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A Quiet Hike Within City Limits

Satisfying outdoors desires while living inner city.

By: Brian Wheeler + Save to a List

Having lived in Michigan and the greater Detroit area for only one year, I'm still constantly looking for the next place to take my mind off the day-to-day work grind. Michigan, the Great Lake State, is certainly not a bad place to be to do so. 

Roughly one hour outside of Detroit rests Bird Hills Nature Area. Technically in Ann Arbor, Mich., most notably known for being home to the University of Michigan, Bird Hills is the largest park in the city. The park is made up of more than 160 acres which includes a system of beaten down, unpaved hiking trails through wet forest and marsh land. 

While there are multiple inclines throughout the hike, reaching an elevation change of 176 feet, there is nothing in Bird Hills that would scare away even the most amateur hiker or a person just looking to enjoy the outdoors. The highest point I found during my two-hour hike on a wet Saturday afternoon was 900 feet above sea level. Keep in mind: we're in Michigan, not the Rocky Mountains. The trails are well-maintained and multiple rest areas are strategically situated throughout. The only major complaint I heard before making the drive to Bird Hills was the amount of traffic noise. The major highway that connects Ann Arbor to Detroit, M-14, is within close proximity to Bird Hills. If you can tune out the traffic noise, or if you're like me and prefer headphones during the hike, the white noise is nothing to be concerned about. This nature area delivers on convenience. I know I cannot drive to the Upper Peninsula every weekend, although that would certainly be enjoyable. 

As the Bird Hills map states, there are many features of the park that provide reminds of being in an undisturbed natural area. Whether its streams to hop over, a sassafras grove to admire, or bird watching you're seeking, you will find be satisfied at Bird Hills. Mountain bikes are not allowed in Bird Hills. I enjoy a solid MTB ride just like most outdoor enthusiasts, but there is something to be enjoyed about taking a relaxing, slow stroll through a forest thick of birch and tulip trees.

If you're in the greater Detroit area and want to step in to nature for a day, or a few short hours, make your way to Ann Arbor and Bird Hills Nature Area. You will not disappointed.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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