Welcome back to our #TrailTuesday Series! This edition features a picturesque jaunt through the winding trails of Kensington Metropark in Milford, Michigan. Join us as Katie shares her first foray as a "Trail Tuesday contributor" while exploring Kensington's enchanting Fox, Chicadee, and Wildwing Trail Loops!
Exploration. The word itself conjures a sense of excitement, intrigue, and for some, maybe slight anxiety. New places and new experiences., ranging from adventures close to home like a day trip to a new town, or spanning across oceans to foreign lands. Here at Expedition Detroit, our spirit of exploration leads us to the bountiful and breathtaking adventures that Detroit's nature scene has to offer.
There are a myriad of details that are required for any level of exploration. Research to be done, reviews to be read, gear to buy, and details to be hashed out. It takes some serious mental energy - hence, possible anxiety.
As an amateur hiker myself, I find myself investing a substantial amount of time scrolling through Alltrails pages and checking maps as I try to navigate my own adventure planning. It can be a little daunting and overwhelming - which is precisely why I'm excited to share my first #TrailTuesday expedition, taking on that prep work to help empower our community to embrace their longing to explore.
So without further ado, let's hit the trail!
MEET KENSINGTON METROPARK
Shockingly accessible despite its expansive outdoor opportunities and colorful history, Kensington Metropark is conveniently located directly off of I-96, close to the "Trail Town" of Milford, Michigan. The MetroPark was named after the early-19th century town of Kensington, whose current park grounds were once home to a bustling farming community. Founded in 1832, the settlement grew and expanded to include a sawmill along the great Huron River, a bank, taverns, general stores and homesteads.
Sadly, the town's lifetime was a short one. By the 1930s, Kensington essentially diminished to a ghost town due to financial troubles at the aforementioned bank, lack of a railway station, and a dam. In the 1940s, plans were made to transform the land into a nature lover's idyllic destination, and they started by building the dam that birthed the shining 1,200 acre Lake Kent. If you keep your eyes peeled, you can see the last physical remnants of the Village of Kensington's buildings along the Aspen Trail.
Today, the Kensington Metropark boasts an impressive 4,481 acres full of opportunities for hiking, biking, running, picnics, boating, wildlife life photography, golf courses and beaches.
But today, our focus stays on this favorite natural trail.
HIT THE TRAIL
Total Distance: 4.75 mi
Elevation Gain: 207 ft
Trail Rating: Moderate
Route Orientation: Loop
Parking Specifics: Parking available at the Nature Center; MetroParks Pass Required
A favorable start to this trail involves the ease of parking and embarking right at the trailhead. You will begin your trek at the Nature Center: a bustling hub for wildlife photographers and bird feeding enthusiasts.
Some guidelines to note: due to Kensington Metropark's abundance of wildlife - especially along the Fox, Chicadee, and Wildwing Trail Loops - this trail does not allow dogs, bikers or runners. That being said, do not fret - there are ample opportunities for those pooches, bikes and joggers at other locations around the park. This particular trail is meant to be enjoyed and savored from the vantage point of a peaceful, yet pleasantly challenging, hike.
The trailhead is well marked right across from the Nature Center building itself. You will appreciate the frequent trail markers placed throughout the trail including an easy to read map.
This journey almost feels like the unfolding of a storybook, moving from chapter to chapter, each one revealing its own unique habitat to explore.
This trail's story starts in the marshes.
The gravel path leads you along gentle curves and slopes for about half a mile, winding through marches and swaying reeds. To navigate the wet terrain, the name of the game here is wooden bridges. Lots of them. And pay heed to the warning signs - yes, they can be slippery.
Keep your footing and continue onward, and you will be rewarded by the views of Kingfisher Lagoon, and the many birds flitting through the delicate perches. It may be hard to resist the allure of gorgeous side paths (specifically the number 15 trailer marker) which leads farther into the marshes. There you may be met by a gang of friendly songbirds looking for a handout. Remember, we are on the Chicadee Loop and it is aptly named!
Next chapter, the meadows.
Gravel fades to dirt, and the trees loom larger as the trail gains some elevation, and ushers you into hilly and lush meadows. Benches are tucked away, offering a stop for some rest and refection. There is beauty to be found here in all seasons, from the lush green of summer, the rusty crispness of autumn, or the frosty covered branches in a clean winters morning.
The trail gradually steepens, ushering you through twisty hills to highest point of elevation, and into the heart of the loop - the vast forest terrain.
For the next mile, the path weaves its way around trees, offering an engaging level of difficulty as you navigate the occasional rockiness and protruding roots. After 2.7 miles logged, you may wonder if you've seen all there is to see. But fret not traveler, you have more scenic views to discover!
Emerging from the trees, you will notice the Nature Center off in the distance, and there is the option to take the path that gives you a nice quick shortcut back to the parking lot. But if you are up to log a couple more miles, continue on!
You are now entering the final lake side chapter.
This final mile and a half is fun and engaging, as your terrain will vary between dirt paths, dip back into the forest for leafy carpets, then meander closer to the water for serene views of waves and waterfowl. You may encounter a family of sandhill cranes, spot a shy doe through the trees, or meet more friendly song birds.
As your adventure comes to a close, the final hurrah appears in the form of a water walkway. Sit and catch your breath, and immerse yourself in the full expanse of Wildwing Lake as you and commend yourself on a successful trek!
WEEKEND BONUS TIPS
Kensington Metropark is a prime choice for a weekend excursion. If this beautiful trail wasn't enough of an attraction, you have a seemingly unlimited selection of recreational activities.
Where to begin within Kensington's "Can't Miss Experiences"... Be sure to stop in at the Nature Center for instructional and engaging exhibits. You can also mosey on over to the Farm Center, a 150 year old restored barn and working farm, that provides a glimpse back into Kensington's farming history through animals, exhibits and and special programs. Links aficionados can break out their 9 irons for a couple rounds of golf. Make plans for seasonal fun, including sledding and visits with Santa, or outdoor movie nights on a balmy summer evening.
If you're looking for even more active recreation, then hit the water for some fishing, kayaking, beach chilling, splashpads, or a lakeside picnic. For land lovers, a paved 8.5 mile loop follows the shores of the massive Kent Lake - this loop represents a well-loved destination for bikers, walkers, and doggos alike. Oh, and once the snow hits, strap on your cross country skis to experience the course in all it's winter glory.
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!