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Trail Town Spotlight: The Outdoor Guide to Northville, Michigan

The second installation of our #TrailTownSpotlight series, we're highlighting the best features of Northville, Michigan for every hometown outdoor enthusiast. Check out why we are celebrating this oasis of adventure opportunities within the heart of the Detroit region!

If you take a quick look at the map on our Destinations page, one overarching aspect includes that the majority of Detroit's premiere outdoor opportunities are found along the outer rim of our region. Geography bears the responsibility for that - the western rim of rolling, forested hills and the great waterways of the east naturally draw recreationists towards the periphery.


But there's one particular location that jumps out on our map as an oasis of adventure within the great interior of the Detroit region. The home of a state park, the the northern terminus of a premiere biking trail, and an innovator for the expansion of community outdoor recreation opportunities.

MEET NORTHVILLE

That location, my friends, is Northville, Michigan. A place that I've grown to love dearly over the last 15 years. A town that continues to invest in its outdoor opportunities. A community whose collective conservation efforts are well worth the recognition that we are aiming to provide in this article.


It is our pleasure to re-introduce Northville - a city and township straddling both Wayne and Oakland Counties that is home to over 30,000 residents. Dating back to 1825, Northville's historic city center has evolved through the centuries into a dynamic and thriving "Pure Michigan" downtown. Northville represents the ideal prototype of a city that has both preserved its 19th century victorian, "frontier" character while developing its core center to attract business suited for the 21st century. Most importantly, Northville has emphasized not only preserving its outdoor spaces during such innovative development, but actually expanding recreational opportunities for generations to come.

OUTDOOR HIGHLIGHTS

Northville is one of several cities in the Detroit region that has adopted the "European approach" to urban development: creating a predominantly pedestrian city center for unhindered mobility at its core, coupled with immediate access to green spaces surrounding the city's developed areas. As such, Northville's outdoor highlights begin at the city's core and organically extend to cover the entirety of its periphery. Insert "chef's kiss" emoji for near-perfect city planning for an outdoor enthusiast.


Starting within "The Twist" - Northville's pedestrian-only outdoor corridor covering portions of East Main Street and North Center Street - the main Town Square, Ford Field Park, and Mill Race Historical Village are all easily within walking distance from downtown's trendy stores, coffee shops, and restaurants. Northville's predominant water system, the Walled Lake Branch of the Middle Rouge River, flows bifurcates Ford Field Park from Mill Race Village and provides decent waterfowl viewing opportunities. The main remaining outdoor destinations that are walking distance from downtown include the historic Oakwood Cemetery, Fish Hatchery Park and Denton Park.


While walking through the heart of downtown to these destinations, you may also notice distinct blue and red trail marker signs for "The Link." Congratulations - you have just found Northville's biking and jogging highway linking its two premiere outdoor destinations: Maybury State Park and Hines Park. The Link runs west-east between the northeastern corner of Maybury State Park and the northwestern terminus of Hines Park, connecting these epicenters of adventure via a clearly-marked trail running along 8 Mile Road, Randolph, Wing, Main, Cady, Beal, and River Streets.


Northville's last outdoor highlight - Legacy Park - is still largely a work in progress. Located south of 7 Mile Road behind the former location of the Northville Psychiatric Hospital, Legacy Park will comprise of a 332-acre "green space oasis" that will host hiking and mountain biking trails and other amenities. Some trails are already ready for exploration...more on that in a bit.

CAN'T MISS EXPERIENCE: Maybury State Park

Maybury is without a doubt the crown jewel of Northville's outdoor recreation ecosystem. As I mentioned in our introductory paragraph, Detroit area residents typically need to travel to our region's periphery to experience the world-class opportunities that Maybury provides within our core area. Hiking and trail running? Check. Mountain biking? 6.3 miles of one of our favorite single-track loops. Equestrian trails? Day camp options? Family-friendly farms, sports fields, and fishing piers? Checks all around.


The true genius behind Maybury is the visionary reimagining of what was once the Detroit Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium. Back in 1919, William H. Maybury, the park's namesake patron who spearheaded the sanitarium's development, believed that the beautiful natural surroundings would help nurse some patients back to health at a time when no cure existed for the disease. Although the sanitarium closed in 1969, resulting in its 944 acres becoming Wayne County's first state park in 1975, its legacy lives on through the provision of a small patch of wilderness that alleviates the masses from the chronic stresses of urban life.

BEST FOR THE FAMILY: Hines Park

Let's imagine that you've explored Maybury, followed The Link through the heart of Downtown Northville, and now you've reached the trail's southern terminus at 7 Mile Road. Well, you may want to fuel up at one of the pizza joints just east of The Link's terminus point - you've just reached the northernmost point of one of the Detroit Region's preeminent outdoor trail system: Hines Park.


Starting just south of Northville Downs, Hines Park provides a lifetime of outdoor recreation opportunities stretching from Northville to Dearborn along the banks of the Middle Rouge River. Within Northville Township, the Hines Park system includes the sporting fields at Northville Recreation Area, the famed hills and trails of Bennett Arboretum, the Cass Benton Hills Disc Golf Course, the playgrounds at Waterford Bend Recreation Area, and the ruins of historic Meads Mill.


The central vein of Hines Park is the paved Hines Park Trail runs parallel to the scenic Hines Drive. Trail users beware: the steepest climb and highest point of the entirety of the 17.5 mile Hines Park Trail strikes during in the infamous climb between Bennett Arboretum and Cass Benton. Don't forget your water bottle for this climb - maybe throw in some extra ice cubes for those mid-summer pain-gain days.

OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Legacy Park

As we wrote earlier, Legacy Park represents the future of Northville's outdoors: a massive green space in the works located on the township's eastern border, currently only accessible from Wayne Avenue off of Haggerty Road. Don't let the "Coming Soon" signs on 7 Mile throw you off, however; there are several miles of trails already open and regularly used by the most expeditious of recreationists looking for the new frontiers of our outdoor ecosystem. Naturally, our team at Expedition Detroit are a part of that growing demographic. We invite you to join us, starting with exploring the conveniently located Legacy Park.


In its current iteration, Legacy Park is best explored either on bike or foot. Our good friends at the MCMBA have been working their tails off over the last few years building, improving, and maintaining the Bell Branch Loop Mountain Bike Trail, a beginner-friendly 2 mile loop that is generally smooth and free of rocks and roots. Additional trail segments are in the works, but the adjacent 1 mile Chinkapin Hiking Trail leads to a massive chinkapin oak tree and serves as a great place to explore on foot before or after a ride. There are also nature trails within the Ward Woods that connect directly to the Bell Branch Loop trailhead on the southern side of Wayne Avenue. Keep your eyes open for wildlife, especially deer - I rode the Bell Branch Loop last spring and saw at least 50 deer...

FEATURED OUTFITTER: Town & Country Bikes & Boards

Yes, many of you already know that Northville is uniquely blessed by the outdoor recreation gods for being a REI host location - 1 of only 4 in Michigan. We love REI and make weekly pilgrimages to the Northville location, but for this article, we'd like to highlight a hometown hero: Town & Country Bikes & Boards.


Beyond retailing top-line bikes, snowboards, and related clothing and gear, T&C also offers a plethora of related services, ranging from bicycle repair and tune-ups to ski and snowboard waxing. T&C also provides generous financing options for qualified buyers needing some payment flexibility for their new gear. T&C's location on The Twist is also an added perk - nothing quite like having your new favorite bike shop steps away from your favorite coffee shop or bar.

MORNING FUEL: Rebecca's Restaurant

For generations of Northville residents, the best mornings start at Rebecca's. Founded in 1998, Rebecca's has been serving up homestyle meals to its patrons in its cozy-yet-eclectic setting right in the heart of downtown. While the model trains and endlessly-entertaining wall decor keep diners preoccupied while indoors, Rebecca's front patio seating during warmer months provides tremendous people-watching opportunities alongside The Twist. Rebecca's encourages you to ease into your morning before hitting the trail - take your time and enjoy the family environment, you'll be very glad that you did.

POST-TRAIL WATERING HOLE: Exchange Bar and Grill

You know that you're at the right place when there's a bike storage rack right outside the patio. Located at the former "Poole's Tavern" site, Exchange is conveniently positioned right at the eastern end of The Twist and along the pedestrian segment of The Link. The pub boasts not only an enviable patio and connected plaza, but also Northville's only rooftop area during the summer months. There's no better way to end a long ride than pulling off the trail, ordering an ice-cold one, and sitting back with a view.

 

This article only scratches the surface on all that Northville has to offer for its residents and visitors. For more information on local businesses, organizations, and outdoor recreation opportunities, be sure to check out fantastic local networks like the Northville Chamber of Commerce.


Do you live in Northville? Have any additional suggestions for our community's attention? Please feel free to suggest any extra experiences, retailers, or outdoor events in the comments below!



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We have an amazing home decor store called “Colors Of The Wood” located on Center Street in our shopper-friendly downtown pedestrian district. It’s an incredible small business owned by a young couple who both grew up here and are now raising their own family in Northville! Quality handmade wood products that qualify as unique “functional art” pieces for home and business! Custom laser engraving is also available to greatly enhance your personal gifts, family “heirlooms-to-be,” or special business needs featuring an exact match of your company logo! Check them out in person while you’re visiting Northville, or online at www.colorsofthewood.com.

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