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A River of Fun Runs Through Ann Arbor, MI

The outdoor activities in Ann Arbor are plentiful, thanks to the Huron River, miles of hiking and biking trails, and so much more.

By Cary Estes on December 28, 2021

Huron River in Michigan
Heather Nash

For people in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County, outdoor recreation is not just something to do. It’s more of a way of life to be experienced. And why not, since there is such a vast array of outdoor activities in Ann Arbor.

The 104-mile Huron River runs through the heart of the region, along with all manner of hiking and biking trails. There is water, water everywhere, and plenty of gorgeous scenery to drink in. And when the weather gets cold, the whole place is transformed into a wintry mix of enjoyable activities.

Gallup Park in Ann Arbor, MI
Heather Nash

“There’s a lot of public support and use of our parks systems and trails and waterways. So there are a lot of resources invested in them,” says Peter Sanderson, principal park planner with the Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation Commission. “We’re fortunate that there’s such a wide variety around here, and that it’s very accessible. It’s integrated into the quality of life, which is why a lot of people choose to live here.”

The dominating natural feature of the region is the Huron River, which passes by Dexter, Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti on the way to Ford Lake. This nationally designated water trail is ideal for canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding and tubing. Meanwhile, Ford Lake provides more open space for motorized watercraft and attracts anglers who are fishing for pike, bass, walleye and perch.

Outdoor recreation abounds in Ann Arbor, from enjoying the scenery to tubing down the river.

Float Down the Argo Cascades

One of the most popular spots along the Huron River is the manmade Argo Cascades, a series of nine drops and pools located near downtown Ann Arbor. Since opening in 2012, Argo Cascades has become one of the region’s hottest warm-weather attractions.

“It was just the emergency spillway for the Argo Dam, but the city of Ann Arbor revitalized that space,” Sanderson says. “You can tube through it, and there are a series of rapids and plunge pools that allow the river to flow around the dam in a controlled way. It’s become a great recreation space for those hot summer days.”

In fact, a favorite activity among locals is to start at Argo Park and tube the Argo Cascades and Huron River. You can also get out of the water and walk one of the nearby trails. It makes for a full day of fun.

DTE Energy Trail in Michigan
Heather Nash

Go Hiking, Biking and Running

Getting from Point A to Point B in Washtenaw County can be both simple and scenic, thanks to a series of trail systems for hiking, running and biking.

The longest is the Border-to-Border (B2B) Trail, a 10-foot-wide, ADA-accessible paved pathway, which – as the name suggests – stretches from one side of the county to the other. Approximately 35 miles of the trail have been completed, and plans are in the works to double the total length to 70 miles.

“It’s a trail that is connecting our cities, people,
parks and destinations together.”

Peter Sanderson | Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation Commission

When the B2B is finished, it will connect with 55 city and regional parks, including the 20,000-acre Waterloo Recreation Area, the largest park in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.

“It parallels the Huron River for a large portion, so you can use the trail to access both water and land-based recreation,” Sanderson says. “It touches on some of our most popular parks through Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Dexter and Chelsea. And if you go farther west into the state recreation areas, you can use the trail to access camping, mountain biking, backpacking and more nature-based activities.”

Sanderson says one of best segments of the trail is the 5-mile stretch from downtown Dexter to the 1,549-acre Hudson Mills Metropark, the largest municipal park in the county. This portion provides peaceful riverfront views and passes several historic sites as well as rolling prairies and forests.

“We have a lot of parks and trails, and they’re very easy to get to,” Sanderson says. “There are backpacking trails, mountain bike trails, hiking trails, and it’s all pretty accessible by car and some of it by public transportation. That’s one of the reasons the local public supports these things so much.”

Ready for Adventure?

Hop on the DTE Energy Foundation Trail, a 20-mile mountain bike trail network within the Waterloo Recreation Area. The four-loop system,
which was completed in 2019, offers routes for beginners and experienced cyclists. Both the Green Lake Campground and the B2B Trail
can be accessed from the DTE Trail.

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