Ann Arbor Walks without Playgrounds

Ann Arbor Walks without Playgrounds

For many kids visiting the playground is a highlight of a walk in a park. While playgrounds have (or are soon) reopening, some families may still wish to avoid the playgrounds. We have pulled together a list of Ann Arbor Area Walks that don’t include a playground. With these walks you won’t have to disappoint the kids who can see the playground but can’t use it.

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Considerations When Planning a Walk

Taking a walk or bike ride is one of the exceptions to the general stay at home order. Still, it is better to stay closer to home for these trips for a variety of reasons.


Gas & Car Issues

Staying within walking distance or a short drive will limit your need to refill your gas tank and minimize the chance of an accident or car trouble. Before the stay at home order was put into effect, we attended my niece’s family birthday gathering a couple of hours away. Yes, we had to get gas, but the bigger issue was that the tire pressure monitoring system alerted us to an issue. So, we ended up having to take the car to the shop the next week.


My friend who owns Grand Rapids Kids, shared her thoughts on “Where Will you Pee?”. It sounds funny, but is a very good question when planning longer outings (or even short outings with young kids). Park restrooms are closed and restaurants are take-out only. That leaves grocery stores and gas stations as the only options…unless you are close to home.

Necessary Supplies

On an easier note, remember to bring necessary supplies for your walks. Water fountains are shut off at local parks, so make sure to have water and maybe a snack on your walk. Bring sunscreen or apply before leaving home. Consider whether you are likely to need bug spray in your walking destination.

For walks, I love my Chico Water Bottle Sling. My daughter’s class sold them as part of a fundraiser and they are wonderful. They hold a water bottle and have a slot for a cell phone (perfect for all those women’s clothes without pockets), and a smaller pocket on the strap that my car’s keyfob fits in. All 3 of us have them – check out my daughter sporting hers at Disney World in November..

Disney's Galaxy's Edge - My daughter with a droid
My daughter sporting her Chico Water Bottle Sling at Galaxy’s Edge


City of Ann Arbor Parks & Nature Areas

Bandemer Park, Argo Nature Area, and Barton Hills

Ann Arbor’s Bandemer Park and Argo Nature Area are on opposite sides of the Huron River with Barton Hills upriver. Bandemer has two parking areas, one on Lake Shore Dr accessible from Main St and one accessible from Whitmore Lake Rd. Argo has a parking area near the Livery which is now open. Barton Nature Area has a small parking area off Huron River Drive near Bird Hills Nature Area These are not the best option with strollers or wheelchairs since many of the paths are unpaved. We are waiting for warmer days (and nights) to bring my daughter’s inflatable kayak for some time on the river. She got it for Christmas and can’t wait to try it out.

Leslie Science & Nature Center

The grounds remain open at the Leslie Science & Nature Center. Stop by and visit the Raptor Enclosures and then take a walk through Black Pond Woods. Remember to avoid touching things and also to avoid the areas that are marked off due to high metals discovered in soil testing in 2019.

Other Nature Areas

Ann Arbor Parks has lots of other Nature Areas that are perfect for walks. Check out the list of Nature Areas on their website and make a plan to visit one. Or let us know on Facebook which is your favorite.

University of Michigan Walks

Note: University of Michigan now requires masks throughout campus including outside. There are exceptions if you are actively exercising and are socially distanced. If walking on campus, make sure you have your mask.

Nichols Arboretum or Matthaei Botanical Gardens

The trails at Nichols Arboretum and Matthaei Botanical Gardens are still open. However, the Arb is requesting no visits to the Peony Garden this year to promote social distancing. Bathrooms, water fountains, the Arb Visitor Center, and buildings and gardens at Matthaei are closed for the foreseeable future and events are canceled through August.

I have heard that the trails at the Arb are not too crowded so you can maintain a safe social distance. At Matthaei parking is currently free and only the trails are open. The children’s garden is not. If your children are familiar with the children’s garden, avoid that area or stick with the Arb.

Arb Peony Garden - Pink Peonies

Central Campus

Don’t be afraid to visit UM’s Campus to walk. There is plenty of space to walk both on central campus and on North Campus. On Central Campus, walk through the Diag, head up to Rackham, walk down to the Law Quad, walk by the outdoor art at the UMMA and visit the Pumas at the UMMNH.


North Campus

North Campus offers plenty of options for walking. Make sure you have a UM parking pass, are parking in off hours, or feed the meter as needed. Walk through The Grove, around the buildings and head to The Wave Field.

Washtenaw County Parks

Parker Mill County Park

Update: The trail between Parker Mill County Park and Gallup Park will be closing on June 8 for reconstruction and repairs. The closure is expected to last through June. The repairs will improve the trail surface for wheelchairs, bikes, and pedestrians. The parking lot will be closed on June 8 with additional intermittent closures throughout June.

Washtenaw County’s Parker Mill County Park offers various walking trails and even a connection to Gallup Park if you are up for a longer walk. The park is accessible with parking lots on both Geddes Rd and Old Dixboro Rd. The park has paved paths, boardwalks, and gravel paths. Be sure to check the trail types if you have a stroller, wheel chair, or limited mobility before selecting which trail to take.


County Farm Park

Did you know there’s a second entrance to County Farm Park? Skip the main entrance near the playground on Platt Rd and park at the Medford Rd entrance.

Mess Free Playgrounds - County Farm Park - Perennial Garden
County Farm Park Perennial Garden

If you take the Nature Trail through Britton Woods you will steer clear of the playground. You can also use portions of the other trails. Be sure to check out the trail map if you want to steer clear of the playground area.

Rolling Hills County Park & Independence Lake County Park

Rolling Hills and Independence Lake both offer extensive walking trails. Be sure to check the park status. They have periodically closed vehicular access to minimize crowds in the park – most recently on Memorial Day weekend.

Pittsfield Township Parks

Lillie Park North

Pittsfield Township’s Lillie Park is located at the southeast corner of Ellsworth and Platt Rd. It is split into North and South. Lillie Park North has a small parking lot accessible from Platt Rd and a 0.8 mile trail, and no playground. There are even more great paths at Lillie Park South. However, the parking area is near the playground. and they do not seem to be accessible from the trail at Lillie Park North.


Pittsfield Preserve

This is a late addition to the list. I have always visited Pittsfield Preserve through Marsh View Meadows which has a playground at the trail entrance.. But, Pittsfield Preserve has several sections which have their own parking lots. There are lots on Textile Rd (east of Marshview Meadows), Morton Road, and Thomas Road.

Scio Township Parks & Preserves

Sloan Preserve

There is a small parking lot for Sloan Preserve off of Baker Road. Walk through woods and along Mill Creek.

Other Preserves and Parks

The Scio Township website lists other Parks and preserves. However, it discusses future trails and plans for these preserves. Expect wild conditions at these parks

Other Ann Arbor Area Walks

Do you have other ideas of great playground-free walks in the Ann Arbor area?

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