Explore The Ruins of Ford’s Haven Hill Estate and More at Highland State Recreation Area
Highland State Recreation Area is a massive park that offers many different ways to get out and enjoy nature. It is also home to some Ford family history and the ruins of Edsel Ford’s Haven Hill estate. There are many miles of trails spread throughout Highland’s 59,000 acres that are open to hiking, mountain biking, equestrian use, and cross country skiing. It was the Ford ruins that drew us here but we were impressed with the trails and everything else this park has to offer.
There are 12 miles of equestrian trails, 17 miles of hiking trails (also for cross country skiing), and 16 miles of mountain biking trails (some trails are advanced, some shared with hikers). The park also has boating access to four inland lakes as well as three dog field trial areas. Highland State Recreation Area also has a small rustic and equestrian campground and a group use camping area. Day use areas offer great spots for picnics, volleyball, swimming, fishing, and hunting.
The Haven Hill Natural Area within the park is home to well-preserved examples of all of the types of forest found in this part of the state: swamp and tamarack, beech-maple, cedar, oak-hickory, mixed hardwood. This obviously makes the area a great spot for birdwatching and also makes the park home to many different species of wildflowers. It also helps explain why Edsel Ford chose this location for his retreat away from the city.
We hiked close to two miles of trails before we started looking for the ruins, and we saw quite a few different types of birds and small mammals. Trails are mostly wide and intersections are well-marked; we hardly saw any other people out on them during our visit. There are a lot of informational signs spread throughout the park that help share the Ford history here. We started our visit at the gatehouse, a partially restored structure near the park entrance that once served as the entry point for Ford and his family and guests.
The rest of the Haven Hill estate can be reached after a short hike that starts at the circle parking loop just south of the Goose Meadow day use area (full directions at the end of this post). This hike does feature a steep uphill to get to the carriage house and lodge ruins.
The carriage house remains mostly intact and was designed to be lodging for the chauffeur and storage for Ford’s cars. It ended up being a playhouse for the Ford children, according to the informational sign near it. This is a beautiful structure that has the look of an old log cabin which helps it blend perfectly into the surrounding property.
Just uphill from the carriage house is what remains of the lodge. This structure was lost to fire in the 1999. Signs here talk about the celebrity guests that Edsel Ford entertained here (Charles Lindbergh, Thomas Edison, Jackie Cooper, and more) and how he considered this his “nerve retreat” away from the city. Various parts of the wall and foundations remain, as does the fireplace.
Down the road from the parking area for the Haven Hill hike, an old barn is fenced off. This was also part of the complex, and along with the carriage house and gate house it is one of the structures that remains intact. Like the lodge, a horse barn was lost to fire some years ago.
To get to the Haven Hill ruins with the shortest amount of hiking possible, park in the circle drive south of the Goose Meadow day use are and look for the trail marker shown above. This #28 on the park trail map. You will take this trail into the woods heading to #4, and when you reach that intersection turn right and follow it to #5.
At the #5 marker, you turn left heading to #7 and that is where the steep uphill climb begins. Parts of this are paved and you will see Haven Hill signs within a quarter mile. Enjoy your time at the Highland State Recreation area and seeing a bit of automotive history!
Watch for wildlife on park roads, we saw lots of deer, birds, and even a large snapping turtle close to the roads and parking lots during our visit.