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The West Bloomfield Trail sails along for nearly 7 miles through a municipality that claims to be one of the wettest in the nation—not from rainfall but from the sheer number of lakes (28), ponds (150), and wetlands (3,500 acres). You’ll stay high and dry on the crushed-limestone trail, however, as you pass the waterways that historically made this a weekend and summer getaway for Detroit and Pontiac.
The trail follows the 1880s route of the Michigan Air Line Railroad, which merged with the Grand Trunk Western Railroad in the 1920s. Beginning in 1899, the Orchard Lake Division of the Detroit Urban Railway paralleled those existing tracks between Orchard Lake and Pine Lake as it carried passengers on electric trolleys between Detroit and Pontiac.
The West Bloomfield Trail opened in 1993, and it has been a work in progress ever since. In the east, it links with the Clinton River Trail that rolls into Pontiac and beyond. In the west, it ends at Haggerty Road, but plans call for a connection to the M-5 Metro Trail. Benches, bike racks, scenic overlooks, and mileage markers (based on rail miles from Richmond) have been added to support users. Travelers curious about the surroundings will enjoy the MotorCities Wayside Exhibits posted along the trail.
Beginning at the Haggerty Road trailhead, you’ll soon discover the trail is steeped in nature, in spite of pockets of development. Don’t be alarmed if what appears to be a lawn ornament suddenly turns and bounds toward the forest; one pass on this trail provides sightings of deer, raccoons, and rabbits. Turtles, waterfowl, and assorted frogs populate the ponds and lakes, and the forests are filled with spruce, hickory, oak, and maple trees.
You’ll find the greatest concentration of wildlife at the 162-acre West Bloomfield Woods Nature Preserve at mile 2.6. A path winds through the urban wildlife sanctuary to connect overlooks, some with telescopes to aid in spotting the 100 bird species that have been documented here. Red foxes, coyotes, and minks make their homes here.
A narrow strip of land carries the trail between Orchard Lake and Pine Lake at about mile 5. Apples grew in abundance here in the 1800s, resulting in the first lake’s name. An island in its midst is called Apple Island, where legend has it that Chief Pontiac held council with neighboring tribes to plan an attack on Fort Detroit in the mid-18th century. Fast forward to the early 20th century, and you can imagine this shoreline was a popular stop for tourists who took the train up from Detroit.
Leaving the lakes behind, the trail brushes the southern border of Keego Harbor before entering Lake Sylvan. The West Bloomfield Trail ends at Sylvan Manor Park, but your travels can continue on the Clinton River Trail that rolls for 16 miles through Pontiac to the east side of Rochester, where it picks up the Macomb Orchard Trail
To reach the Haggerty Road trailhead from I-696, take Exit 10, and merge onto MI 10, heading northwest. Go 5.4 miles, and turn left onto W. 14 Mile Road. In 0.1 mile, round the traffic circle, and take the second right to continue west on 14 Mile Road. In 0.9 mile, bear right at a second traffic circle to head north on Farmington Road; in another 0.9 mile, bear right to round a third traffic circle, and take the second right to continue west on Maple Road. In 2.9 miles, turn right onto Haggerty Road. After 0.8 mile, look for parking on the right.
To reach the Sylvan Manor Park trailhead from I-75, take Exit 75 west onto Bus. I-75 toward Pontiac. In 1.5 miles, merge onto Square Lake Road. Go 3.4 miles, and turn right onto St. Joseph St.; then go 0.2 mile, and turn left onto Empire Drive. Go 0.3 mile, turn left onto Woodrow Wilson Blvd., and, in 0.1 mile, look for the entrance to Sylvan Manor Park on the right.
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