One of the best gifts I’ve ever received is the book, “Backpacking in Michigan” by Jim DuFresne. Not only is this book full of Michigan’s best backpacking trails, but it also lets readers know which trails are appropriate for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. While the greater Detroit area may not be known for its woodsy trails, the help of this book and some independent explorations have given me the pleasure of discovering some wintery wonders.
Paint Creek Trail
Located near Rochester, this is a nine mile trail through the woods. Paint Creek Trail runs from Rochester to Lake Orion with a river that is perfect for trout fishing in the spring. One of the most awesome aspects of this trail is the amount of history involved with it. It was Michigan’s first completed rail-trail project from the Penn Central Line. Artifacts from the rail line can be found throughout the trail, and because of this, I would recommend snowshoeing over cross-country skiing (this, of course, depends on the amount of snowfall). If nine miles seems too lengthy, there are certain check points that are excellent for turning around. There is a nature center in Rochester, and further north, there is a cider mill. Both of these areas drastically cut the length of the trail down, making this an ideal place for families with children to explore.
Near Washtenaw and Livingston counties, there is a trail that is popular for mountain bikers. This makes hiking slightly difficult during the summer months; however, winter is the perfect opportunity to explore this area without bicycle traffic. This 17.5 mile trail has many different areas to start and stop, so don’t let the length deter you as it can be as long or short of an adventure as you’d like. This trail crosses by Dead Lake, Silver Lake, Hiland Lake, and many more, depending on which area of the trail you choose to explore. Because this trail is heavily oriented towards mountain bikers, the path is wide and visible which makes it an ideal place to both snowshoe and cross-country ski.
Island Lake Recreation Area
This recreational park offers two diverse loops that can either be combined for a 12-mile trek or taken separately for shorter, less time consuming adventures. Located in Brighton along the Huron River, this park is part of the National Scenic River Program. It is an absolutely stunning area and its smooth terrain offers opportunities for both snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. It is not particularly hilly, so all experience levels are welcome to explore this beautiful area.
When first moving to Detroit, I was nervous that my snowshoes wouldn’t get much use. How happy I am to be proven wrong! The best part about these trails is that they can be used year round. After the snow melts, opportunities to hike and camp present themselves. With the different seasons, the scenery will make each trail a whole new experience! As it would turn out, Metro-Detroit is a great place to get out, explore, and embrace the wintery months.
Jennifer Hamilton, Feature Writer