Michigan Trail Tuesday: Lillian Anderson Arboretum, Kalamazoo

Michigan Trail Tuesday: Lillian Anderson Arboretum, Kalamazoo

Lillian Anderson Arboretum Kalamazoo Batts Pavilion

Michigan Trail Tuesday 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.

Just 15 minutes from downtown Kalamazoo, the Lillian Anderson Arboretum features trails that have been popular with locals for decades for good reason. We recently made our first visit to this beautiful 140-acre property, and were blown away by the towering trees, plentiful wildlife, well-maintained trails, and stunning scenery. This private facility is owned by Kalamazoo College but the public is welcome to visit and explore (provided you can find the entrance, more on that at the end of the post). Parts of the arboretum are used for research and classes at the college, and it is great that they also welcome the public to come and enjoy it. Today we will take a look at our visit and what we thought of the trails, as well as some pictures of the birds, reptiles, and plants we saw during our early spring visit.

Lillian Anderson Arboretum Kalamazoo Entrance Sign

There are trail maps posted in the parking lot and throughout the preserve, and you can download one online and bring it with you as well. As we do on our first visit to most preserves, we tried to hike the perimeter which ended up being about two miles. This covered a wide variety of landscape that included woods, marsh, and meadow. Every trail we walked on was well-maintained and easy to follow; there were some uphill climbs and a few boardwalks and bridges.

Lillian Anderson Arboretum Kalamazoo Wetland Boardwalk

We started our journey on the Fern Oak trail, which winds its way past tall trees. A side trip on the Wetland Boardwalk was too tempting to pass up, so we headed down the plastic platform trail (which was a bit wet) in hopes of seeing some plant or animal life. Our visit appears to have been a few weeks too early but this looked to be one of the more promising places for wildlife in the entire park. From here we headed out to Chestnut Point, where the sounds of swans and geese echoed off of Bonnie Castle Lake.

Lillian Anderson Arboretum Kalamazoo Duck Duck Goose

From Chestnut Point we made our way through the trees then joined the Power Line trail until we had a chance to veer off and follow the Marsh Woods trail. Assuming that staying near the marsh gave us the best chance to see more wildlife, we followed this scenic path and found out we chose correctly. A garter snake was slithering along next to the path, and out in the water we saw a duck, duck, and a goose.

Lillian Anderson Arboretum Kalamazoo Trail Signs

The Marsh Woods trail turns and heads into the woods, where it follows the property line parallel to a neighborhood filled with some beautiful homes. The trail then turned into the Gathje Hill trail which was one of  the more strenuous parts of our walk. Intrigued by the map showing more water we followed Gathje Hill to the Power Line trail, then took the Batts Pond trail until it split off with the Wood Frog Trail.

Lillian Anderson Arboretum Kalamazoo Trees

It was shortly into the Wood Frog trail that we found our favorite spot in the arboretum. Here a small bridge crosses the pond, and the vibrant colors of the water, plants, trees, and sky all made for a stunning scene. The sounds of birds and frogs filled the air and we saw several turtles catching early season sun while resting on logs. After the pond the trail heads back into the woods then starts turning back toward the entrance as it becomes the Old Field trail.

Lillian Anderson Arboretum Old Field Trail

The trail runs parallel with Oshtemo Township Park here for a little bit and passes by a field that is set up for pollinator observation. Side paths lead to the Magnificent Pines trail and the Not So Magnificent Pines trail, which provide scenic photo ops as the trail passes through tall pine trees. We were soon back where we had started, and after making a quick side trip to check out the Batts Pavilion we headed back to the car. It was just over two miles of hiking by the time we finished our visit along the outer loop.

Lilllian Anderson Arboretum Kalamazoo Garter Snake

Lillian Anderson Arboretum Kalamazoo Birdwatching

The Lillian Anderson Arboretum is located at 7787 W. Main St. It is important to note that there is no sign for the preserve entrance out on West Main. We drove past it on our first try then had to swing back. The parking lot here is not very big, so if you visit on a busy day you may have to park at the township park instead. It was great to find that all trail intersections here were well signed and easy to follow. We can’t wait to come back once spring plants and flowers have bloomed to do some more hiking and birdwatching.