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The Clinton River Trail is a 16-mile recreational trail on an abandoned rail line through the heart of Oakland County, including the cities of Sylvan Lake, Pontiac, Auburn Hills, Rochester Hills and Rochester. The surrounding landscape includes downtowns, industry, residential areas and parks.
The trail roughly parallels, and frequently crosses, the Clinton River. It continues as the existing West Bloomfield Trail to the west and the Macomb Orchard Trail to the east. In Rochester, hop on the Paint Creek Trail via the Rochester Riverwalk to travel north to Lake Orion.
While primarily located on an abandoned railroad grade, the Clinton River Trail includes an approximately 4-mile on-road segment that circumnavigates a gap in the railroad corridor ownership in Pontiac.
Parking for the Clinton River Trail is available in Sylvan Lake at Beaudette Park (Dawson’s Mill Pond) off Orchard Lake Road. In Pontiac, park at the trailhead where the trail crosses S. Opdyke Road. There is also a small parking lot on S. Livernois Road in Rochester Hills and under the S. Rochester Road/State Route 150 bridge in Rochester.
I have been riding this trail for the past 5 years. I usually park at Adams Rd parking area right near the Mastodon site and travel up to Rochester and join onto The Paint Creek Trail. We always stop and have a meal or a drink in Downtown Rochester and there are MANY places to choose from. I am not a true cyclist—more of a bike enthusiast—so the stopping for a meal/beer makes the bike ride! The trail is well maintained through that area. We always see bunnies and deer as we ride. The whole atmosphere reminds me of being up north! We sometimes go the opposite way and ride into Auburn Hills. The path is not as maintained when we go that way—not sure why, but it is just bumpier. There area some places to eat/drink in Downtown Auburn Hills as well and a beautiful little park along the river. Ice cream shops too.
I entered the trail from the West Bloomfield trail. Turning to gravel at this point the trail ran through some quiet areas but just seemed a little overgrown and understaffed. I went all the way to Pontiac, and have give thanks to the LBS for fixing a chain for me. Great people. I only had to walk a couple of miles. Trail markers to get me back on the main section of trail were in good locations.
SUMMARY: You can see historic downtowns, middle class suburbia, riverside wetlands, and heavy industry -- sometimes all at once! Trail surface not nearly as nice as Paint Creek / West Bloomfield, but tolerable except for Opdyke to Adams. If you're looking to log 20mph on Strava with a skinny-tire road bike, this is the wrong trail. But CRT offers a nice leisure ride or through connector with an interesting blend of Oakland County scenery.
Sylvan to Bagley (East Section) -- This area is a little raw, although that gives it a sort of authentic charm. It is very lightly traveled, but works fine as a connector/extension for a through ride to West Bloomfield Trail. CRT and West Bloomfield really are right across the street from each other. But bizarrely, there is no signage marking either one at the Orchard Lake crossing. Look for the pedestrian bike/crossing across Orchard Lake, and then you can pick up the trails visually. Both veer immediately away from Orchard Lake Road.
Pontiac Connector - Bagley/Opdyke sections are both paved trails that run parallel to the roads. I did not ride the South Blvd section.
Opdyke to Adams - This is the only fully paved section of the CRT, but unexpectedly has the worst-conditioned surface. If just out for a leisure bike ride, this section should be avoided. I would only ride west from Leach Road Trailhead. But it's fine for walkers. Scenery is interesting enough. I still get a thrill riding over highways, and this section has a nice bridge over I-75.
Adams to Dequindre - This section is mostly loose asphalt. It's not the best surface, but was acceptable for my 35mm tire touring bike. I would not recommend for a skinny-tire road bike. And signs say the asphalt is recycled, so that's a plus. In fact, there is an asphalt factory right along the trail, which was probably the source. You can connect midway with the Paint Creek Trail, or with Macomb-Orchard Trail at Dequindre.
Beautiful Bike Ride
I had previously taken the trail from Dequindre Rd. to the Rochester Municipal Park, as my destination on a ride that included the entire length of the Macomb Orchard Trail. The crushed limestone surface of this trail is actually quite nice, considering it is not paved. The Paint Creek Trail, which I traveled on a separate trip, has a similar surface, and I had no issues whatsoever. In fact, that trail is one of the most scenic I have ridden in the area.
So on this ride, starting at the Letica Rd. trailhead, I headed west. I was on the familiar unpaved portion, but little did I know what was ahead. Once I hit asphalt, it was in dicey but usable condition. It is somewhat rough, with a loose top surface that appears to be the asphalt slightly deteriorating into a very fine gravel. While it wasn't the best surface, it was still usable and not all that distracting. This is fine for walking and cycling, but anyone with a longboard would find this too risky.
At the end of the Rochester section of the trail, there is a loose gravel section, appearing as though someone had broken up the asphalt with the intention to repair or replace it. It is very deceptive since the gravel section is exactly the same color as the asphalt, and while you first notice something is "off" about the way it looks, it's when your tires hit this soft section that you realize what type of surface you are dealing with. I did fine with my "crosstrail" bike, but anyone on a thin-tired road bike should be advised to bypass this section.
There are some scenic parts to this trail, including an overlook for the Clinton River. There are other places where trail users can go down to the river. Yet one thing spoiling the Rochester section is the constant noise and industrial smells. In places, it feels more like you are traveling an abandoned alley behind an industrial area. (And in fact, a former railway very well could pass through industrial areas, as many active lines still do today.)
But, we are not to Opdyke Road yet. Once you cross into Auburn Hills, the asphalt trail is in deplorable condition. The surface is very rough, which masks the very uneven surface. I rarely unlock my front fork on trails these days, but this is one section where it was essential.
I headed west, thinking it was one bad section of trail, but nearly the entire length through Auburn Hills is in this dilapidated condition. I would much rather have the crushed limestone trail over this mess. The only smooth sections are at road crossings, and through part of the village of Auburn.
I was so disgusted that I nearly turned around but no, I decided to forge onward. Finally at the far end, I reached Opdyke. Signage indicated that this was the end of the "improved" section of the trail (someone needs to look up that definition of "improved" in Webster's). And a map gave a very vague indication of a route through Pontiac (no thank you) to continue onward. The only interesting thing I saw was a pair of gravel ruts beyond Opdyke, the unimproved portion of the trail. Seeing no signs forbidding entry, I nearly crossed over to explore this section, but decided against it.
The only redeeming feature of this section of trail I rode was the scenery along the river. The overall mediocre to flat out poor asphalt conditions on the trail, however, pretty much ensure I will never ride it again until it is resurfaced. I would love to see some sort of active donation drive to have these sections truly improved, as it is an important section of trail. Whatever trickles in today I'm sure will come nowhere near covering the cost of restoring this trail to where it needs to be.
the trail is not maintained between Opdyke and Telegraph roads. There is a detour through Pontiac, so you travel down cracked sidewalks by construction sites where the only option is to ride in the street with traffic that is unfriendly towards cyclists. The detour continues on through poorly maintained residential areas, and we saw a large rat along the way. I felt like an idiot for being so naive to think that there would be a nice trail after riding on Paint Creek Trail and the Macomb Orchard Trail recently. It's a shame that the poverty is so apparent as soon as you pass out of Auburn Hills and West Bloomfield.
I did an out and back 7 miler from Livernois to Adams last fall. On the way out, I ran by a deer grazing on a tree branch. He literally did not move and I could have swatted his behind as I cautiously ran past him. Great run, long and flat and crushed stone and packed dirt. Plenty of room to pass for both bicyclers and runners alike.
We took the dogs for a hike here today. It's very pretty with lots of wild flowers, ponds, ducks, a toad, birds and some unknown creature we couldnt see that the dogs were very interested in - in the bushes.
Parking is on Adams, right across from Walmart. This is just south of M-59. There are restrooms in the lot in case you need them.
Unfortunately it rained, but we had umbrellas. The trail is mainly a rocky surface - pretty flattened with some sections paved.
I will definitely return when the rain is gone!
The Trail is great when starting at the Rochester end. The gravel and dirt is caked and nice for a somewhat smooth ride (as expected from gravel/dirt). The path through Pontiac is nice. It is on sidewalks and gives you a. Chance to stop to eat,rehydrate, and sit with the many restaurants that line the nearby roads.
I lost the trail at Opdyke, a,though I did not have a map handy. I never made the connection with Opdyke and South to keep going and hop onto the Bloomfield trail. There was a path that continued at the Opdyke intersection, but it didn't look kept up nor friendly. It woud be nice if there were signs a,onside Opdyke and South fr the trail, however, I would ave found it Judy fine if I had a map.
Grab a map if you're on the Southwest end f the trail to eel going!!
It was bumpy near Pontiac. I ride a hybrid, so it was fine for me, but it's not smooth like the Macomb Orchard trail is. So watch out for that.
Great to get outside! Lots of fun!
I have ridden this trail several times now. From Pontiac to Rochester Hills.
The Pontiac Jaycee Park trail that leads to the Clinton River trail West of Opdyke is mountain bike rough. It can be done on a cruiser but it will be slow going. Dismounting is necessary in spots because the crushed stone it too large and deep. There are no road crossings as the path is either on or under a viaduct.
The Auburn Hills section: is paved but either poor asphalt was used or it's just old. Because it's not smooth. In fact I prefer the crushed limestone sections. The intersections are marked well and easy enough to navigate. Street traffic DOES NOT STOP and they are NOT marked to do so. Look both ways before crossing.
The Rochester section: is crushed limestone and well packed. It's smooth and nice. wouldn't try it during/after rain unless you want to get dirty. Traffic in some spots is marked to stop but not all. Use caution when crossing streets.
All sections from Auburn Hills to Rochester Hills are well marked and easy to ride.
This trail is great if you park on Opdyke, or at Riverside park-which means you go through downtown Auburn hills for a short stretch. This trail has two restrooms with water fountains. It is an ideal trail for runners with dogs. There are also areas to take the dogs to the river. I moved and live closer to two other trails, but we drive to the Clinton River Trail for the ease of the dogs. There are people who fear the area, but, I don't think criminals are waiting for runners! Maybe their unattended cars would be of interest-but they are not gonna hike their lazy selves down the trail to sit and wait! I am personally am more frightened by the coyote that has tracked me and my dogs for over a mile about three times this summer. (That thing doesn't stand a chance when it comes to my stainless steel water bottle!)Lots of deer and other wildlife too! We love jumping in the river after a long run too! I just have to remember my sandals!
I started from where it connects with West Bloomfield trail, which is the west-most point and I headed east. It was fine until I got into downtown Pontiac. Then it became very poorly marked and I lost it. Downtown Pontiac is not a good place to lose your trail. I knew I had to head east, so I did and eventually caught it at Opdyke just south of Auburn Rd. It was nicely paved from that point, but I wanted to head back rather than go to the east end of the trail. When I started heading back west, again, I lost the trail where it bordered downtown Pontiac. I am not blind and I am not stupid. The markings for this trail are horrible and especially where they need to be best!
Just to let everyone know that the map indicates a trail between Opdyke and Bagley but there is no such trail yet, mostly industrial debri and scary surroundings. There is an old sidewalk on South boulevard between Bagley and Opdyke that can be used for biking. The bridge at Telegraph road has been completed and is really an excellent way to cross Telegraph for walking or biking.
Rode the West Bloomfield trail from the Nature Center, all of the Clinton River trail, and part of the Macomb/Orchard trail today - they link to each other giving 40+ miles of biking (one way). The Clinton River trail was the worst of the three, in fact I would consider not doing this ride again because of the Clinton River trail. At best it is rough asphalt, I don't know how they managed to have an asphalt surface as bumpy as it is as you go through Auburn Hills. At worst it is a 1 foot wide path. I ride a hybrid so I was able to ride the trail, but it was rough and you skittered around a bit in some areas. Much of the trail is a two track path with grass between the tracks. Then there is the section through Pontiac that you have to use sidewalks for several miles. One thing to be careful of is, when traveling east, to not follow the "bike path" signs after the trail ends at Bagley. They will take you into downtown Pontiac and leave you there. Go south to South Blvd, to Opdyke, and pick the trail up from Opdyke. I'd like to see this trail like the Macomb/Orchard trail that links to the east end of this trail - nice asphalt surface. Or even like the West Bloomfield trail at the west end which is smoother packed gravel.
As a resident of Rochester, I'm fortunate to be able to have three trails at my doorstep. With that said, the run of the Clinton River Trail from Addams rd to it's end at Dequindre and 24 mile is very rough! There are ruts everywhere and large rocks making biking with a non-mountain bike treacherous. For walking its okay and at times scenic. I like others wish that they would just pave the trail like its Macomb counterpart the Macomb-Orchard trail. It seems that it would be a natural thing to do as the Clinton River leads into the Macomb-Orchard. Anyone out there know how to raise awareness and funds for something like this to happen?
If paving is out then at least it could be better groomed like it other counterpart, Paint-Creek trail.
This trail needs to be paved like the Macomb Orchard Trail to the east. A lot more people will enjoy it if they do. It's rocky in Rochester Hills; rutted and bumpy in Rochester. My five year old hate all the bumps in Rochester. I could imagine someone twisting an ankle running in the ruts of Rochester. At least all the railroad ballast has been cleared so this trail is not the hardest thing I've ever ridden through. It's a lot like an average dirt or gravel road.
We began walking with our dog on parts of the Clinton River trail. The First walk we took we parked on Adams Rd across the street from Wal-Mart. We headed East and walked to Crooks Rd and back. It was a great walk. Lots of wildlife.
The 2nd time we walked was a few days later. We parked at the lot on Opdyke Rd and walked East again all the way to Squirrell Rd and then went through the Riverside park there where there is a Restroom and drinking fountains, then walked back to Opdyke.
The 3rd time a few days later we parked at the lot on Livernois Near Avon Rd. We walked west and this part of the trail was absolutely amazing! It was about 7pm after a rainstorm. The sounds of the birds and the smells of the wildflowers were beautiful!
The 4th time a few days later we parked near the beginning of the trail in Downtown Rochester at the lot on Second St/ Leticia. We got there near dusk so we didnt get to walk far. This part of the trail is also very beautiful. There are alot of areas where you can see the River and its beautiful!!!
I cannot wait to explore the rest of this trail that we havent seen yet and would highly reccommend this trail to anyone!! I give it 5 stars!!
I was a little bit dissapointed with some of the trail however. It looks like that when they toe out the metal and railroad ties from the railroad they left quite a bit of metal and wood debris down on the edge of the banks off the trail. I would like to see that removed from this beautiful peice of natural land.
Thanks!! HAPPY TRAILS TO ALL!!!
The stretch of trail through Sylvan Lake is a very easy ride. The trail has a somewhat smooth surface with minimal ruts and potholes. It is not particularly scenic but not ugly either. Nice sense of history as you ride along the old right-of-way.
The trail essentially ends at Telegraph. There are plans for a bridge over Telegraph, but for now the easiest way around (or over) Telegraph is to use the Orchard Lake Road bridge. It is not an easy crossing and can be nerve-racking during high traffic. Go south on Old Telegraph to get back on to the trail.
The trail through Pontiac is mostly ballast. If you have a hybrid or a mountain bike, you're fine. You will be alternately surprised by the scenic stretches of nature and urban decay. I rarely see other cyclists (or anyone for that matter) along this stretch of the trail.
The trail ends abrubtly at Bagley St. in Pontiac. Head south until you reach South Boulevard and head East for about three miles. This stretch is through blighted areas of Pontiac. The traffic is light to moderate. Once you reach Opdyke, head North for a half-mile or so to re-join the Clinton Trail. (Note: You can pick up the railroad ROW going westbound, but it is extremely rough and ends in the middle of a desolate manufacturing distric in central Pontiac with no real way out. For obvious reasons, I wouldn't recommend following the old RR ROW through Pontiac.)
Once you head away from Pontiac, the Clinton Trail is in excellent condition. It is rather scenic through most stretches, especially when you begin to parallel the Clinton River. The ride is pretty easy. After several miles you will reach Rochester. The trail essentially turns into the Macomb Orchard Trail at this point.
Users of the West Bloomfield and Clinton River Trails in Oakland County. CAUTION! There are no signs or markings of any kind at the new trail crossings at Orchard Lake Road, 5 lanes, in Sylvan Lake, and the crossing at Iverness within the Village of Sylvan. I have contacted county, township, and Sylvan Lake officials to no avail about getting signage asap. The trail has been useable since last fall."
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