top of page

Top Ten Outdoor Events near Detroit throughout December 2023

'Tis the season for 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!

expedition detroit outdoor events near detroit december 2023 michigan winter snow sports recreation

In case you haven't heard, it's the most wonderful time of the year...

And yes, not only because of the holiday season. The Expedition Detroit team is STOKED for a December that's JAM-PACKED with recreational opportunities in the Detroit area, which may come as a shock to some outdoor enthusiasts. Especially since we're waaaaay behind the curve here publishing this article on December 12th. Whoops.

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 holiday commitments, the net result is that the odds for experiencing 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 near Detroit for December.

1. Earn First Tracks at Detroit's Premiere Ski Resorts

Throughout December | Big Four Ski Resorts

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, ALL of Detroit's "Big Four Ski Resorts" are open for riding! We state this with a little bit of a cavet - 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.

expedition detroit outdoor events near detroit december 2023 michigan winter snow sports recreation guided snowshoe trip trek adventure

2. Make First Tracks with Expedition Detroit!

Throughout December | 11 Michigan State Parks and Recreation Areas

Wait... you didn't think that our guided trips ended once the leaves dropped, did you..? Detroit is a year-round outdoor destination - and our guided trips are curated to capitalize on each phase of our calendar trail conditions!

Beyond our typical offering of guided hiking, backpacking, and trail running adventures, this December we're excited to broaden our offering of guided night hiking safaris and - conditions pending - GUIDED SNOWSHOE TREKS! Both of these trips will provide snowshoes and headlamps for rent.

The Expedition Detroit team is proud to represent the Michigan DNR's largest commercial provider of guided hikes, backpacking expeditions, and trail running coach across ELEVEN of the Detroit region's most pristine state parks and recreation areas. Each of our guides has the field experience, wilderness first aid training, park knowledge, and outdoor passion that you can - and should - expect from any world-class trail experience.

P.S. Subscribers to our content get discounts on our Guided Services AND online store items...

3. Explore Seven Lakes' Enchanted Borealis Trail

December 15-16 | Seven Lakes State Park | 5 p.m.

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).

expedition detroit outdoor events near detroit december 2023 michigan winter snow sports recreation birds

4. Discover the 12 Birds of Christmas at Humbug Marsh

December 16th | 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.

expedition detroit outdoor events near detroit december 2023 michigan winter snow sports recreation canada point pelee

5. Gaze into the Cosmos at a Dark Sky Preserve

December 16th | 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.

expedition detroit outdoor events near detroit december 2023 michigan winter snow sports recreation

6. Give the Gift of Stewardship at a DNR Volunteer Workday

December 16-17  |  Belle Isle State Park and Pinckney State Recreation Area

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 Belle Isle State Park (December 16th) and Pinckney State Recreation Area (December 17th). Work crew activities will focus on piling brush, stacking firewood, cutting invasive shrubs, and restoring wetlands.

expedition detroit outdoor events near detroit december 2023 michigan winter snow sports recreation santa christmas

7. Run like Rudolph in a Holiday Race

December 17th  | Throughout the Detroit Region | 9 a.m.

Remember those few extra pounds that you may or may not have packed on during Thanksgiving? Well, lucky for you, 2023's holiday race season didn't end with that Gobbler Gallop 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 race season, all of your favorite running Santas will be coming to towns across the Detroit region on Sunday, December 17th. Starting in Ohio, the Run Santa Run 5K kicks off in Perrysburg at 9AM. Lake Orion's Snow Dash 5K - which hopefully will have its namesake bring tidings of much needed powder - takes off at the same time. Last but certainly not least, Shelby Township is hosting their 14th annual Jingle Bell 5K Run at the Burgess-Shadbush Nature Center.

expedition detroit outdoor events near detroit december 2023 michigan winter snow sports recreation Lake St. Clair Expedition Detroit Sunset Water Twilight Nature Hike
Photo courtesy of AllTrails, LLC

8. Trek into the Night on a Twilight Luminary Hike

December 22nd  | 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 2023, 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.

expedition detroit outdoor events near detroit december 2023 michigan winter snow sports recreation lantern

9. Follow the Lights at Island Lake State Recreation Area

December 23rd  | Island Lake State Recreation Area | 6 p.m.

For the first time this winter, the team at Island Lake State Recration Area invite you to set off on a twilight journey by embarking on a unique adventure. This self-guided Lantern Hike covers a scenic one-mile stretch along the Hickory Ridge Trail, illuminated by lanterns. A cozy campfire warming station awaits you at the halfway point, so leave your headlamps and other lights at home – they won’t be necessary! The hike commences at the first parking lot of the Kent Lake unit. You’re welcome to bring your dog along; just remember to always keep them on a leash!

expedition detroit outdoor events near detroit december 2023 michigan winter snow sports recreation new year

10. Sprint into the New Year

December 31st | Belle Isle State Park and Perrysburg, Ohio

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 2024. 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 to discuss Expedition Detroit feature opportunities.

bottom of page