Michigan Trail Tuesday: Warren Woods State Park in Three Oaks
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.
Hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to Warren Dunes State Park each summer to camp, hike, swim, and enjoy the towering sand dunes along Lake Michigan. Fewer people travel a few miles down the road to check out Warren Woods State Park, a 300-acre preserve with a trail that travels through the last climax maple-beech forest in Michigan. Both parks exist today through the philanthropy of Edward Kirk Warren, a Three Oaks businessman who invented the featherbone corset as a replacement for whalebone corsets in the 1880s. We recently visited this small but stunning park and hiked the two-mile out and back trail that runs through the middle of the park. Today we will showcase some pictures from our visit and a few things we learned about Mr. Warren and the nearby area.
Located seven miles southwest of Warren Dunes State Park, Warren Woods State Park reminded us a bit of the Meridian-Baseline State Park in the Jackson area. The entrance comes up fast and is easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it, and a short drive down a dirt road leads back to a small parking area. Signs mark the trailhead which immediately heads north into the woods.
Our visit took place after a light morning rain, so the trails were a bit muddy in spots and the mosquitos were plentiful. The main trail is wide enough for two-way traffic and mostly level. Occasional offshoot paths veer off to either side before looping back around to the main trail. The size of the beech trees here was impressive, and while you are fairly close to the highway you feel like you’re in the wilderness when hiking here. At roughly the half mile point of the trail, you will come across three interpretive panel signs that talk abut the life of Mr. Warren, the establishment of Warren Dunes State Park and Warren Woods State Park, and some examples of the flora and fauna to look for during your hike.
After those signs there is a set of wooden stairs that lead to a wood footbridge over the Galien River. This provides one of the best scenic views in the park.
We tried to take our time to really look around at the trees as well as the forest floor while hiking here. This is a prime spot for birdwatching, and the park is home to many beautiful plant species.
This hike is featured in Jim Dufresne’s book “50 Hikes in Michigan.” He points out that this is a popular spot for birders in the spring and a great place for catching fall color in September and October.
To get to Warren Woods State Park from I-94 Exit #12, turn left on Sawyer Rd then left on Three Oaks Rd. Follow that for four miles then turn right on Elm Valley Rd. and watch for the park entrance after driving a half mile (map below):