Did you know the longest Canopy Walk in the US is just two hours away? In October 2018, Dow Gardens in Midland opened their new Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens with the canopy walk, playground, apple orchard, and much more. A friend and I visited on a weekday that month while the kids were at school to check it out. My daughter and I returned during Spring Break 2019 and have a few updates to the article.
Activities at Whiting Forest
Longest Canopy Walk at Whiting Forest
The Canopy Walk is a unique way to explore the forest. It has three branches each of which provide a different vista and a unique experience.
We started with the spruce tree grove. As you overlook the spruce trees from 25′ above the ground, there are cargo nets to climb through. Without my daughter there, I had to brave the cargo nets.
The orchard view provides the highest vista at 40′ above the ground. The platform has a glass section allowing you to look below and out without obstruction.
Finally, view the forest pond from 25′ above. On the walk to the pond, use the rope bridge to explore the larger pod or take the safer walkway extension and explore the smaller pod. The larger pod includes a tunnel below the main floor. I left that for the kids to explore.
Even better the main walk is ADA accessible with ramps and wide paths which is great for strollers as well as wheelchairs.Both the orchard platform and forest pond platform had seating available. However, I don’t recommend side-by-side double strollers. On our second visit, I saw some double strollers that took up almost the entire width of some sections preventing anyone going in the opposite direction. They would also be a problem where people are waiting in line to cross the rope bridge to the pod above.
Whiting Forest Playground
Along with the Canopy Walk, they debuted a new playground. Instead of a traditional structure, it is a more natural playground with slides built into hills, tunnels through the hills, a rock wall.
There is even a stream with a duck run and stepping stones for kids to explore. This will be great for warm summer months.
The playground also features swings – infant swings, regular swings, an adaptive swing, and a platform swing.
The playground is gated for safety. It is located right outside of the cafe and offers outdoor cafe tables overlooking the playground and picnic benches in the playground. The water fountain in the playground includes a bottle filling station.
Forest Classroom and Cafe
The Forest Classroom offers educational programming. On our visit, it was open for forest guests. Displays include animal skins and artifacts, pond water under the microscope, and tree cross-sections. I learned more about the damage of an emerald ash bore here. They have removed 1200 ash trees along Snake Creek and planted nearly 3000 trees and shrubs from 34 native species to replace them.
The Whiting Forest Cafe is right outside of the playground and offers additional parking. They have a limited menu, hot drinks, and snacks. On our first visit, they offered sandwiches. When my daughter and I returned they only offered soups and corn salad, bean salad, oriental vegetable salad, etc. The cafe offers cozy fireplace seating, cafe tables with tree branch inspired chairs, and a play area.
In addition to the canopy walk, there are 1.5 miles of hard-surface paths and 1 mile of wood chip/mulch paths. The hard-surface paths are porous and made of recycled tires to allow water to flow through and be absorbed by the nearby tree roots instead of being lost to runoff.
Dow Gardens and Library
There is currently a walkway to additional parking at the Grace A. Dow Memorial Library. This walkway overlooks the Snake Creek watershed. On our second visit, my daughter and I parked at the library because the main lot was full.
The Rose Garden pedestrian bridge to connect Whiting Forest with the Dow Gardens Exploration Garden was completed as of our second visit over Spring Break 2019. We decided not to visit the Dow Gardens since spring blooming has not really started.
Thoughts on Whiting Forest Canopy Walk
My friend and I had a great time on our visit. We can’t wait to bring our tweens (or maybe their Girl Scout troop) back for a visit. They will enjoy the cargo nets, rope bridge, and the views. I think they will even enjoy the playground.
At the same time, that our tweens would have a great time, there is plenty for little kids to enjoy. Aside from the rope bridge, a stroller can travel the entire canopy walk. The playground was full of toddlers and preschoolers on our visit (weekday morning).
The design of the canopy walk was great. The canopy walk has a wire fence with a sturdy wooden bar to help it blend into the surroundings while providing a safe border. I never felt insecure at the heights. We did notice the platform at the spruce trees swaying. The wide paths definitely helped with the feeling of security. Although if you are particularly sensitive, you may want to proceed with caution.
Since they just opened at the beginning of October, I would expect crowds, particularly on the weekends, this fall. Our Thursday visit was a perfect crowd level. We had short waits at the entrance and for the rope bridge. The viewing platforms were not crowded and we could take our time.
Our only disappointment is that Whiting Forest is only open during the day. There were lights installed throughout the canopy walk and it would be perfect for a night time Halloween event or a scout sleepover. Hopefully they will expand into those areas next year now that they are officially open.
Visit Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens
Location & Parking
Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens is in Midland, just 2 hours from Ann Arbor. It is just down the street from Dow Gardens. Their addresses are:
- Whiting Forest – 2203 Eastman Avenue, Midland
- Dow Gardens – 1809 Eastman Avenue, Midland
You can enter from either the Visitor Center or the Cafe near the playground and pay your admission fee. On our second visit, the parking lots at Whiting Forest were full and we were directed to the Grace A. Dow Library and used the bridge to walk to the Visitor Center.
The hours at Whiting Forest vary seasonally since they are mostly open during daylight.
- Labor Day-October 31 – 9a-6:30p
- November 1-April 14 – 9a-4p
- April 15-Labor Day 9a-8:30p
Introductory prices were in effect for 2018 and doubled for 2019. Even so, the rates are still pretty reasonable. Admission is $10/adults and $2/children ages 6-17 and college students. Children 5 and under are free. Annual passes are $20/person (and valid for 1 year from purchase). I bought an annual pass in October 2018 for just $10 and it has already paid for itself.