Five Interesting Spring Walks to Take in Michigan

Walking is my favorite form of exercise. OK, it’s really the only way I exercise. All the other forms of exercise require coordination, and I don’t really have any. Sometimes I go hiking, but as one of my kids puts it, “Hiking is just walking for no reason.” In winter, I’m stuck walking on the treadmill or the elliptical at the gym. I stay warm and avoid slipping on ice and breaking my dignity, but it gets pretty boring. So I love it when it warms up, and the snow finally melts, because I go back to taking daily walks outside with the dog.

Spring in Michigan is perfect walking weather. It’s not hot yet, and you get to see everything come to life. In the countryside where I live, the birds come back and wild daffodils bloom by the roadside. The farm fields I pass every day go from gray, muddy pits to acres of black, neatly plowed rows with tiny green plants poking up from the ground.

I love the woods and fields around my house, but it’s nice to change-up the scenery once in a while. It’s not hard, because there are plenty of great places to take a walk outside here. If you’re looking for a new place to stretch your legs, here are five interesting places to take a walk in Michigan in the spring.

Great Walks to take in Michigan

1. Frederik Meijer Gardens, Grand Rapids – Meijer Gardens is an indoor/outdoor experience. From March 1st to April 30th, their tropical conservatory is filled with butterflies for their incredibly popular Butterflies are Blooming event. While you stroll through the indoor garden, you’ll see several varieties of butterflies flying freely about. It’s also nice and warm in the conservatory. If it happens to be a cold or wet spring day, being inside with all the green plants is the next best thing to being outside.

If the weather is nice, you’ll want to venture outside after you visit the butterflies. The 158 acre campus features trails, outdoor gardens, and many sculptures. It was designed and planted to be enjoyed during all four of Michigan’s seasons.

Photo courtesy of Frederik Meijer Gardens

You’ll find a Children’s Garden with hands-on play and enrichment structures. The trails wind through the forest and pass through wetlands via the boardwalk. The traditional Japanese Garden, the newest edition, features a tea house. Some of the 300 sculptures you’ll find in the gardens include a 24 foot tall bronze horse and a 287 inch tall garden spade. We go every spring to Meijer Garden, and it’s always a memorable walk.

2. The Peony Garden at Nicholas Arboretum, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor – Do you love peonies like I do? Where I live in Michigan, yards and fence rows are lined with them in late spring. Their pink and white, ruffled blossoms are gorgeous, and they smell amazing.

Well, the folks at the University of Michigan happen to like peonies a lot too. They like them so much that their arboretum has an extensive collection of peony plants. Their goal is to preserve historic varieties and become the world’s foremost peony reference library. Hmm… I think I might like being a peony librarian. Why was this not a career option on the list I got from my high school guidance counselor?

Photo courtesy of MBGNA staff.

If you visit in late May and early June, you can take a self-guided tour of the peony garden. The bright colored peonies and their intoxicating scent make for a great late afternoon walk. You have to time your visit just right to see these flowers that only bloom once a year. Visit the Nicholas Arboretum website where they post regular updates about when the Peonies are in bloom. I’m keeping an eye on it, and hope to make it there this spring. After viewing the peonies, there are several trails you can take to tour the rest of the arboretum.

3. Petoskey State Park to go Petoskey stone hunting – The much sought after Petoskey stone is Michigan’s state stone. It’s fossilized coral that features a unique hexagon pattern, visible when wet or polished. These stones are only found along Lake Michigan and Lake Huron in Northern Michigan. The beach at Petoskey State Park, just outside the resort town of Petoskey, is one of the best places to find the stones. Spring is one of the best times to look for them. Winter’s ice and big waves uncover Petoskey stones and toss them up on the shore. Since tourist season doesn’t really start until summer, you’ll get first dibs on any newly uncovered treasure left behind after the thaw.

Photo credit: rocksncrystals

4. Tulip Time,  Holland – Nothing says spring like tip-toeing through the tulips. You can literally do that in Holland during their Tulip Time Festival at the beginning of May. Every year we make a trip to this festival that celebrates the area’s Dutch heritage.

Photo courtesy of Tulip Time.

There are so many places to take a walk at the festival. Windmill Island features an authentic dutch Windmill still in operation, along with a historic Dutch market with re-enactors in costume and, of course, rows of tulips. All the city parks are bursting at the seams with tulips. Many are venues for special festival events. The streets of downtown are lined will tulips. You might also happen upon costumed Dutch dancers klompen dancing in the streets. If that’s not enough walking and tulips for you, venture to the tulip farm just outside of town where there are fields full of flowers you can browse.

5. The woods to hunt Morel Mushrooms – In spring in Michigan, folks wander around in the woods mainly for one reason, to hunt down the elusive morel mushroom. In fact, the DNR says more people go ‘shroom hunting in the spring than go deer hunting in the fall. And that’s saying something, because Michiganders are crazy for their venison.

Photo Credit: flutterby

No one who ever finds a morel stash will give up the location of their fungus hall. So there really aren’t points on a map where I can send you. There are a few good types of locations to look. The best is a spot where there was a recent forest fire or prescribed burn. An area in the woods that was logged recently can also a be a morel treasure chest. A damp place near a log or dead tree is another good spot to check. But, I’ve also heard of people finding them growing randomly in the middle of their yard. And just because there were morels in a spot last year, doesn’t mean they’ll be there this year.

Just go wander around in the woods and keep looking down. It will get you out walking at least. If you find morels, well, bonus! April is the best time to start morel hunting. You may find them as late as early June.

Where’s your favorite place to take a spring walk in Michigan?

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