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#TrailTuesday: Exploring the Newburgh Lakeview Trail in Livonia

Welcome back to our weekly #TrailTuesday Series! This edition traverses the lakeside bluffs, forested ravines, and panoramic views of the Newburgh Lakeview Trail in Livonia, Michigan. We're excited to provide this "hidden secret" trail with much overdue recognition.

Have you ever made a split-second decision that fundamentally changed the course of your life? A "gut instinct" that originated without explanation and manifested into immediate action? Maybe it was "I should call them back" or "screw it, I'm applying for that job" or "I'm going to book this flight right here and now."


Well, nearly five years ago, I inexplicably decided to deviate from my normal road running route along Hines Drive, just east of the I-275 underpass. Hines Drive is one of the best running and biking routes in the Detroit Region, so I wasn't dissatisfied in any sense with my typical ~5 mile out-and-back route. I just looked to my right, saw a sign for the I-275 Metro Trail, and traded one paved path for another.


And then I saw it. A dirt trail verging off of the I-275 Metro Trail to my left. There was no formal gateway sign to the Lakeview Trail back then - just a hunch that a real adventure awaited me just off of the pavement. I had no idea if this "dirt trail" was really a trail after all, let alone how many extra miles it would add to my run that evening. I simply had an inclination to follow it.


Thank God that I did, because over the next five years - and especially during the depths of the Covid-19 Pandemic - the Lakeview Trail solidified its place as my favorite local trail. My old house was exactly 1.01 miles away via the I-275 Trail, so Lakeview became my de facto pre or post-work trail destination, alternating between running, mountain biking, snowshoeing, and kayaking in Newburgh Lake on "off days." I couldn't believe that such a stunning destination, with its golden trees in the fall, crisp snowfall in the winter, and wooded panoramic lake views in the warmer months, had remained off of my radar for over a decade of living in the Detroit area.


Turns out that I was far from being the only person who had never heard of this immaculate, "hiding in plain sight" trail. My running and biking buddies couldn't believe that such a beautiful and decently challenging trail existed in the heart of Metro Detroit, especially given its U.P.-reminiscent cliffs. On a personal level, Newburgh Lakeview Trail sparked a curiosity in me regarding what other world-class might be obscured in the midst of our metropolitan area, waiting to be re-discovered during an era where the masses increasingly search for natural escapes from life's encroaching monotony. Yes, this trail may have single-handedly planted the seed that grew into Expedition Detroit.

MEET HINES PARK

The Lakeview Trail is conveniently nestled within one of the most beautiful northwest segments of Hines Park: a string of independent parks within Wayne County that insulate the 17 mile long Edward N. Hines Drive. Stretching from Northville to Dearborn, Hines Drive runs parallel to the historic Middle Rouge River - once an aquatic transportation highway for local Native American tribes, European fur trappers, and later a pathway to Canada for escaped slaves traversing the Underground Railroad.


The Hines Park of the 21st century - complete with natural and paved trails, athletic fields, picnic shelters, historic mills, fishing docks, and annual Wayne County Lightfest - originated as a simple means of combining outdoor recreation ambitions with strategic flood management. Hines Drive is (in)conveniently located within the naturally-occurring flood plain of the Middle Rouge River, subjecting the road to consistent flooding during periods of heavy rain. Fortunately, rather than sealing the natural area's fate as a mosquito-infested, industrial backwater flood plain, transportation and community recreation innovators like Henry Ford devised a plan in 1949 to convert the area into a multi collective of public parks. Such innovators within the Wayne County Road Commission decided to name both the road and park system after Edward N. Hines, a lifelong cyclist, transportation safety advocate, and land conservationist along the Huron and Rouge Rivers.


One of the lands acquired under Hines' directive included the area now known as Newburgh Pointe - the 152 acres surrounding Newburgh Lake, and the location of the Lakeview Trail. Although originally constructed as a millpond around 1819, Newburgh Lake expanded to its current size in 1935 when Henry Ford demolished the old mill and replaced it with a new "Village Industry Plant." The Rouge River National Wet Weather Demonstration Project cleaned the lake in 1998, as well as stocked its waters with bluegill, bass and other pan fish. The lake's ongoing popularity with kayakers, stand-up paddlers, and angles represents the continuing legacy of such environmental actions.

Now - let's get to the trail.

HIT THE TRAIL

Total Distance: 3.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 147 feet

Trail Rating: Moderate

Route Orientation: Out & Back

Parking Specifics: Free parking lot located at trailhead parking just south of Hines Drive


The Lakeview Trail starts just southeast of the trailhead parking lot located south of Hines Drive - just east of the I-275 overpass. You should be able to see the formal trailhead sign from the parking lot, but in case you're there on a busier day and have to park closer to Hines Drive, walk uphill towards the boulders that mark the end of the parking lot. You'll see the trailhead directly in front of you, on the eastern side of the paved I-275 Metro Trail. Hike past the sign and take your first left to follow your first blue "Lake View" trail marker.


Although Lakeview is technically an out-and-back trail, our friends at the Motor City Mountain Biking Association have clocked in countless hours in creating singletrack segments throughout the trail. The first of these "singletrack deviations" occurs just 0.1 miles into the trail. Remember that this trail is heavily used by mountain bikers, including fat tire mountain bikers in the winter, so hikers should travel in the opposite direction of the blue trail markers. As such, hikers will stay left at this first deviation.

The Lakeview Trail as mapped on AllTrails guides hikers and snowshoers along the segments of the trail that run parallel to the Middle Rouge River and Newburgh Lake. While there are other segments of the trail that take hikers, runners, and bikers into the flatter and more wooded segments of the trail, this lakeside route will consistently provide you with the most dramatic landscapes and views of the trail's bluffs and deep ravines. Your steepest climbs will occur at the 0.3 and 2.4 mile markers, but otherwise the trail provides a rollercoaster of ascents and descents along forested ravines and lakeside landings. The turnaround point is just west of the Lakepointe Yacht Club at Ann Arbor Road.


One point on caution: we strongly believe that this trail is marked as moderate only because of notable danger resulting from the combination of the trail's traffic and natural features. At this point of the article, you may have laughed once or twice at the thought of "cliffs" actually existing in Livonia. Friends, I can tell you first hand that the mix of 30 foot drops, narrow trails, and two-way traffic, can add up to some very dicy conditions - especially during the winter. Don't get me wrong, the natural features of the trail add an undeniable element of adventure to the experience - like a taste of Pictured Rocks in the heart of Metro Detroit. But PLEASE exercise caution on the trail. I've had a few MTB rides abruptly interrupted by ambulances navigating down the parallel dirt trail that was once Old Lakeview Drive...

WEEKEND BONUS TIPS

Did we mention that the Lakeview Trail is immensely popular with mountain bikers? Well, especially if you are fortunate enough to own a fat tire bike, we strongly encourage you to trade in your snowshoes for the big tires during these pristine powder days - and then continue to ride post-thaw into spring.


The Lakeview Trail is actually the northernmost segment of a string of world-class MTB and hiking trails within Hines Park and running parallel to the Middle Rouge River. We highly recommend exploring each of them as a full day or weekend-long adventure, starting with Lakeview and continuing on to the recently-renovated Riverview Trail just across Newburgh Road. The tight turns and drops of the 1.7 mile Riverview Trail end at Levan Road - turn left at Levan to cross over the Middle Rouge River and pick up the River Ridge MTB Trail just east of a quick stint on the main Hines Park Paved Trail.

The brief 0.3 miles on the River Ridge MTB Trail will land you back on the paved Hines Park Trail. Keep riding due east until you reach the Oak Grove Trailhead Parking lot. Turn south to cross the scenic Stark Road Bridge and embark on the Oak Grove Trail to your left, including its 1.3 miles of natural contours and challenging features. Continuing across Ann Arbor Trail, you will turn left to continue along the trail system within the Holiday Nature Preserve towards the trailhead of the Three Fires Confluence Trail.


The final trail - the creatively named Trail 47 - starts after another brief traverse back on the Hines Park Paved Trail north of the Middle Rouge River. You will see trail sign markers for Trail 47 on your right, thus initiating a final 1.4 mile scenic segment that's aptly designed to test your climbing skills. Once you have conquered Trail 47, the world of Hines Park's paved and natural trails are yours to enjoy at your leisure - just remember to add in the 5.5 point-to-point mileage back from Trail 47's eastern terminus to the Lakeview Trail parking lot.

 

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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