Pinckney Recreation Area
Guide

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Introduction

Park your RV, grab your bike, and hit the trails. Pinckney Recreation Area in southeastern Michigan was one of the first parks to welcome off-road cyclists on its trail system. Now, over 115,000 riders head to the park every year. From spring to fall, if the weather is favorable, you’re sure to see lots of cyclists coming and going from the trailhead parking lot near the Silver Lake day-use area.

Experienced cyclists will appreciate a challenging and technical ride navigating hills and ridges. The most popular trail for advanced bikers is the Potawatomi Trail. Less experienced bikers will prefer the Silver Lake Trail. During the warmer months, RV campers can fish, swim, or picnic at one of the park's many lakes and day-use areas. Volleyball courts, horseshoe pits, and a fishing pier are located at Silver Lake beach along with concessions, boat rentals, and a trail system.

Halfmoon Lake has a boat launch, picnic shelters, and a playground area. Both Silver Lake and Halfmoon Lake feature beaches and swimming. The Bruin Lake Modern Campground is the only campground in the park with RV parking spaces available. This campground is open from March to November, but the park is open year-round. RV campers are sure to enjoy the adventure that awaits them at Michigan's Pinckney Recreation Area.

RV Rentals in Pinckney Recreation Area

Transportation in Pinckney Recreation Area

Driving

Pinckney Recreation Area stretches from M-52 near its southwest border to M-36 in the northeast. The park is spread out and includes sections of private land, so there are many homes and cottages along the larger lakes. The park straddles the Livingston and Washtenaw County line with several paved and gravel county roads running throughout. Some of the roads on the way into the park can be narrow and difficult to maneuver in a large motorhome or RV so take it slow and easy. Keep an eye out for deer and other critters that tend to wander into the road as well.

Because driving your big rig around on the smaller roads in the park is not a fun idea, bring your bike so you can ride the trails instead. Winding between the lakes and through forests of oak trees is the 26-mile trail system for mountain bikers, hikers, and backpackers. Enjoy a short hike or, if you like a challenge, there are two-day and three-day backpacking trails too. Some trails allow both hikers and cyclists so use caution. The park also has several horseback riding trails. Small boats can travel through the park on the streams and channels that connect the seven lakes.

Mountain biking brings over 115,000 riders a year to Pinckney Recreation Area. Riders from cycle-crazy Ann Arbor and the Detroit metropolitan area, along with others from neighboring states, enjoy the challenging rides over numerous hills and ridges. The Potawatomi Trail is the toughest ride and several biking accidents occur each summer so be careful. Call the park headquarters for trail conditions.

Parking

Public Transport

Campgrounds and parking in Pinckney Recreation Area

Campsites in Pinckney Recreation Area

Reservations camping

Bruin Lake Modern Campground

There’s something for the entire family to do while RV camping at Bruin Lake Modern Campground. There’s a playground for the kids, a boat launch so dad can take his boat out and do a little fishing, and a beach where mom can relax and soak in the sun. Even the family pet can join in on the fun since the sites are pet-friendly. However, you must keep your furry friend restrained and supervised during your visit. Bruin Lake Modern Campground is open from the end of March through November and features 186 sites with 20-, 30-, and 50-amp electric hookups available.

Each site has a picnic table and a campfire ring with a grill. Flush toilets, showers, and a sanitation station are nearby. The campground also includes a camper cabin and yurt that may be rented. Several parking lots are located to the southeast and southwest sides of the campground with an additional parking lot on the west side. There are two centrally located restrooms. The playground, beach, and boat launch are all located on Bruin Lake to the southeast of the campground. Canoes and kayaks are available for rent from a local vendor. And the lake provides access to the other lakes in the park via channels and streams. RVs and trailers up to 65 feet long can be accommodated.

Crooked Lake Campground

Crooked Lake is a smaller campground with 25 sites that can fit RVs and trailers up to 20 feet in length, as well as tents of any size. This is an excellent choice for those wanting to enjoy a rustic experience since there are no hookups here. A water spigot and vault toilets are centrally located, and each campsite has a campfire ring with a grill for cooking and a large picnic table that seats eight. You'll have plenty of space to sit around the campfire here as well.

All of the sites are pet-friendly as long as you keep your furry family member properly restrained and supervised at all times. You will be close to all the action on Crooked Lake including a fishing pier and boat launch so you can swim, fish, and just enjoy watching the sunset over the lake every evening.

First-come first-served

Alternate camping

Seasonal activities in Pinckney Recreation Area

In-Season

Playing Sports

How about spending a day playing games with friends or family? The day-use area at Pinckney Recreation Area has some awesome volleyball courts where you can start a game with your buddies or join in with some others who are already playing. There are also some horseshoe pits where you can try your skills at tossing the horseshoes a bit. Start a game of frisbee or set up a badminton set if you would rather play those games. There is plenty of room for all kinds of activities within the park.

Mountain Biking

In the mid-1980s, Pinckney Recreation Area was one of the first parks to allow off-road cyclists to use its trail system. More than 115,000 riders come from all over Michigan and its surrounding states every year. The park has three single tracks: the 1.9-mile Silver Lake Trail, the 5.1 Crooked Lake Trail, and 17.5-mile Potawatomi Trail. The Potawatomi Trail is one of most difficult rides in Michigan. Bikers follow trails in a clockwise direction while hikers move counterclockwise to avoid traffic flow problems. Cyclists can also ride on the paved shoulder of M-52 between Chelsea and Stockbridge. Always stay alert and obey traffic laws.

Swimming and Water Sports

Pinckney Recreation Area was shaped by glaciers that formed the seven park lakes that are connected by streams. Silver Lake, near the headquarters, is open to swimming, fishing, and boating. Crooked Lake is next to a rustic campground and has a boat launch but no swimming. Halfmoon Lake has a boat launch and a large swimming area. Pickerel Lake doesn’t have a very large beach, but some consider it one of the best swimming lakes in Michigan.

Hiking and Backpacking

Don't forget to pack some sturdy hiking boots in your RV since there are many hiking trails to choose from at this state park, including the 5.1-mile Crooked Lake and Potawatomi trails. There are also longer trails for backpackers. The Waterloo-Pinckney Trail is a three-day hike. There’s also the 17.5-mile Potawatomi Trail that takes about nine hours to cover. Some backpackers break the hike in half and stay at the walk-in campground on Blind Lake, the halfway point, or in a rental yurt. If you would rather take a short hike, try the 1.9-mile Silver Lake Trail.

Off-Season

Cross-Country Skiing

Although it’s not widely known, cross-country skiing in and around Pinckney Recreation Area is a popular winter sport, and you can find some trails already groomed for your enjoyment. There are four trails that are available for skiing during the winter. If you are looking for a quick ski fix, the 1.9-mile Silver Lake Trail and the 5.1-mile Crooked Lake Trail are both nice short runs. If you want a longer and more challenging run, try the 17.5-mile Potawatomi Trail or the 38.5-mile Waterloo-Pinckney Trail. If you forgot to pack your skis in the RV before heading to the park, there are several places in the area where you can rent or buy the gear you need.

Ice Fishing

Fish don’t stop biting just because it’s cold outside. Ice fishing opportunities abound whenever the lakes freeze so solidly that you can walk out on the ice and chip or drill holes in the ice. Silver, North, and South lakes are available for ice fishing in the park. Most people agree the ice should be at least four inches thick to be walking and fishing on it safely. Ice fishing is an excellent opportunity to spend quality time with your friends and family in the great outdoors. Never go on the water alone and layer your outerwear because it’s going to be cold!

Snowmobiling

Watch for the falling snow because you need at least four inches of snow on the ground if you want to go snowmobiling at Pinckney Recreation Area. State-designated snowmobile trails are open from December to March. Enjoy the diverse terrain and picturesque trails as you enjoy your winter adventure. Snowmobiling is only allowed in designated areas and never on the hiking trails. Make sure you talk to a park employee or ranger before taking off on that snowmobile so you know which trails you can use and what rules to follow.

Horseback Riding

Even during warmer days of the off-season, Pinckney Recreation Area is a majestic setting for horseback riding. You can view the countryside atop your horse on over eight miles of trails through unique ecosystems like forests and marshlands. There is one trailhead by the staging area as well as several others along Honey Creek and Patterson Lake Road. You'll have access to a number of amenities as well including stables and a staging area off Monks Road. If you do not have a horse you can find horseback riding services at Hell Creek Corral and Campground on Cedar Lake Road.

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