Spending time outdoors is healthy for the body and the mind! Outdoor play increases bodily fitness, promotes environmental-based learning and provides adventure for the whole family.
Want to get outside — and be extra active this season? Well, you’re in luck! We’ve compiled some of the best hiking trails, animal reserves and recreational parks in southeast Michigan where you and your family can embark on scenic excursions close to home.
Addison Oaks Park
- Address: 1480 W. Romeo Road, Leonard
A popular getaway for campers, this natural playground occupies 1,140 acres. A 15-mile trail system winds through woodsy flatlands — prime spots set aside for disc golf — and around lakes ideal for fishing, swimming and geocaching. Find picnic tables sprinkled throughout for when the munchies hit.
Be aware that several trails permit mountain biking while others are dedicated to horseback riding. The 2.5-mile Connector Trail permits guests easy access to Addison Oaks East Park for those who want to keep moving.
Crosswinds Marsh Park
- Address: 27600 Haggerty Road, New Boston
Did you know one of the largest manmade marshes in the country is located right in Wayne County? 1.4 miles of boardwalk permits hikers easy access over the wetland. Eight trails, ranging from a hundred yards to 4.5 miles, traverse this 1,050-acre park, making it an ideal spot for families with small children.
Admire the marsh, smell the wildflowers, and explore the upland forests, all home to over 240 species of birds and 40 species of mammals, plus reptiles, amphibians and fish.
- Address: 6535 Huron River Drive, Dexter
Take in the sights and sounds at this 122-acre, woodland expanse, mere miles northwest of Ann Arbor. Fish, kayak or canoe down the gentle Huron River, then hike the scenic trails that wind through woodlands and keep your eyes peeled for purple cresses, false rue anemones, harbinger-of-springs and many more wildflowers.
Get up close and stay informed about natural ecosystems at this 211-acre park featuring 4.5 miles of trails dedicated to hiking and natural study. During the summer, bring the kiddies to the north end of the park, which features a splash pad and playground, right beside horseshoe pits, sand volleyball courts, an in-line hockey rink and grills at the picnic area for those who come to stay awhile.
Hudson Mills Metropark
- Address: 8801 N. Territorial Road, Dexter
Here, the Huron River’s gentle flow picks up the pace; the rapids make the park a popular canoe and kayak destination. For athletes looking to move, there are soccer fields, basketball, tennis and shuffleboard courts, and even cross-country skiing trails for when temps drop and the snow falls thick. You’ll also find a 3-mile paved hike-bike trail and a 5-mile connector trail to explore.
Independence Oaks Park
- Address: 9501 Sashabaw Road, Clarkston
The largest Oakland County Park at 1,286 acres, Independence Oaks boasts more than 12 miles of natural and paved trails for hiking, a beach for swimming, volleyball courts, and a boat launch for non-motorized boats to keep the fun going out on Crooked Lake. The Wint Nature Center offers interactive exhibits and programs for youngsters, too.
Indian Springs Metropark
- Address: 5200 Indian Trail, White Lake
Escape to this 2,547-acre sanctuary of wooded swamplands, rolling meadows, and scenic wetlands, all accessible on the six miles of nature trails and the 0.3 Pondside Trail, more suitable to kids. During the warmer months, bask in the sun and listen to the croaking frogs and chirping crickets. Admire the burst of colors once autumn arrives. Bring the snowshoes after the snow falls, and keep your eyes peeled for the tracks of critters on the move.
Stop by the park’s Environmental Discovery Center to learn more about the native ecosystems you’re sure to traverse on your hike.
- Address: 4570 Huron River Parkway, Milford
From songbirds and Sandhill cranes to ducks, waterfowl and great blue herons that nest in spring to the tiny chickadees, this park’s teeming teaming with winged wildlife — and with 4,481 acres of wooded, hilly terrain surrounding Kent Lake, is it any wonder why?
The park draws millions of visitors wanting to birdwatch, hike, visit the Nature and Farm centers (check ahead for hours), play disc-golf, and cool down in the splash pad each year.
Lake Erie Metropark
- Address: 32481 W. Jefferson Ave., Brownstown
Eye the freighters as they chug up and down the Detroit River while hiking the 1.25-mile Cherry Island Marsh Trail and take in amazing views of the riverfront, Lake Erie, Sugar Island, Grosse Ile and Celeron Island.
Walk the 0.5-mile Big Turtle Shortcut and one-mile Trapper’s Run trails to view dense hawthorn thickets and the manmade features of the lowland landscape. Glance up to the sky now and then, for you’re likely to catch in flight at least one of 300 bird species.
Lake St. Clair Metropark
This popular outdoor destination offers beautiful views of Lake St. Clair from the one-mile boardwalk, nature trails that wind through meadows, marshland and groves of cottonwood trees.
Bird watch near the wetlands and shore, for this park’s home to more than 230 commonly seen species. Water enthusiasts can windsurf, kiteboard, swim, and boat in Lake St. Clair. Two marinas and eight ramps provide easy access to the water.
Lyon Oaks County Park
- Address: 52221 Pontiac Trail, Wixom
800 acres of wetlands, a 13-acre fenced dog park, a picnic shelter, a playground for the kids, soccer and cricket fields, and an 18-hole golf course with a driving range make Lyon Oaks a hotspot for families. More than six miles of trails permit cross-country skiing in the winter, biking and hiking in the summer, and on-leash dog walking so your furry four-legged friends can exercise, too.
Macomb Orchard Trail
- Address: Richmond trailhead: intersection of Water and Parker streets; Shelby Township trailhead: a parking lot on the west side of Dequindre Road, south of 24 Mile and Parkdale roads
24 miles of abandoned railroad tracks are now a premier east-to-west hike-bike trail in Macomb County — all paved! The trail links to 180 miles of more trails that span southeast Michigan. Trailheads at 24 Mile Road and Dequindre in Shelby Township and in the heart of Richmond permit easy entry and parking. At the eastern end in Richmond, find a gazebo, restrooms, picnic tables and benches. Head out and the trail passes fruit orchards, crop fields and dairy farms. At the western end in Shelby, a 40-foot bridge passes over the Clinton River, offering picturesque views of pastureland. Here, the trail connects to the 16-mile Clinton River Trail.
- Address: 32911 Willow Road, New Boston
Located near Flat Rock, take a hike through 1,756 acres of mature woodlands featuring scenic overlooks of the Huron River and a 3-acre pond. Get up close to turtles at the Nature Center. Need more space to roam and explore? There are 15miles of hike-bike paths that connect Oakwoods, Willow and Lower Huron Metroparks, an 11-mile hike-bike path that’ll take you all the way to Lake Erie Metropark, four equestrian paths and backwater trails for canoeists.
Orion Oaks County Park
- Address: 2301 W. Clarkston Road, Lake Oriont
Orion Oaks is best known for its 24-acre Dog Park that features enclosures for off-leash play, two trails, an open field, picnic pavilion, restrooms, and access to Lake Sixteen for the fuzzy four-legged swimmers.
A 120-foot boardwalk bridges the lake and links two trail systems — 10 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails that cut through 916 acres of densely wooded landscape. A wheelchair-accessible pier juts out into the lake, a great place to put fishing rods in the water, and there’s a small boat launch for non-motorized boats only.
- Address: 18801 N. Territorial Road, Chelsea
This hilly natural oasis is truly one for the hikers — no bikes allowed! Tucked in the northwest corner of Washtenaw County, this park contains more than 500 species of plants within a wide variety of habitats, from marshes, bogs and ponds to wood and prairie lands.
Divided by North Territorial Road, the park’s marked and natural trails offer knockout views of geological features, such as a 100-foot elevation change (thanks to a big glacier that melted); the Waterloo Pinckney Trail also passes through here (and connects to another 50 miles of trails).
Watch for cool finds like the pileated woodpecker and white lady slipper orchid. Note the terrain is too steep for young kids.
Proud Lake Recreation Area
More than 20 miles of trails cover diverse habitats and hiking experiences. Take a woodsy walk through the evergreens, across a boardwalk over Huron River or the paved trails and rougher routes that pass hepaticas, marsh marigolds, violets and other wildflowers.
Note that 10 miles are open to cyclists and equestrian riders only. A popular site to stay awhile, there’s onsite lodging and docks for those interested in putting a boat in the lake
Rolling Hills Park
- Address: 7660 Stony Creek Road, Ypsilanti
While there are hills to climb and sled, it’s not all rolling terrain at this county park. Find five miles of paved surface for walking, biking and rollerblading, three miles of dirt hiking trails with two observation decks and a three-quarter-mile nature trail that winds under dense tree canopies. During the snowy season, the paved trail is kept clear, then during the sweltering summer, check out the water park (consult the website for open hours and pricing) featuring slides, buckets and a lazy river.
Stony Creek Metropark
- Address: 4300 Main Park Road, Shelby Township
Circle Stony Creek Lake on the eight-mile paved hike-bike trail or “rough it” on the six miles of natural paths that wind through groves, fields and wetlands. The 4,461-acre park spans both Macomb and Oakland counties and has a nature center, disc-golf course, baseball diamonds, playgrounds, soccer field, volleyball and basketball courts, plus picnic shelters and grills for those who want to make a day of the venture.
The fun doesn’t quit with the snow; in the winter, bring your snowshoes and skis to the prairies or your snowboards, sleds, and toboggans to the hills.
William P. Holliday Forest & Wildlife Preserve
- Address: 33175 Ann Arbor Trail, Westland; also entry points at Central City Parkway between Nankin Boulevard and Warren Avenue (Westland), and the south side of Koppernick Road, west of Hix Road (Canton)
Adventurous family? Strap on your hiking boots to explore the unique nature along this rugged 10-mile trail network in a 500-plus acre preserve. The Ellsworth entrance, near Nankin Mills Recreation Center in Westland, is a premier spot for an autumn or winter hike (it’s the site of the Tonquish Creek floodplain, so it’s a bit boggy in the summer).
The Cowan section, also in Westland, has lovely spring wildflowers, while the Koppernick area in Canton sprouts beech trees, ferns and tulip trees. Only for the sure-footed, no strollers or bikes are permitted here.
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