Pittsfield Preserve – Early Spring, Squishy Walk
Pittsfield Preserve – 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 destroy a unique wetland area changing the township’s rural feel. Instead, the township purchased the land and created the Pittsfield Preserve, which has become the pride of the area.
The preserved and adjoining areas encompass more than 800 acres of open, natural space in the rapidly growing township. Pittsfield Preserve contains 535 acres of wetland trails, native grasses, and agricultural fields. A trail system explores both the wetland forest and grassland areas. The area is alive with local species. Keep an eye out for turtles, waterfowl, and forest birds that inhabit the area.
A feature that makes the Pittsfield Preserve unique is that it occupies two different watersheds. The waters flow into the Huron River to the north, 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.
- Scenery – 3
- Trail Condition – 2 (spring)
- Quiet/Solitude – 5
- Difficulty – 3
- Overall – 3
Location – Pittsfield Township (see map below)
Gear – Daypack, Waterproof Boots, Long Pants & Sleeves
Pittsfield Preserve – The Walk
We drove to the 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.
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 the forest floor will be carpeted with little yellow and white flowers in a week or two.
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.
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.
We did not bring our waders on this trip, 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 buttonbush 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.
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.
We finished the walk by going out on the A loop. This passed next to one of the agricultural fields still used 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 back to the car.
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.
Max elevation: 837 ft
Min elevation: 830 ft
Below are some of the sights we found while walking that day.
Leave No Trace and Obey The Park Rules
- Always leave no trace, pack out everything you take in. We suggest that you bring an empty bag with you so you can pack out your trash and remove any that you see along the way.
- Stay on marked trails. Straying into the undergrowth can damage delicate ecosystems.
- Parks and preserves are surrounded by private lands. Please be respectful of property boundaries and stay inside the public land.
- Let someone know where you are going. Some areas have limited or no cell service, so if you get stuck you may not be able to call for help.
- Read the notes, warnings, and information provided at the park readerboard/kiosk. There may be closed trails or special seasonal information.
- Respect the no bikes, no dogs, and no horses rules. These are posted and may be updated at any time.
- Respect wildlife and nature. Do not approach or disturb animals or birds living in the area.
- Leave only footprints – Take only pictures.
For more information on Leave No Trace – see LNT.org
Where is this?
|Address||5400 Marton Rd, Ann Arbor, MI 48108 (Marton Rd Entrance)|
|Trail Length||2.8 Miles (Outer Loop A-C-D)|
|Highlights||The natural areas are filled with interesting birds and plants.|
|Access||Unpaved parking lots on Marton & Thomas Roads. Additional trail entrances on Textile and Thomas Rd.|
|Amenities||Well-marked loop trails. Benches and trash cans in the central area.|
|Accessibility||Part of the trail is paved, some are hard-packed earth, and some areas are very wet and use wooden logs to traverse.|
|Best time to visit||Anytime (Bring good boots in the spring 😉 )|