The outdoor experiences that you can have in Flint, Michigan, encompass all seasons, but the summer is particularly special. Whether you want to trek the miles of trails or paddle miles of waterways, the city and surrounding Genesee County are full of recreational activities.
Here are some of our recommendations of outdoor summer things to do in Flint & Genesee County to add to your 2022 Michigan summer bucket list!
For-Mar Nature Preserve & Arboretum
Protecting and nurturing 383 acres of land and wildlife, the For-Mar Nature Preserve & Arboretum has fields, forests, meadows, ponds, and wetlands to explore.
Located in Burton, only about a 10-minute drive from downtown Flint, For-Mar is universally accessible with paved paths to its Visitor’s Center, Ground Water Pond, and pavilion.
For-Mar Visitor’s Center
Inside the Visitor’s Center, you can learn more about the wildlife and environment at For-Mar Nature Preserve & Arboretum. It has several interactive exhibits and even live animals that you can interact with, including box turtles and an albino garter snake.
Before you leave to explore the nature trails, you can get field guides from Nature’s Nook Gift Shop. The small store has stuffed animals, educational tools and toys, and locally collected honey, too.
The Nature Preserve
At 267 acres large, the For-Mar Nature Preserve is home to hundreds of native animal and plant species — from shrubs and wildflowers to butterflies, screech owls, and white-tailed deer.
Among the habitats are three ponds, Kearsley Creek, a wetland, a beech and oak forest, a sugarbush maple forest, and a bluebird open field. Additionally, the park features three scenic bridges, an observation tower, a fish-viewing dock, an old-fashioned windmill, and a sugar shack.
The Arboretum at For-Mar
The remaining 116 acres of For-Mar is an arboretum, which is home to 157 species of plants. You can explore conifer and crabapple collections, a native shade garden, and collections of grasses, herbaceous plants, and native wildflowers.
The Gardens at For-Mar
Everywhere you go within For-Mar, there’s a garden to see — a Garden Exploration space, Four Seasons Garden, Geology Garden, and Shade Garden. Plus, the Butterfly House features seven native butterfly species, while the Maple Walk is a path lined with mature maple trees.
The Barrier-Free Treehouse
Built by “Treehouse Masters” Pete Nelson, the barrier-free treehouse at For-Mar was custom built after a group of kids proved to the Genesee County Parks Director that it would be a worthy addition. Standing about 30 feet above Kearsley Creek, you can access the treehouse via the stairs or ramp.
The honey sold in Nature’s Nook Gift Shop comes from the park’s own apiary. The four hives are home to a mix of Carniolan and Italian honeybees, which use the variety of pollen from the land’s tree and wildflower blossoms.
Events at For-Mar
The For-Mar Nature Preserve & Arboretum hosts a lot of events throughout the summer. Here are a few unique events for attendees of various ages:
- Full Moon Hike — On June 11, you can hike through the park at night. The naturalist-guided hike starts at 8:30 p.m. and lasts for about 1 mile with some stops along the way.
- Treehouse Story Time — Young kids will enjoy sharing books, games, and songs, as well as making crafts during this midday storytime in nature on June 14.
- Michigan Rock and Mineral Collection — Join Bill Heyworth in the early afternoon on June 24 to learn about Michigan’s minerals and rocks. Everyone gets to take a dozen home with them!
- Butterfly Hike – NABA Butterfly Count Day — On July 2, celebrate national butterfly count day by volunteering and learning the basics of identifying butterflies and collecting data to contribute to the national citizen science project.
- Firefly Hike — Learn about fireflies and the light pollution that harms them during this late evening event on July 30. Then, build your own firefly holder to catch some fireflies during the hike.
Fantastic Flint & Genesee County Hiking Trails
Flint, Michigan, and Genesee County are full of hiking trails. But, there are two areas that we recommend for every summer bucket list.
Flint River Trail
The main trail system in Flint, Michigan, is the Flint River Trail, a 27-mile paved pathway that passes through several natural areas and parks. It runs north from the University of Michigan-Flint campus to Bluebell Beach on Mott Lake.
As it nears Mott Lake, the trail branches off toward Stepping Stone Falls. Two other spurs connect to Kettering University and Mott Community College.
If you want to go biking on a Sunday afternoon, you can join the Friends of the Flint River Trail for a ride. Rain or shine, from May to October, the group bikes for about 13 to 15 miles at a leisurely pace. A picnic is planned for all riders on one of the Sundays.
Fun Fact: The Flint River Trail connects to the Genesee Valley Trail and Iron Belle Trail system, so you can extend your walk or bike ride.
Dauner-Martin Nature Sanctuary
Encompassing 155 acres in Fenton Michigan, the Dauner-Martin Nature Sanctuary has 4.5 miles of diamond-marked, rustic trails that wind through hardwood forests, pine groves, and wetlands. Wooden boardwalks offer convenient paths across the wetlands while protecting the habitat.
While walking the eight trails, you may see an array of plant species and a variety of birds and other wildlife that call the sanctuary home. As long as you keep your dog leashed, it can walk with you!
Chevy Commons State Park
The 60-acre property currently known as the Chevy Commons is being officially crowned the Chevy Commons State Park in summer 2022, making it the first state park in Genesee County.
Located near downtown Flint and Kettering University, the former General Motors manufacturing site has been redeveloped for public use. Now, the open space features grass, plants, trees, and a non-motorized bridge that connects the Flint River Trail and Iron Belle Trail.
Under the state park designation, Chevy Commons will have unique playscapes, fishing platforms, and boat launches on the Flint River.
Flint & Genesee County Area Parks With Lake Access
It’s not difficult to find a park in Flint and Genesee County. But, here are some that have lake access for a range of outdoor fun.
In Flint, Bluebell Beach is a favorite place for swimming, walking or biking the 0.8-mile Flint River Bike Path, and fishing on Mott Lake during the summer. The beach has a barrier-free splash pad, picnic tables, and a playground, too.
Linden County Park
Featuring outdoor recreation of all kinds, Linden County Park is a 135-acre property on the southwest end of Byram Lake. You can spend time on Clover Beach, play on the baseball fields and tennis courts, take advantage of the playground, and have a picnic — all in one place!
A paved, universally accessible path leads to the beach.
Ortonville Recreation Area
With 5,430 acres, the Ortonville Recreation Area offers a range of summer activities — paddle boating, fishing, and swimming at Big Fish Lake. The day-use area even has horseshoe pits and a playground.
The park has a 2.5-mile hiking and mountain biking trail, as well as 8.5 miles of equestrian trails. If you intend to use the equestrian trails, you could stay overnight at the park’s equestrian campground, which has 25 sites.
Lake Callis Recreation Complex
The Lake Callis Recreation Complex in Davison is a 35-acre, pay-to-use park with a host of amenities — a beach for swimming, a Dash-n-Splash Pad, an observation deck, grills and pavilions, and a concession stand.
You can do catch-and-release fishing and paddle boating on the water, as well as use the sand volleyball courts. The complex even has a pirate ship-themed playground and a universally accessible swing set.
Metamora-Hadley Recreation Area
At the center of the 723-acre Metamora-Hadley Recreation Area in Metamora (just outside of Genesee County), Lake Minnewanna consists of 80 acres. On the lake, you have the opportunity for fishing, paddle boating, and swimming. The fishing pier is universally accessible.
In addition, the park has 6 miles of nature trails that feature interpretive signs about the area’s natural history and identifying trees. On top of that, you can stay at the modern campground, which has 214 sites.
Seven Lakes State Park
Offering more than 1,400 acres of land, Seven Lakes State Park in Holly (just outside of Genesee County) consists of 230 acres of water. The area got its name from having multiple small lakes, but the dam created Big Seven Lake out of some of them. Dickinson Lake is another water feature in the park.
With so much water around, you can go fishing, paddle boating, and swimming. There are also 6.5 miles of marked hiking and biking trails, horseshoe pits, basketball and tennis courts, and a playground area. If you want, you can stay at the modern campground too.
Canoeing & Kayaking in the Greater Flint Area
The Flint River and Shiawassee River are two of nine state-designated water trails and just four national-designated water trails in Michigan. Both offer fantastic opportunities for canoeing and kayaking with about 30 public access spots.
- The Flint River Water Trail is 72 miles and winds through Genesee and Lapeer Counties, from Montrose to Lapeer, Michigan.
- The Shiawassee River Water Trail is 88 miles and winds through Saginaw, Shiawassee, Genesee, and Oakland Counties, from Chesaning to Holly, Michigan.
Public Access Spots
Along with the public access spots along the Flint River and Shiawassee River water trails, there are many places where you can launch a canoe or kayak in the Flint and Genesee County area.
Bluegill Boat Launch
On Mott Lake, the Bluegill Boat Launch in Flint is open all year for fishing and paddle boating. It also sits on a 2.5-mile stretch of trail, which is great for a walk or bike ride during the summer.
Buell Lake County Park
In Clio, Buell Lake County Park has a boat launch and fishing site on its 213 acres. Many other recreational activities are available, too.
Walleye Pike Boat Launch
The Walleye Pike Boat Launch in Davison offers access to 1,975 acres of Holloway Reservoir, which is a great place for catching bluegill, perch and, of course, walleye. Grills and picnic tables are available for taking a break.
Kelly Lake Park
In Burton, Kelly Lake Park has a boat launch, fishing dock, and beach. Also, there’s a walking trail and plenty of opportunities for wildlife viewing.
Montrose Township Barber Memorial Park
On its 27 acres, the Montrose Township Barber Memorial Park has a boat launch with a ramp and a fishing pier. There are lots more amenities as well, such as picnic tables, a baseball diamond, a playground, and paved walking paths.
Holly State Recreation Area
At the Holly State Recreation Area (just outside of Genesee County), you can take advantage of the boat launches on Crotched, Heron, and Valley Lakes. Along with canoeing and kayaking, you can go fishing and swimming on the lakes. The park has many additional activities to experience too.
Canoe & Kayak Rentals
There are several places where you can rent canoes and kayaks, either within walking distance or a short drive of the above public access spots. Here are a few:
- Kayak Flint has about 20 watercraft and provides guided paddle trips and shuttles.
- Sunshine Kayak Rental in Linden offers rentals and nature paddles on the Shiawassee River.
- Whoa Zone on Heron Beach has canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and more.
The Applewood Estate in Flint Michigan
Part of the Ruth Mott Foundation, the Applewood Estate is a historic home and gentleman’s farm that was built in 1916. It encompasses about 65 acres total — 18 acres is extensively landscaped, while about 34 acres features a historic orchard with 29 heritage apple varieties.
You can take self-guided tours of the house and gardens on Sunday afternoons during the summer months. The main living spaces on the first floor of the house are open for exploration.
Among the gardens are a cut flower garden, perennial garden, rose garden, and demonstration garden. You can also see the original garage, chicken coop, barn, and gardener’s cottage on the grounds.
House tours are accessible for small wheelchairs and strollers. You can borrow a wheelchair or motorized scooter to get around the house and grounds if you need to.
Flint & Genesee County Unique Events
If you’re looking for unique activities this summer, you’re in luck. Consider attending one of these events in Genesee County, Michigan. Don’t forget to register ahead of time!
Wine in the Woods
For adults, Wine in the Woods includes a trek into the woods around R. Williams Nature & Historical Learning Center during the twilight hour. Before enjoying a glass of wine by a campfire, you’ll hunt for signs of animals and listen to the nighttime creatures.
The event is scheduled for July 16 and Aug. 13, and you need to bring your own wine or beverage of choice. Make sure that you check the weather beforehand, and dress accordingly.
Nature Photography Hike
You can try to spot and capture a pair of nesting ospreys at Stepping Stone Falls during the Nature Photography Hike on May 21. The event is held in the morning and includes a leisurely stroll with several stops, including a break at the falls.
Astronomy Night @ Toboggan Hill
On July 9, head to Toboggan Hill in Lapeer, one of the best places in the county for stargazing. Experts from the University of Michigan-Flint and For-Mar Nature Preserve will host Astronomy Night and help you locate various constellations while highlighting other features in the night sky.
Voyager Canoe Festival With Wilderness Inquiry
On May 28, head to Bluegill Boat Launch for the Voyager Canoe Festival With Wilderness Inquiry. Canoeing in the 24-foot Voyageurs is free, giving you a chance to explore the waterways from a different perspective. You can learn about various water bugs and try fishing as well.
iKayak Guided Water Trail Excursions
People with disabilities and their families can take advantage of the iKayak program, the first of its kind in Flint, Michigan. It hosts several guided kayaking workshops from June through September with the help of certified adaptive paddling instructors and certified recreational therapists.
Delicious Flint Restaurants for After Your Adventure
After a fun-filled day of outdoor recreation in Genesee County, you can head to one of Flint’s restaurants for an evening meal. Below are some of our top picks!
For Italian dishes with flair, check out Pesto’s. This casual spot serves pizza and pasta dishes that you can create. You can order sandwiches, wraps, and entrees too. Healthy choices and gluten-free options are available, including gluten-free desserts!
Baking thin-crust pizzas in brick ovens, Luigi’s Restaurant has been a local staple since 1955. The dining room has a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere that’s perfect for families. Alongside pizza, the menu includes pasta, sandwiches, and entrees.
501 Bar & Grill
With a modern, art deco style and sophistication, 501 Bar & Grill serves an array of small plates and full-sized entrees with an assortment of flavors. It has a full-service bar, from which you can order craft beer, crafted cocktails, and fine wine.
Blondie’s Food and Spirits
The passion for food is evident at Blondie’s Food and Spirits, a family-owned and operated joint that serves small plates, burgers, sandwiches, and comfort foods. And, you don’t want to skip its Best Ever Cheesecake, which is available in numerous flavors and an original, gluten-friendly option.
Places to Get a Drink in the Greater Flint Area
In addition to the awesome restaurants in Flint Michigan, there are several excellent places in Genesee County to stop for a drink after a long day of exploring. These are some of the best that locals recommend.
Located in an old fire station, Tenacity Brewing is for beer lovers. It features a variety of craft brews on tap, and you can order food from the Vehicle City Tacos food truck outside. Outdoor seating is available during the summer, so you can enjoy your food and drinks with a view of the Flint River.
A couple of non-alcoholic beverages are available.
Cork on Saginaw
If you love wine, you’ll love the Cork on Saginaw wine bar and bistro. Located in a renovated bank, it has a list of more than 100 domestic and international wines, 28+ of which are served by the glass. You can order bistro dishes, such as cheese platters, soups, salads, snacks, mains, and more.
Flint City Hard Cider Co.
An urban cider house, Flint City Hard Cider Co. brews off-the-wall ciders and meads that are unpasteurized and unfiltered. The brewery is passionate about farm-to-glass drinks, and even the building is creative — it’s covered in beautiful murals!
Fenton Winery & Brewery
If you’re exploring Flint and Genesee County in a group of family or friends, Fenton Winery & Brewery is sure to have something for everyone’s taste buds. This award-winning microbrewery and winery has a full-service banquet hall and a 1.25-acre wine and beer garden. You can even purchase drinks to go!
Where to Stay in Flint & Genesee County
Genesee County is home to several campgrounds, so nature enthusiasts like you can get the most out of your summer outdoor experiences. Some of the top-rated places for camping include:
- Outdoor Adventures Lake Shore Resort in Davison
- Wolverine Campground in Columbiaville
- Covenant Hills Camp & Retreat in Otisville
Discover More Things to Do in Flint, Michigan & Genesee County
On top of experiencing nature throughout Flint and Genesee County, you can walk the Flint Mural Tour. Also, the community and its restaurants host events and festivals during the summer season.
But while summer is the best season to enjoy outdoor activities, hot temperatures and rain may make you want to stay indoors. Fortunately, there are plenty of indoor things to do in Flint Michigan and the surrounding area. For instance, you could spend an entire day at the Flint Cultural Center!