Michigan State Parks: Fort Custer

man and sign for Fort Custer Recreation AreaThe Fort Custer Recreation Area in Southwest Michigan boasts miles of multi-use trails that are popular for everything from hiking and mountain biking to horseback riding. Located near the village of Augusta, Fort Custer is one of Michigan’s 103 state parks.

Map of Michigan noting location of Fort Custer Recreation Area

The closest city to the park is Battle Creek. It’s about 9 miles away. The park is located about 1 hour south of Grand Rapids.

No matter what time of year are you go to the Fort Custer Recreation Area, you will find people using its huge network of trails. The whole park boasts more than 3,000 acres.

You need to pay attention and think about who else might be on the trail with you doing something completely different. There is a system that details who has the right of way, which is clearly marked at the trailhead.

One tip to keep in mind is that if you are hiking the trails, consider going “against traffic.” The trails are directional for mountain bikers, meaning that you ride in one direction on some days of the week and the opposite direction on other days.

By hiking in the opposite direction of the cyclists, you will be more aware of them when they are coming at you. Then you can get out of the way faster. The mountain bikers often don’t have a lot of time to slow down when coming around a curve or down a hill. So, as a hiker, take on some of that responsibility and watch out for each other.

There are specific equestrian trails so you don’t have to worry about bikes and horses meeting each other directly. However, there are intersections where hiking and biking trails cross equestrian trails, so stay alert.  

trail head into woods
The trailhead at Fort Custer Recreation Area leads to all of its multi-use trails and boasts a good-sized parking area.

One area in which Fort Custer’s trails stand out is the use of blazes. They are in great shape, which is especially important for cyclists. You want to easily know where the trail is going to turn. The trail markers at Fort Custer are on nice signposts and they use bright colors. You also can tell which direction you’re supposed to be going based on what day of the week it is at each signpost. So if you get turned around somehow, you can quickly double-check the correct direction of travel.

The Yellow Trail, which is one of the easier ones, runs right near the campground. That means easy access to all the other trails if you decide to camp.

One of the things you’ll notice right away at the campground is that the sites seem to be quite large for the most part. They also are tucked in individually. Since I was there in the winter, it was difficult to see exactly because there were no leaves on the trees. But it looks like there is plenty of growth at ground level in many of the sites to help with privacy screening. The trees at Fort Custer are part of a second-growth forest. That means there are some nice mature trees. It’s not the original stand that was in the area, but it’s a really nice place to be “in the woods” even though you’re at a state park campground.

If you’re there with a larger rig, there seems to be plenty of room on the road in the campground. That’s helpful if you have a longer rig or are pulling a trailer. Having extra room allows for pulling forward and backing in more easily.

Fort Custer’s campground is one of the first state parks where we found 50-amp service on the power poles. As an added bonus, it appears most sites have their own poles. On the new power poles, 20-amp, 30-amp, and 50-amp service were all easily accessible. It’s quite likely the state will continue adding 50-amp service as they update the parks. More people are buying the big rigs that need it.

I hiked the Yellow Trail at Fort Custer Recreation Area. It’s a 4-mile loop that is relatively flat and wide open. But there are different challenges available. For example, the Red Trail offers curves and hills with more technical challenges for mountain bikers.

Fort Custer Recreation Area has several small lakes for boating. There’s also a big parking lot and a ramp where you can drop your boat into the Kalamazoo River.

Yield sign showing right of way for hikers, cyclists, etc.With plenty of landscapes you can hike and bike through — or snowshoe and cross-country ski in the winter — Fort Custer offers a lot of variety. There are wooded trails, meadows, marshes, lakes, and a river.

Since the campground is near miles of trails, I can see where people would want to go to the Fort Custer Recreation Area. Consider taking a few days to stay at the campground and checking out the trails. It would be fun to see what you might find in all the different landscapes at different times of the day.

We have plenty more adventures to come, so subscribe to this blog and our YouTube channel. (We have a video about Fort Custer Recreation Area published there.) You can follow us on Instagram, our Facebook page, and Twitter. Plus, you can see our progress as we visit each park on this interactive Google Map. You also can keep track of our activities on social media with the hashtags #hikecampgo and #mistateparks100.

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