9 Washtenaw County Winter Activities To Enjoy Before Spring Comes
Winter inspires many Michigandans to settle down at home, but that doesn’t mean that Washtenaw County’s residents are lacking opportunities to soak up the icy, snow-covered outdoors. So we’ve put together a list of some of these options that are worth trying before the first day of spring arrives – and maybe even after, when we get one surprisingly more frequent April snow.
Here are some of the area’s most popular winter activities to try while we wait for spring to thaw.
Toboggan on the Huron Hills Golf Course. There are lots of great local toboggan runs, but this one – with plenty of space and a variety of hills – is an Ann Arbor classic at 3465 E. Huron River Dr. Do you want some proof? Even my 52-year-old husband says, “When we were a kid, we used to go there. Eighteenth hole. “Speaking of birdies …
Visit your feathered friends in the Bird Hills Nature Area. Make enough birding in Michigan in the winter to visit the Bird Hills Nature Area, 1850 Newport Rd. in Ann Arbor looking for one of the namesake of the park? I had my doubts, but Ann Arbor bird watcher Gail Stout stood me up and said, “Yes, especially if you bring a small bag of seeds to put on your hand or to scatter around.” So bring something to eat. Don’t be cheap. (We are sorry.)
Ice skating in the Buhr Park Outdoor Ice Arena.
Ice skate in Buhr Park. The rink at Buhr Park, 2751 Packard Rd., Ann Arbor offers outdoor skating under one roof. The lobby and locker rooms are currently closed due to COVID-19 and you must book a slot before you leave. Sharpening and renting skates is still possible. And when the pandemic and its associated restrictions are behind us, this is still a popular winter activity in Washtenaw County – with tobogganing opportunities near the park.
Cross-country skiing in Ypsilanti Parish’s Rolling Hills County Park. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced skier, the three miles of groomed cross-country ski trails in Rolling Hills County Park at 7660 Stony Creek Rd. In Ypsilanti Township are a favorite. Equipment rentals (skis, sticks, shoes – and even tubes for those who prefer to slide rather than ski) are available, as is a torch-lit trail for night skiing.
Snowshoeing or skiing the Dexter Border-to-Border Trail. The Border-to-Border Trail is a popular outdoor gem in Washtenaw County. The trail connects many outdoor recreation destinations across the county, but one of the most beautiful and longest stretches connects Hudson Mills Metropark, Mill Creek Park, and Dexter-Huron Metropark. Choose your preferred form of non-motorized snow haulage and spend an hour or two in the wondrous winter beauty of Dexter.
North Bay Park in Ypsilanti.
Take a hike in North Bay Park. North Bay Park, located at 1001 Huron St. in the Ypsilanti parish, is located on Ford Lake and has a 4 km path that runs along and over the water. The boardwalks and observation towers overlooking the park are spectacular natural feast for the eyes in any weather, but the lake is especially beautiful when it’s frozen over in winter.
Visit the petting zoo at Domino’s Farms. For the first few months of the pandemic, the petting zoo at Domino’s Farms at 3001 Earhart Rd. In Ann Arbor Township, my outing with my daughters was outdoors. And although it’s a hell of a lot colder these days, the petting zoo is still a great option for those who love to see animals up close. You can’t feed them right now – in pre-pandemic times, you could buy strips of carrot at the entrance – but the kids will likely love it anyway.
The petting zoo on dominoes farms.
Try fat tire biking in the Waterloo State Recreation Area. For cyclists keen to try winter riding, get some wide tires and explore Waterloo State Recreation Area, 16345 McClure Rd. In Chelsea, the largest state park on the Lower Peninsula. There are tons of trails of varying lengths – and if you’re not into cycling, you can also hike or ski on them. For those on the east side of the county, Hewens Creek Park at 6515 Bemis Rd. In Ypsilanti Township is also a great option for mountain biking.
Ice fish on Cavanaugh or Independence Lake. I admit I’m not someone who goes fishing (sorry again!) To sit on a frozen lake for hours holding a fishing rod. But for many, it’s an integral part of winter in Michigan. For bluegill, yellow perch, or rock bass, try Independence Lake County Park at 3200 Jennings Rd. In Webster Township. Blackfish, largemouth bass, and giant pike can be found at Cavanaugh Lake Park on Cavanaugh Lake Road in Sylvan Township. Just make sure you have a fishing license and layers – lots of layers.
Jenn McKee is a freelance writer with a long history of arts and culture in the Ann Arbor area. She also has a couple of blogs: The appropriate mother and A2 art addict.
All photos by Doug Coombe.