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Brighton Recreation Area
The glacial activity that blessed several southeast Michigan counties with a rolling terrain and numerous lakes can easily be seen at Brighton Recreation Area, 50 miles northwest of Detroit in Livingston County. Scattered throughout the 4,947-acre park are moraines, outwash deposits, kettles and other typical features of the Pleistocene Epoch, the glacial era that ended 25,000 years ago.
Brighton's 10 lakes were the result of retreating glaciers whose moraines left them in a rolling terrain that today is covered by oak-hickory woodlands along with the open fields of abandoned farms from the 1820s. Brighton was established in 1944 and increased its acreage over the years but is still broken up by privately owned lots. The largest contiguous section lies on the east side of Chilson Road and is the site of the park's three campgrounds, frontier cabins, and the Bishop Lake Trails System.
The trails system includes 8.5 miles of paths designated for hikers only. Beginning in the Bishop Lake day-use area, the Penosha Trail is a 5-mile loop through the wooded hills and pass wetlands in the heart of the park while the Kahchin Trail is a 2-mile loop. Extending from the Bishop Lake Campground to the park’s group campground is the 1.5-mile Bishop Lake Trail, a point-to-point path that skirts the east half of the lake.
There are also 14 miles of mountain bike trails with the Bishop Lake day-use area serving as the major trailhead. The advance Torn Shirt Trail is a 5.1-mile route featuring steep uphill curves and narrow, heavily wooded stretches. Murray Lake Trail is a 9-mile system rated for intermediate riders that can also be picked up near the Murray Lake Campground.
Click on highlighted trails for individual trail page:
Brighton Recreation Area maintains a day-use area on the east half of Bishop Lake and includes a sandy beach, picnic area, and bathhouse. There is also a boat rental concession that rents canoes, rowboats and paddleboats daily from throughout the summer. There is a day-use area on Chilson Pond with a smaller beach, picnic tables, grills and three shelters.
On the shores of the largest lake in the park is Bishop Lake Campground, which contains 144 modern sites in a mostly open area of young trees. None of the sites are on the water, and there is very little shade. The campground has its own beach, and the boat launch for Bishop Lake is located here. More wooded settings are found at two rustic campgrounds, each with 25 sites. Appleton Lake Campground is posted on Bishop Lake Road and features picnic tables, fire rings and access to the water. Murray Lake Campground is off Bauer Road. A organization camp is located on the south side of Bishop Lake.
The park has five rustic cabins built and design for family use. Two of the 8-bunk cabins are located near Caroga Lake while another is only a short walk from the south shore of Bishop Lake. Each cabin has a hand pump and a vault toilet as well as a fire ring a picnic table outside.
The park is open year round and a vehicle permit or annual state park pass is required to enter.
From I-96, just west of US-23, depart at exit 145 and head south on Grand River Road and then turn west onto Main Street in downtown Brighton. Head west for 6 miles as Main Street becomes Brighton Road and then turn south onto Chilson Road to reach the park headquarters in 1.5 miles. Across from the headquarters is Bishop Lake Road which heads east a mile to the main trailhead at Bishop Lake day-use area.
The park headquarters (810-229-6566) is 1.5 miles south on Chilson on the west side of the road. For a campsite or cabin reservation contact Michigan State Park Central Reservations (800-447-2757; www.midnrreservations.com).
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