Since my childhood, I’ve become something of an “Up North” lover. Living in Southeast Michigan, I’ve sought out the best hiking trails both north of the Zilwaukee Bridge and, recently, my neck of the woods — Plymouth, Superior Township, Ypsilanti, and Ann Arbor.
Of all the trails and nature preserves I’ve been to in that time period, few compare to LeFurge Woods Nature Preserve in the Superior Township and Ypsilanti area. It offers the quintessential experience of being in Northern Michigan, but it’s in my own backyard.
Fond Memories of Up North Getaways
Ever since I was a kid, Northern Michigan has held a special place in my heart. Trips to Alpena were frequent, and while four-hour-plus car rides were a little much for my impatient 10-year-old self to deal with, I got used to it.
Later, the Port Austin area became my family’s go-to destination for Indian summers in August — one last hurrah before the dreaded back-to-school days of September. I didn’t know much about Up North as an entity in those days, but one thing was for sure …
It felt like freedom to me. Freedom from the bustle of everyday life, freedom from the expectations of my parents and teachers, freedom from the dog days of summer spent in front of a TV screen. That’s the feeling I get at LeFurge Woods Nature Preserve.
LeFurge Woods Nature Preserve | A Hidden Gem
For me, it all starts with the location — LeFurge Woods is tucked away sublimely between the farmland of the Plymouth and Superior Township area to the north and the neighborhoods and dorm houses of Ypsilanti to the south.
Of all the parks and hiking trails I’ve been to in Metro Detroit in the last two years, only Stony Creek Metropark rivals LeFurge Woods in terms of privacy and serenity. The 1.75-mile trail at LeFurge showcases some of the most idyllic, dare I say “awesome,” terrain in Michigan.
Nestled away from the nearby country roads, you won’t hear any noise pollution in these woods, and that’s just one important reason why LeFurge Woods is my day-hike getaway of choice in Metro Detroit.
Where to Park & Preparing for Your Hike
LeFurge Woods Nature Preserve is located at 2384 N. Prospect Road. It’s massive in size and scope, but you typically won’t find more than 10 or 12 people exploring the premises on any given day, regardless of the season.
There are two main parking areas for the preserve. A small lot for about 10 to 12 cars is just off of N. Prospect Road between Vreeland and Geddes Roads. The second lot is on Vreeland Road and has its own entrance complete with signage and a boardwalk through the nearby forest.
From either entrance, guests can follow the Superior Greenway Nature Trail, a 1.75-mile loop through wetlands, wild prairie land, and one of the most stunning forests this side of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
The trees here remind me of a smaller-scale version of pristine Upper Peninsula forests.
There’s no camping here and the trail is easy to navigate but slightly rugged. So be sure to bring a sturdy pair of shoes or hiking shoes. Mud is also common at any time of year, although the numerous boardwalks help to alleviate that issue.
My Preferred Trail Route Through LeFurge Woods
I prefer entering LeFurge Woods Nature Preserve at the trail near Vreeland Road. It gives me the chance to soak in the sights and sounds of marshlands before making my way across the boardwalk and through the woods.
After a relatively short hike, the trail approaches two distinct ponds, both of which often contain at least two or three trumpeter swans. Red-winged blackbirds flit among the reeds and trees during the summertime as dragonflies soar throughout.
Off to your right, a medium-sized hill can be spotted in the distance near N. Prospect Road. It’s an excellent vantage point for scoping birds in the summer and ice skaters in the winter.
From here, continue onto the boardwalk that leads to the area’s elaborate maze of prairie grasses as well as its namesake woods.
It’s an incredibly rich experience to take in for a nature preserve so close to the borders of civilization. You’ll want to soak in every second, especially during the spring and summer months when the birds, bees, and other wildlife are plentiful.
The woods themselves are decadent and bursting with details ranging from swamp and marshland to a small house in the center part of the wooded trail and the grand finale — views of rolling nearby fields where white-tailed deer prance without a care.
It’s not quite the same as the water views of the Great Lakes. But it’s a suitable end to a trail that transports you to another county far, far away (to the North, to be exact).
On the way there, you’ll gaze up at trees that rival the Pictured Rocks area in terms of their scope, size, and majesty. Perhaps I’m embellishing a bit here, but Pictured Rocks is the exact type of feel I got while exploring these woods because of the winding nature of the trail and variable terrain.
When I visit LeFurge Woods I feel as though I am immersed in nature, like I’m part of it as opposed to simply passing through. And that makes all the difference, especially on a Tuesday night when you’ve got work to do in the morning and you need that feeling of an escape from the ordinary.
My Top 5 Nature Preserves in Southeast Michigan
Aside from LeFurge Woods Nature Preserve, there are several other nature preserves I’ve been checking out in the area for the past few years. Each reminds me of the great Michigan woods, fields, and prairies of the north as much as anything I’ve discovered.
My top five nature preserves to visit in the Plymouth/Superior Township/Ypsilanti area (in order) include the following:
- LeFurge Woods Nature Preserve in Superior Township/Ypsilanti — the best combination of privacy and varied terrain, sights, and sounds.
- Kosch-Headwaters Preserve in Superior Township — incredible biodiversity in the spring and summer months, including many deer and sandhill cranes.
- Cherry Hill Nature Preserve in Superior Township — very unique hilly terrain with an excellent bird-viewing area.
- Miller Woods in Plymouth — an excellent place for viewing seasonal plant growth up close and personal in a small but well-kept enclosure.
- Spring Hill Nature Preserve — a companion preserve to Kosch-Headwaters that would be higher in this list if it weren’t so muddy.
All five preserves are well worth a 30-minute to hour drive or more, especially if “serenity now” is what you’re looking for in your daily hiking adventures.
Exploring More Things to Do in Southeast Michigan
While going on an adventure at LeFurge Woods Nature Preserve, or others, is a fantastic way to spend your time in Southeast Michigan, various activities await. You could explore the Southeast Michigan Pioneer Wine Trail or the apple orchards and cider mills during the fall.