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#TrailTuesday: Maybury State Park's Mountain Bike Trail

Welcome back to our #TrailTuesday Series! This edition explores one of the Detroit region's most beloved MTB routes and trail running destinations: Maybury State Park's Mountain Bike Trail. Join us as we rediscover this primetime biking, running, and hiking trail!

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"Yeah. I'm the stupidest person on the trail."


I remember saying those words audibly to myself during the summer of 2008 on a blistering hot day. Despite living in Northville for a year, I had finally completed the half mile journey from my parents' house to Maybury State Park - an outdoor destination almost literally in our backyard that had piqued my curiosity, but had yet to inspire a visit.


Somehow I had learned that Maybury had a mountain bike trail within its confines. This was good. I lived within biking distance and therefore could avoid the hassle of squeezing my aging mountain bike into the trunk of the 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee that I was driving. I threw on some gym shorts, an old t-shirt, my running sneakers, and a flat-rimmed hat. Then I started biking towards the park.


Yes, you read that correctly. I did not wear a helmet - or any MTB-appropriate gear - which from my teenaged perspective made sense for two exceedingly stupid reasons:


1. Bike helmets weren't "cool."


2. How difficult could a mountain biking trail in Southeast Michigan really be?


Then I actually started biking Maybury State Park's mountain bike trail, and I quickly realized how foolish I was. For starters, watching expert riders burn past me on top-market bikes wearing gloves, biking shorts, and - yes - very cool helmets, reinforced that mountain biking was indeed a sport that requires dedication for mastery. Second, the trail was very challenging for a novice mountain biker. I still remember my hands slipping off of my handlebars from nervous sweat due to how vulnerable I felt without a helmet.


Last and most important, despite the palatable embarrassment and anxiety that defined my initial ride into the world of mountain biking, I'll never forget the life-altering impression that Maybury imprinted on me. The sense of wonder that such a beautiful, wild, and challenging trail had been hiding in plain sight right across Beck Road. That the park's idyllic forests, pastures, ponds, and marshes existed in the heart of a rapidly growing community. A discovery of a new refuge from the stressors, noise, and chronic distractions of modern life.


Right from the script of a Hallmark movie, I had played the bumbling fool that stumbled into love at first sight with this new outdoor destination. A passion that prompted me to buy a damn bike helmet, continue riding and running Maybury's trails, and further explore the Detroit region's most prestigious outdoor destinations. A love that steadily evolved into launching this platform last year.


It is our privilege to come full circle and reintroduce Maybury State Park now.

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MEET MAYBURY STATE PARK

Maybury State Park originated from 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.


The Maybury of 2023 provides the crown jewel of Northville, Michigan's outdoor recreation ecosystem. Especially in light of its proximity to the core of our (over)developed metropolitan area, Maybury contains recreational opportunities that Metro Detroiters typically need to travel to our region's periphery - or Up North - to experience. 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.


Now let's get to the trail.

HIT THE TRAIL

Total Distance: 6.7 miles (RT from 8 Mile Rd. parking lot)

Elevation Gain: 387 feet

Trail Rating: Moderate

Route Orientation: Loop

Parking Specifics: Parking available at 8 Mile Rd. and Beck Rd. parking lots (Michigan Recreation Passport required)


Maybury State Park's Mountain Bike Trail has two trailheads - the "Main Trailhead" accessible via the route displayed above, and the "Winter Trailhead" accessible from the Beck Rd. parking lot near Maybury's equestrian staging area. The vast majority of riders start from the Main Trailhead, especially since it is readily accessible from Maybury's expansive parking lots off of 8 Mile Rd. Local riders like yours truly often opt to enter from the Winter Trailhead, which is directly accessible from Downtown Northville via The Link trail.


This trail overview will follow the AllTrails route depicted above for mountain biking traffic, i.e. from the Main Trailhead. Trail runners and hikers are also permitted on this trail and should move in the opposite direction (counter-clockwise) of biking traffic. Runners and hikers: check out our extra tips for you below!

maybury state park mountain bike trail expedition detroit biking running trails
Main Trailhead

From the 8 Mile Rd. parking lot, follow Maybury State Park's paved trail 0.3 miles to reach the Main Trailhead. You won't make any turns while on the paved trail, so as long as you keeping biking straight then you won't miss the Main Trailhead kiosk on your left. The Main Trailhead area also features a complementary bike pump, so feel free to give your tires an extra boost there if needed.


Good thing your legs are fresh, because the trail immediately throws one of its steepest climbs right at you. The trail ascends at a 7% grade to its highest elevation - 988 ft. - within 0.2 miles of riding. Talk about heading into the gauntlet, but fortunately riders are immediately rewarded with one of the most fun segments of the trail. Enjoy the twists, berms, and drops of 0.3 miles of uninterrupted decline.

maybury state park mountain bike trail expedition detroit biking running trails

Once you've successfully navigated the berms and turns, the trail picks up right where it left off with three distinct climbs. The first climb is the steepest - another 7% grade climb, although with less elevation gain than the trail's initial climb. You'll know that these "three summits" are complete when you ride out the steepest descent of the entire trail, an 8% decline at the 1.4 mile marker.


Starting at the 2 mile marker, you'll will pass from the more arid climate surround the highlands of the trail and into the panoramic pines. Personally, this is my favorite part of the entire trail. The route is fast, spacious, and the pine tree canopy transports you to another world more akin to Middle Earth or Endor vs. Northville. This stretch within the pines also contains a few technical obstacles, varied terrain (like an epic drop into a ravine), and fun interstitial declines. The Winter Trailhead is located within this portion of the trail at the 2.7 mile marker.


Enjoy racing through the pines - they're honestly a blast.

maybury state park mountain bike trail pines expedition detroit
The Pines of Maybury State Park

Once back under the hardwoods, you will gradually descend 0.5 miles into the marsh lowlands of Maybury State Park. Pro tip: try to pass through this segment quickly, especially if you forgot to apply bug spray before your ride. Stopping here invites the hordes of mosquitos to unleash open season on any exposed skin, especially when riding near the hidden pond that this portion of the trail navigates around.


The 4.4 mile marker of the trail has two noteworthy components. First, there are several jumps and other natural obstacles that more experienced riders will enjoy. Second, and especially convenient for new riders, there's a cut-off option here where you can circle back to either the Main Trailhead or Winter Trailhead without riding past the other. Utilizing this cut-off obviously significantly reduces the amount of time that you will spend on the trail, so it's ideally suited for time-constrained or ill-prepared rides.

maybury state park mountain bike trail expedition detroit biking running trails

After the cut-off point, the trail returns to a parallel route of the earlier hilly, rocky, and arid sections that you traversed during its initial miles. Starting most notably at the 5.2 mile marker, you will embark on a series of "micro-climbs" existing within a much larger "macro-climb" towards a hilltop at the 5.7 mile marker. Yes, the trail does reward your half mile effort with a very fast decline, but try to keep your speed up. One last hill waits to dropkick your pride in the groin.


Assuming that you survived the trail's "Last Stand Hill," a quick decline brings you back to the Main Trailhead. A leisurely 0.4 mile paved cool down awaits for your return to the parking lot.

maybury state park mountain bike trail running expedition detroit

TIPS FOR TRAIL RUNNING ON MOUNTAIN BIKING TRAILS

When we first started building out our guided trips platform, we knew that obtaining access to the Detroit region's premiere mountain biking trails like Maybury State Park's was a "non-negotiable." Why? Put simply, Detroit would not be a world-class outdoor destination without them. The countless hours that organizations like the Motor City Mountain Biking Association, Clinton River Area Mountain Bike Association, Potawatomi Mountain Bike Association, Windsor Essex Bike Community, and the Michigan DNR have contributed towards building, maintaining, and improving these trails has elevated their standing far beyond just MTB use.


Our regional mountain biking trails are scenic, challenging, immaculate, and beloved by caretakers and riders alike. The net result of these variables includes that these trails are best suited for those trail runners, backpackers, and hikers looking to take their recreational fitness and experience to the next level. On a personal note, I solely train on mountain biking trails when preparing for my most competitive trail running races. They unequivocally provide the most rigorous, beautiful, and comprehensively beneficial training destinations in the Detroit area.


That being said...outdoor enthusiasts of every passion need to remember that trails like Maybury State Park's Mountain Bike Trail were built by mountain bikers for mountain biking. Yes, these trails are technically multi-use and include trailhead signs stating that bikers should yield to hikers. In practice, however, we at Expedition Detroit strongly believe that trail runners, backpackers, and hikers should yield to oncoming bike traffic. Especially trail runners that inherently have shorter reaction times than their slower-moving contemporaries.


If you plan on trail running along the Detroit region's mountain biking trails, then please adhere to these 5 tips for minimizing conflicts with MTB traffic:

maybury state park mountain bike trail expedition detroit biking running trails

1. WHEN POSSIBLE, ALWAYS RUN IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION OF BIKING TRAFFIC. Especially on a single track trail like Maybury State Park's MTB Trail, follow the signed instructions for foot traffic which lead in the opposite direction of biking traffic.


2. YIELD TO ONCOMING BIKING TRAFFIC. As we mentioned earlier, ignore the signs stating that bikers should/will yield to you. In our opinion, when recreating on mountain biking-designated trails, runners should view themselves as "guests" that adhere to their hosts' traffic. Beyond just common courtesy, runners are typically more agile on two feet than bikers are on two wheels. Don't bet on bikers getting out of your way - take ownership of your safety and find a safe spot off-trail.


3. DO NOT RUN WITH HEADPHONES. Many mountain biking trails lead riders and runners into densely forested regions of a park with poor visibility. Your ability to hear bike-related sounds may provide the sole warning of a rider flying down the trail towards you. Don't deprive yourself of this protection.


4. CHEAT TO THE INSIDE OF BLIND, UPHILL TURNS. Unless they are competitively racing, mountain bikers tend to ride along the outside edges of berms. Obviously exercise caution when approaching any turn, but when in doubt, run alongside the inside edge.


5. MIND YOUR MANNERS. No one likes a rude guest. If the trails are wet, opt for a local hiking or paved trail in order to avoid further damaging the carefully maintained biking trail. Say hello and wave to bikers as they pass you. Smile as you run. This point may sound out of place, but recent friction between recreational interest groups has caused a serious degradation of trail access rights. Runners and bikers don't also need that tension. Be kind, share the trail, and have fun out there.

 

Want to experience a trail run on Maybury State Park's Mountain Bike Trail? Looking for a trail running coach to guide you during the experience? Look no further! Book your next guided trail run with us today!


The #TrailTuesday Series idea started as a recommendation from readers looking for a deeper analysis into the individual trails that define Detroit's vast network. One of our main goals for this platform is to produce content that reflects the outdoor interests and desires of our community, so please continue to provide us with your suggestions via our contact form or here in the comments!

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