In a small stand of woods, in Rycenga Park, is a system of trails. These are beautiful nature trails, plunked down in a rather busy urban area between Muskegon and Grand Rapids. One loop is known locally as the Moccasin Flower Trail. Much of the park has been developed by the school system so it includes sports fields, playgrounds, picnic areas, and restroom facilities. The nature trails are away from all the activity, so you can enjoy the quiet of a forest walk. There is a separate parking area right at the trail entrance.
From the parking area there are three options for entering the trail system. All of them loop back, so you have several choices as to the distance of the walk. The right-hand trail follows the outside border of the system, taking you through the towering oaks, with pine trees scattered within. After a medium length walk, you come to an observation deck, overlooking a wetland. Keeping to this trail will take hikers all the way around the nature area, along the Moccasin Flower Trail, and back to the parking area. The center trail goes almost directly to the observation deck. About halfway along the center trail is a branch going to the left, that leads directly to the Moccasin Flower Trail.
The Moccasin Flower, or, as it is commonly known, the Lady’s Slipper, blooms in the spring in a great profusion of colors. This flower also likes streams and wet areas. The section of the Rycenga nature trails, where these flowers bloom, has been improved with an excellent boardwalk that follows the course of the stream. Hikers of all skill levels will find it easy to view the blooms growing along the stream, without getting wet and muddy. There are twists and turns to the boardwalk, so you get to view the area from several angles. It is wide enough so you can pause, without blocking others. Eventually you reach another cross trail. Going right, will lead to another observation deck and then back to the parking area. Going left, is the short way back to the parking area.
This entire trail system is sheltered by old trees, so this walk is almost always in the shade, making it a cool, refreshing pause even on very warm days. It is easy to forget that there are housing developments all around. The name, “Moccasin Flower Trail”, isn’t used much anymore. Even the locals have forgotten the old designation. Some think the flower was so named by early settlers because of its shape before the wildflower became known as the Lady’s Slipper. With all of the improvements to the park, you could spend all day here.