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#TrailTuesday: Livonia's Rotary Park Nature Preserve Trail Loop

Welcome back to our #TrailTuesday Series! This week finds us winding our way through a wooded retreat in the heart of Livonia, Michigan. Rotary Park Nature Preserve is a well-loved community hub offering a plethora of outdoor activities for any season. Join us as we experience an enchanting escape into the Rotary Park Loop!

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"You can't judge a book by its cover."


This well-known proverb, generally accepted as a universal truth, can easily be coupled with another: "beauty is in the eye of the beholder," or better yet that "beauty is always found by those who look for it." The main takeaway is that there's always magic and wonder to be found in seemingly simple places or moments.


Take our hike for today: a small park, hemmed in by a concrete grid of roads and sidewalks. A trail length of comparatively short distance, no challenging climbs to scenic vistas. You may ask, how could this small trail be worth a visit? Well, in this simple shady oasis, these trails unfold into a place of beauty and tranquility. A refreshing reset, a literal breath of fresh air.  It's unassuming, but the central location and smaller size lend themselves to perfect accessibility and convenience.


On a personal level, when those stressful days just beg for a quick escape to the woods, this is my go-to getaway. So we're glad you're here, to follow along on a delightful and enchanting walk through this not-so-hidden treasure.


Away we go, to Livonia - and into the wood!

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MEET ROTARY PARK

This gem of a park is a well-loved destination for Livonia locals and the surrounding metro cities alike. Rotary Park's 195 acres provide the perfect spot for a meet up with a friend, a competitive workout on the tennis courts, or a relaxing picnic. Bring the kids, bring the puppers because this place has something fun for everyone. The amenities list is impressive, including a half-mile paved walking loop winds through the front half of the park passing sand volleyball courts, copses of trees offer the perfect hammock perch, and the city's first universally accessible playground! Picnic shelters are available to rent for birthday parties or family reunions, and of course no party would be complete without some friendly horse shoe or bocce ball competition.


Follow the road to the back of the park, peer past the baseball fields and you will see the forest loom large and inviting!


HIT THE TRAIL

Total Distance: 1.6 mi

Elevation Gain: 32 ft

Trail Rating: Easy

Route Orientation: Loop

Parking Specifics: Parking available next to the trail head, free entry


The trailhead of the Rotary Park Nature Preserve is located on the back left corner of the baseball fields, and there is plenty of parking (click here for a handy map). Dogs are welcome on the trails, but they must be leashed. The preserve is bursting with wildlife, so best to avoid any chase scenes!

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Something to keep in mind as you begin your trek - while this article follows the main perimeter loop, the defining features of this preserve are the meandering trails and unlimited ways to extend a hike. So come with your sense of exploration engaged and don't be afraid wander a bit and find your own favorite routes! It must be noted, as Rotary Park Nature Preserve is home to many delicate native plants, be sure to practice Leave No Trace principles and only stick to the designated trails.

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To paint a mental picture of this expedition, the main trail follows an oval loop. A small creek separates the front and back sections - the front half providing wider, rather straight shot trails that are fun to navigate thanks to Eagle Scout Adam Katers, who provided us with awesome trail markers and a convenient scan and go map.


The back half is wilder and winding, full of enticing paths and engaging terrain. You won't find any trail markers back here, explorer mode locked and loaded! Tarabusi Creek provides the boundary line for the back of the preserve.

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The sounds of the city fade away as we begin our hike on the west perimeter of the preserve. Last year's wind storms took their toll on the older trees, but the trails are kept clear and well maintained, leaving you free to keep an eye out for darting chipmunks and squirrels who use the downed trees as photogenic perches.


Trail Marker 3 sits at our first fork in the road. To advance towards Rotary Park's wild backcountry across the creek, take the middle path. You will find yourself at Trail Marker 6, and a little wood plank bridge. Note: there are 3 points of crossing the creek, but today we'll only trek 2 of them - extra points for anyone who finds the last one!

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Now the fun begins. Paths narrow and weave closer around trees. Branches dip down and tunnels of vines lead around unknown bends. You will encounter multiple splits in the path, and while I have discovered my own favorite spots, I don't want to take away that element of discovery so, dear reader, the choice is up to you! That's something to appreciate about small parks - you can't get TOO lost.


Depending on the season, you may come upon some muddy sections. Ok, sometimes it's more like mini quagmires, but the wet conditions do provide great exercise in strategic foot placement! It's also a good idea to bring bug spray in the spring and summer months, the mosquitoes can be brutal.

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As you curve around and hit the back boundary line, you will come upon a true scenic surprise! Now we did mention that the back of the park is hemmed in by a creek, but oh - it is more than that. A high ravine slopes down and spills into the peaceful, flowing Tarabusi Creek.

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And we had said there were no stunning vistas to be found! There is the option to follow a footpath that runs right alongside the creek shore, providing a therapeutic and engaging journey.


We're about 1 mile in, and we are entering the homestretch of the loop. We will dip down to the lowest point of our hike, but the grade is so slight, to the tune of about 20 feet! Voila, the second plank bridge ushers us across the creek and brings us to Trail Marker 8.

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As we wind along these wider dirt trails, heading back towards the parking lot, houses start to appear along the tree line, giving us a gentle reintroduction to the hustle and bustle of city life.

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WEEKEND BONUS TIPS

Livonia is home to many fun and varied attractions and delicious food offerings. Nothing says summertime like a soft serve cone from the famous red Han-D-Dip Dairy Barn. Be sure to check their schedule, as they are only open seasonally. Bate's Burgers always hits the spot for any burger cravings, serving a classic slider and chocolate milkshake combo. For those seeking that post-hike brewski, head over to Supernatural Brewing and Spirits for an exciting (and sometimes spooky) offering of craft beer and mead.


Greenmead Historical Park transports us back to a time when this area was a thriving farming community. The park has become a safe haven for many local historic buildings that would have otherwise been demolished. They also host special annual events, like the Motor City Irish Fest and St. Andrew's Society of Detroit Highland Games.

 

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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