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#TrailTuesday: Exploring Detroit's Dequindre Cut Greenway

Welcome back to our weekly #TrailTuesday Series! This edition digs into the sole "Top 50" trail within our namesake city - the Dequindre Cut Greenway. Join us as we explore this quintessential Detroit trail!

What makes a world-class outdoor destination? Striking natural landscapes preserved for exploration? A culture that prioritizes equitable access to outdoor experiences? An economy that fosters opportunities for innovative recreational ventures?


How about showcasing public art? A core focus on community engagement? A safe, accessible, and interconnected trail network in the heart of an urban metropolis?


While there's no consensus on the answer to these questions, the Dequindre Cut Greenway - one of Detroit's "Essential Trails" - checks the box of each of these disparate elements. The stunningly bright and glistening waves of the Detroit River mark the southern trailhead. The trail literally resulted from an industrious coalition of community advocates. The pathway embodies the values of its supportive community through its cutting-edge artwork, entrepreneurial pop-ups, and moving feast of festivals and events.


Here's the point: the Dequindre Cut represents Detroit's beautifully diverse outdoor community at its very best. An archetypal prototype and testament for the effectiveness of community empowerment through outdoor recreation and interconnection. A manifestation of the lasting impact of intentional regeneration of industrial byproducts.


And, most importantly, a damn good trail.

MEET THE DEQUINDRE CUT

Possibly the most famous "Rail Trail" in Michigan, the Dequindre Cut Greenway trail was part of the Grand Trunk Railroad line in a former life, running parallel to St. Aubin Street. Since 2009, however, a coalition formed by the U.S. Government, City of Detroit, Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation has provided new life to this formerly abandoned and blighted outdoor space.


In its current glory, the Dequindre Cut is a 2 mile trail that serves as a lightening rod for invigorating community recreation, social events, and urban art inspiration. In the Detroit of 2023, a walk, run, or bike down the Dequindre Cut provides a quintessential experience - a microcosm showcase of the past, present, and future of one of America's greatest cities.


Now - let's get to the trail.

HIT THE TRAIL

Total Distance: 2.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 49 feet

Trail Rating: Easy

Route Orientation: Point-to-Point

Parking Specifics: Paid parking available along Atwater Street; other free and paid parking options available near William G. Milliken State Park


If you are a runner or biker that infamously tends to wander off trail, then do we have the perfect trail for you! When it comes to the Dequindre Cut, you need only to keep moving forward in your direction of choice. No turns. No second guesses. Just maintained momentum over 2 miles of gradual incline or decline, depending on whether you choose to start from the Atwater Street (shown above) or Mack Avenue trailheads.


From the Atwater Street trailhead, you will gradually ascend an imposing 49 feet as you walk, run, or bike along the paved trail. Please be sure to stay in your lane of choice as you explore the trail - the cycle traffic is two-way, while the trail also has a third lane for largely pedestrian travel. Also remember to exercise caution as you cross Franklin and Woodbridge Streets. Your sub-street level sanctuary of recreational solitude starts under E Jefferson.

The Dequindre Cut, like most converted rail-trails, is a relatively flat, variable-controlled paved trail, so we will not be diving into any natural features of the trail like our typical #TrailTuesday articles. Instead, we will detail what makes the Dequindre Cut a highly-sought after destination for urban exploration: the public art, repurposed architecture, and trailside amenities that only accompany world-class urban recreational trails.


One could easily argue that the Dequindre Cut is essentially a two-mile outdoor art museum. Fortunately for all of us, our friends at the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy maintain a "Dequindre Cut Art Walk" map that pinpoints and details the entirety of breath-taking artwork along the trail. The public art decorates the entirety of the trail, but the single-largest concentration of art is located with the Larned Street to E Lafayette Blvd. segments.


The Dequindre Cut also features a highlight reel of destinations along its humble 2 miles. Starting with the DNR's Outdoor Recreation Center off of Atwater Street, the trail also provides recreationists with direct access to Fit Park, Campbell Terrace, the Dequindre Cut Freight Yard, and Eastern Market. Each of these destinations host community outreach gatherings, themed festivals, live music, and other crowd-drawing events throughout the year.

WEEKEND BONUS TIPS

Let's not overcomplicate anything: when a trail connects directly to the #1 riverwalk in the country, you explore said riverwalk trail.


The Detroit Riverwalk is currently in a state of constant change - we are barely able to keep up with the near-daily updates regarding the expansion or further improvement of our beloved riverwalk. As of March of 2023, the official Riverwalk Trail stretches roughly 5.3 miles from Ralph C. Wilson Centennial Park to Gabriel Richard Park. Ongoing projects will further expand the Riverwalk Trail both east and west along the Detroit River, so be sure to circle back to Expedition Detroit regularly as we continue to expand our coverage of this essential trail route at the heart of our region.

The current iteration of the Riverwalk Trail starts at western edge of Ralph C. Wilson Centennial Park, right where W. Jefferson Avenue and Rosa Parks Boulevard meet. While the trail briefly connects to W. Jefferson Avenue around the Riverfront Towers, the trek rejoins the river just south of the former Joe Louis Arena site (RIP). Continue east as you venture past the skyscrapers of downtown, including memorable highlights like Huntington Place, the Detroit Princess Riverboat, Hart Plaza, the International Memorial to the Underground Railroad, and the Renaissance Center.


With the towers of downtown behind you, the Riverwalk Trail leads directly into William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor, featuring the aforementioned direct link to the Dequindre Cut Greenway. To complete the trail, continue pressing east - past the Aretha Franklin Amphitheater, through Harbortown Marina and Mt. Elliott Park, and finally reaching the finish line at Gabriel Richard Park.

 

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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