Michigan Trail Tuesday: Boardwalks and Birdwatching at Maher Audubon Sanctuary

Michigan Trail Tuesday: Boardwalks and Birdwatching at Maher Audubon Sanctuary

Maher Audubon Sanctuary Sign Michigan

Michigan Trail Tuesdays is our attempt to showcase a different trail or trail segment each week. The Mitten State is home to thousands of miles of trails, including the new Iron Belle Trail that runs from Detroit in the southeast to Ironwood in the western Upper Peninsula and more miles of the North Country Trail than any other state.

A few weeks ago when we visited the Dolan Nature Sanctuary for the first time, we also made a stop at the Maher Audubon Sanctuary less than a mile down the road. This beautiful piece of land has a boardwalk trail and plenty of chances to see wildlife. The hiking loop here starts close to the North Country Trail, and the sanctuary is also part of the Thornapple Birding Trail. If you need a break from paved trails, this is a great spot for a fairly short and incredibly scenic hike.

Maher Audubon Sanctuary North Country Trail Parking

There is a small parking area on 108th St. and some signage that shows the hiking loop through the sanctuary as well as the path of the North Country Trail in the area. A short path leads to the start of the boardwalk where a welcome sign is posted with a few basic rules: “This is a wildlife sanctuary and environmental study area to be enjoyed quietly by hiking, looking, listening, photographing and sketching. Therefore, no picking, collecting, loitering, smoking, alcohol or hunting. No bikes, radios, skateboards, pets or motorized vehicles. Stay on marked trails. Wildlife need areas of no contact with humans or their pets.”

Maher Audubon Sanctuary Boardwalk Trail NCT Birding

The boardwalk trail has definitely seen better days, and we’d recommend sturdy footwear (definitely not flip flops). It is uneven in spots and it was pretty easy to see that this would be a very slippery and muddy hike after heavy rainfall. We were the only ones there during our visit, and it didn’t take long to spot some wildlife.

Maher Audubon Sanctuary Garter Snake 2

Maher Audubon Sanctuary Garter Snake 1

We spotted several garter snakes from the boardwalk trail and saw a few red-winged blackbirds. The trail loops around the wetland area for a little bit, then it runs parallel to Caine Creek. We saw lots of animal tracks in the mud near the creek. There is a bench for sitting and enjoying views of the creek, and a footbridge that crosses it for those looking to explore a bit more.

Maher Audubon Sanctuary Freeport Michigan

Maher Audubon Sanctuary Creek Bridge

The main trail heads into the woods for a little bit after this before entering a meadow area. You’ll spot a few birdhouses in the meadow and likely see plenty of active birds. We saw a few bluebirds and finches in this area.

Maher Audubon Sanctuary Bluebird 1

Maher Audubon Sanctuary Bluebird 2

From the meadow the trail heads back into the wetland area where the boardwalk soon picks back up. The views through here were amazing, and we look forward to going back in different seasons to see how much everything changes.

Maher Audubon Sanctuary Landscape View

As we reached the point where the trail runs parallel to 108th, we startled a small group of whitetail deer that had been munching on the plants at the edge of the marsh. This should be on everyone’s hiking list over the next few weeks as spring plants continue to bloom!

Maher Audubon Sanctuary Thornapple Birding Trail

Maher Audubon Sanctuary Stump Flowers Michigan

To reach the Maher Audubon Sanctuary: take Alden Nash south from the I-96 Lowell exit. When you reach 100th St. head east for a half mile to Baker then turn right (south) on Baker. You will pass the Dolan Nature Preserve on your way. At the next intersection you will see a sign for Maher, turn right and follow 108th St. for a quarter mile to the parking area.