FKT: John B Adams Jr - Great Lake to Lake Trail (MI) - 2023-04-05

Route variation
South Haven - Lake St Clair
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
5d 7h 20m 54s
GPS track(s)
track.gpx17.64 MB


A route across Michigan, by a runner, for runners.

This was designed to be run over the course of 6 days, in 35–40-mile sections. I started each day at 8am and usually finished by 2:30pm. This was to create manageable chunks, avoid the dark (for both me and my wife), and to get a taste of multi-day events while doing something cool – running across Michigan. Running each section straight through, rather than splitting those up, allowed me to get cleaned up and rested followed by a good dinner, and a great deal of rest/sleep each night. The 8am starts allowed for a good breakfast before each section as well. This adventure was inspired by events such as 6-days in the Dome, and Race Across the Years, which also has a 6-day option. I may attend those in the future, but for now I decided to create my own 6-day adventure. I participated in the most awesome VM-150 which runs from Luddington to Bay City. The furthest I’d gotten was 100 miles, which was my first sub-24-hour 100 mile finish. They offer a 100-mile buckle, which is cool. I still wanted to run across the state, but in a more manageable way (for myself), and perhaps get all the way from coast to coast. So essentially, I combined those ideas, and used the incredible GLTL bike route as a basis. I was not able to find anyone who’d ever run all the way across state, but there are several amazing, continuous 150 mile runs if you’d like to check out the VM-150 website. They did it in 54 hours or less.

The purpose of my FKT entry is not to have a long-standing record. It’s to help someone else either beat it or enjoy a safe run or hike across the state. Kudos to the FKT folks for having this. I stumbled across it while searching for runs from Pittsburgh to DC, which I intend to do next year.

Please find the ins and outs of my personal experience below. I included some turn-by-turn directions in this report in case it helps you to read it and visualize it. If you’d like to discuss the route further, feel free to email me at


Living in Southeast Michigan, I was able to physically practice some of the sections prior to the adventure. I had covered everything from Concord to Royal Oak in training. Concord is southwest of Jackson where the Falling Waters Trail begins. Royal Oak is about 14 miles from St Clair Shores where the route ends.

My initial idea was to follow the (aforementioned) GLTL trail that’s available online for bikers. A huge thank you to those folks who provided an excellent basis from which to design a do-able route which would be safer for running, and cuts over 40 miles in total. For me, that would have taken another day. The GLTL folks have an excellent website I would recommend checking out @

Another substantial difference is the eastern section. The GLTL route follows a rail trail from Wixom to Richmond and then it’s all roadside from Richmond to Port Huron. I did not feel safe with that road section as a runner. It might be fine for a biker, but we are out there much longer. Anytime I could omit road, and replace it with sidewalk, I did, and I was able to omit a substantial amount of road by running the sidewalk (12 Mile Rd) from Novi to St Clair Shores. Problem solved. Sections I was not able to get to in person were analyzed via Google Earth, many times over. The GLTL map provided RED sections which meant potential danger to me. My job was to eliminate the danger from each section, or at least get much more comfortable with it. In most cases, I was able to re-route it to include sidewalks or paths. In sections that have no sidewalk options, I was sometimes at least able to find safer roads. I kept the likelihood of dogs in mind as well.  

Timeline & The Weather

I chose March 31st through April 5th in part because I knew it would be cool/cold. I find that easier than hot, summer days. The temps ranged from about 37 to 50, mostly on the colder side. We got rain, wind, and sleet. Nothing extreme. The wind was at my back most of the time. That’s a pretty good deal.

The route would be prettier in the later Spring or Fall. In that regard, my timeline wasn’t ideal. No foliage, and hardly any color. Miles and miles of empty trees under mostly gray skies. When the clouds did break, what a pleasant treat.

Stage 1:

South Haven to Kalamazoo.  38.87 miles. 8:01:07

My goal for this day was to go easy and eat a lot. I’d never run back-to-back 30 milers, let alone six 35+ milers in a row. So, I didn’t know how it would feel on day two.

The route starts at a lighthouse on Lake Michigan. It’s located at South Beach, South Haven, MI. There’s ample parking and large, clean, porta potties for any last-minute needs. I started tracking my adventure in the parking lot since it’s about a quarter mile run down to the lighthouse.

From the parking lot, you’ll head East on Water Street/Phoenix Street to Bailey. Turn left. Continue to the Kal Haven Trailhead. Most of this section has a sidewalk. Follow the Kal Haven Trail for about 34 miles eastward. There is a very mild incline in parts. Nothing a trained individual will even feel.  Conveniently, the trail takes you to a Marathon Food Store in Bloomingdale, just about when you’ll need a re-stock. It’s a pretty trail and the surface is mostly dirt with some crushed limestone. Beautiful, tall trees line almost the entire leg, protecting you from the wind, which there certainly would have been. The Kal-Haven ends at 10th Street in Kalamazoo. This would be a great place to stop for the day, but I continued a few extra miles on the Kalamazoo Valley River Trail because my ride was late. Bonus! I ended the day with 38.87 miles. I stopped at the corner of Ravine Rd and Nichols Rd. There are several suitable parking lots there for a drop-off or pick-up. We enjoyed a pasta dinner, and I was in bed by 7pm. When I woke up hungry, I ate.

Stage 2:

Kalamazoo through Battle Creek. 33.61 miles. 6:42:36

So how did I feel in the morning? Pretty solid. There was no question about being ready for the next run. Goal: 5 easy miles at a time. Eat, drink, and relax.

The KVRT continues along Ravine Rd past Douglass Rd. Most, if not all the KVRT is paved. It runs through downtown Kzoo, follows Westnedge for a short jog, then continues along the river. You’ll need to have your map out for this section. Some sections are not clear. I accessed the KVRT on the All-Trails app for navigation. In hindsight, I could have followed Kalamazoo Avenue straight across town, which would remove any confusion, but I really wanted to see what all the KVRT looked like. So, if you get confused, just make your way to Kalamazoo Ave and head East. You’ll be back on track. Kalamazoo Ave ends at Rose Park Veterans Memorial which is a good photo opportunity before getting back onto the river trail. NOTE: You want to be on the right side of the river, which is the South side. Follow the path along the south side of the river. It’s a rather cool section with lights. They were still on because I started early that day. I wanted to get through Kalamazoo. This section is paved, so consider soft shoes if you need them. I wore Gel Kayanos throughout every leg, and they were fine. It’s not worth the time to figure out when there’s pavement and when there’s dirt. Plan for both on each leg. I wore gators every minute of every day. They don’t cause any harm, but if they keep my feet clean, it’s well worth it. In a 215-mile week, why risk it? There’s no technical terrain which would require a trail shoe, however. At River St, you’ll pass a Speedway if you need to restock. I kept going and restocked instead in Galesburg. The path continues along Kings Hwy (on sidewalk/path) and then continues to East Michigan Ave.

At West Battle Creek Street in Galesburg, there’s a gas station I used for a quick restock because there’s a covered area, and it was raining. I wanted to change my wet shirts and coat, so this was a great spot to do that.  I continued NW on West Battle Creek Street. This is a road section. I had planned to do this section on the weekend to ensure traffic was at a minimum, and it was. There is ample room to run off to the left (NW) side of the road. It was so quiet that I could run on the road for stretches – so I did. Battle Creek St turns into Augusta Dr. which takes you through the town of Augusta. The library was a great spot for my wife to park and for both of us to use a clean bathroom. There is ample sidewalk/path along E. Michigan and Dickman Roads. It’s quite perfect. Pay attention to the left turn at Brady Rd, which I missed, and had to be driven back. It’s not hard to spot to notice if you’re paying attention. I simply had zoned out. Brady Rd cuts through an industrial park to the North with low traffic. No issues there. Just follow Brady a short distance to the trailhead for the Battle Creek Linear Park Trail. You may want your camera out for this section, as it’s a little gem with bridges and a river. I bet it’s beautiful in the Spring and Fall. You’ll cross the North Branch River, then follow it east to North Washington Ave. Follow north to Emmett and turn right. I hadn’t had the chance to practice this section in person, but after hours and hours of Google Earth, I deemed this as the most direct and safest route for a runner. It proved to be as expected. Emmett is on the sidewalk almost the whole way until it becomes Verona rd. I had not planned on taking Verona because it's a significant number of miles on a roadside. But I noticed on Google Earth that there were no cars in any of the images. I figured that would mean low traffic on a Saturday or Sunday. This was true. I ran on the left side of the road with no issues. Occasionally you may run through grass at the end of someone’s property, or through a ditch to stay away from vehicles, which creates extra work, but it was worth it because Verona saved A LOT of time on that leg rather than trying to avoid it. Heading east on Verona, I turned left for a short distance onto 11 ½ mile and ended the leg at Victory Baptist Church.  My wife showed up with a Little Caesar’s pizza. The food I was starting to crave was on the unhealthy side, but I went with it. It gets worse.

Stage 3:

East Battle Creek to Spring Arbor. 34.01 Miles. 6:20:52

I felt better than the previous morning. I decided to fuel up with a Sausage and Egg McMuffin. That hit the spot. Salt, fat, protein, carbs, and calories. I slept with a bag of chips the night before.

Starting at 11 ½ and Verona, I headed east. You’ll catch a beautiful Sunrise if you time it accordingly. This is a beautiful section of rolling hills on a Sunday morning. I planned on legs 2&3 falling on the weekend due to the road sections I had been leery about. It was a solid plan. In the first mile or two, you’ll catch a photo opportunity at a local trailhead. It’s called Grever’s Nature Center. This section of Verona Rd is easier than the previous section. More opportunity to run on smooth pavement. And by mile 6.5 you’ll be done with it. Welcome to Marshall. Entering Marshall there was a sign on the side of the road that said, “You can go the distance.” At the bottom of the sign it said, “Adams.” That’s my name. How cool is that? Verona will dump you onto Mansion Street (sidewalk). Get your camera ready for a few photo opportunities as you pass Brooks Memorial Fountain. You’ll hang a right onto Kalamazoo Ave, take the crosswalk left before the roundabout, cross 94 emergency, a quick left and a right onto S. Grand St. Veer left to follow the sidewalk heading southeast on Monroe Street. Continue Monroe until it becomes Clinton. You’re on Clinton a short distance, then turn right onto Maple, which becomes River Rd, which becomes B Drive North. B Drive North is a farm road. To my surprise, it was paved. This section was 8-9 uneventful miles of easy running along pretty farms.

*The next section involves many turns. I suggest having your GPS app out and taking your time. I had handwritten directions but needed extra help. The Albion River Trail is on All-Trails, so I simply followed my blue dot to the trailhead. There’s really no wrong way to get there, but a person could get confused.

Hang a slight right onto E. Michigan Ave. You’re still on the road here, but again, on Sunday it’s a non-factor. Soon you’ll get some sidewalk along Michigan Ave. Hang a right on Clinton, a left on Pine, a right on I-94 Emergency (all sidewalk), left on Cass, and you’ll see signs to the Albion River Trail. Just head to the river and you can’t miss it. This is a short but pleasant stretch. Always nice to run through the parks. This takes you to Veteran’s Way, turn right onto Hannah, and left onto Albion Rd. If you look at my map, you’ll see I cut through the park instead of running to Hannah Street. Just navigate your way to Albion Rd/Haven Rd and head east. I turned on my google directions for this because I was confused for a moment. No problem. Turn right at 29 Mile. 29 Mile is another quiet farm road, and I recall one dog encounter. Fortunately, it was a dog I could easily back down. Bring pepper spray just in case. It’s a pretty road though. Turn left on J drive. Good news! You’re almost to the Falling Waters trail. Thank God. J Drive becomes Allman. Allman will cross Jackson Rd. You’ll see the trail right away (on your right), but it only says, “No Motor Vehicles.” That’s correct. It parallels Jackson Rd for a moment and tails off to the Northeast. You’ll come to Spring Street. Stay straight. It’s not well marked but it will keep going. Heading east, you’ll hit Main Street. Cross Main Street and keep heading east. It looks like you’re entering a neighborhood. You are. Keep going onto River Street. You’ll soon come to the Falling Waters bridge, where the trail begins. You made it!

This next stretch is EASY and worry free. Beautiful, too. When you come to the FW trail, I think this is the best spot for photos. There are a few places to catch a nice view of the North Branch Kalamazoo River. This could be a good spot to end a leg, but I continued to Spring Arbor to meet up with my boys who attend Spring Arbor University. This is an easy 4-mile stretch to Lime Lake County Park – a great spot for a change-over or to stop for the day, which I did. Be ware of bugs here though. We needed to get the bug spray out on a cool April 1st day.

I was able to shower at my son’s apartment and have a family dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings.

Leg 4:

Spring Arbor to Gregory (through Jackson). 34.62 Miles. 6:24:53

I had practiced Jackson in advance. Good news: This route is easy. I would not suggest following the GL2GL bike route in Jackson unless you want extra distance. It’s fine for the cyclists, and probably smart,  but it’s not necessary for runners and hikers. Starting on the FW trail in Spring Arbor (moving eastward), it will become the Inner-City Trail just past Weatherwax. There’s some cool art to take photos of at the ICT entrance. This is smooth sailing and there will be a store or two if you need it along the way. The ICT will take you to Cooper Street. Take a left to head north on Cooper. There will be many street crossings along Cooper. But it’s all sidewalk for 3-4 miles. It’s direct. Just be patient at the crossings, which I found to be quick even on a weekday morning. I thought it would be a slow leg, but it was my fastest pace at that point. The sidewalk does eventually end, but continuing north on Cooper to Parnall Rd was no issue at all. There’s ample room for safety. Take a right to head east on Parnall. You cannot miss the Police Station and Prison. On the north side of Parnall at the Prison, you’ll see where the Rail Trail (paved path) starts. That’s correct. Run Northwest along the prison property. Do not use their parking lot as a changing station. I received a “talking to.” Good news! You made it to another EASY and long stretch of Rail Trail. Aside from a thousand “Do Not Trespass” signs that line the trail for a while, it’s quite beautiful. This section is dirt/crushed limestone.

Continue the trail northwest for about 3 miles to the Mike Levine Trailhead. Good spot for that changeover if needed. In 7 more miles you’ll arrive in Munith. I ran maybe .25 miles down the street to a store to restock on water. Continue for about 6 miles to Stockbridge. I did not stop there because I was finishing 5 miles further in Gregory for the day. Great spot for that. There’s a good bathroom. By “good” I mean wooden. This leg was a pleasure. The distance between towns makes for an easy breakdown. 5ish miles per section from Spring Arbor to the ICT to Cooper to the Prison to Mike Levine, to Munith, to Stockbridge, to Gregory. Each being a hop, skip, and jump to the next. Before you know it, you have completed a 34.62-mile leg. Easiest one yet.

Dinner was had at a local brewery called CJ’s in Commerce Twp, and then I got right to sleep in my own bed.

Leg 5:

Gregory to Wixom. 34.33 Miles. 6:28:23.

From Gregory, head east via the Mike Levine Lakelands Trail. Cross M-36. You might see cows. Just after that, you’re on the north side of the old Woodstock 100 course. Pickney Rec is to your right. The trail you’re on used to be part of the Hallucination 100-mile course. I enjoyed memories of running that section many times before. Once you hit Cedar Lake Rd, you’ll know you’re approaching civilization again. Welcome to Pinckney. It’s a pretty stretch of trail. Cross M-36 again, then just before Pearl Street there are a couple of trailheads which are good spots for a changeover if you need. Eventually you’ll come to Zukey Lake Tavern. There’s a big parking lot there which was my plan for a restock. My aid was late (because she was working, too) so I continued a bit further and she found me at a Chiropractor’s office just off the trail. There’s also a trailhead a few miles up in Hamburg as well as The Hamburg Pub if you need it 😉 I did not partake.  

Next, we have a slightly tricky spot. The trail brings you to Lemen Road. Do not turn right. There’s a path that way which looks correct, but it isn’t. Cross Lemen and go left, back onto the Lakelands trail heading east. If you are running along M-36, you are correct. You’ll pass another Prison. Follow the Lakelands Trail to Whitmore Lake Rd. Carefully navigate through the McDonald’s parking lot after you cross Whitmore Lake Rd. Walk through the grass to a park N’ ride that you should be able to see. From the park N Ride, take your time and walk a short distance along the M-36 and go under the bridge (which is US 23). You can safely walk on the right side of the guard rail under the bridge. Continue a bit further and cross the ramp, to stay right. Continue just a bit further and take a left onto Fieldcrest. There’s a path there. You made it! It’s not hard if you go slow, one step at a time. I recommend walking this section to be safe. If you need it when you arrive at Fieldcrest, you can enter the Green Oak Township building and use a clean bathroom. Fill up your bottles, too.

The northbound 5ish mile stretch along US 23 from 9-mile Rd to Green Oak Shopping Plaza is half roadside and half sidewalk. I had rehearsed this because I think the bike route uses the other side of the highway. This side (the east side) is much safer for running or hiking. There’s no “escape” on the west side. The part with no sidewalk has ample room, and very little traffic even on a weekday. The second half is an even safer, paved path. It’s kind of neat to run along the highway. There’s a couple of little bridges but be careful not to drop your phone. It’ll be gone.

You’ll need to study the upcoming section, or you could make a time costly mistake. From Fieldcrest, make the right turn onto Second Ave. Navigate a very short distance to Panera bread if you like. Wonderful fuel if you need it. My wife had a sour dough half sandwich waiting. Tremendous. From Panera, navigate back to Second and continue. Stay right on Village Place Blvd and stay right again at the turnabout. Run along the right side of the parking lot until you come to the Trail connector to Island Lake. It’s easy to find. You’re basically going to stay in the same direction – east. The connector will take you to State Park Rd. Turn Right. I followed State Park Rd all the way to Kensington Rd because I did not feel like adding extra time on all the trails the beautiful park offers. This is the quickest way. Just before Kensington Rd you’ll see a path to the right. Take that. It’s Island Lake Parkway. Then turn right at Kent Lake Beach Rd. This will connect again with the Island Lake Parkway. Take a right to head east. This will take you to a parking lot. Continue to the end of the parking lot and you’ll see where the path picks up again on your left. Continue the path eastbound.   

Follow the path across Grand River Ave, and Kent Lake Rd. These are easy crossings with signals. Then you’ll see the path again to your left. Up ahead, there’s a BP Store if you need it. Good news: You have reached the Huron Valley Trail which provides smooth sailing all the way to Wixom. There’s even a cool tunnel to run through. I chose a poor place to stop for the day. Don’t do that. I only did because I was on a timeline. I wanted to get to my daughter’s softball game by 4pm. Continue the Huron Valley Trail until Old Plank Rd, if not all the way to Wixom. 34.33 (or longer if you choose).

I got to sleep in my own bed again which was pretty cool. Dinner consisted of Panera leftovers, chips, fruit, and an adult beverage.

Stage 6:

Wixom to St Clair Shores. 40.18 Miles. 7:20:54.

I had rehearsed this section as well. This leg represents the most significant difference from the GL2GL bike route. I did not like the idea of ending with 20+ miles of roadside running, and over 40 additional miles in total, so I found a safer, and faster way across the state. St Clair Shores is not on a Great Lake, but it is on our eastern border. That was good enough for me.

The Huron Valley Trail will take you to Wixom. You’ll follow Pontiac Trail to Wixom Rd, turn left, then cross the street to the Airline Rail Trail. Take this a mile or two to Decker Rd. Take a right at Decker to 13 Mile Rd. Turn left on 13 Mile to Meadowbrook. Right on Meadowbrook to 12 Mile. Go left (east) onto 12 Mile and that’s the last turn you’ll make. 12 Mile Rd takes you all the way to St Clair Shores. There’s just one section near Farmington in which you’ll need to run on the grass for a bit. Just be patient. In a couple of miles, you’ll be back on the sidewalk for the remainder. You might need to cross the street once or twice to stay on the sidewalk. I found it best to stay on the left (North) side of the road almost the entire way to St Clair Shores. There are ample opportunities for food (including Panera again) along this leg. I broke this down (in my head) by cities and main roads. You’ll run through (or past) 13 cities on this leg.

My wife waited for me in the parking lot of an Apartment complex at the corner of 12 Mile and Jefferson. Then we crossed Jefferson and followed a short path to view Lake St. Claire and end the route. I sat on the bench for a while and looked at the water even though it was cold and rainy. I had just completed my quest and I wanted to enjoy the moment. Then it was time for Buffalo Wild Wings 😊

I hope you enjoy your adventure as much as I did. It’s very do-able, and it’s safe if YOU are safe. I wore a highly visible yellow reflective safety vest over my jacket every step of the way. Please do the same. Eat a lot, drink a lot, rest a lot, and have a great journey!

John B. Adams Jr

Commerce Twp., Michigan