Get fresh air and enjoy a hike, bike on scenic trails
Social isolation doesn’t mean you should spend all your time locked up indoors. Get outside and talk a walk, a long walk.
Fortunately, Metro Detroit is home to a multitude of scenic trails where you can get out and seriously stretch your legs, enjoy some elbow room and breathe in fresh air. Many studies have shown the benefits of spending time in nature for people who are stressed or battling anxiety. Aren’t we all a bit stressed and anxious these days?
We’ve compiled a selection of scenic, enjoyable hiking trails in Metro Detroit, most of them a short drive from home. You’ll find trails winding through thick woods, wetlands and around lakes, over rolling, sometimes rugged terrain and offering plenty of space for solitude. We’ve steered away from well-known urban parks, knowing it’s better for all of us to avoid areas where there might be more people.
For now, the Huron-Clinton Metroparks and Michigan’s state parks and recreation areas remain open, though visitor centers, nature centers and other amenities are closed.
Before you head out, be mindful of maintaining a minimum of 6 feet between you and other people. Also know that in the spring many trails can be muddy and sometimes cluttered with debris (downed trees, branches, etc.) from the winter months. Most parks post directional signs along trails or provide maps at trailheads. You can also print maps from park websites. And, of course, if a trail seems busy, visit another time.
Still, this is a wonderful opportunity to get out and visit some of the beautiful natural places in your backyard, parks and trails many people are unfamiliar with.
Crooked Lake Trail
Location: Pinckney State Recreation Area
Trail length: 5.1 miles
What to expect: The trail begins along the shores of Silver Lake in the 11,000-acre park straddling Livingston and Washtenaw counties but derives its name from its loop around Crooked Lake. The trail is often hilly and traverses some rugged terrain through forests of black, red and white oaks, hickory and maple trees. Around the 1.2-mile mark there’s an overlook of sorts, a clearing with a bench. Otherwise, you’re going to spend most of your time deep in a second-growth forest, woods that have been wild long enough to offer a sense of backcountry.
Location: Brighton Recreation Area
Trail length: 5 miles
What to expect: This trail, the longest of the hiking trails at Brighton Recreation Area in Livingston County, loops through hilly forests, wetlands, ponds, and wooded hollows created by glaciers. Only a short trek along a residential dirt road disrupts the sense of wilderness. Remnants of the 4,947-acre park’s farming past remain visible; look for rows of boulders, once used to mark boundaries. Around the 3-mile mark, a grassy opening offers panoramic views of the surrounding forest.
Location: Island Lake State Recreation Area
Trail Length: 6 miles
What to expect: Easily accessible off Interstate 96 in Livingston County, the Yellow Loop (formerly known as the East Loop) is one of the region’s most scenic trails, offering hikers an “up north” experience. The trail runs along, crosses and circles a winding stretch of the Huron River in the 4,000-acre park. You can find long stretches of solitude as the trail meanders through mature woods, meadows, fields, and wetlands. The Island Lake trails also are popular with mountain bikers, especially on weekends. They are allowed to ride counterclockwise on the trail.
Location: Proud Lake State Recreation Area
Trail length: 5.7 miles
What I like: The trail begins along the wooded banks of the Huron River and eventually crosses an unusual dam that forms Moss Lake, an area that lures kayakers, swimmers and anglers. Part of the trail is known as the Chief Pontiac Trail, dotted with interpretive signs identifying tree and plant species and explaining how Native Americans used them. Far away from the dam, you’ll get a glimpse of Proud Lake, from which the 4,700-acre park in Oakland County derives its name.
Red Loop Trail
Location: Bald Mountain State Recreation Area
Trail length: 3.7 miles
What to expect: The Red Loop Trail is a series of connecting loops; you can connect them to create any length of a hike. The hiking here is easy; there are some hills, but the trail is largely gentle and mostly flat. The 4,637-acre Oakland County park is heavily wooded with maples and oaks and laced with wetlands. Be aware of a T-intersection around the .7-mile mark; bear right. Directional signs are sometimes missing. Don’t be alarmed if you hear gunshots in the distance; a park shooting range is nearby, to the east.
West Bloomfield Woods Nature Preserve
Location: Off Pontiac Trail, West Bloomfield Township
Trail length: 2.5 miles
What to expect: An easy escape from suburbia, the trail here passes through mature woods of oaks, hickory and wild dogwood and around wetlands, swamps, ponds and a stretch of the Franklin River (a branch of the Rouge River). In the spring, look for thousands of blooming wild and domestic flowers -- wild geraniums, marsh marigolds and trilliums, to name a few -- flooding the woodland floor. The 162-acre preserve is also home to a 300-year-old oak. The 162-acre preserve is visited by more than 100 bird species.
Location: Indian Springs Metropark
Trail length: 3.6 miles
What I like: One of the rewards of this trail is a short spur to secluded Timberland Lake. A 200-yard-long boardwalk connects to an observation deck overlooking the lake. The Woodland Trail lies mostly under a canopy of trees but passes through fields and meadows after leaving Timberland Lake. Wildflowers color the forest floor in the spring. One warning: at the trail’s beginning outside the nature center, a sign warns about the eastern massasauga rattlesnake. The stretch is prime habitat for the reptile.
Deer Run, Fox, Chickadee Trails
Location: Kensington Metropark
Trail length: 1.8 miles
What to expect: Your hike here can be as short or as long as you like, or combine a short hike with a bike ride along the 8-mile paved loop around Kent Lake. Combining these three trails creates a trek through a more remote, less-traveled area of the 4,481-acre park’s nature center property. The trails wind through forests thick with beech and maple. Deer Run Trail cuts through marshland and over a series of small boardwalks. Early morning hikers have a good chance of observing birds, including nighthawks and fly catchers.
Location: Holly State Recreation Area
Trail length: 4.7 miles
What to expect: The longest of the hiking trails at the Holly State Recreation Area in northern Oakland County, the Wilderness Trail winds through some of the 7,800-acre park’s most rolling and wooded terrain. The trail remains primarily in a forest of maples, oaks, and beeches and passes through wetlands as it circles McGinnis Lake. For a longer hike, you can follow a trail that connects to the park’s Lakeshore Trail, a 2.4-mile loop around Wildwood and Valley lakes.
Acorn Nature Trail
Location: Hudson Mills Metropark
Trail length: 2 miles
What I like: An easy walk, the Acorn Natural Trail weaves through woods, a tamarack swamp and along the banks of a scenic stretch of the Huron River, popular with kayakers and canoeists, and a grassy picnic area. Small interpretive signs along the trail explain various habitats, including meadows frequented by white-tailed deer and river life. The 1,549-acre park is located about 12 miles northwest of Ann Arbor in Washtenaw County.
Greg Tasker is the author of "Five-Star Trails Ann Arbor and Detroit."
*Carry water and snacks, no matter how short the hike
*Let someone know where you're hiking and how long you'll be gone
*Stay on designated trails
*Sign in and out of trail registers, if available
*Carry a whistle, in the event you become lost or injured; cell phone reception can be spotty on trails
The state’s Recreation Passport is not required at this time to visit any state park or recreation area. Note that bathroom buildings and vault toilets at parks are closed. Some parks may have portable toilets, being cleaned by local vendors.
Additionally, minimal trash service is available so plan to bring your own trash bags and carry trash home. There are no hand washing stations. Bring your own hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes -- containing at least 60 percent alcohol -- and carry out used wipes.
The Huron-Clinton Metroparks is offering free admission Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Park fees are charged Mondays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, to help maintain park properties and operations. On those days, toll booths will be staffed. To increase your safety, purchase a Metroparks Annual Pass, which provides access to all 13 Metroparks.
To purchase, go to: https://www.metroparks.com/shop/.