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Top Ten Outdoor Events near Detroit throughout May 2023

The trees are green. The trails are groomed. The campgrounds are open. May means that all systems are firing for Detroit's outdoors, and these "Top Ten Outdoor Events" are perfect for diving head first into the immensity of outdoor experiences waiting for you this month!

This might be the strangest way to start an article ever, but I want you to stop reading for a second. Look out the window, or around you if you're already outside. Hear the songbirds chirping in the freshly budded trees above you. Smell the fresh aurora of an environment reborn. Appreciate the blooming plants about you and the remerging wildlife that has joined you in this springtime rite. Feel the sun's rays hinting at warmer days waiting just around the corner.

That, my friends, represents a microcosm of May in the Detroit region's outdoors. A 31-day celebration of a resurgent environment after months of blustering cold and rain. What started with reawakening trees, birds, and wildlife in April evolves into a natural, ecosystem-wide festival of life throughout May. Rivers teeming with paddlers. Trails embracing riders. And lifelong memories being made throughout our hallowed campgrounds.

With our recreational system reopened on all fronts, Spring in greater Detroit's outdoors can represent a chaotic, daunting challenge. Like a child walking into Disney World for the first time, the sudden inundation of recreational opportunities available to us can be paralyzing. As we all recalibrate to primetime in Detroit's outdoors, these Top Ten Outdoor Events will ease the transition by providing fun, engaging, challenging, and rewarding experiences.

Happy May - we can't wait to see you out there again!

1. Discover New Trails on a Spring Hike

May 3rd | Kopegaron Woods Conservation Area, ON | 5:00 p.m.

Right at the start of a new month - brimming with new life and recreational opportunities - the team at Kopegaron Woods Conservation Area invites you to join them on a Spring Hike to discover a rejuvenated environment! Located on the far eastern rim of the Detroit region, Kopegaron Woods features a vast variety of the classic Carolinian flora species that southern Ontario is widely-renown for, including old growth trees, shrubs, and spring ephemerals, and early woodland wildflowers. Attendees are encouraged to dress for the weather and to note that trail conditions vary from boardwalks to natural forest floor/trail.

2. Embrace the Night on a Full Moon Hike

May 5th | Oakwoods Metropark | 8:00 p.m.

The days may rapidly be getting lighter, but the Detroit region's nighttime hiking opportunities still remain as prominent and engaging as ever. For most nocturnal recreationists, hiking under a full moon provides one of the most unique and naturally illuminating experiences of any calendar month. Especially on a cloudless night, there's an indescribable magic to night hiking without needing to turn your headlamp on thanks to the brilliance of a full moon.

If you're looking for a more curated experience for full moon hiking, then head over to Oakwoods Metropark for their "Worm Moon" full moon guided hike! This guided event will also include informational sessions on the etymology of full moon names, astronomy, and wildlife viewing. This event further provides an awesome opportunity to experience the woodlands and riverbanks of Oakwoods "after dark," seeing as the park typically closes at dusk.

3. Give Back at a DNR Volunteer Workday

Throughout May | Bald Mountain, Highland, Island Lake, and Pinckney State Recreation Areas | 9 a.m.

As Mahatma Gandhi so eloquently stated, "Action expresses priorities." As applied to our region's outdoors, the Expedition Detroit team interprets this statement as a call to care for the people and places that you value, and that your values should further manifest into action. We care immensely for our wildest, most pristine outdoor destinations, as well as for the team at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources that so diligently cares for them. Any opportunity to assist the DNR with their operations is an opportunity well-worth seizing.

Fortunately for all of us, the DNR has taken the lead in sponsoring several official "Volunteer Stewardship Workday" events across the Detroit region at Highland State Recreation Area (May 6th), Pinckney State Recreation Area (May 7th), Bald Mountain State Recreation Area (May 13th and 17th), Island Lake State Recreation Area (May 20th). Work crew activities will focus on piling brush, stacking firewood, cutting invasive shrubs, and restoring wetlands. Rain boots or other waterproof boots are recommended for these events, and preregistration is required.

4. Mind your Mental Health at the Detroit Riverfront

Throughout May | Gabriel Richard Park and Dequindre Cut, Detroit, MI

Did you know that the act of simply standing near water will boost your mental health? Or that May is Mental Health Awareness Month? Well, our friends at the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy clearly have both of these facts at the top of their mind. The DRC they will host several "Mental Health Awareness and Mindfulness" events at Gabriel Richard Park and the Dequindre Cut throughout May, including sound bowl workshops, fitness and yoga classes, free lunches, and a labyrinth walk. Come discover why the Detroit Riverfront - the #1 riverfront in the United States for three years in a row - provides one of the city's top destinations for both physical and mental rejuvenation!

5. Run for the Ale of It

May 12th | Detroit, MI | 6:30 p.m.

Beer and 5Ks are a match made in heaven. We don't know who the first genius was to recognize that a crisp beer beats the hell out of a finish line banana, but they sincerely deserve a Nobel Prize for such a great contribution to outdoor society. Beer tents at finish lines are now as common as podiums, and any race bib that doesn't feature a tear-off beer coupon is a bib not worth wearing.

RF Event's "Hightail to Ale" 5K race - sponsored by Atwater Brewery - perfects this concept with a Friday evening event that ends, naturally, with a party. Starting and finishing at Atwater, runners will enjoy the scenic riverfront course before earning their finisher's medal, custom pint glass, and complimentary brew. This can't-miss event will also feature a huge crowd to cheer you on, live music, and food trucks. Oh, and did we mention beer..?

6. Start a New Holiday Tradition with Mom

May 14th | Ann Arbor, MI | 8:00 a.m.

My Mom always encouraged an active, outdoor lifestyle for my brothers and I. Long before I ever had aspirations towards long-distance running, my dear mother all but forced me to run a few miles each day in order for me to get a less-than-fit middle schooler in-shape for my upcoming football and hockey tryouts. Mother truly knew best, even if my profusely-sweating younger self vehemently disagreed.

A few decades later, I can properly thank and celebrate her by signing us both up for a special Mother's Day 5K race: the Mother's Day Time to Teal Run in Downtown Ann Arbor. Beyond representing another holiday 5K tradition to add the list, this event both celebrates the incredible women in our lives AND raises awareness for ovarian cancer. A portion of registration fees also support the mission and operations of the Michigan Ovarian Cancer Alliance, so you (and mom) will truly be running for a cause.

7. Hike for Freedom at the Human Trafficking Resource Fair

May 20th | Belle Isle Park | 8:00 a.m.

For us at Expedition Detroit, there's never a bad reason to go for a hike. There are only good, great, or fantastic reasons. But this month, the Sparrow Freedom Project invites us all to join them on one of the most impactful and important reasons to hike the trails of Belle Isle Park: promote awareness of services available in the Metro Detroit area for survivors of human trafficking and exploitation.

Starting at the Cricket Field, the purpose of the"5k Freedom Walk" is to raise funds to support Sparrow Freedom Project's mission and help shed light on the reality of human trafficking within our region and around the world. During the event, hikers and attendees will have access to life saving information about human trafficking, including the myths and realities of this dark underworld. The event also represents an opportunity for service providers to network and build relationships with the goal of facilitating education and advocacy. Tickets to the event are available here!

8. Find your Next Passion at O.A.K. in the Hills

May 20th | Thelma Spencer Park, Rochester Hills, MI | 11:00 a.m.

If May represents the "Great Awakening" of our regional outdoor ecosystem, then there's no better time to discover your next recreational passion than at the inaugural O.A.K. in the Hills event! OAK - short for "Outdoor Adventure Kickoff" - with consist of an outdoor activity extravaganza geared towards introducing attendees to the full spectrum of recreational opportunities in the Detroit region and beyond. The event will provide instruction and exhibition opportunities for hiking, biking, rock climbing, kayaking, archery, fishing, pickleball, bee keeping, puppy yoga (we're sold)...and so much more. This fantastic AND free event is sponsored by the City of Rochester Hills, Oakland County Parks, and MooseJaw.

9. Celebrate the Aquatic Life at the Huron River Day Festival

May 21st | Gallup Park, Ann Arbor, MI | 12:00 p.m.

The Huron River - the central vein of the Detroit region's recreational ecosystem - is worth celebrating every day of every season. That's an undeniable fact. However, the river truly comes alive in May, both in terms of returned wildlife, wildflower blooms, and the influx of paddlers and anglers eager to experience both.

In honor of the Huron, the City of Ann Arbor's Parks and Recreation Department is hosting its annual "Huron River Day" festival at Gallup Park! The festival will include discounted boat rentals, children's activities, river exhibits, live music, and food trucks/carts. Vendors will also be on-site providing instructions on animal-handling, fishing, Native American heritage, and - we kid you not - water squirting lessons.

10. Go Jurassic at the T-Rex Triathlon Series

May 31st | Island Lake State Recreation Area | 6:00 p.m.

No sport celebrates the return of warm weather quite like a triathlon. Beyond the practical impossibility of swimming in a frozen Kent Lake during winter, a triathlon forces each participant to embrace the elements as they are. The crisp cool of flowing water. The radiant heat of the trail. The warming rays of the sun. And you, the tri-sport athlete, joined by hundreds of your new best friends navigating the variables of a race designed to challenge and reward you.

In our opinion, every outdoor enthusiast should complete at least one triathlon in their life. Fortunately for all of us, our friends at RF Events are hosting four this year within their "T-Rex Spring Triathlon Series." The first event of the series - the "Stegosaurus Triathlon and Duathlon" - will be held at Island Lake State Recreation Area and consist of both a sprint triathlon (0.5 mile swim, 12.4 mile cycle, and 5K run) and duathlon (1.5 mile run, 12.4 mile cycle, and 5K run) events. All finishers will receive a custom medal and finish-line food.


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 to discuss Expedition Detroit feature opportunities.


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