'Tis the season for some holly, jolly, and freezing outdoor adventures - and we are stoked for them all! As you navigate the madness of the holidays, here are the top ten outdoor events near Detroit to guide you through this most festive of months. Happy holidays!
Sing it with us: It's the most won-der-ful timeeeee of the yearrrrrr!
And yes, not only because of the holiday season. The Expedition Detroit team is STOKED for this month of recreation opportunities, which may come as a shock to some outdoor enthusiasts.To be fair, December can be a polarizing month - less in terms of Santa's homestead and more regarding attitudes towards outdoor recreation. The Winter Solstice hitting mid-month means that December brings the shortest and some of the coldest days of the year. Add in the seasonal work and family pressures, the net result is that the odds for bountiful outdoor recreation thin out a bit.
That, dear friends, represents the greatest gift that you will receive this month. December rings in opportunities for intrepid recreationists that simply do not exist mid-summer. Virtually empty running, hiking, and kayaking trails. Prime time for fat tire biking season. Expeditious snowshoeing and cross-country skiing routes. Fresh groomer tracks at Detroit's ski resorts. Extended hunting periods. An entire season ripe for outdoor innovation.
Put differently, December provides us all with two options: hibernate until spring, or fully embrace and capitalize on the gift that is winter in Detroit.
You already know which option we're choosing, so we're kicking off our winter expeditions with these awesome top ten outdoor events for December.
1. Go Big for Global Fat Tire Bike Day
December 3rd | Island Lake State Recreation Area | 10 a.m.
Wait, you didn't think that December had enough holidays? Neither did we, along with the international biking community. Along with other holiday traditions, the most ardent of cyclists switch out their slimmer summer tires for their fatter, snow-ready tires in early December. Fortunately, this isn't a niche sect of the biking faithful - the sport of fat tire biking has grown to such an extent that this seasonal passage has become memorialized into a global holiday. A holiday occurring today, December 3rd.
Ready to take your fat tire for its maiden seasonal voyage? New to fat tire biking and wondering where you can catch a glimpse of the festive action? We've got you: head to Island Lake State Recreation Area today for the official Southeast Michigan Global Fat Bike Day festivities. Riders will be setting out from the Spring Mill Pond parking lot to tackle "The Badlands" region of the park.
2. Earn First Tracks at Detroit's Premiere Ski Resorts
Throughout December | Throughout Detroit Region
Winter recreation invokes many different emotions, expectations, and memories. For certain members of the Expedition Detroit team, winter means claiming first chair rights and carving fresh tracks into a perfectly groomed ski slope. Yes, we of course love our backcountry terrain too, but there's nothing quite like a crisp groomer or a deep powder day at one of Detroit's four premiere resorts: Mt. Holly, Pine Knob, Alpine Valley, and Mt. Brighton.
As of the writing of this article, Mt. Holly, Pine Knob, and Alpine Valley are open for riding! Mt. Brighton has teased that they will be following suit shortly, although all four resorts are largely still in the snow-making/accumulating process. Conditions are only going to heat up (er, cool down?) as this month progresses, so while we're waiting for the snow to fall we will be purchasing our lift tickets (relevant links here and here), sharpening our skis, and dreaming of those first sweet runs.
3. Have Yourself a Merry Little Hunt
Throughout December | Statewide in Michigan
Yes, November is undeniably primetime for conservation throughout the Detroit region. That being justly acknowledged, December is a special, underrated time to get in woods. Not only does the snow make tracking game infinitely easier, but the ethereal calm that defines the woods after a fresh snowfall provide a near-religious experience for hunters willing to face the cold. There are several hunting seasons running concurrently throughout December, so be sure to check out our Michigan Hunting Cheatsheet to review the conservation opportunities available throughout our region.
We especially want to highlight late antler-less firearm season for whitetail deer on private lands, which runs from December 12th through the end of the month. If you have an unfilled antler-less tag, please consider harvesting a doe and donating the venison to a local food bank. Conservation in action goes much farther than any decision made in the field - we thank you in advance for assisting both the DNR in whitetail population maintenance and our neighbors in need of a hearty meal.
4. Run like Rudolph in a Holiday Race
Throughout December | Throughout the Detroit Region
Remember those few extra pounds that you may or may not have packed on during Thanksgiving? Well, lucky for you, 2022's holiday race season didn't end with that Turkey Trot your in-laws dragged you out of bed to run. To the contrary, 'tis the season for Christmas-themed races, so you'll burn off those extra turkey pounds in no time.
The holiday races kick off on December 4th with the Whoville 5K in Northville, Michigan (there's a Grand Rapids race as well, so be sure to select the correct race option). Our friends at RF Events are closing out their 2022 race season with their annual Holiday Hustle in Dexter, Michigan, which includes 1 mile, 5K, and half-marathon events. Last but certainly not least, Shelby Township is hosting their 13th annual Jingle Bell 5K Run on December 18th at the Burgess-Shadbush Nature Center.
5. Give the Gift of Stewardship at a DNR Volunteer Workday
Throughout December | Highland and Bald Mountain State Recreation Areas and Belle Isle State Park
Of all of the gifts that you will give this holiday season, one of the most impactful (and least expensive) could be the opportunity to give your time and muscle to the wild places that you love! Fortunately for all of us, the DNR has taken the lead in sponsoring three official "Volunteer Stewardship Workday" events at Highland State Recreation Area (TODAY, December 3rd), Bald Mountain State Recreation Area (December 10th), and Belle Isle State Park (December 17th). Work crew activities will focus on piling brush, stacking firewood, cutting invasive shrubs, and restoring wetlands.
6. Explore the Enchanted Borealis Trail
Throughout December | Seven Lakes State Park
As you're probably aware, we at Expedition Detroit are all about embracing nighttime recreation opportunities (#EmbraceTheDark) this time of year. While most nocturnal exploration requires a high degree of independent preparation, the folks at Seven Lakes State Park have greatly simplified this process by hosting their annual "Enchanted Borealis Trail" night hiking events! The park encourages hikers to meander through the forest by following a one-mile lantern-lit path and enjoy some colorful holiday lights along the way. The hike starts at the Dickinson Picnic Shelter. The event is free, although as an additional option, you can rent your own campfire spot for $20 (wood and fire starting included).
7. Discover the 12 Birds of Christmas at Humbug Marsh
December 17th | Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge - Humbug Marsh Unit | 9 a.m.
Let's be honest - why just sing about a few festive birds when you can venture into our region's sole International Wildlife Refuge to experience the real deal? The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge is hosting a free "12 Birds of Christmas" hiking and bird watching event at Humbug Marsh. Located along the Detroit River, Humbug Marsh is the last undeveloped mile of the Detroit River on the U.S. side of the border. The guided hike will traverse native prairies, native shrublands, forests with a unique mosaic of 300-400 year old oaks mixed with hickory and ash, diverse wetlands, and beautiful Humbug Island. Rare birds on the viewing agenda include eagles, winter wrens, golden crowned kinglets, herons, and other migrating and resident water birds.
8. Trek into the Night on a Twilight Luminary Hike
December 21st | Lake St. Clair Metropark | 5 p.m.
Early winter evenings spent along one of the Detroit region's largest lakes provide an idyllic scenery for trail exploration. The guides at Lake St. Clair Metropark know this all too well, including which trails provide the best wildlife viewing opportunities in step with the setting sun. Join in on the Metropark's final naturalist-led "Twilight Luminary Hike" for 2022, where you'll have the opportunity to listen for owls, search out nocturnal wildlife, and learn about the ways that Michigan’s animals adapt to the long nights and cold temperatures. Don't worry - all hikers get the opportunity to warm up alongside a roaring bonfire with s’mores after the hike.
9. Gaze into the Cosmos at a Dark Sky Preserve
December 17th | Point Pelee National Park | 6 p.m.
Sometimes the best break from the frenzy of the holidays is to do nothing. Well, almost nothing - hiking through a national park to experience the best stargazing in the Detroit region definitely counts as doing something. Fortunately for us, Point Pelee National Park saves the day yet again as our region's sole Dark Sky Preserve - the ideal location for gazing into the cosmos and tuning out the world for an extraterrestrial outing. Point Pelee's "Dark Sky Nights" are especially catered towards star-gazing tourists willing to brave near-freezing temperatures at night, with amenities including extended visitor hours, seasonal star charts, and the combined natural beauty of the park and the cosmos.
10. Sprint into the New Year
December 31st | Belle Isle State Park and Perrysburg, OH
Every New Year's Eve, we all find ourselves looking forward to a blank slate of opportunity. Races to be run. Trails to be explored. Memories to capture. And for the most part, all of those experiences lay just outside of our grasp - one ripped calendar page away from becoming a reality.
December 31st also provides us all with one last sweet, finite way of sticking it to the year that's on its way out. Regardless of whether you'll look back on 2022 as the best or worst year of your life, we can't think of a better way to close out this chapter than sweating it out on a New Year's Eve race. Actually, you could run two - the Belle Isle New Year's Eve 5K kicks off at 4 P.M. in its namesake park, while the Midnight Special 5K in Perrysburg, Ohio provides runners with an opportunity to start the race in one year and cross the finish line in the next (race starts at 11:45 P.M.).
Happy December to you all, and wishing you nothing but the best heading into 2023. We can’t wait to see you out there!
Do you host an upcoming outdoor event that you would like to be featured in a future article? If yes, then we would love to hear from you! Please contact us at email@example.com to discuss Expedition Detroit feature opportunities.