Everyone flocks to the beaches in Holland, Michigan but very few explore the hiking opportunities on the east side of the city. Van Raalte Farms is on 16th Street as you are coming into town. Covering 160 acres, it was the homestead of Van Raalte, son of the founder of the city. The old house is located on the top of the hill and is used for historical education for schools. The parking lot at the base of the hill is one of three entrance sites to the trail system. One other entrance is further east on the Country Club Road and the other is one street behind on 24th Street. On my recent visit, they were setting up for a Civil War Re-enactment with many people bringing in their tents, artillery, and horses.
The trails can range from easy to moderate. There are hills and the trails are varied. The path may be dirt and wide enough for a single person; then it may change to grass, stone, boardwalk, or cement for a stroller. The trails are many and complex but maps are seemingly at every intersection along the paths to help people find their way around. If you are tired, benches and overlooks are plentiful through wooded sections. The River Trail is the best one to try as it takes you along the creek and you can see an old growth hemlock tree. The wooded section is the remains of the orchard. It has become overgrown yet you will still find bushels of apples lying on the ground and some still on the trees. Fall is a great time to visit with the trees changing and fewer bugs. In the winter, this is an excellent place to go sledding. They have a designated sledding hill that is quite large. It is a small hike from the 24th Street parking lot but it would make a great stop for the family. There is some lighting on the hill and along some paths.
For locals, its a common to place to walk their dogs, park and read a book, or have a picnic. While walking around the property, its amazing to think that this was a farm that the land was being worked a century ago. Only one visit is hardly enough. You can check out their page here. Fall is the perfect time to see some of Holland's beauty. When its too cold to visit the beach, go explore Van Raalte's Farm.