With Michigan’s brutal winters, it’s easy to stay cooped up inside from December to April, but families that keep indoors the entire season miss out of all the unique fun to be had.
Wolcott Mill Metropark, Stony Creek Metropark and Lake St. Clair Metropark, all in Macomb County, offer plenty of experiences that can only happen when it’s cold or snowy.
“Winter brings with it a whole new view in the parks. You get the chance to see the landscapes blanketed in snow, and everything looks like a snow globe straight out of the movies,” says Amy McMillan, the director of the Huron-Clinton Metroparks. “The parks tend to also be less busy in the winter, so you often times have a quieter and more personal experience when you’re here in the winter.”
The colder weather and quieter parks also mean that families might catch a glimpse of critters that either aren’t around or may have gone unnoticed in the warmer months.
The wetland wildlife seen throughout the spring and summer in Macomb County – such as turtles, frogs and snakes – have all gone underground to hibernate, but with the arrival of winter it becomes more obvious to spot the signs of Michigan mammals.
“Most of our Michigan mammals remain active throughout the winter and you can typically find the tracks of rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, skunk, opossum,” says Julie Champion, the chief of marketing and communications with the Huron-Clinton Metroparks. In addition, she says that white-tailed deer tend to gather in the winter months, fox and coyote also travel further in search of food and hawks and owls are more visible without the leaves on the trees.
“You may even see a few visitors from the North in the parks, such as Snowy Owls and Rough-legged hawks that only visit in winter,” she adds.
Outdoor winter fun
Of course, the wildlife is only one of the major draws to the parks in the winter months. There are also plenty of outdoor winter activities offered at the parks, too. “The Metroparks offer opportunities for snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing, ice fishing, sledding and even fat tire biking — all of which are activities unique to winter,” McMillan says.
On the warmer days, when there isn’t a lot of snow or the lakes aren’t completely frozen over, families can partake in some more traditional park fun such as hiking.
“Many people don’t realize that we also clear snow and salt all of our paved hike-bike trails in the winter, so the Metroparks offer families a great place to bring the kids and wear them out by taking a walk and maybe sliding down some sledding hills and then looking for wildlife on the way back to the car,” McMillan says.
And that’s still not all, the parks also offer plenty of interpretive programming that aims to teach family about nature while they’re out and enjoying it.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the indoor programming has been canceled, but the parks still offer outdoor programming that feature strict social distancing and mask protocols to keep everyone safe.
Families can take advantage of nature hikes across Stony Creek and Lake St. Clair Metroparks, a guided evening snowshoe hike at Stony Creek and, of course, the annual maple sugaring events in the early spring.
Tips for your visit
The Huron-Clinton Metroparks are open seven days a week year-round. Winter hours vary and are posted at each park or on the Metroparks website. Admission is $10/day or $40-$45/yearly ($35 if you get your pass before Dec. 31, 2020). While visiting during the wintertime, Champion says it’s important that families dress in layers and wear waterproof boots to keep comfortable during your visit. She also suggests take a lunch and water (or hot cocoa!), learn about poisonous plants before heading out and bring along a journal or scavenger hunt list to make the most of the experience with your kids.
For more information on visiting the Metroparks this time of year, visit them online at Metroparks.com— and for details on living life in Macomb County, visit the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development at Make Macomb Your Home.