For anyone living or visiting Metro Detroit Michigan with kids


The definitive guide to metro Detroit parks

metro detroit public parks

Get your kids excited about nature with these Michigan public parks

Summer is right around the corner, and you’re probably trying to decide how your kids are going to spend all of their free time once school’s out. Why not find new and exciting ways to connect your kids with nature?

We know; you live in an urban area. Is there really that much nature to be found in and around Detroit, Michigan? Surprisingly, yes! The city and surrounding area is full of public parks that boast nature and activity centers, tons of hiking and biking trails, campgrounds and swimming beaches — and so much more to explore! 

Summer in Michigan is beautiful, and we love to take advantage of the warmer weather to really connect with nature. Here are some of our favorite “nature adventures” within metro Detroit’s many stunning public parks:

City of Detroit Parks, Trails and Nature Centers

There are so many parks to choose from in the City of Detroit. (Use the City of Detroit’s park finder to explore the ones closest to your neighborhood!) But these are some of our favorites for connecting with nature:

Belle Isle Park:

Belle Isle is an island located on the Detroit River in between Michigan and Canada. The entire 982-acre island is a park — home to a conservatory, nature center, aquarium, museum, swimming beach, and more. Beyond exploring the park’s many attractions, you can walk, bike and fish. Belle Isle Park is larger than New York City’s Central Park and there are so many fun things to do there (read more from Awesome Mitten!).


william g. milliken state park and harbor
William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor is a great place to look for wildlife and check out the scenery — including the lighthouse. Photos from Michigan Department of Natural Resources website

William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor:

William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor is the first urban state park and is considered a green oasis in the heart of the city. The park is situated on the Detroit River; there’s a harbor, wetlands, and paved trails. There’s even a 63-foot lighthouse! The park is great for looking for different kinds of wildlife: Beyond looking for fish in the river, you can find geese, hawks, pheasants, muskrats and foxes within and near the park.

Eliza Howell Park:

Eliza Howell Park is known as “Northwest Detroit’s Great Nature Escape.” The park is 250 acres of preserved land in the floodplain of the Rouge River. There are over 2 miles of hiking trails through both prairie and forest landscapes, where you can discover a diverse array of plants and animals.

butterfly garden at gabriel richard park
Butterfly garden at Gabriel Richard Park along the Detroit Riverfront. Photo from Detroit Riverfront Conservancy website.

Gabriel Richard Park:

The Gabriel Richard Park is located along the Detroit Riverfront near the bridge to Belle Isle. The park not only features butterfly gardens that are fun to explore in the spring and summer, but a birding station with four wildlife-spotting scopes (two of which are universally-accessible) and an interpretive panel identifying various birds that can be found along the riverfront.

outdoor adventure center
Girl standing next to interactive waterfall at the Outdoor Adventure Center. Photo from

The Riverfront:

The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy has done a lot to improve the popular Riverwalk — and it’s still expanding. There are parks throughout the Riverwalk, and there’s also the Outdoor Adventure Center: A hands-on exhibit with a waterfall, a climb-able bur oak tree, a fishing boat, an airplane, a suspension bridge, an aquarium and more.

Palmer Park:

Palmer Park is a 296-acre nature park and recreation site consisting of lawns and historic woodlands, tennis courts, a splash park, hiking and biking trails, a lake with a lighthouse, a historic log cabin, the Detroit Mounted Police and more. You can look for all kinds of different flora and fauna along the trails and in the forest — which boasts oaks over 300 years old. There are also usually ducks and other waterfowl at Lake Frances.

The Riverfront:

The Detroit Riverfront Conservancy has done a lot to improve the popular Riverwalk — and it’s still expanding. There are parks throughout the Riverwalk, and there’s also the Outdoor Adventure Center: A hands-on exhibit with a waterfall, a climb-able bur oak tree, a fishing boat, an airplane, a suspension bridge, an aquarium and more.


The Huron-Clinton Metroparks

There are 13 Huron-Clinton Metroparks, and all are pretty great for connecting with nature. Actually, that’s kind of what they were made for — the regional parks system is meant to serve as a nature oasis for the Detroit metropolitan area (encompassing Livingston, Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties). They include hundreds of miles of trails, educational interpretive centers, and space for outdoor recreation during all seasons. 

Residents can buy an annual pass for $40 for the parks, or a combination pass with Oakland County Parks for $64. This pass allows your entire carload to enter any park for the full year. Otherwise, daily entry fees are $10. 

Here are the parks:

Oakwoods Metropark:

This 1,756-acre park in New Boston features Scenic woodlands and picturesque views of the Huron River. There are nature trails through the woodlands, and a great Nature Center — the center has a live red-tailed hawk and Great Horned  Owl, an indoor turtle pond, and native reptiles and amphibians. There are also many educational displays and nature trails. The park also has fishing spots and a designated monarch butterfly waystation.

Willow Metropark:

Also in New Boston and with woodlands and views of the Huron River, this park has a walking and biking trail, a golf course, a disc golf course, fishing spots, sports fields, a pool, a playground and more. 

north fishing site at lower huron metropark
North Fishing Site at Lower Huron Metropark. Photo from Huron-Clinton Metroparks/Facebook

Lower Huron Metropark:

Here you’ll find 1,256 acres of mature woodlands, grassy meadows and easy access to the Huron River in this Belleville park. All of the normal amenities are at this park: picnic areas, hiking/biking trails, fishing spots, sports areas, etc. But there’s also a rustic campground and the Turtle Cove Family Aquatic Center.


Dexter-Huron Metropark:

Look for different plants and wildlife in the dense woodlands, open fields and banks of the Huron River at this park in Dexter. There are also picnic spots, a boat launch and boat rentals, a bike trail and a stone labyrinth. 

Delhi Metropark:

In this Ann Arbor park, you’ll find mature stands of oak trees, open lawns and well-maintained ecosystems along the water that herons, turtles and deer call home. There are areas for biking, kayaking/canoeing, fishing and softball. Plus a picnic area and playground.

dodge park ice rink sterling heights


What you need to know about Dodge Park in Sterling Heights

Hudson Mills Metropark:

Also in Dexter, this park features some of the most picturesque spots on the Huron and is popular with anglers, hikers and paddlers. There are hiking and biking trails that connect to downtown Dexter, and sports areas including golf, disc golf, basketball, soccer and more. There’s also a Nature and Activity Center that includes live fish and a box turtle, and a campground.

Huron Meadows Metropark:

This metropark in Brighton has over 11 miles of hiking trails that go through both fields and woodlands and are great for viewing different wildlife. There’s also Maltby Lake, which has a fishing pier and picnic shelters. There’s also a golf course, softball field, and a playground. (In the winter, you can also cross country ski here and apply for a permit to go ice fishing!)


kensington metropark at sunset
Kensington Metropark at sunset. Photo from Huron-Clinton Metroparks/Facebook.

Kensington Metropark:

This park in Milford is absolutely massive — it’s nearly 4,500 acres of wooded, hilly terrain surrounding beautiful Kent Lake and is home to an abundance of wildlife and waterfowl. Because of its size, there are also a ton of amenities and recreational options at this park: There are the normal amenities like biking and hiking trails, sports areas, swimming beaches, playgrounds, fishing spots, etc. But then there’s also group camps, a farm center with live farm animals, equestrian trails, the Island Queen — a 46-passenger pontoon boat,  a marina, and a Nature Center that has live reptiles, amphibians, fish and a red-tailed hawk (plus 7 miles of nature trails!).

environmental discovery center at indian springs metropark
The Environmental Discovery Center at Indian Springs Metropark. Photos from Huron-Clinton Metroparks website.

Indian Springs Metropark:

Looking for wildlife diversity? This park in White Lake has miles of trails through prairies, woodlands, wetlands and meadows. There’s also a playground, picnic areas, a golf course and a splash pad. Plus, Indian Springs Metropark is home to the Environmental Discovery Center — which features 60 acres of restored native prairie ecosystems within the 2500-acre park. The discovery center building also has a ton of displays and educational info, including touch tables and other interactive exhibits, an underwater pond viewing area, and more.

nature center at stony creek metropark
The Nature Center at Stony Creek Metropark.  Photo from Huron-Clinton Metroparks website.

Stony Creek Metropark:

Another massive metropark, this Shelby Township park surrounds the 500-acre Stony Creek Lake, and includes lush woodlands, gorgeous wetlands, tallgrass prairies, and expansive fields in every direction. Beyond the normal amenities (baseball, basketball, disc golf, golf, volleyball, hiking, biking, canoeing/kayaking, boat rentals, fishing, playgrounds and picnic areas), there are also multiple beaches along the lake — one with an inflatable waterslide, a rustic campground, and a Nature Center. The Nature Center includes live displays of reptiles, amphibians, fish and arthropods; there are native plants and butterfly gardens outside; nature trails; and exhibits focusing on landforms carved by the last Glacial Age, and the First Peoples and Settlers of this area.


wolcott mill metropark
There are live farm animals to visit at the Farm Center in Wolcott Mill Metropark. Photo from Huron-Clinton Metroparks website.

Wolcott Mill Metropark

This metropark in Ray not only boasts hiking and biking trails, a playground and picnic areas, but it also has a working farm with sheep, goats, chickens, geese, ducks, horses and dairy cows. The Farm Center teaches about Michigan’s agricultural heritage, and the interpretive staff conducts programs on all kinds of farming-related topics such as milk, lamb and wool production, soil and water conservation, sustainable agriculture, food processing and modern farming techniques. There’s also a historic grist mill, and a Camp Rotary.

lake st. clair metropark
 The Nature Center at Lake St. Clair Metropark. Photo from Huron-Clinton Metroparks/Facebook.

Lake St. Clair Metropark:

This metropark in Harrison Township is great for birdwatching and enjoying the outdoors, and it also has a great Nature Center with live animals and displays on wetlands and waterfowl. The rest of the park is focused on recreational activities: There’s almost any recreational activity you can think of here, including mini golf, par-3 golf, foot golf, croquet, basketball, pickleball, tennis, volleyball, windsurfing, kiteboarding, canoeing, kayaking, boating, boat and bike rentals, biking, hiking, fishing, and swimming. There’s also a 600-foot long sandy beach with dressing rooms, showers and lockers; plus an Olympic-sized pool staffed with lifeguards with two waterslides, an inflatable obstacle course and climbing walls.


Oakland County Parks

Oakland County Parks are also great places to connect with nature and even go camping! Many of the parks have playgrounds — including universally-accessible playscapes and swings — picnic areas, and soccer fields. But some of the parks also have campgrounds, trails and other fun ways to experience the outdoors.

Like the metroparks, Oakland County Parks require a daily entry fee or an annual pass: Oakland County residents pay $5 per car for the day pass, or $30 for the annual pass. Non-residents pay $12 per car for the day pass, or can buy an annual pass for $48. There are discounts and free programs for military, seniors and people with disabilities. 

Here are the best Oakland County Parks for experiencing nature:

addison oaks park
Native wildflowers feed pollinators at Addison Oaks Park. Photo from Oakland County Parks and Recreation/Facebook

Addison Oaks:

This park in Leonard is one of two Oakland County Parks that has a campground. There’s also a 20+ mile trail system for hiking, biking and horseback riding — great for looking for local wildlife and flora/fauna. There are also two lakes in the park to look for waterfowl and do water recreational activities. 

groveland oaks park
Sandy beach at Groveland Oaks Park. Photo from Oakland County Parks and Recreation/Facebook
independence oaks park
Independence Oaks Park. Photo from Oakland County Parks and Recreation/Facebook

Groveland Oaks:

This park in Holly is the other county park with a campground! Located on Stewart Lake, there’s a sandy beach, multiple playgrounds, a fishing pier and a 2-mile hiking and biking trail. There are also a bunch of other recreational activities here, including a skate park, bike skills course, mini golf and more.

Independence Oaks:

Although this park doesn’t offer individual campsites, it is home to Camp Wilderness — a Youth Group Campground. It’s also the county’s largest park, with nearly 1,300 acres to explore. There are 12+ miles of trails, a swimming beach, archery range and boat launch. There’s also the Wint Nature Center, which offers interactive exhibits, interpretive programs and Scout Badge Days.

Orion Oaks:

Orion Oaks is known for its dog park, but the 916-acre park in Orion also offers 10 miles of hiking and mountain bike trails, geocaching, and fishing on Lake Sixteen, with a wheelchair accessible fishing pier off Joslyn Road. A small boat launch is provided for non-motorized boats. 

Lyon Oaks:

Want to explore some wetlands? Check out Lyon Oaks in Wixom. The park preserves 800 acres of environmentally-sensitive wetlands — which is great for looking for waterfowl, nesting birds, amphibians and more. There are 6 miles of natural trails to explore, plus areas for soccer, cricket, volleyball, golf and more.

Red Oaks:

Find yet another great Nature Center in Red Oaks park in Madison Heights. The center has native live animals, a 1.3-mile paved trail and Scout Badge Day programs. The park also has other trails that are known for being great for birdwatching, a dog park and a water park.


boardwalk at rose oaks park
Boardwalk at Rose Oaks Park. Photo from Oakland County Parks and Recreation/Facebook

Rose Oaks:

If you want to explore a more undeveloped park, check out Rose Oaks in Holly. Several glacial lakes within Rose Oaks provide contrast to the gently rolling open meadows and wooded uplands. There are 5 miles of trails including accessible boardwalks and floating docks.