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Spring 2024 Preview: Top Outdoor Experiences near Detroit this Season

Happy Spring, Detroit! With our darkest days finally behind us, outdoor enthusiasts can look forward to increasingly more daylight to explore our region's parks, trails, and waterways. As you start to charter your way through this Spring, here our top 7 outdoor experiences near Detroit for you to conquer this season!

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There's nothing quite like spring in Detroit.


Especially after a long winter (not applicable this year), you can actually feel the season's arrival. It's that first morning where you open the door to your back deck and immediately sense the warmer air beckon you to stay out a little longer. The song birds alerting you that our coldest, darkest days are behind us. The assurance that comes with every day being slightly brighter than the last.


Regardless of whether you're heading into the trails to lose yourself amidst the soft green of freshly budding trees, ducking under a log in search of nature's most revered mushroom, or calling patiently in the early morning mist for that heart-racing gobble, our environment truly rewards its recreationists in spring. Plus, we can all agree that trails decorated in vibrant regalia - ranging from spring's purple and white to fall's orange and red - are the best trails.


Spring officially kicked off just yesterday, so as the Expedition Detroit team has started planning out our "top outdoor experiences near Detroit" for this season, we thought that we'd invite out community along for the ride. The truth is that between now and June 21st - the "Summer Equinox" - we will have increasingly more daylight hours to maximize outdoors. More illumination for adventures, opportunities for exploration, and events for experiencing.


So let's get into it! Here are Expedition Detroit's "Top 7 Outdoor Experiences near Detroit" for inspiring your spring 2024 adventures.

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1. HIKE FOR WILDFLOWERS

Destination: Nichols Arboretum | Ann Arbor, MI

When to Experience: Mid-April through Early July

Recommended Adventure: Hiking the Nichols Arboretum Loop Trail


Very few outdoor experiences will stop you in your tracks like stumbling upon a field exploding with wildflowers. A stunning array of colors - purple, yellow, pink, orange, red, and green - forming waves of vibrancy as a breeze gently moves them. You abruptly find yourself transported back to the Garden of Eden, or experiencing a small window into nirvana. A serendipitous witness to beauty in its wildest, purest, and most natural form.


Less poetically speaking, wildflowers are rad. And out of all of the stunning destinations where you can discover them in the Detroit region, Ann Arbor's Nichols Arboretum consistently tops local lists at the best destination to experience the flowers in full bloom.

Fortunately for wildflower wanderers, the Nichols Arboretum Loop Trail provides a convenient AND scenic route for enjoying this season's anticipated bloom just outside of the heart of Ann Arbor. The trail consists of a 2.7 mile loop that oscillates between the initial hills of Ann Arbor's northeastern periphery and the relatively flat banks of the Huron River. There are also many side trails that can be added onto this main loop if you're looking to further explore the beauty of "The Arb."


Throughout your trip you'll come across countless species of plants and flowers, including rhododendrons, magnolia blossoms, hydrangeas, and many more. Don't worry about reading up on your botany before hitting the trail - there are educational signs posted throughout the route, so take your time, learn something new, and enjoy one of the Detroit region's most beautiful outdoor spaces!

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2. REV UP FOR RACING SEASON

Destination: Proud Lake State Recreation Area |  Milford, MI

When to Experience: Late April through mid-June

Recommended Adventure: Running Proud Lake's "Grand Tour" Loops


Kiss the treadmill goodbye, friends: spring in Detroit means that it's primetime for revving up those miles outdoors!


While St. Patrick's Day races may provide the de facto gateway to "racing season" in Detroit, our regional running community truly views April 1st as the starting line for racing. For trail runners, Running Fit's "GOAT Series" kicks off with its annual "TRAIL Marathon" festival of races on April 27th. Then our friends at Running Venture up the ante into May with TWO fantastic events in the Milford-area.


Looking to start your spring training regimen for these races? We recommend running the rolling, scenic, and diverse terrain at Proud Lake State Recreation Area. Better yet, we even offer trail running training sessions for new or growing runners.


RUN PROUD LAKE STATE RECREATION AREA WITH EXPEDITION DETROIT!


3. HUNT FOR MORELS

Destination: Waterloo State Recreation Area | Chelsea, MI

When to Experience: Late April through mid-June

Recommended Adventure: Hiking the Bog Trail


For generations of Michiganders, spring hunting for morel mushrooms transcends simply being a"tradition" to resemble more of a "ritual." In fact, morel hunting has become such a widespread pursuit that the DNR has produced several educational and recreational resources designed to facilitate the tourism opportunity surrounding morel hunting. One of these resources includes the DNR's "Mi-Morels Map," which designates large burn sites in forested areas that are ideal for morel mushroom hunting.

While there are several ideal morel hunting destinations highlighted by the Mi-Morels Map, Waterloo State Recreation Area tops the list as the only state area with three designated burn locations. Of those three locations, we cross-reference the Mi-Morels Map with a Waterloo trail map to determine that the park's 1.2 mile "Bog Trail" should provide hikers with the best opportunity to bag some prized and delicious morels. The trail is also relatively lightly used by Detroit's greater outdoor community (at least for now), so we highly recommend hunting this trail sooner than later. Remember: Morels found on public land are for personal use and cannot be sold!

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4. RIDE WITH THE FAMILY

Destination: Macomb Orchard Trail | Utica, MI

When to Experience: All Spring

Recommended Adventure: Cycling the Trail


The ice thaws, the weather warms, and scores of cyclists return to the Detroit region's vast network of paved trails. While our area is blessed with hundreds of miles of beautifully-planned trails to explore, the interconnected trail system forming "Route 1" of "The Great Lake-To-Lake Trails" provides the central vein of southeastern Michigan's entire recreational ecosystem.


Although Route 1 crosses the entire State of Michigan from Port Huron to South Haven, the trail network crosses into the sphere of the Detroit region at Richmond, Michigan - the northern terminus of the beloved Macomb Orchard Trail.

The 23-mile trail provides a slice of everything that outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and interests can enjoy. Starting from the southern terminus at the Clinton River Trail, trail users will experience a rolling, shifting landscape that starts among suburban neighborhoods and into vast open spaces, long tunnels of trees, quaint country towns, and, naturally, an orchard just south of Romeo. Other trail highlights include a unique barn covered bridge, wooded landscapes, stunning views over the Clinton River, and an eventual cumulation in the welcoming downtown of Richmond.


Looking to tack on even more adventure to the day? The Macomb Orchard Trail also provides direct access to Stony Creek Metropark via the Stony Creek Hike-Bike Trail. This 6.1 mile trail further connects to several recreational outlets within the metropark, including mountain biking trails, Stony Creek Lake, and several natural trails.

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5. BACKPACK THE POTAWATOMI TRAIL

Destination: Pinckney State Recreation Area | Pinckney, Michigan

When to Experience: All Spring

Recommended Adventure: Thru-Hiking "Poto" during its 60th Anniversary Season


A green hue covers the forest as you trek along a pristine trail. The crisp temperatures from last night's sleep have fully surrendered to a bright, warm day. Bird songs fill the mosquito-less air. A fox scurries ahead of you. Crystal-clear lakes rest beside you.


The most amazing aspect of all of this immaculate scenery? You have it all to yourself.


Last year, the Expedition Detroit team experienced firsthand the magic of early spring backpacking. We covered the entirety of the Waterloo-Pinckney Trail in a 3-day span, during which we largely had the ~40 mile trail to ourselves despite perfect backpacking conditions (okay, maybe some rain to keep things interesting).

This season, we're looking to repeat that unforgettable on an overnight thru-hike of Pinckney State Recreation Area's Potawatomi Trail. This year - and specifically May 23rd - marks the 60th anniversary of the inauguration of "Poto," the Detroit region's first backpacking trail. The 17.6 mile feat includes an overnight at Blind Lake, one of Detroit's most celebrated campgrounds.


EXPLORE PINCKNEY STATE RECREATION AREA WITH EXPEDITION DETROIT!


6. FIND THE TURKEY TRAIL

Destination: Seven Lakes State Park and Holly Recreation Area | Holly, Michigan

When to Experience: April 20th through May 31st

Recommended Adventure: Bird watching or hunting


If fall is predominantly focused on the pursuit of whitetail deer, then spring is the turkey's time in the spotlight. Yes, for a sizable proportion of Michigan's conservation community, spring turkeys are infinitely more significant in the spring than even Thanksgiving or Christmas. Thanks largely to the research and advocacy of organizations like the National Wild Turkey Federation and careful management by the DNR, Michigan's population of wild turkeys has consistently - and significantly - grown over the last 50 years so that generations of hunters and birdwatchers alike can enjoy observing this uniquely North American bird.


While licensed hunters can pursue Michigan's turkeys in most state-managed areas, there are a select handful of state lands that the DNR has specifically anointed as suggested locations for prime spring turkey hunting opportunities. Several of these are in the Detroit region, but two are uniquely located within the same township: Seven Lakes State Park and Holly Recreation Area in Holly Township. Of these two destinations, Holly Recreation Area is especially well-suited for turkey hunting due to its 8,000+ acres, rolling woodlands, and open fields. Both natural areas are prime destinations for conventional birdwatching activities as well, both for wild turkeys and other rare birds.


For more information on the upcoming the Spring 2024 Turkey Season soon, check out Expedition Detroit's 2024 Turkey Hunting Cheatsheet.



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7. DISCOVER NEW PARKS

Destination: Ojibway Prairie Complex | Windsor, ON

When to Experience: All Spring

Recommended Adventure: Hiking the Black Oak Heritage and Ojibway Nature Center Trails


As our seasoned readers are well-aware of by now, the "Detroit Region" that Expedition Detroit covers goes far beyond Detroit proper - as well as the State of Michigan. Our "within 1 hour of Downtown Detroit" crosses well into southern Ontario and into the trails, wetlands, and forests of our Canadian neighbors. Highlighting the amazing outdoor attributes of Point Pelee National Park has become a favorite past time of ours, as well as introducing new destinations like Amherstburg to our predominantly U.S.-based community.


We're excited to expand our American knowledge of Canada's recreational landscape a little further here by formally introducing the Ojibway Prairie Complex: a collection of six protected natural areas within a 10-minute drive of downtown Windsor that are largely administered by the Ojibway Nature Center. Of these recreation areas - all of which are slated to form Canada's first "National Urban Park" in the coming years - Black Oak Heritage and Ojibway Parks are especially noted as sought-after hiking, trail running, mountain biking destinations for wildflower AND wildlife viewing.

The Black Oak Heritage Trail is the longer of the two largely flat trails, stretching out to 5.6 miles. The trail is predominately utilized for mountain biking, so hikers and runners should travel in the opposite direction of bike traffic for safety. The area is also well known for its deer population, so dogs should be kept on a 6 ft./2m leash.

The Ojibway Nature Centre Trail is significantly shorter than the Black Oak Heritage Trail, tracked at a whopping 1.6 miles. Don't underestimate the experience of this fantastic loop, however; Ojibway Park has rightfully earned its reputation as a premiere destination for wildflower and wildlife viewing, including vast variety of birds, turtles, and deer. This trail is far more popular for hiking than biking, so hikers will not need to keep an eye or two open as much for bike traffic while enjoying the trail.

 

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

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