Bike trail in a Michigan State Park.

After receiving nearly 9,000 name suggestions, the planned statewide hiking and bicycling trail finally has a name.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) today announced this 1,259 mile long showcase trail will officially be called Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail.

“This name effectively captures the beauty and strength of our state’s exceptional natural and cultural resources,” said DNR Director Keith Creagh. “Along the route from Belle Isle to Ironwood, Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail will ultimately connect communities, provide a variety of recreation opportunities, and showcase our great state to residents and visitors alike.”

Although Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail is a work in progress, significant portions of the trail already exist throughout both peninsulas and are open now to the public.

“The hard work and thoughtful vision that have for years gone into Michigan’s existing trail system and future connectors help to lay the groundwork for completion of this important cross-state trail,” Creagh said.

Here is a little background. The DNR in September hosted a contest inviting residents and visitors to submit their best ideas to help name the trail. People from partner organizations including the Michigan Trails Advisory Council, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the Michigan Recreation and Park Association and the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance all helped select the name from the thousands of suggestions.

Creagh chose the final name based on recommendations from that committee.

The DNR received hundreds of variations of the final name. To determine contest winners, three names were randomly drawn from that smaller pool of entries: Amanda Mailer (Rochester, Michigan), Matthew Husted (Jerome, Michigan) and John Meikle (Lapeer, Michigan). Each will be awarded (via drawing) one of three vacation prize packages at locations along the trail:

Iron Belle trail map
Iron Belle trail map

First proposed in 2012, Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail will stretch across Michigan and link numerous existing trails to provide both a 1,259-mile hiking route and a 774-mile bicycling route. One end of the trail lies in Michigan’s newest state park, Belle Isle Park (Wayne County); the other is more than 900 miles away in Ironwood (Gogebic County).

More sections of Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail will open throughout 2015, with ceremonial events in communities along the trail to locally mark the occasions.

Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail follows the existing North Country National Scenic Trail for most of its length in Michigan (1,085 of 1,259 miles). North Country Trail extends to the New York/Vermont border to the east and central North Dakota to the west. Spanning 4,600 miles, it is the longest National Scenic Trail in the nation.

Michigan offers a total of more than 12,000 miles of recreational trails. That’s nearly five times the distance from New York to Los Angeles as the crow flies.

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