What do you get when you cram all four seasons of the year into 31 days? The month of March in Michigan - the epitome of "shoulder season" recreation where your days can start with a morning cycle and finish with skiing through powder. Here are Detroit's top 10 outdoor events for capitalizing on March's kaleidoscope of recreation opportunities.
Shoulder. Season. There are no better two words for describing what Detroit region recreationists experience in March when trying to plan for a full day of outdoor experiences.
If you're a glass-half-full kind of person, then March should represent your favorite month of the year. For the next 31 days, you will have ample opportunities to run on pristine trails in the morning and ski decent powder in the evening. Or bust out the fat tire bike for snow-covered trails in the early hours before basking in the warmth of a mid-afternoon kayak. Our most coveted parks are still largely vacant of warmer-weather crowds. The most sought-after river routes or campsites available for your recreational leisure. As a cherry on top, most state park drinking regulations don't take effect until April 1st.
The obvious converse of these benefits is that, if timed poorly or conditions-dependent, March will simply suck for you. March can often be too warm to ski, too cold to paddle, too muddy to bike, and too early to hunt. A recreational purgatory for even the most ardent outdoor enthusiasts.
We at Expedition Detroit view ourselves in the former category - the conditions be damned, "there's no such thing as bad weather just bad clothing" kind of crowd. However, especially for the "March Deniers" among us, we thought that we'd curate this list of Top 10 Outdoor Events to help ease your passing from winter into spring.
1. Get a Little Slushy at Mt. Brighton
March 4th | Mt. Brighton Ski Resort | 12 p.m.
Spring skiing tends to hit a little early in the Detroit region...and can switch back to peak-winter conditions in the blink of an eye. Even though a heavy snow storm is on the forecast for Friday, Saturday's temperatures are currently projected for a high of 42º.
Stated differently, perfect conditions for Mt. Brighton's Slush Cup.
The resort invites all of Detroit's ski and snowboard faithful to join it for its biggest spring party of the season. The event will feature a pond skimming competition (ages 7+), live music, an outdoor bar, tons of giveaways and prizes, and more. Participants in the pond skimming event can register the morning of the 4th in the picnic area between 9am - 11am. Registration is first come, fist serve, and the pond-skimming kicks off at 12pm. Helmets are required and the resort's rental equipment is NOT permitted in the pond-skimming competition.
2. Embrace the Snow with a Winter Hike
March 4th | Maybury State Park | 7 p.m.
"It's March now, so winter should be over, right..?" Anyone who has ever had the gall to utter these out loud probably felt an immediate gust of winter wind against their neck - the physical manifestation of Mother Nature laughing at them. Especially in and around Detroit.
Yes, winter in our corner of the Great Lakes can be a very polarizing season. Most recreationists either love it or hate it, just like an ice bath or polar plunge. For us at Expedition Detroit, our biased opinion is that this winter has been underwhelming. We received what, two weeks of "winter wonderland" powder conditions? Just enough snow for one backcountry ski venture?
We fully-endorse the DNR's team at Maybury State Park for embracing the incoming snow with an evening guided winter hike through the park. The hike is appropriate for all ages and pets are welcome (must be on a 6' leash at all times). Light snacks will be provided after the hike. The hike will set off from the trailhead building off the Eight Mile Road entrance, and headlamps are recommended.
3. Pack the Popcorn for a Free Screening of Black Ice
March 5th | DYNO Detroit Climbing | 7 p.m.
Detroit Parks & Recreation, Detroit Outdoors, and DYNO Detroit Climbing invite all of Detroit's recreation community to enjoy a free screening of Black Ice - a documentary that follows a group of African American climbers on an ice climbing expedition to Montana. The screening will also include a presentation by Detroiters that recently completed an upper peninsula ice climbing trip.
This film showcases African American rock climbers from Memphis Rox climbing gym as they set off on an ice climbing adventure with professionals to experience the extremities of the sport. The event will feature a small panel of individuals who have experienced ice climbing, as well as discussions regarding local climbing opportunities.
Doors open at 7 pm and the film will start at 7:30 pm. Don't forget a blanket, pillow, and/or a camp chair to get comfortable on the climbing gym's floor. Oh, and BYOB is permitted at this event. Nice.
4. Earn some Good Luck at a DNR Volunteer Workday
Throughout March | Brighton, Bald Mountain, Waterloo, Highland, Island Lake, and Pinckney State Recreation Areas and Belle Isle State Park | 9 a.m.
Looking to earn karma's respect - and maybe a little good luck - throughout March? There's absolutely more than one way to tip the fates in your favor, but environmental stewardship takes the prize as our favorite means of releasing good vibes back into the universe.
Fortunately for all of us, the DNR has taken the lead in sponsoring several official "Volunteer Stewardship Workday" events across the Detroit region at Brighton State Recreation Area (March 5th), Bald Mountain State Recreation Area (March 11th), Waterloo State Recreation Area (March 12th), Highland State Recreation Area (March 18th), Island Lake State Recreation Area (March 19th), Belle Isle State Park (March 25th), and Pinckney State Recreation Area (March 26th). Work crew activities will focus on piling brush, stacking firewood, cutting invasive shrubs, and restoring wetlands. Rainboots or other waterproof boots are recommended for these events, and preregistration is required.
5. Run for the Gold at a St. Patrick's Day 5K
March 11th - 12th | Throughout Detroit Region
There's only one time of year where waking up to any song by the Dropkick Murphys is not only acceptable, but culturally-respectable. As well as slamming a pre-race Guinness. Or kissing anyone with freckles or red hair, assuming that their green t-shirt of choice explicitly invites said kiss.
That beautiful time of year, my friends, is St. Patrick's Day - a day of remembrance of the "Old Country" for us Irish, acceptable debauchery, bag-pipe filled music, crowded pubs, and a festive leprechaun-themed 5K races. Detroit's oldest and most Irish neighborhood, Corktown, will be hosting its 40th running of the "Corktown Races" on March 12th. Other St. Paddy's-themed races include the "Lucky Leprechaun Race" on March 11th in Utica, and RF Events' "Shamrocks & Shenanigans" on March 12th in Ann Arbor.
6. Earn your Slice of Pi(e)
March 14th | Virtual
For most of us, when you think of a "special day in March," you probably think of St. Patrick's Day. Obviously. But, if you time-travel back to your middle school years (apologies in advance), we all remember that one kid who came to school on March 14th, with a chocolate-chip pie under their arm, decorated in icing with one archaic symbol that you haven't thought of since your geometry exam: π.
"Ah, that's right," you should be thinking right about now. "Pi day."
Pi - the Greek trigonometric symbol that mathematically represents the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter - is shorthand calculated as "3.14." As such, March 14th is celebrated as "Pi Day" among mathletes and recreationists alike due to its correlation with the number. While Pi Day is internationally-recognized as a day to commemorate math, we at Expedition Detroit choose to celebrate by extending our typical mid-week 5K by 0.04 miles. There's even a virtual event sponsored by Epic Races to inspire runners to get outside on the 14th. Circular routes are strongly encouraged.
7. Gaze into the Cosmos at a Dark Sky Preserve
March 18th | Point Pelee National Park | 6 p.m.
The days may finally be getting lighter, but the stars at Point Pelee National Park - the single best stargazing destination in the Detroit region - still shine as bright as ever. 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.
8. Close Out Flannel Season with a Lumberjack Pancake Run
March 25th | Detroit, Michigan | 9:30 a.m.
Flannel. Flapjacks. Finish lines. Can you think of a better trio for closing out "Flannel SZN" in the Detroit region? We sure can't, and we think that whoever thought of this race at the DNR's "Outdoor Adventure Center" deserves a raise.
This themed "Lumberjack Pancake" 5K race will traverse the Dequindre Cut, starting in front of the Outdoor Adventure Center. The course is flat and fast, and the race's "swag" includes a custom medal, lumberjack buff, free entry to the Outdoor Adventure Center beginning at 10 a.m., and a big pancake breakfast. All participants are encouraged to wear their best flannel apparel and sport their best lumberjack beard.
9. Embrace the Chills at the No Frills, All Thrills Trail Run
March 25th | Huron Meadows Metropark | 10:00 a.m.
As any seasoned Detroiter will tell you, white-out snow conditions in the end of March are not only common - they're expected. Along with freezing rain or other shelter-beckoning precipitation. Not exactly ideal running conditions...
...unless you're a David Goggins-esque, "damn the weather," no frills kind of runner. And in the off-chance that you are, then we have the perfect event for you. The Brighton Area Road Striders are hosting their "No Frills, All Thrills Trail Run" event at Huron Meadows Metropark for runners that believe that all conditions are good race conditions. The event includes 4K and 8K race options.
10. Surrender to Nature on a Mud March
March 25th | Lake Erie Metropark | 12 p.m.
We've got good and bad news: the end of March is officially "Mud Season" throughout the Detroit region. Yes, this happens every single year. Yet outdoorsy folks stay get taken aback when their pristine trails, ski hills, and riverbanks turn to brown, mucky slush.
Why not embrace it?
That's the attitude that the team over at Lake Erie Metropark have adopted, and we advise following suit. Lace up a pair of waterproof boots and head over to the park for their "Mud March" event. This family-friendly guided hike will trek through the mud and puddles in search of marsh wildlife during this rainiest of seasons. Naturally, the hike will kick off rain or shine, so participants are advised to dress accordingly.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss Expedition Detroit feature opportunities.