The autumn season often comes with the hopes of drinking hot chocolate and roasting s’mores by a bonfire; carving pumpkins; eating pumpkin pie; enjoying pumpkin spice lattes; seeing the beautiful fall colors; inhaling the crisp air; and #cuddleseason. While we are unable to help with that last one, today’s Trail Guide will have you itching to get some exercise, while also being dazzled by the vivid colors of changing leaves.
Sarrett Nature Center
The first destination I discovered was the Sarett Nature Center, tucked in a little corner of Benton Harbor. The nonmember entrance fee is $3. This center focuses on educating the community about the environment, but they also have approximately eight miles of trails. The trails meander through towering trees and there is a map provided for easy navigation. A boardwalk starts you on your way into the path. A short way into the trees there is a charming playground constructed from mostly natural materials (large tree trunks, hewed-out logs, etc.) for your inner child’s enjoyment. Continue down the path for a few more minutes and you will discover another boardwalk extending out beyond the tree-line and ending in a deck elevated high above the valley floor. This lookout provides an exquisite view of the surrounding trees. You can feel the fluttering breeze; the ambiance is spectacularly liberating. The rest of the trails appear to be veiled by trees with a thick covering of fallen leaves already on the ground and quite a bit of underbrush. I would advise the Sarett Nature Center for easy hiking and a peaceful get-away.
Warren Woods State Park
Warren Woods State Park, just outside of Sawyer, MI, has a bit of a different feel. Entrance here is free and it is a bit less manicured. There is no underbrush and the sunlight (when shining) gently filters through the leaves of the trees. Throughout the trail there are immense beech trees with initials and dates carved into the trunks. This adds a fun and interesting dynamic to the hike. A picturesque bridge takes you over Galien River on your way further into the woods. There were a couple of fallen trees across the main trail and raised tree roots are strewn at random on the trail floor. The drive to the park on Red Arrow Highway has beautiful scenery and colors, as well as US Route 31 (Blue Star Highway).
Joel Paquette (senior, management) commented, “[They are both] Excellent representations of the beauty of southwest Michigan.”
Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve
The Fernwood Botanical Garden and Nature Preserve is also worth checking out. The colors are not yet out in full force, but look for them in the next couple of weeks as it gets colder! After your hike, treat yourself to a slice of pumpkin pie or a pumpkin spice latte and bask in the knowledge of having spent your autumn immersed in the beauties of nature.