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Hawk Woods Nature Center

Trail Details

County
Oakland
Regions
Southeast
Latitude
N 42° 41' 56.04"
Longitude
W 083° 13' 58.44"
Distance
2.1 miles
Trail Type
Interpretive paths
Terrain
Woodlots, marshland
Difficulty
Easy
Nearest City or Town
Auburn Hills
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Can you escape in Auburn Hills, in the heart of Oakland County’s Automation Alley technology district and home of Chrysler’s world headquarters? You can in the middle of a fall afternoon at Hawk Woods. Less than a mile from I-75 – less than a half mile from the Palace of Auburn Hills – is this 80-acre preserve of woods, ponds, wetlands and streams and a 3-mile trail system of interpretive paths.
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Description
Can you escape in Auburn Hills, in the heart of Oakland County’s Automation Alley technology district and home of Chrysler’s world headquarters? You can in the middle of a fall afternoon at Hawk Woods. Less than a mile from I-75 – less than a half mile from the Palace of Auburn Hills – is this 80-acre preserve of woods, ponds, wetlands and streams that is officially known as E. Dale Fish Hawk Woods Nature Center.

Hawk Woods dates back to 1837 when the Crawford family arrived in Oakland County the year Michigan became a state and began homesteading a farm deeded to them by President Andrew Jackson. Eventually the area was turned into a nature center by the Pontiac School District, whose students were responsible for building many of the park’s cabins and segments of trails. Unable to support the preserve financially, the Pontiac School District sold the property in 1992 to city of Auburn Hills which took over Hawk Woods at the urging of city councilman E. Dale Fisk.

For its size, Hawk Woods has amazing array of facilities including shelters, picnic areas, six sleeping cabins with tent sites, a two-story log lodge for functions, a heated restroom with showers and a small nature center. Winding through the preserve are more than 3 miles of foot trails of crushed limestone, mowed grassy lanes, wood chips, and wooden boardwalks.

The trail system is a combination of short loops and connectors and lined by almost 30 “Right Before Your Eyes” interpretive signs, many of them erected and maintained as Eagle projects by local Boy Scouts. The described outing below is a 2.1-mile hike that combines portions of Hawk Woods’ four most popular trails and passes its most interesting natural features.
Amenities & Services
Camping
Difficulty - Easy
Dog Friendly
Foot Path
Trail Guide

There are several places to enter the Hawk Woods trail system, including a pedestrian entrance on Bald Mountain Road, but the main trailhead is an information kiosk with a large map near the restroom. From here signs direct you into the forest along the Woodland Trail, passing spurs to the sleeping cabins and Log Cabin Lodge and arriving at the first junction in less than a quarter mile. All junctions are clearly marked with trail signs and at this one you continue west (right) towards Marsh Boardwalk.

Marsh Boardwalk Trail is 0.75-mile long that begins as a path and quickly reaches a bridge across Galloway Creek where it swings south.  Beyond the bridge you begin following an extensive stretch of boardwalk – thus the trail’s name – through a marsh of towering phragmites and cattails. You don’t see Galloway Creek much but do cross the stream again just before arriving at junction at Mile 0.7 where there is a deck featuring benches and picnic tables.

Continue south on the boardwalk, passing up junctions with Black Walnut Trail and a spur to the Hawk Woods Pond, to cross Sergeant Creek and arrive at Bluebird Loop at Mile 1. By following the loop in a counter clockwise direction you’ll pass six interpretive signs, most of them with benches and the final one at a junction that also features picnic tables.

Continue north at the junction to quickly cross Sergeant Creek a second time and arrive at Pond Trail, a half mile loop the skirts Hawk Woods Pond. Follow the loop in a clockwise direction to pass more picnic tables along its south shore and see a glacial erratic, a boulder deposited after glaciers receded some 10,000 years ago. At the west end of the pond you can veer off on Crawford Cut at Mile 1.8 and follow the short trail to see some of the largest hardwoods at the center.

Crawford Cut swings north, passes a research site that monitors forest health and arrives at a junction with the Woodland Trail. Head right to continue the walk the woods and reach the nature center and trailhead in less than a quarter mile.

From I-75 in Auburn Hills, depart at exit 81 and head south on for M-24 (Lapeer Road) for a Pontiac. Just past a sign for Hawks Woods, use a cross over to heads north on M-24 and then quickly turn right onto Bald Mountain Road. Follow Bald Mountain Road a mile north to the park’s entrance on the west side of the road.

Facilities

Facilities at Hawk Woods include modern restrooms, picnic shelters, the two-story Log Cabin Lodge that cane be reserved for functions, six sleeping cabins that sleep six to 10 people each and feature  tent sites and a fire pit, a nature center and parking lots.

Hours & Fees

The park is open year-round and there are no fees for parking or using the trail system. Sleeping cabins range from $30/40 resident/non-resident per night to $50/70 for the largest one.

Directions

From I-75 in Auburn Hills, depart at exit 81 and head south on for M-24 (Lapeer Road) for a Pontiac. Just past a sign for Hawks Woods, use a cross over to heads north on M-24 and then quickly turn right onto Bald Mountain Road. Follow Bald Mountain Road a mile north to the park’s entrance on the west side of the road.

Information

Contact the Auburn Hills Community Center online or call (248) 370-9353.

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