Overview

Twenty-some years ago, in 1999, there was a plan to build 1200 homes, retail spaces, and soccer fields in the center of Pittsfield Township. This plan included using a fleet of bulldozers and earthmovers to flatten, fill, and mow down a unique wetland area changing the township’s rural feel. Instead, the township purchased the land and created the Pittsfield Preserve that has become the pride of the area.

The preserve and adjoining preserved areas encompass more than 800 acres of open, natural space in the rapidly growing township. Pittsfield Preserve itself contains 535 acres of wetland trails, native grasses, and agricultural fields. There is a trail system that explores both the wetland forest and grassland areas. The area is alive with local species, keeping an eye out for turtles, waterfowl, and forest birds.

A feature that makes the Pittsfield Preserve unique is that it occupies two different watersheds. To the north, the waters flow into the Huron River, and to the south, they go to the Saline River and the River Raisin.

Pittsfield Preserve is a great place to explore and experience what this area looked like before the late 1800s.

RATING
  • Scenery – 3
  • Trail Condition – 2
  • Quiet/Solitude – 5
  • Difficulty – 3
  • Overall – 3

The Walk

We drove to Pittsfield Preserve on an early spring day hoping to get in a good walk when the sun was shining. The trails near the parking area and into the forest were in great shape, with only a few easily avoidable muddy spots.

Pittsfield Preserve Trailhead
Pittsfield Preserve Trailhead on Marton Rd

One of the things we keep an eye out for when walking this time of year is the spring native flowers. So we took the “A” loop trail which leads into the woods to see if there was any indication of early plants. Well we saw plenty, with the early spring weather and the rich soils in the preserve we found the spotted leaves of the Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum) everywhere. We’re sure that in a week or two the forest floor will be carpeted with little yellow and white flowers.

Emerging Trout Lily Pittsfield Preserve

We continued on this section of the A loop trail going through an area of upland forest and out into the central area of the preserve.

Pittsfield Preserve

When you enter the central area, you come into an open meadow, and here the trail got a little muckier. This section of the preserve is where the land moves from upland to wetland and it became almost impossible to keep our feet dry.

Pittsfield Preserve

On this trip, we did not bring our waders, so while it was possible to squish our way through the meadow trails, some places were just daunting enough that we decided not to try. So we cut out parts of the C loop that goes through the button bush wetland. We have been through these paths in every season, and we know that this part of the trail, while still damp, is much more passible in summer. Still, we’ve done the hopscotch crossing; we’d just rather do it without any camera gear and good boots.

Pittsfield Preserve Trail Hopscotch

We stayed on the B and D loops and spent some time wandering around the meadow, listening to the Woodpeckers and Hawks go about their work. The willows were starting to bloom, and their flowers made for interesting textures on the side of the trails, looking like little alien caterpillars crawling around the branches.

A great feature of these trails is that Pittsfield township has installed benches (and trash cans) at many points around the central loop. They are always a very welcome place to sit and enjoy the park while eating lunch. Often, you can watch the heron rookery to the south and see these large birds building their large nests and hunting frogs in the pond.

Below are some of the sights we found while walking that day.

We finished the walk by going out on the A loop. This passed next to one of the agricultural fields that is still in use in the preserve. In the late summer, the acres will be filled with waving wheat or tall stalks of corn, but now it’s just filled with honking geese, so we squish on by back to the car.

Conclusion

The Pittsfield Preserve is a beautiful natural area that is easily walked (well most times of the year) and is perfect for visiting on a lunch break if you are on the south side of Ann Arbor. We love to visit here and see how the environment changes and grows throughout the seasons. In fact, it’s a terrific place to watch the fireflies in the summer! We definitely suggest visiting and walking the preserve from both the Marton Rd and Thomas Rd entrances.

Where is this?

Facts

Address5400 Marton Rd, Ann Arbor, MI 48108 (Marton Rd Entrance)
Size535 Acres
Established2002
Trail Length2.8 Miles (Outer Loop A-C-D)
HighlightsThe natural areas are complete filled with interesting birds and plants
AccessUnpaved parking lots on Marton & Thomas Roads. Additional trail entrances on Textile and Thomas Rd.
AmenitiesWell-marked loop trails. Benches and trash cans in the central area.
FeesNone
AccessibilityPart of the trail is paved, some are hard-packed earth, some areas are very wet and use wooden logs to traverse.
Websitehttps://pittsfield-mi.gov/facilities/facility/details/Pittsfield-Preserve-1
Maphttps://pittsfield-mi.gov/DocumentCenter/View/360/Pittsfield-Preserve-Map
Best time to visitAnytime (Bring good boots in the spring 😉 )
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