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Waterloo State Recreation Area Trails

With over 80 km (50 miles) of trails, Waterloo State Recreation Area has a trail for nearly everyone.

  • The Discovery Center is a great place to start your visit to Waterloo.  In addition to being a great nature center, it’s also surrounded by The Discovery Center Trails.  These mostly flat trails visit wetland forests and a bog.  The western end of these trails are actually a former golf course.
  • East of the Discover Center, The Waterloo-Pinckney Trail continues east to M-52, where it connects to Pinckney State Recreation Area.  This is some of the hilliest trail you’ll find in southeast Michigan.
  • West of the Discovery Center Trails, you enter the equestrian area, with mountain bike trails in the southern part of these trails.  Hiking here is a little challenging, as the ground is often a sandy/loose gravel consistency.
  • West of the equestrian trails, the Waterloo-Pinckney Trail continues all the way to Sugarloaf Lake Campground.  The eastern half of these trails follow a long ridgeline, something uncommon in Michigan trails.

Suggested Trails:

Hiking Trails:

  • Waterloo-Pinckney Trail: Traversing the entire park, east to west, this trail is the only true backpacking trail in southeast Michigan.  See the Waterloo-Pinckney Trail page for lots more information on this trail.
  • Eastern Waterloo-Pinckney Trail: Is is really the center area of this trail.  From the Discovery Center, hike east along the main trail as far as you like.  If you keep going, in a day or two, you’ll arrive at Silver Lake.  This trail starts off more or less level, but turns into some of the most hilly trail you’ll find in southeast Michigan.  It’s an out and back trail, unless you leave a car at Green Lake, or at Park Lyndon.
  • Discovery Center Trails – Spring Pond Trail: At 1.6 km (1 mile), this is one of the shorter trails in the park.  From the Discovery Center, cross the road and follow the trail around a long, shallow, seasonal pond.  Plenty of wetland wildlife, especially in the spring, when the pond is full.
  • Discovery Center Trails – Bog Trail: Locals remember this trail from school, when field trips would come out to the bog and have the whole class jump up and down to try to make the trees shake.  Sometimes it even worked!  This 2.4 km (1.5 mile) trail winds through wetlands before ending in a bog, complete with carnivorous plants!  On your way back to the Discovery Center, take a right turn onto the Lowland Trail or, a bit later, a left turn onto the Spring Pond Trail.
  • Discovery Center Trails – Lowland Trail: 1.8 km (1.1 miles) of trails meandering through lowland woods and wetlands, including a visit to one of the oldest surviving trees in southeast Michigan.
  • Discovery Center Trails – Oak Woods Trail: This 2.1 km (1.3 mile) loop trail begins at the Discovery Center and loops around through the rock garden, then down the hill towards Mill Lake.  Meandering through the woods between the Discovery Center and lake, it hooks into the Waterloo-Pinckney Trail where you can turn left to return to the Discovery Center, or right to continue on to either the Lakeview or Hickory Hills Trail.
  • Discovery Center Trails – Lakeview Trail: Heading west from the Discovery Center, this 5.3 km (3.6 mile) loop begins on the Waterloo-Pinckney Trail before turning north for a loop overlooking Mill Lake before returning.
  • Discovery Center Trails – Hickory Hills Trail: The western-most of the Discovery Center trails, this 8.5 km (5.3 mile) hike begins on the relatively level Waterloo-Pinckney Trail until it reaches the park office and the old golf course.  Just past the office, you climb an old set of stairs to reach the ruins of a concrete deck from the old golf course.  As you hike around the loop, you may spot more remains of the course, in the built up areas on the trail.  When at last you find yourself down on the shores of Crooked Lake, you can find the remains of the old pumphouse, used to water the greens.
  • Western Waterloo-Pinckney Trail: Beginning at Sackrider Hill, you can hike west to Sugarloaf Lake Campground and back (or feel free to hike the other way, if you prefer).  The trail starts with a large climb, then follows a ridgeline, with the land dropping off to both sides, for the first half of the trail, before going into a mix of forest and wetlands.

Equestrian Trails:

All equestrian Trails begin and end at Horse Camp on Loveland Road.  There’s plenty of parking here for your trailers.  Hikers share these trails, and you might encounter a mountain bike in the far southern end.  There are three marked loops, but feel free to roam.  Major intersections are clearly marked with maps.

  • Red Loop: The shortest loop, at 8 km (5 miles), a mix of forest and ridgeline, this is a great trail if you’re looking for a short ride.
  • Blue Loop: At 19 km (12 miles) this is one of the longer loops.  Plenty of wide, forest trails.
  • Yellow Loop: At 22 km (14 miles), this is the longest loop.  It mostly follows the same route as the blue loop, with a couple extra loops at the southwest end.  It’s these extra loops which are shared with mountain bikes, so extra caution is advised.

Mountain Bike Trails:

There is only a limited amount of mountain bike trail in the park, from a short distance east of Sackrider Hill along the southwest corner of the equestrian area.  Due to sharing the trail with horses, there aren’t a lot of bikes here.  For a much more extensive, horseless trail, check out nearby Pinckney State Recreation Area.

1 Comment »

  1. […] This park, between Ann Arbor and Jackson, is one I’ve spent a lot of time hiking.  With more than 50 miles of trails over varied terrain, from bogs and fens to some of the hilliest area in this part of the state, a […]

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