Looking to stay active outdoors? Here are 4 local spots in St. Clair County

Summer is a great time for getting active and exploring the outdoors, whether you’re a sports enthusiast with a car full of gear, a nature lover on the hunt for butterflies and blossoms, or enjoying summer break with a few kids and a dog. 

There are many benefits to staying active for physical and mental health. Research shows outdoor activity conducted in a natural or green environment causes greater feelings of revitalization and positive engagement. Recent trends such as “Forest Bathing” harness the benefits of nature to foster greater health and well-being and reconnect us with the wonders of the natural world.  

With the United States Surgeon General’s recent comment on the dangers of social media, there’s a growing awareness that hours indoors on our phones can become potentially harmful, especially for children. Heading into the peak of summer there’s a need to create “phone-free zones” for kids and families, and more opportunities for outdoor activities. 

So grab some bug spray and sunscreen and get ready for an outdoor adventure at these local outdoor spaces in the county. 

Goodells County Park

Goodells County Park is an expansive 366-acre outdoor adventure in the heart of St. Clair County. On a sunny Saturday, the park is alive with activities from the massive colorful Splash Pad, BMX Track, and Remote Control Airplane field, to the Riding Rings for rodeo events. People can also explore the Farm Museum Barns. 

Racers on the BMX Track at Goodell's County Park.

This historic park is full of surprises. There are expansive meadows great for a picnic, kite flying, or star gazing and a two-and-a-half mile trail for hiking and biking. The pavilions on the Pine River have been a popular site for family reunions dating back to the 1920s. 

The Farm Museum at Goodell's County Park.

The Memorial Butterfly Garden is a touching dedication for bereaved parents of the blue water area and a beautiful tranquil spot to reflect and relax. 

Memorial Butterfly Garden ready to bloom for the summer at Goodell's County Park.

Director of St. Clair County Parks Commission Dennis Delor shared how the park has evolved over many decades as a lively outdoor destination 

“People sometimes think that parks in rural areas maybe don’t get the use versus parks in more urban areas. It’s 15 minutes from Port Huron, it’s not a long drive. A lot of people love to walk in this park, they come into the park and use it as an opportunity to walk on a paved trail instead of an urban area or a more secluded dirt road. Families come when children are learning to ride their bicycles because there are paved pathways that go throughout the park. We support a lot of the equestrian programs so there’s three associations that use the park for horse shows. It’s got everything - we pride ourselves on that,” Delor says. 

James and Alice Brennan Memorial Nature Sanctuary

This nature sanctuary nestled in the farmland of the county provides a rare opportunity for a more secluded hike through the forest. Owned by the Michigan Nature Association, the two-mile loop hikes through a peaceful, remote wooded area.  

Forest canopy at the James and Alice Brennan Nature Sanctuary.

Any nature enthusiast is sure to enjoy the lush wooded sanctuary. The trail runs along the Pine River and consists of two bridges and three pine forests planted by Alice Brennan for their natural beauty. This is a popular spot for foraging, birdwatching, forest bathing, and just taking in the sites and sounds. 

The James and Alice Brennan Nature Sanctuary trail is owned by the Michigan Nature Association and runs along the Pine River.

Bug spray, long pants, and some good hiking boots are recommended and there are no restroom facilities on site. 

Black River Access Point

The Black River Access Point is part of the Blueways of St. Clair system of water trails that encompasses ten bodies of water throughout the county. This spot is something of a hidden gem. Blink and you might miss it.

It's an ideal access point for paddling the water trails of the area and is also a spot for furry friends to cool off during the dog days of summer. 

The shoreline of Mill Creek off the Black River Access Trail.

A short walkway will have you down at Mill Creek in a perfect shallow area with a sandy shore that allows for pushing off a kayak or splashing with a pup. 

The area around the trails is densely wooded so long pants, hiking boots, and bug spray are also recommended for this spot.  

Woodsong County Park

This historic park dates back to the 1820s and was formerly owned by the Girl Scouts of America. Some of the original structures the Girl Scouts used are still there, and the meadow where they used to have parades. Today the park is growing in popularity due to its natural beauty, a distinctive view of the Black River, and unique topography. 

Woodsong County Park features a unique view from a vista at the bend of the Black River.

A local group of mountain bikers developed three miles of trails which volunteers maintain. Delor says the park has become a destination for hiking and mountain biking. 

“The popularity of the park has grown immensely because of the addition of the mountain bike trails that were developed for advanced riders but are really multi-use for hikers and bikers of all levels,” Delor says. ‘You can experience interesting views and ecosystems in the park as you travel the trails.”  

There is also a bicycle repair station, along with signage. 

There is so much to discover in St. Clair County, so hop in the car and make some fun summer memories. 
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Read more articles by Kelli Rademacher.

Kelli is a multi-disciplinary creative, writing, directing, and performing in a variety of fields including theatre, film, journalism, and dance. She’s lived in Detroit, Chicago, New York City, and the Washington DC area, but has roots in St. Clair County where both of her parents grew up and met at a Port Huron YMCA dance at the tender age of 17. She has a career in sales working for the chemical industry in Dangerous Goods Shipping Compliance. When she’s not creating art or selling hazmat labels she can be found hiking, baking, and beaching, and spending time with family, friends, and dogs.