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The 17 Best Places to Go Hiking Near Ann Arbor, Michigan

Home to 159 parks and located at the heart of an impressive lineup of state recreation areas and open spaces, Ann Arbor offers countless opportunities to opt outside. From biking to fishing, we’ve got it all! But if you’re looking to get out for a hike, there are plenty of trails and Metro Parks within easy driving distance, allowing for a quick and easy escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

To help get you out to see some of the region’s best scenery, we rounded up some of our favorite trails in the area. Whether you want a quick trip just up the road or an adventure an hour away, every single one promises views, challenges and a breath of fresh air!

 

Argo Nature Center

Approximately 5 Minutes From Ann Arbor

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Argo is one of Ann Arbor’s most popular parks thanks in large part to the boat launch along the Huron River and the Argo Canoe Livery, which is open for rentals from April through October. But this spot isn’t just great for its water features—hikers also love adventuring here. The park’s lush 22 acres include a fairly wide, unpaved trail that runs the length of the park along the river and offers spectacular views of the water.

 

University of Michigan Nichols Arboretum

Approximately 5 Minutes From Ann Arbor

Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum are two educational and environmental spaces on the U-M campus. The botanical gardens include 11 outdoor areas full of bonsai, native and medicinal plants, perennials and more, and if you want to head inside, you can enjoy the year-round indoor conservatory filled with plants from around the world. The arboretum spans miles of trails and land with impressive collections of both native and exotic trees and shrubs.

 

Barton Nature Area

Approximately 7 Minutes From Ann Arbor

This 102-acre park just north of downtown Ann Arbor skirts the Huron River and dips into wooded areas and fields. The park is divided into two sections: the larger is known as the oxbow and connects to Argo Nature Center while the smaller is known as Foster and is accessible only by boat from Barton Pond.

For a great hike, we recommend the short, half-mile main trail in the Oxbow, which is wood-chipped and connects the two bridges, offering interesting plant species and wildlife.

 

Bird Hills Nature Center

Approximately 7 Minutes From Ann Arbor

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Photo courtesy of Ann Arbor Parks & Recreation

At just over 161 acres, the Bird Hills Nature Area is Ann Arbor’s largest park. Though undeveloped, the area offers five different hilly trailheads and is a haven for hikers right in town! In addition to interesting parkland, this spot is also packed full of history. Old photos indicate that the property was logged in the late 1800s. Some remnants of the park’s agricultural past are still visible today. For more information on the area’s history, click here!

 

Dhu Varren Woods Nature Area

Approximately 10 Minutes From Ann Arbor

A 13-acre park located on the north side of Ann Arbor, Dhu Varren is “the” place to go when looking for a nice hike featuring birding, a wide variety of trees, and a wetland area. The woods, for the most part, are open and a trail circles the park. But there is also a small wetland that connects to the larger Foxfire South wetland area.

 

The Border-to-Border Trail

Approximately 15 Minutes From Ann Arbor

Developed in partnership with Huron River Greenway, the Border-to-Border Trail is a non-motorized pathway that connects cities, parks, neighborhoods and trails throughout Washtenaw County. Eventually, the trail will span 70 total miles, perfect whether you’re looking for a short jaunt, a long hike, or a leisurely bike ride.

 

Cherry Hill Nature Preserve

Approximately 15 Minutes From Ann Arbor


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Cherry Hill is a lovely 160-acre preserve near Ypsilanti that offers easy, short walking paths through wetlands, meadows and woods. Our favorite trail is the Cherry Hill Nature Preserve Loop, a 1.6-mile trail that includes boardwalks, plus grassy, dirt and paved bridge walkways. Hikers have mentioned that this area gets very muddy after it rains and in early spring.

 

Brauer Preserve

Approximately 20 Minutes From Ann Arbor

Brauer Preserve is a 226-acre park with an unusual twist: 85 acres are active farmland, making for some pretty pastoral scenes. The area is also home to upland forests and wetlands that surround Lake Isabelle, and a few miles of trails that loop throughout. Nature enthusiasts will love meandering through the mature trees and impressive fern community.

 

Hudson Mills Metropark

Approximately 20 Minutes From Ann Arbor

The setting for some of our favorite events throughout the year, Hudson Mills Metropark covers 1,536 acres and features some of the Huron River’s most picturesque scenery. This area offers multiple hiking and biking trails, and, for an alternative to a typical walk, two 24-hole disc golf courses.

If you’re looking for trail recommendations, we suggest the nearly five-mile West River Trail, which connects to the Hudson Mills Loop, taking hikers on a journey that ends in downtown Dexter.

 

Independence Lake County Park

Approximately 20 Minutes From Ann Arbor


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Independence Lake County Park, located in Whitmore Lake, offers over 3 miles of beautiful trails that will take you through wetlands, woods and prairie areas filled with unique wildlife and plant species. If you’re looking for a great place to meander, this one is for you! Walk along the paved path where you may be joined by people jogging, cycling, rollerblading and more. Want to take a break? Stop at the park’s observation tower for a breather—just don’t forget to bring your camera. This spot overlooks the scenic wetland and offers an unobstructed view of the area and local wildlife.

 

Kensington Metropark

Approximately 20 Minutes From Ann Arbor

This park is located about 20 minutes north of Ann Arbor. Popular among birders and photographers, Kensington Metropark offers abundant wildlife, plant species and other interesting features. Take your time exploring the 4,481 acres surrounding Kent Lake, which features more than 7 miles of unpaved nature trails, an 8.5-mile hike-bike trail, and a 36-hole disc golf course.

 

Waterloo Recreation Area

Approximately 25 Minutes From Ann Arbor

Waterloo Recreation Area offers more than 20,000 acres of outdoor paradise just minutes from Ann Arbor in Chelsea and is the largest park in the Lower Peninsula. A variety of trails are available for hiking, including nature trails at the Discovery Center and the 36-mile Waterloo-Pinckney Trail that traverses from Big Portage Lake to Green Lake and further into Pinckney Recreation Area. Additionally, the new DTE Energy Foundation Trail offers more than 10 miles of loops and will soon consist of 25 miles to explore.

Directly adjacent to Pinckney Recreation Area, the two open spaces offer a combined 31,500 acres of wilderness to explore and it’s all connected by the 36-mile Waterloo-Pinckney Trail!

 

Park Lyndon County Park

Approximately 30 Minutes From Ann Arbor


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A hiker’s dream, this Washtenaw County natural treasure spans 335 acres. Divided by North Territorial Road, this park boasts 2 miles of marked nature trails, surrounded by over 500 species of plants and animals in habitats that include marsh, bog, forest, pond, swamp and fen. You could spend days just exploring this beautiful area! But if you’re looking for a bigger adventure, you can connect to Michigan’s Waterloo-Pinckney State Trail for a combined hiking experience of nearly 50 miles. Regardless of where or how you explore, you’re sure to be amazed by the steep, glacially sculpted hillsides.

 

Leonard Preserve

Approximately 35 Minutes From Ann Arbor

Leonard Preserve is the largest natural area in the County’s system of Natural Areas Preservation Program with more than 259 acres. Located just northwest of Manchester, this rich and diverse landscape includes rolling hills, woodlands, wetlands, prairie and former pasture land. The diversity of habitats makes for very good wildlife viewing. Wood ducks, coyotes, blue racers, and Blanding’s turtles are some of the animals you might spot while exploring.

 

Watkins Lake State Park and County Preserve

Approximately 40 Minutes From Ann Arbor

Located on the Washtenaw-Jackson county line, Watkins Lake State Park and County Preserve boasts a beautiful 6-mile-long trail. This trail, an abandoned railroad grade, passes through forests and fields, ending at a hill with a nice view of the surrounding agricultural areas. The park’s most popular feature is Watkins Lake, which is a Waterfowl Refuge. The lake provides a habitat for migrating and breeding birds, meaning hikers will get to spot many species of ducks, geese and grebes in the area.

 

Watkins Lake State Park and County Preserve

Approximately 45 Minutes From Ann Arbor

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Photo courtesy of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Michigan’s newest state park, located in Brooklyn, is scenic, peaceful, and offers a 5-mile walking trail great for birding and nature photography. Highlights of this interesting area include a scenic lake, meadows, mixed hardwoods and low wetland areas. Watkins Lake State Park is a designated Waterfowl Refuge, so it may be closed during certain months and days throughout the year. We recommend visiting the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation website to make sure the area is open before visiting.

 

Falling Waters Trail

Approximately 50 Minutes From Ann Arbor

This wide, paved 10-mile rail-trail follows the path of the former Michigan Central Railroad, connecting Jackson with the Village of Concord. The Falling Waters Trail is rich in history as the first recorded inhabitants of the area were Pottawatomie natives, who had major encampments near the trail as well as burial sites and council grounds. So hike this interesting trail, which rolls through marshes, lakes and numerous springs—just don’t forget to take a moment to appreciate what it once was! For more information on Falling Waters Trail and its rich Native American, railroad and geological history, click here.

 

Take a Hike!

Did we accidentally leave out your favorite hiking spot near Ann Arbor? Let us know in the comments!

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