Crossing the world’s third-largest earthen dam, The Dragon Trail at Hardy Dam has been years in the making and finally opened several segments for adventure sports.
Supporters say the planned 47-mile trail will be a boon for the region’s economy and a popular destination for mountain bikers, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. About 10 miles of trail is expected to be open this fall. A new website (thedragon.us) now details the trail’s history, construction progress, and other updates for the natural surface trail being built in Mecosta and Newaygo counties.
Named The Dragon due to Hardy Pond’s shape, the trail is being constructed on undeveloped land between Hardy and Rogers dams on the Muskegon River. The trail loop runs through remote, natural settings around Hardy Pond. The completed trail will feature 11 segments with 23 bridges and 13 scenic overlooks.
Supporters say it is unlike any other recreational trail in the Midwest, providing unique mountain biking, hiking, running and camping experiences plus organized competitive events. Its future progress hinges on securing grants and raising over $2 million of the $3.7 million campaign.
“The overall vision for the trail is to make it an adventure sports destination for the entire country and hopefully around the world,” said Nick Smith, Newaygo County’s parks and recreation director. “It’s unique because it’s built on land that has been untouched for hundreds of years.”
The project has been nearly a decade in the making and took the collaboration of property owner Consumers Energy, the federal government, and various local and state agencies, Smith said.
The trail route will connect to several parks and campgrounds, allowing bikers and hikers to plan day trips or overnight excursions. The route will have two-way traffic and three different surfaces: natural surface trail wide, natural surface cross county, and mountain bike optimized.
“It’s a great area up here; the natural resources are some of the best in the state,” Smith said. “It’s just a wonderful area and this is a great addition.”
Newaygo and Mecosta county park commissions will jointly manage the trail system. Volunteers from West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance have agreed to help build the trail and assist with maintenance.
Visit the website for comprehensive trail plan and features, volunteer and fundraising opportunities, or to plan a trip.
— Marla R. Miller