Paint Creek Trail
Within the mushroom of development that is northern Oakland County is the Paint Creek Trail, an 8.9-mile rail-trail between Rochester and Lake Orion. For the most part, the trail is a wooded path winding along a trout stream, passing such un-suburban scenery as ponds, grassy meadows, wetlands, even prairie habitat while wildlife such as muskrats, herons, snapping turtles, and an occasional deer can be sighted. But most of all for those walking or jogging along the gravel path, Paint Creek is a quiet escape from the bulldoze mentality of developers who are scraping clean this hilly region north of Detroit and turning it into a land of strip malls and subdivisions.
On the weekends, Paint Creek can be a busy trail with a combination of walkers, joggers, mountain bikers, even a few horseback riders. Surveys found that more than 65,000 people use a portion of the trail from May through September and its estimated annual number of users exceeds 100,000. Who says trails aren’t important?
Paint Creek Trail begins at the Clinton River Trail as the Rochester River Walk. Within 0.3 mile it becomes Paint Creek Trail in Rochester Municipal Park and in 8.6 miles ends at Atwater Street in Lake Orion. In 1990, the trail was surfaced with crushed limestone, chosen over asphalt to maintain the natural setting. The eight-foot wide, all weather surface makes the rail-trail ideal for hiking, mountain biking, walking, skiing, and horse riding. Wooden bollards are located at trail crossings to prevent vehicles and ATV's from entering the trail.
Paint Creek drops 300 feet in elevation between Lake Orion and Clinton River, but in general is an easy hike or walk that can be done in tennis shoes. Most people can cover Paint Creek in three to four hours and, being a point-to-point path, requires two vehicles or some other plan for returning to the trailhead. One of the most scenic segments is the 2.4-mile stretch from Tienken Road to Gallagher Road and Paint Creek Cider Mill, an appropriate place to end a walk.
Built in the 1872 by the short-lived Detroit and Bay City Railroad, the route was later used by Michigan Central Railroad later acquired the line and developed the mile-marking system in the late 1890s. Each mile-marker contained the letter “D,” signifying “Detroit,” and a number that represented the distance in miles from the center of Detroit to that Point. These markers are metal, diamond-shaped signs and are found at half-mile intervals along the rail-trail.
The railroad’s final owner, Penn Central Line, used the line until 1974 before going bankrupt in 1976. Paint Creek Trail then became the first rail-trail in Michigan after the state purchased in 1983 from for $450,000. In 2006 Paint Creek was designated as a National Recreation Trail.
|Difficulty - Moderate|