Hiking Michigan: Warren Woods Natural Area

Warren Woods is a 300+ acre forest near Three Oaks, MI and is named for Edward Kirk Warren, a local shop-owner who invented the feather bone corset, which replaced whalebone and made him a rich man. With his fortune Woods purchased not only this land, but also acres of dunes, which are now Warren Dunes State Park. Very farsighted thinking.

Hiking Michigan: Warren Woods Natural Area

Warren Woods is the last remaining virgin beech-maple forest in Michigan and is paired with a floodplain oak-hickory forest. Because this ecosystem is so rare, the site has been designated since 1967 as a National Natural Landmark.

The park has few facilities – if you park at the Elm Valley Road parking area you will find vault toilets, tables, and one of the trailheads. Most people come here to walk or trail run, and birders come to see various rarer species. While not permitted, mountain bikers do use the trails on occasion.

Hiking Michigan: Warren Woods Natural Area

We haven’t been to this park in quite a few years, and I was surprised that the trail system has been expanded and runs between the Elm Valley Road trailhead all the way through to a new to me Warren Woods Road trailhead and parking lot. Social trails swing off the main path, exploring the woods and also heading towards the river for water views. My suggestion is to park at the Elm Valley Road trailhead, head down the path and stairs, over the bridge, and take the right hand path. This will take you along the river and eventually meet up with the main trail; turn right and follow to the Warren Woods trailhead. On the return walk, stay on the main path to get the full experience.

This is not a long hike, maybe a few miles, but is well worth taking the walk to see the enormous trees, the slow-flowing Galien River, and enjoy some silence. We’ve been here at different times of the year over time, and it can get very buggy in the warmer months. Early fall is a great time to see the forest without being eaten alive.


Nearby destinations: Warren Woods State Park and Warren Dunes.

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