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The Best Fall Hikes near Detroit for Experiencing Peak Colors

Don't let the heat fool you - October's cooler temperatures are coming, along with the vibrant foliage that will decorate our parks, trails, and waterways! Updated for Fall 2023, here are Expedition Detroit's 5 best fall hikes for experiencing peak colors this season. Happy hiking!

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Fellow trail enthusiasts and fall foliage aficionados, we have incredible news for you. In the words of the great Rafiki: "It is time." is almost time. While the original predictions for the arrival of peak fall colors in the Detroit area slated October 5th as the kick-off date, that ETA has since been pushed back to tomorrow, October 7th. We can all blame summer's sudden resurgence over the past week for the color delay. But hey, if that means that we'll get to enjoy peak fall conditions for an extra few days on the tail end of the season, then we'll take it.

With fall's brightest and most vibrant days just around the corner, now is the perfect time to plan your local outdoor getaways. Last year we zeroed in on the best paddling destinations along the Huron River for discovering the season's reflective colors. This year - and as requested by popular demand among our guided trip guests - we have trekked through mountains of research to curate a list of the best fall hikes for foliage hunters near Detroit.

From generational favorites to hiding-in-plain-sight gems, we attempted the impossible (and possibly sacrilegious) by whittling down the wealth of our region's forested destinations into an exclusive "Top 5" list. Not exactly an easy feat. Fortunately for all of us, however, each of these five trails contain the variety of trees, landscapes, and contrasting elements that you would expect from any instagram-worthy fall outing. Better yet, each of these trails also entail a damn good hike - outdoor experiences worthy of your exploration any time of the year, but especially during fall's most vivid days.

So...lace up your hiking boots and get your camera ready. Mother Nature's peak colors are ready to pop off, and you'll capture all of the season's most unforgettable moments on these five best fall hikes near Detroit.

expedition detroit best fall hikes michigan colors foliage adventure hiking pinckney state recreation area crooked lake trail guided trip

1. Pinckney State Recreation Area | Crooked Lake Trail

Distance: 4.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 324 feet

Trail Rating: Moderate

Route Orientation: Loop

In a world as divided as ours, isn't it a breath of fresh air when we can all agree on something? In Detroit's outdoor world, one of those "somethings" includes unanimous love for the Crooked Lake Trail at Pinckney State Recreation Area - especially during the fall. Consistently praised as one of the best trails in the entire state, the Crooked Lake Trail specializes in picturesque views of fall colors around Crooked and Pickerel Lakes. In the words of Pure Michigan, "Pinckney’s untouched terrain is perfect for a stroll amid spectacular fall foliage."

Speaking personally rather than strictly on behalf of Expedition Detroit, the Crooked Lake Trail is my single favorite trail in the entire Detroit area. This beloved loop has played host to several of my past trail races, brainstorming business meetings, day-hike dates, and the all-important solitary outings just to clear out the noise of modern life. I absolutely love this trail - and I have no doubt that you will too after exploring it under peak fall colors.


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Photo courtesy of @jamie_eliz (Instagram)

2. Belle Isle Park | Belle Isle Lighthouse and Blue Heron Lagoon Trail

Distance: 2.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 22 feet

Trail Rating: Easy

Route Orientation: Loop

Detroit's Belle Isle Park represents Southeast Michigan's premiere destination for pairing urban views with miles of greenery and animated fall colors. Setting off from the Ralph Wilson Gateway, Belle Isle's easternmost Lighthouse and Blue Heron Lagoon Trail traverses the parks treelined southern shore, including stunning views of the Ontario coast, vibrant Detroit River, and industrial freighters passing by. The trail also passes by the stunning Belle Isle Lighthouse, Blue Heron Lagoon, and locally-named "Hipster Beach" - all of which become even more memorable when decorated with stunning fall foliage.


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3. Maybury State Park | Maybury Hiking Loop Trail

Distance: 3.1 miles

Elevation Gain: 127 feet

Trail Rating: Easy

Route Orientation: Loop

Golden leaves gently fall from all directions as you glance around you. Towering trees overhead and shimmering glimpses of a bright pond through the foliage may trick you into believe that you've miraculously transported to another world. Perhaps a realm in Middle Earth or Narnia, complete with frequent wildlife sightings right off of the trail.

No, friends, you have ventured into a film location for the Lord of the Rings. You're actually in the very heart of the Detroit region at Maybury State Park. A destination which features idyllically gentle and rolling terrain for one of Metro Detroit's best fall hikes amidst peak fall foliage. A generational hometown getaway for Northville residents and out-of-town explorers alike.


expedition detroit best fall hikes michigan colors foliage adventure hiking kensington metropark

4. Kensington Metropark | Fox Trail and Chicadee Loop to Wildwing Trail Loop

Distance: 4.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 203 feet

Trail Rating: Moderate

Route Orientation: Loop

Exploring the nature trails at Kensington Metropark under peak colors represents a favorite fall pastime for Detroit's outdoor enthusiasts. Readily accessible from I-96 and a stone's throw away from Downtown Milford, even a quick trip to Kensington Metropark truly entails a unique adventure for each visitor to the park's expansive Kent Lake shores, dense forests, Huron River banks, and rolling hills. Kensington also provides a home to an abundance of wildlife and waterfowl, which are very active especially along the Wildwing Nature Trail.

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5. Seven Lakes State Park | Seven Lakes Loop

Distance: 4.1 miles

Elevation Gain: 177 feet

Trail Rating: Moderate

Route Orientation: Loop

Last but certainly not least, eLast but certainly not least, Seven Lakes State Park's namesake Seven Lakes Loop Trail closes out our list as the northernmost destination for this year's best fall hikes! Located in Holly, Michigan, Seven Lakes' northern location means that not only will you escape most of the foliage-frenzied crowds that flock to the Detroit region's more central parks, but also that the leaves should start changing earlier than the other destinations included here. Enjoy the lighter crowds and vibrant colors as you trek through the trail's panoramic lakeside views, rolling ridge lines, and vividly-colorful forests.


What are your outdoor recreation plans for this fall? Are there any destinations that we should highlight for the Expedition Detroit community? Let us know in the comments!


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