The number of parks in Washtenaw County, MI seem to be endless. Here is a list of some of my favorites - especially for photography and guided hikes.

Washtenaw County Parks


Gallup Park

Gallup Park is located right on the Huron River across from Huron High School. There is a network of paved trails as well as a couple of the best playgrounds around, making it a great spot for families with younger kids. The park also boasts a livery, public restrooms, and a cafe, and is one of the cleanest parks in the county.

Available activities include: playgrounds, water play, canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing, hiking, and bird watching.

Hewens Creek Park

Hewens Creek Park is located in Ypsilanti Township on Bemis Rd. It is a newer park in the area and the trails were planned and built by a crew of volunteers from local biking and hiking groups. The creek runs through the park with a large retention pond at the head of the main trail. There are a number of smaller trails through the woods, which are excellent for exploring. This location is ideal for families with older children and/or pets.

Available activities include: fishing (including ice fishing), hiking, biking, picnicking, water play, and plant/animal identification.

Please note there is limited parking and it is located off a dirt road, which can sometimes be difficult to drive through.

Rolling Hills

Known locally most of all for its water park, Rolling Hills (located in Ypsilanti Township off Stony Creek Rd.) also has extensive nature trails, a pond, a tree house, a sledding hill, and hosts a variety of nature hikes, classes, and the like. With both paved and dirt trails throughout, there is something for everyone here.

Available activities include: hiking, bird watching, plant/animal identification, fishing, swimming (at the water park only), sledding, snow shoeing, cross country skiing, and picnicking. I've found this to be an excellent spot to hang a hammock and enjoy the view as well.

There is a $6 fee to get into the park, or annual passes are available for $30 (Washtenaw County resident pricing).

Independence Lake County Park

Located near Pinckney, Independence Lake is a larger lake that has a public beach, a water park, tons of picnic benches and grills, a boardwalk through a wetland, a disc golf course, and plenty of paved and dirt trails for exploring. There are boats available for rent and a snack shop as well.

Available activities include: swimming, fishing (including ice fishing), wetland education, plant/animal identification, hiking, bird watching, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, disc golfing, picnicking, sand and water play, biking, and canoeing or paddle boating. It is also an excellent spot for hanging a hammock and relaxing.

There is a $6 fee to get into the park, or annual passes are available for $30 (Washtenaw County resident pricing).

Pinckney State Recreation Area

This park, located in Pinckney, has over 11,000 acres full of lakes and trails. The opportunities for exploration here are near endless, and there is even a 17-mile loop with a backcountry campsite for backpacking. It is a beautiful park full of hills, winding trails, and lots of wildlife. It is a terminal moraine area, which is an area where a glacier came to a rest about 2.5 million years ago and left behind numerous small lakes as it melted.

Available activities include: hiking, backpacking, camping, biking, fishing, swimming, plant and animal identification, sledding, snow shoeing, cross country skiing, and picnicking. There are also a couple old structures there that we can hike to and learn about.

A recreation passport is required for entry and can be purchased there if needed.

County Farm Park

County Farm Park is a smaller park near the Washtenaw County Rec Center. It has a couple trails, a number of gardens, and a really fun play structure. This park is an excellent location for families with young children especially.

Available activities include: playground, sand and water play (if the feature is turned on), hiking, and plant and animal identification (including garden vegetables).

Nichols Arboretum

"The Arb," as it's known locally, is a beautiful park located near downtown Ann Arbor by the hospital. It sits right on the Huron River and boasts a peony garden, a few trails, a large grassy field, and a number of native and exotic plants that have been planted there - many with plaques to identify them.

There are a few different entrances to the park, but the ones with parking are by the Nichols Drive and Washington Heights entrances.

This is an excellent spot for families with kids of all ages.

Available activities include: hiking, plant and animal identification, picnicking, and is a great place for getting photos with flowers.

Bird Hills Nature Area

Bird Hills is a beautiful hilly park tucked between neighborhoods on the NW part of Ann Arbor. It is the largest park in Ann Arbor, with an extensive network of trails. It is full of native plants as the invasive species are controlled with scheduled burns each year. There never seem to be too many people here, so this is a great place to hike if you are looking for some solitude. The trails can be pretty vigorous so I would recommend this park to families with older children.

Available activities include: hiking, bird watching, and plant and animal identification - with a special emphasis on native vs non-native plants and the impact they have on the immediate area.

Parker Mill County Park

I love Parker Mill Park for a number of reasons, but the biggest is because it is a floodplain for the Huron River, making it a fascinating place to explore a wetland in its natural form. There is a mile-long boardwalk along Fleming Creek to the Huron River and an old grist mill that is open and operating for tours.

Available activities include: hiking, plant and animal identification (with a focus on wetlands and creeks - and deer often make an up close and personal appearance), water play, and local history exploration.

Huron-Clinton Metroparks

If you aren't familiar with the Metroparks, you've been missing out! They are a network of large parks throughout SE Michigan, and offer an opportunity to engage in probably every outdoor activity available in this region. Annual passes are only $40 for residents and are worth every penny.

Available activities include: pretty much anything you can imagine!


Did I miss your favorite? Let me know! Also check out this great resource for Junior Nature Explorers from the Michigan State Parks: