Best Hikes Near Detroit and Ann Arbor  by Matt Forster

Best Hikes Near Detroit and Ann Arbor Guide Book

by Matt Forster (Falcon Guides)
Best Hikes Near Detroit and Ann Arbor  by Matt Forster
The state of Michigan manages numerous parks in southeast Michigan. There are state parks, state recreation areas, and state game areas. There are, however, no state forests (or national forests, for that matter). Those are all found north of Saginaw Bay. This means state land here is managed for access and recreation. Funding has been a problem for state parks for many years. A recent change in how fees are collected has resulted in a $10 Recreation Pass. Residents pay for the pass when they renew their car plates. A small “P” on the sticker means you have access to all of Michigan’s parks.

© 2013 Matt Forster/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Best Hikes Near Detroit and Ann Arbor" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 40.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 40.

For a long hike with lots of trees and hills, there are few spots in southeast Michigan that can beat the North Unit trails at Bald Mountain in Lake Orion. The two loops, split by Harmon Road, take in a half dozen lakes and ponds and skirt some wetlands (but not too close). For an easier hike, just tackle one of the loops—both start from the same parking area. This trail passes through state land open to hunting. Wear appropriate bright clothing during hunting season.
Lake Orion, MI - Hiking,Mountain Biking,Walking - Trail Length: 6.7
Without a doubt one of the most stunning forests in the area, the Bird Hills rise up 200 feet from the Huron River below. The forest is a mix of maple, poplar, oak, ash, and other hardwoods. The trees reach arrow straight to a high canopy, allowing hikers an incredible view of the terrain in all directions. Rustic log benches, ancient oak on hilltops, trails winding after thin streams all combine to give these woods a rich primeval feel.
Ann Arbor, MI - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.6
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Offering a quiet, secluded hike, Brauer Preserve is one of the more unusual natural areas around. Its 226 acres feature upland forests, hardwood swamps, and a small lake; 85 acres are maintained as an active farm. The 2.0 miles of trails here skirt the edges of farm fields—ripe with corn and soybeans—on the way to the more “natural” sections of the property.
Ann Arbor, MI - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.8
With two metroparks and two state recreation areas within a short drive, the village of Brighton enjoys an abundance of green space that draws hikers and nature lovers from all over southeast Michigan. One of the closest trails to town is the Penosha Hiking Trail, which loops through Brighton Rec’s hilly woodlands, meadows, and wetlands. The town of Brighton, halfway between Detroit and Lansing, has established itself as one of the nicest commuter towns in southeast Michigan. Situated strategically near the junction of US 23 and I-96, it’s an easy commute to both Ann Arbor and the heart of Metro Detroit. Grand River Avenue, which was the main thoroughfare before the interstate, runs right through town. This road, in fact, was built on the old Grand River Trail, one of the Native American trails that traversed the Lower Peninsula.
Howell, MI - Hiking - Trail Length: 5
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This little township park north of Rochester is easily overshadowed by nearby Addison Oaks. The two are so different; it’s like comparing apples and orchards. As a result, you can expect to have this short nature hike all to yourself. The simple 1.0-mile-long loop can be expanded to 3.0 miles by parking in the Romeo Road lot and making it a lollipop route. The village of Rochester enjoys a great balance. To the south is the best Metro Detroit has to offer—shopping, culture, etc. To the north you have the best of country living—a number of apple orchards, Addison Oaks county park, a couple state recreation areas, numerous nature areas, the Paint Creek Trail (which begins right in town), and the Stony Creek Metropark.
Rochester, MI - Hiking - Trail Length: 1
Since the state began addressing the problem of lost wetlands several decades ago, Michigan has gone from a state losing 0.5 million acres of wetland every year to one that is seeing an annual net gain. Birds love wetlands, so it stands to reason that birders would also love wetlands. Hikers, hoping for dry feet, often do not. The extensive boardwalk trails at Crosswinds Marsh solve the problem of wet feet and give everyone a chance to see great blue herons, cranes, swans, and all sorts of waterfowl.
Westland, MI - Hiking - Trail Length: 3
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It’s rare to find a Michigan Nature Association sanctuary within any city limits. Dauner Martin in Fenton is one of the fine exceptions. With 155 acres of forest, field, and wetland and 4.5 miles of trail meandering through this lightly managed preserve, Dauner Martin is a great way to get away from the hustle and bustle without having to drive beyond the reaches of civilization. Although no more than 155 acres, the Dauner Martin Sanctuary offers a fine natural setting with 4.5 miles of trails. The sanctuary is owned and operated by the Michigan Nature Association, which oversees dozens of similar properties throughout the state. The MNA was given the property by the Martin family, whose grandparents once owned the farmland and woods.
Williamston, MI - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.4
It’s hard to imagine any other city of this size in Michigan that has so much natural space within its city limits as Ann Arbor. By combining a nature hike at Furstenberg Nature Center with the paved paths of Gallup Park, you can hike 2.8 miles along the scenic Huron River. The nature trails pass through wetlands and woods, oak savanna and prairie, while the park trails take you over several river islands. The city was born on the Huron’s banks and spread southward. Several city-owned dams provide electricity for the town, and the resulting ponds have become great places for paddling and other outdoor recreation. In fact, much of the land around the river has been left in a relatively natural state—or at least developed for recreational use. For example, Fuller Park, just east of town, is a 60-acre bend in the Huron River with soccer fields and a huge public pool.
Ann Arbor, MI - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.8
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A simple 4.3-mile loop through Highland State Recreation Area is the perfect introduction to the “highlands” region of Oakland County, which is named for the moraines that dominate the landscape. The trail skirts kettles and climbs moraines, passing through dense hardwood forest and some boardwalked marsh. The property once belonged to Edsel Ford, who built an estate on nearby Haven Hill as a retreat from life in the city.
White Lake, MI - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.3
Nearly 8,000 acres of park straddle Dixie Highway and I-75 east of Holly. This park is a popular destination for swimming, camping, mountain biking, paddling, fishing, and disc golf. Hikers know it as a great place for a walk in the woods, with rolling hills, woodland lakes, and open prairies. The unique quality of this hike becomes evident as the trail begins to rise. Once following close to the shore, south of the lakes the trail climbs to the bluffs above the water. The trail connects several picnic areas and boat launches that provide tables for resting, drinking water, and restrooms. The trail continues around to our starting point. From the causeway, as you walk back to the car, you can see the beach on Heron Lake in the distance. If you’ve thought ahead and brought your bathing suit, a dip in the lake is a great way to cool off from the hike.
Holly, MI - Hiking,Walking - Trail Length: 2.5
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When you want the getting there to be half the fun, consider the Acorn Trail at Hudson Mills. This low-key nature loop is located in north Washtenaw County, just north of Dexter on the Huron River. In summer there’s a lot going on along the river. In autumn the woods practically glow. And in any season the trip up Huron River Drive sets the mood for a great hike. Beginning at Bird Hills Nature Area Hin Ann Arbor, the drive follows the river upstream, passing a handful of parks on the water along the way. Dexter-Huron Metropark, for example, is a small (122-acre) site with a great view of the water where you can rent canoes and kayaks for exploring by paddle. The drive also takes you through Dexter, a great little town for a lunch break, and ends several miles north at Hudson Mills Metropark.
Dexter, MI - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.7
If your idea of a perfect hike is upland oak forest, rolling hills, and wide scenic vistas, there are trails at Huron Meadows you will like. The Moraine Fen Trail, however, is not one of them. This one is for the adventurer, the bushwhacker. This narrow, often overgrown dirt path offers hikers an experience altogether different from the usual. Here you have the unique chance to explore the fringes of a hardwood swamp.
Brighton, MI - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.3
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Just a few miles north of the quaint village of Clarkston, Oakland County maintains more than 1,200 acres of park around Crooked and Upper Bushman Lakes. The park is defined by its glacial features—rolling moraines and low outwash plains—and the wetlands here are the headwaters of the Clinton River. Begin the hike near the nature center, and follow the trail through the woods to some of the highest points in the area.
Clarkson, MI - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.8
You will find the headwaters of several important rivers in north Oakland County. The Huron River, which eventually empties into Lake Erie south of Detroit, springs up from the wetlands in Indian Springs Metropark. In early spring the woods around the park’s nature trails are blanketed with skunk cabbage, one of the most interesting of our wetland plants. Later in April and May, the woods are splashed with spring ephemerals.
White Lake, MI - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.1
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Short of hauling a canoe to the park (or renting one from the livery), there’s no better way to explore the Huron River at Island Lake State Recreation Area than to hike the 6-mile Yellow Loop. As it passes through mixed hardwood forest, the trail crosses the river twice and offers both scenic overlooks and places to stop and dangle your feet.
Brighton, MI - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.9
The nature trails at Kensington Metropark may not look like much on a map, but 6.0 miles of trails wind through the property behind the nature center. The less-traveled paths that loop through the park’s upland forest add some ruggedness and variety to less-strenuous paths closer to the trailhead. Because running and jogging are prohibited, the trails tend to attract nature lovers and dedicated hikers as opposed to the iPod-and-running-shoes crowd.
Milford, MI - Hiking,Walking - Trail Length: 3.3
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Transitional areas—like the fuzzy boundary between a bog and an upland forest— are particularly fascinating to naturalists. Lake Erie Metropark straddles such a transitional area and features two hikes that together connect the shore of Lake Erie with the marshlands that once dominated the entire length of this end of the lake. This is a great hike for those who value the less-appreciated aspects of our local environment. Lake Erie Metropark has a lot going for it, even when compared with other parks in the metropark system. In the southern half of the park you will find an eighteen-hole golf course, marina, and fishing decks. The northern half features a nature center, picnic areas, and a wave pool. Throughout the park, paddlers will find a number of boat launches and some of the best canoeing and kayaking in southeast Michigan.
Brownstown , MI - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.5
Rarely will you find a nature preserve surrounded by so much suburbia. Though hemmed in by subdivisions, the Lloyd A. Stage Nature Center makes a lot out of its nearly 100 acres. Two miles of trails wander through wetlands and wooded uplands along the Rouge River. The property is a gathering place for deer, which seem very comfortable with people passing through, and nearly 200 different bird species have been spotted here. The Lloyd A. Stage Nature Center comprises 100 acres of natural space in the far northwest corner of Troy, one of the busiest suburbs in Metro Detroit. The Rouge River, more like a stream here, cuts through the nature center, flowing west to east. Given its size, the property has a surprising diversity of habitat. Just south of the nature center building is a large sugar bush—that is, a grove of sugar maples. Following the river upstream, the property flows through a rich marsh. To the south of that are forested uplands surrounding sedge meadows. And throughout the park you will find wildlife. The nature center maintains a host of nesting boxes that have attracted dozens of birds through the property.
Troy, MI - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.5
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Its size and noble bearing make the great blue heron a favorite among birders (and non-birders) here in Michigan. Lyon Oaks County Park features a heron rookery, which gives you the chance to see these birds in their nesting habitat. The long loop trail includes a walk around a wetland-creation project, a mixed hardwood forest, and transition wetlands. This is the first of the Oakland county parks featured in this guide. The county parks all have the word “Oaks” in their name: Independence Oaks, Groveland Oaks, Addison Oaks, etc. Lyon Oaks is not the largest of the group, but at 1,204 acres (800 of which are wetlands) it’s certainly not small. The park features an eighteen-hole golf course, its main attraction, as well as picnic areas and a nice dog park.
Wixom, MI - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.3
East of Windsor, much of Essex County’s landscape is dominated by farm fields and, at seemingly regular intervals, divided by rivers running south to north into Lake St. Claire. Pre-agricultural Essex County is hard thing to imagine. The Maidstone Conservation Area offers a unique look at a mature oak-hickory forest on the banks of the Puce River. Essex County in southwestern Ontario can seem nearly as fl at as a pancake griddle. And like a griddle, it has a subtle yet distinct tilt. Water in Essex E County flows north to Lake St. Clair. Aside from Windsor, where water flows into the Detroit River, and a thin crescent along the shore of Lake Erie, all rivers here lean north.
Essex, ON - Hiking - Trail Length: 1
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