiful scenery at each location that it makes it one of our top choices for outdoor things to do in West Michigan.

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 they live are all the same, and not as varied or well-kept as in Michigan.

Don’t wait to experience Michigan in all four wonderful seasons on a trail near you.

The Parks, Playgrounds & Trails Directory is proudly presented by John Ball Zoo. We are grateful for their support!

There are many exciting adventures at John Ball Zoo this year.  Come see the Koalas and join us for all the favorite, fun events like Superhero Day, Princess Day, Kids Day and more.  For more details, visit  

Searchable Hiking & Walking Trails Directory

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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About Howard Christensen Nature Center in Sparta
16190 Red Pine Dr., Kent City MI 49330
Park Website
Open: Trails open year round from 7 AM to sunset; Interpretive Center open Friday-Sunday 11AM- 4PM.
Stroller-Friendly? Playground or main areas only, Not on trails
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.

Hiking Trail Details
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

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.

Find Walking Trails Near Me

Hemlock Crossings trail in West Olive even has a beaver dam!

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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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