From Artist to Olympic Athlete: These Ann Arbor Locals Know the Outdoors

Calling all Outdoor enthusiasts!

Ann Arbor is home to 159 parks, so the opportunities to explore the outdoors are endless. From running and hiking to kayaking down the Huron River, the options cover a wide range of recreational terrain. Whether you want to find the best hills to hike, or just a place to sit quietly and meditate, COLLiDE has gathered the best places and ways to take advantage of the beautiful landscape of Ann Arbor, as told by the people who know the Tree City best. 

Cedar Bend Park
Recommended by Allene Smith

A 19-acre park across the Huron River, Cedar Bend nature area holds 275 hiking trails. The nature area is a high forested slope seen across the river from Fuller Park, and runs between the river, residential areas, and the University of Michigan’s North Campus. The trails are unpaved, leading up and down steep slopes, so it is the perfect area for the one looking for a little bit of a challenge!

Sharon Hills Nature Preserve
Recommended by Allene Smith

“It’s part of a heavily glaciated area of the state, so it’s hilly. There are open fields, a well-established woodland, and natural wetlands – a pretty diverse landscape.”  — Allene Smith

In the southwestern part of the county, Sharon Hills Nature Preserve holds 67 acres of oak-hickory forest and natural wetlands. The Tolen Trail is a good mile hike with various trails making a total of 2.2 miles in trails. The preserve, which was once a farmland, is now owned by the Legacy Land Conservancy.

Border-to-Border Trail
Recommended by EH Sherman

The Border-to-Border Trail is a 10.5-mile long non-motorized shared-use pathway open for walking, running, bike riding and more. The trail takes you through several parks and across bridges for great views along the Huron River.

Argo Park
recommended by Grace Luczak

The Argo Nature Area is a 22-acre park located on the east side of the Huron River. The park is available for kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding and hiking, as an unpaved trail runs the length of the park along the river. A canoe livery has been in operation here since the late 1800s.

Lloyd and Mabel Johnson Preserve
Recommended by Allene Smith

“Legacy’s Lloyd and Mabel Johnson Preserve is just southeast of Ann Arbor city limit, and I consider it a bit of a hidden gem. It’s half woodland and half restored prairie. The woodland is high quality considering its being located in a more industrialized part of the city, with a nice buttonbush swamp at its center. And while the prairie restoration is relatively new, it’s already attracting more pollinators and birds. I don’t often see people out there, but it’s one of my favorite hikes close to town.” — Allene Smith

Also part of Legacy Land Conservancy, the Lloyd and Mabel Johnson Preserve is located on the south side of Ann Arbor, and is adjacent to Lillie Park with a linked trail system. The long trail passes through farm fields, forests, and loops around a button bush swamp.

Matthaei Botanical Gardens
Recommended by EH Sherman, Grace Luczak

“An incredible collection of plants and beautiful foliage, one of my favorite places to sketch.” — EH Sherman

The University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens is a 300-acre area that holds botanical gardens, trails, meeting spaces and even gift shops! The Matthew Garden Trail is a 2-mile pedestrian road through lightly wooded areas, and though the conservatory is open every day, year round, the trails are not maintained during the winter. The property is the perfect way to spend a few fun hours, viewing wildlife and flowers, and walking through the various paths of the gardens.

This feature is from our special edition outdoors print issue in collaboration with Graduate Hotels.