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The Metroparks Trail Challenge: Exploring 13 Trails in 13 Days

This summer, the Huron-Clinton Metroparks launched their inaugural Metroparks Trail Challenge: completing 13 "challenge trails" across all 13 Metroparks. We took the bait and completed the challenge with a twist - all 13 trails with 13 days. Happy Trails!

metroparks trail challenge expedition detroit kensington metropark

The Expedition Detroit team is a sucker for a good challenge. Think Marty McFly's "Don't call me chicken" mentality. And especially when said challenge occurs in the outdoors.


Back in early May, we published an article focused entirely on the best "Adventure Challenges" for Summer 2023. In full transparency, that article was inspired by one singular, monumental adventure challenge: the recently-launched Metroparks Trail Challenge. Equal parts scavenger hunt and endurance feat, this challenge seemed like the perfect opportunity to explore the Detroit region's pristine Metroparks with mission. A fun-filled, award-earning extra reason to get outdoors.


As our crazy summer stretched on, however, we found that completing the Metroparks Trail Challenge proved a more daunting task than anticipated. Launching our guided trips platform through the Detroit area's beautiful Michigan State Parks system meant less time for exploring the Metroparks. Throw in a few trips, meetings, and the general time drain of modern life, and the prognosis for a timely completion of the Metroparks Trail Challenge looked daunting at best.


So, we gave up.


Haaa. Of course we didn't - in fact, we doubled-down by adding an extra variable: completing the Metroparks Trail Challenge, encompassing 13 trail challenges across all 13 Metroparks, within 13 days. An epic expedition that would require dedication, most likely multi-park days, and whirlwind tour of some of the most immaculate and diverse outdoor destinations within an hour's drive of Downtown Detroit.


With the plan set, it was time to kick off our challenge.


Here's how went:


DAY ONE: AUGUST 5, 2023

THE CHALLENGE BEGINS! This journey began exploring the Metroparks closet to Ann Arbor and Dexter - a relatively continuous journey up the Huron River and largely along the scenic Border-to-Border Trail. Come for rapids and river-views. Stay for the meadows, bridges, wildlife, and perfectly-placed beach picnic locations.

metroparks trail challenge expedition detroit delhi metropark

DELHI METROPARK | Ann Arbor, MI

Metropark Highlights: Nestled in a quiet bend of the Huron River, Delhi Metropark offers natural beauty to enjoy. You’ll find mature stands of oak trees, open lawns and well-maintained ecosystems along the water that herons, turtles, and deer call home. Relax in the fresh air with family and friends under the park's picnic shelter or give kids the space to explore on Delhi's playground. Fan favorite activities include a bike ride along the B2B Trail or exploring the Huron River by canoe or kayak.

Recreational Activity: Hiking with the trail pup

Challenge Trail: B2B Trail

Mileage: 1.6 miles


metroparks trail challenge expedition detroit dexter huron metropark

DEXTER-HURON METROPARK | Dexter, MI

Metropark Highlights: Peace and rejuvenation wait your arrival at Dexter-Huron Metropark. The park invites you to get out into nature and experience the rich ecosystems along the Huron River. Dexter-Huron's dense woodlands, open fields, and gently flowing waters are home to a variety of unique plants and animals. Spend the day picnicking, biking, fishing, or paddling the Huron River.

Recreational Activity: Hiking with the trail pup

Challenge Trail: B2B Trail

Mileage: 2.5 miles (point-to-point)


metroparks trail challenge expedition detroit hudson mills metropark

HUDSON MILLS METROPARK | Dexter, MI

Metropark Highlights: Discover the best of the Huron River at Hudson Mills Metropark. This park features some of the most picturesque spots on the Huron and is popular with anglers, hikers, and paddlers alike. Hikers and bikers especially have access to well-maintained trails that connect to Downtown Dexter and sports enthusiasts will find plenty of space to play ball. In winter, the park's cross-country ski trails provide an excellent way to maintain your fitness.

Recreational Activity: Hiking with the trail pup

Challenge Trail: Hike-Bike Trail Loop

Mileage: 3.1 miles


DAY SEVEN: AUGUST 11, 2023

Yikes... A whole week burned in the blink of an eye. Amazing how knocking out three parks along the Metroparks Trail Challenge can instill a false sense of confidence, even for experienced outdoor enthusiasts. Any world-class outdoor challenge requires endurance and resilience, and the Metroparks Trail Challenge is no different. Even with the weather forecast predicting heavy afternoon storms, I knew that I couldn't risk burning another day. With no time to lose, I packed up the trail pup and sprinted out to Brighton for Trail #4.

metroparks trail challenge expedition detroit huron meadows metropark

HURON MEADOWS METROPARK | Brighton, MI

Metropark Highlights: Huron Meadows Metropark features a vignette of nature’s finest scenery, providing visitors with an opportunity to let the pressures of modern life fade away under the park's dense forests and wildlife-rich wetlands. The park offers year-round access to some of Southeast Michigan’s best recreation, including casting a line off the pier at Maltby Lake, inviting family or friends for a picnic under a shelter, or spending the day wandering the trails and observing wildlife. In winter, glide through the landscape on well-groomed cross-country ski paths.

Recreational Activity: Hiking with the trail pup

Challenge Trail: Maltby Rustic Trail

Mileage: 1.7 miles


DAY TEN: AUGUST 14, 2023

Double-digit days mean time to conquer some trails at double-speed! Although nothing beats hiking with the trail pup, I opted to switch up my hiking boots for my trail runners and stretch out my typical #MondayMiles over the four southernmost - and new to the Expedition Detroit team - Metroparks near Lake Erie.

metroparks trail challenge expedition detroit lake erie metropark

LAKE ERIE METROPARK | Brownstown Charter Township, MI

Metropark Highlights: Located just a short drive from the Gibraltar and Rockwood, three miles of captivating shoreline await you at Lake Erie Metropark. Enjoy 1,607 acres of exceptional views that you’ll only find along a Great Lake, along with plenty of opportunities for recreation. With trails for hiking, paved trails for biking, a “Great Wave” pool, cross-country skiing, and some of the best birding in Southeast Michigan, you’ll find great ways to move, learn and enjoy nature all year long.

Recreational Activity: Trail running

Challenge Trail: Cherry Island Nature Trail

Mileage: 1.6 miles


metroparks trail challenge expedition detroit oakwoods metropark

OAKWOODS METROPARK | New Boston, MI

Metropark Highlights: Scenic woodlands and picturesque views of the Huron River anticipate your arrival at Oakwoods Metropark. The park's 1,756-acre park features well-tended trails that meander through mature woodlands, a Nature Center filled with easy ways to discover the great outdoors, fishing spots, and a designated monarch butterfly waystation. Spend the day paddling the Huron River or hiking the trails or enjoying a program at the Nature Center.

Recreational Activity: Trail running

Challenge Trail: Big Tree Nature Trail

Mileage: 0.8 miles


metroparks trail challenge expedition detroit willow metropark

WILLOW METROPARK | New Boston, MI

Metropark Highlights: Escape the daily grind and explore the immaculate scenery of Willow Metropark. You’ll find 1,532 acres of mature woodlands and scenic views of the Huron River. Stop by for a walk, a hike or a bike ride along the Huron River on our hike-bike trail or schedule a tee time to play our 18-hole golf course or 24-hole disc golf course. Anglers will find plenty of great fishing spots here along the river. In winter, Willow Metropark transforms into a haven for winter sports enthusiasts, with cross-country skiing and great sledding hills.

Recreational Activity: Paved trail running

Challenge Trail: Hike-Bike Trail - North Loop

Mileage: 3.7 miles


metroparks trail challenge expedition lower huron metropark

LOWER HURON METROPARK | Belleville, MI

Metropark Highlights: With easy access from I-275 and I-94, you’re never far from the natural beauty of Lower Huron Metropark. At Lower Huron, you’ll find 1,256 acres of mature woodlands, grassy meadows, and easy access to one of the most beautiful stretches of the Huron River. Run or inline skate along the park's paved hike-bike trail, or opt to shoreline fish or canoe along the Huron and observe waterfowl and other wildlife on the water.

Recreational Activity: Trail running

Challenge Trail: Woods Creek Rustic Trail

Mileage: 3.1 miles


DAY ELEVEN: AUGUST 15, 2023

Golden hour remains undefeated for an ethereal hiking experience - especially immediately after storms. I couldn't help but capitalize on venturing out to one of the more isolated of the Metroparks under these conditions. As the sun slowly set over the short Lupine Loop Trail, I took my time being present in the moment. Enjoying and appreciating the late-summer wildflowers and dive-bombing geese. Taking in the scenic views from the Outwash Overlook. Trying to catch a glimpse of an extremely-rare eastern massasauga rattlesnake, the only venomous snake native to the Detroit region. And, in general, simply expressing gratitude for the ability to explore so many beautiful destinations located so close to home.

metroparks trail challenge expedition detroit indian springs metropark

INDIAN SPRINGS METROPARK | White Lake, MI

Metropark Highlights: Towering trees and native ecosystems offer visitors a window into the past right at Indian Springs Metropark. Come learn the natural history of the Detroit region at the Environmental Discovery Center or enjoy mile after mile of trails through prairies, woodlands, wetlands, and meadows. The quiet natural setting of this land also features a paved hike-bike trail, winter cross-country skiing, sledding, and much more.

Recreational Activity: Hiking solo

Challenge Trail: Lupine Loop Nature Trail

Mileage: 0.7 miles


DAY TWELVE: AUGUST 16, 2023

Day 12 was for the birds. Literally and figuratively. "Bluebird Sky" conditions. Freely swimming swans. Inquisitive doves, ducks, and red-winged blackbirds. And, to top it all off, a family of sandhill cranes that made it their lives' mission to get as close to me as possible. I wasn't expecting for a two-ish mile hike to turn into an action-packed bird safari, but - as countless visitors to Kensington can attest - you never know what outdoor adventures you'll inadvertently stumble into when visiting the largest Metropark.

metroparks trail challenge expedition detroit kensington metropark

KENSINGTON METROPARK | Milford, MI

Metropark Highlights: Kensington Metropark offers 4,481 acres of wooded, hilly terrain surrounding beautiful Kent Lake. The park provides a home to an abundance of wildlife and waterfowl, as well as a multitude of recreation opportunities available throughout the year. From biking and boating to cross-country skiing and ice fishing, taking a swim at one of Kensington's beaches, or just spending the day fishing, hiking, or picnicking along the water. Kensington has a unique adventure in store for each visitor to its expansive shores, dense forests, and rolling hills.

Recreational Activity: Hiking solo

Challenge Trail: Wildwing Nature Trail

Mileage: 1.9 miles


DAY THIRTEEN: AUGUST 17, 2023

Then there were three... For the fateful Day 13, only the Metropark's three most eastern AND northern destinations remained. As someone primarily located on the southwestern edge of the Detroit region, getting out to these final parks alone had always represented a daunting challenge looming in the back of my mind. Throw in the storms on the forecast for August 17th, and I genuinely had doubts whether completing the Metroparks Trail Challenge in 13 days would actually be doable. Naturally, I threw caution to both the literal and proverbial wind, packed in my rain gear, and ventured out to the glistening shores of Lake St. Clair.

metroparks trail challenge expedition detroit lake st. clair metropark

LAKE ST. CLAIR METROPARK | Harrison Township, MI

Metropark Highlights: At Lake St. Clair Metropark, you’ll find abundant recreational activities for every interest. Whether you're an aficionado of bird watching, windsurfing, kiteboarding, boating, bicycling or swimming, you can get your recreational fix in there along the shores of Lake St. Clair. Visitors can readily bike, hike, jog, or in-line skate along the park's paved trail or hop out on the water from its marina. The fun continues into winter, with ice fishing, cross-country skiing, and ice skating with friends and family.

Recreational Activity: Hiking solo

Challenge Trail: Marsh Forest and Meadow Nature Trails

Mileage: 1.4 miles


metroparks trail challenge expedition detroit wolcott mill metropark

WOLCOTT MILL METROPARK | Ray, MI

Metropark Highlights: Spending a day at Wolcott Mill Metropark means having access to four unique areas connected by nature and history. You’ll find a working farm, one of America’s last remaining grist mills – built nearly 200 years ago – a park complete with trails, picnic shelters, and a trail system all ready for exploration and enjoyment. The park also features sheep, goats, chickens, geese, horses and dairy cows reflecting Michigan’s agricultural heritage. Equestrians can also bring their own horse for riding Wolcott Mill's equestrian trails.

Recreational Activity: Hiking solo

Challenge Trail: Mother Earth Nature Trail

Mileage: 0.75 miles (map shows combined Nature Trails)


metroparks trail challenge expedition detroit stony creek metropark

STONY CREEK METROPARK | Shelby Township, MI

Metropark Highlights: Last but CERTAINLY not least, Stony Creek Metropark offers 4,435 scenic acres teeming with opportunities for outdoor recreation all year long. At the heart of the park sits the gorgeous 500-acre Stony Creek Lake, where boaters, anglers, and swimmers can spend time enjoying a day on the water. Surrounding this serene lake, you’ll find lush woodlands, gorgeous wetlands, tallgrass prairies, and expansive fields in every direction. Stony Creek also maintains fantastic paved and natural trails for hikers, cyclists, in-line skaters, and general wanderers. In winter, watch the park transform into a world of snowshoeing, fat tire mountain biking, cross-country skiing, and more.

Recreational Activity: Paved Trail Biking

Challenge Trail: Hike-Bike Trail Loop

Mileage: 6.5 miles

 

We'd like to close out this article by NOT recommending that you follow suit with tackling all 13 parks in 13 days. Is it doable? Yes, clearly - and there was an undeniable beauty in experiencing each of these diverse landscapes and destinations in such a brief window of time.


However, our largest takeaway from completing the Metroparks Trail Challenge remains that each and every one of these parks constitutes a world-class destination in their own right. Parks, trails, and waterways that you could spend a lifetime exploring while constantly uncovering new, "off the beaten path" discoveries. Pristine landscapes uniquely designed for welcoming recreationists of all interests, backgrounds, and abilities.


For Expedition Detroit, the 2023 Metroparks Trail Challenge is over. But our lifetime adventure of fully experiencing our Metroparks has just begun with this speed-dating introduction to all 13 parks.


And, as always, we invite you to join us on the journey.




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