If the Canonsburg Ski Area Trail is the roomy trail in a "good woods," then Robinette's trail is the tight, mean trail in a haunted woods. Hmm. . . . all of us love this trail, but you'll often hear it referred to as a technical trail. Indeed, it's full of quick turns, steep slopes, tree roots, and even a log here or there to step over.
I'm reminded of the grumpy, enchanted Apple Tree that confronts Dorothy has she begins her journey down the yellow brick road with the Scarecrow. Some of the apple trees at Robinettes may be related. It's unlikely that the trees located near the beginning of this run will throw apples at you, but don't be surprised if they stick out a limb or two, or perhaps try to trip you up with a root.
The trail essentially comprises three loops. The entire route takes me about 45 minutes to run (the course record has been unofficially set by Jeff Browning in 30:20), but most mortals will run between 38:00 and 55:00. A 45 minute run would mean the first loop is done in 25:00, the second in 15:00, and the third in 10:00. In other words, run counterclockwise, each loop out of the woods gets shorter.
You can park in the little lot directly across from Robinette's store, and begin the run there. Head toward East Beltline, round the corner at the end of the apple rows, and head toward the water tower. This first quarter mile is flat. Soon you'll shoot down a steep slope and into the woods and that's when the fun begins. This is single track with little room to pass other runners. The path takes you by a few drainage ponds, but typically there's no mud or water to worry about. The sandy soil drains well, so it takes quite a bit of rain to make it off limits.
The first loop tosses you back out into the apple orchard, you head down a row to the two-track, and then glide back into the woods on a long downhill, a welcome breather. This second loop then takes you through some rough terrain, some severe switchbacks, and a set of steep hills. Finally this second loop gives you another quick look at the orchard in the distance, and then takes you down into some pine trees for a long decent. Five minutes into this last loop you'll work your way back out, up the hill, and confront, finally, a steep grade up that bests many runners. Once out of the woods, the corn appears on your left and it's an easy grade down to the corner of the corn and a little sprint back to the parking lot.
This trail is the location of Gazelle sponsored "Dirty Herd" run every Sunday at 4:00 (winter) and 6:00 (summer). The Dirty Herd draws anywhere from 10-40 runners every Sunday--and when they hold special events like the Fall Classic, there might be 250 runners. This is a welcoming group of trail runners of all ages and abilities. Beginning trail runners might find the first loop enough for starters, but this haunted woods will challenge you to return again and again.
Distance: 4.75 miles
Elevation Gain: 800 ft.
3142 4 Mile Rd NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525