Brace yourself - the super bloom is coming! As spring continues to gradually reclaim its domain over Detroit's revitalized environment, here are the "Top 5 Outdoor Destinations" for experiencing the best days of the season.
Wildflowers. Morels. Wetlands. Turkeys. And trails. Lots and lots of trails.
When we think of spring in the Detroit region, that list forms the crème de la crème of our seasonal outdoor highlights. 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 after waiting patiently during our coldest months. 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.
This may be the best part of all: we're still a week or two away from Mother Nature kicking off the real spectacle. The consistent heat and morning bird calls may have returned over Easter weekend, but current "leaf anomaly" data still shows most of the Detroit region remaining in pre-spring conditions. Several of our region's favorite trails are still shedding winter's lingering mud pits. Turkey season doesn't kick off until April 22nd. Morels will continue spawning into May, and wildflowers consistently bloom well into summer.
Framed differently, this current "peak spring" weather is providing us all with a glimpse of the beauty and adventure that's to come. Rather than fighting through a stubborn winter, we have collectively been gifted extra weeks to start rediscovering our trails and waterways, while simultaneously planning for our expeditions coming later this season. That is where this article fits in - a "spring preview" to help orientate you towards the best experiences of our seasonal outdoors and where to enjoy them.
Here are Expedition Detroit's "Top 5 Outdoor Destinations" for inspiring your spring 2023 adventures.
1. HIKING FOR WILDFLOWERS
Destination: Nichols Arboretum | Ann Arbor, MI
When to Visit: Mid-April through Early July
Recommended Experience: 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!
2. HUNTING FOR MORELS
Destination: Waterloo State Recreation Area | Chelsea, MI
When to Visit: Late April through mid-June
Recommended Experience: 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!
3. RIDING WITH THE FAMILY
Destination: Macomb Orchard Trail | Utica, MI
When to Visit: All Spring
Recommended Experience: 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.
4. ON THE TURKEY TRAIL
Destination: Seven Lakes State Park and Holly Recreation Area | Holly, Michigan
When to Visit: Late April through May
Recommended Experience: 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 now 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.
We will be publishing a specific article on the Spring 2023 Turkey Season soon, but in the meantime all prospective turkey hunters should review the DNR's 2023 Spring Turkey Digest.
5. DISCOVERING NEW PARKS
Destination: Ojibway Prairie Complex | Windsor, ON
When to Visit: All Spring
Recommended Experience: 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 outdoor recreation plans for this spring? Are there any destinations that we should highlight for the Expedition Detroit community? Let us know in the comments!