The Motor City has always been more about racing in the streets than hiking in the parks. Still, Detroit is gradually finding its outdoor mojo - cleaning its rivers, grooming its paths, and opening access to woods and water, particularly the Rouge River, beneficiary of an $800 million sewage-relocation project. The result: Adventurous types now have more options than ever for getting out and revving their internal engines.
Detroit's obsession with cars has resulted in a largely wilderness-free downtown. But to hike where there are more deer than Impalas, head to the metro area's eastern fringe and 211-acre Heritage Park in Farmington Hills. There are 4.5 miles of wildlife-rich paths; hike the River Trail, which heads up a steep hill and features tulip trees, pines, and the occasional coyote. Stop by the Visitor Center for help identifying the birds - indigo buntings, northern harriers, even bald eagles. (248) 473-1800
Anyone who grew up here a generation ago remembers 18-mile Hines Drive along the Rouge River as a place to swill Stroh's and listen to Bob Seger. Thanks to decades of environmental activism and city grants, the bike path here is now a quiet, smooth ride. Start pedaling a hilly 10-mile stretch in Dearborn Heights, on Ford Road between Outer Drive and Evergreen on metro Detroit's western edge. The path west to Newburgh Lake cuts through beech, maple, and oak trees, where you might see deer or red foxes, and winds up at a popular fishing hole. (734) 261-1990
The Detroit River isn't actually a river - it's a strait between Lake Erie and Lake St. Claire. That means off-the-grid kayakers get a serene, current-free, low-traffic place to paddle with the city skyline on one side and downtown Windsor, Ontario, on the other. Launch at Belle Isle, between the pier and the Coast Guard station, then head a mile north toward Lake St. Claire and Peche Island, an unexpected wilderness with a 97-year-old lighthouse, trails, beaches, and ruins of an old mansion. Rent a kayak in nearby Milford (www.heavnercanoe.com).