Hiking in Cass County
Cass County has some of the best hiking & backpacking trails in southwestern Lower Michigan and is home to parks and nature preserves where endangered plants and wildlife are protected and studied. These habitats are open to the public for their study and enjoyment. People can study and observe countless numbers of wildflowers from early Spring through late Fall. Dowagiac Woods is one of these nature preserves where people come to observe the vegetation, and also the birds and wildlife that thrive under the protection of the Michigan Nature Association. Check out the opportunities for hiking and backpacking in Cass County, Michigan below.
Crane Pond State Game Area – 2 miles of narrow primitive hiking trails
Crane Pond State Game Area is 4,114 acres in Newberg Township that has been dedicated to wildlife conservation and management by the DNR Wildlife Division. There are only 2 miles of primitive narrow hiking trails.
Location: – 60887 Highway M-40, Jones, MI – Directions
Crane Pond DNR Wildlife Office, 60887 Highway M-40, Jones, MI 49061
Phone 269-244-5928. Map & Guidelines for Crane Pond State Game Area
Dowagiac Woods Nature Preserve – 2.5 miles of primitive hiking trails
is considered the “jewel in the crown” of Michigan Nature Association’s sanctuaries and has been described as an outdoor museum crammed full of living things. Visitors to the sanctuary can walk along easy, well-marked trails and are treated to an experience like no other – an opportunity to step back in time and see the forest as the early settlers did.
Dowagiac Woods is a spectacular natural area where an amazing lushness reigns. Because the majority of the property has never been plowed or clear-cut, there is incredible species diversity. Wildflowers, trees, birds, and other animals flourish here, and the great size of the woods is a factor vital to their survival.
Plants flourish at Dowagiac Woods in countless numbers, with more than 50 species of wildflowers that bloom in the spring. Here lives a plant community that shows what a forest floor free from human development looks like.
Dowagiac Woods Nature Sanctuary is open to non-destructive uses such as hiking, photography, bird-watching or educational activities. The use of all motorized vehicles or mountain bikes is prohibited. No hunting, fishing, trapping, camping, campfires, or pets are permitted. Collecting plants or seeds is forbidden. Leave No Trace must be practiced. Please respect this nature sanctuary and enjoy your visit.
Location: Dowagiac Woods, Pokagon, MI – Directions
Dowagiac Woods Nature Preserve MNA brochure
Trail distance: 2.5 miles
Dr. T.K. Lawless Park – 7 miles groomed hiking trails
Lawless Park has over 17 miles of groomed trails for hiking. The park is also a naturalist’s paradise for bird watching and so many more outdoor activities and sports. This 820-acre nature park is open year-round and boasts a broad range of recreational activities for every season of the year.
This is a dog-friendly park and everyone is welcome to share the trails with their furry friends as long as they are leashed and you bring poop bags to clean up after them.
Location: 15122 Monkey Run Street, Vandalia, MI 49095 – Directions
Fred Russ Forest Park – 4 miles of groomed hiking trails
Located eight miles east of Dowagiac within the 580-acre Fred Russ research forest, this 13-acre park with its rich history and natural beauty is one of the most visited parks in Cass County. People come to Russ Forest Park to hike, ride the trails on horseback, fish, canoe, and picnic. See details below. Dowagiac Creek is a designated trout stream (second-quality, cold water) that flows through Russ Forest, which is owned by Michigan State University. This first-order stream originates in a chain of lakes near Marcellus and flows in a southwesterly direction to its confluence with the Dowagiac River. There is no state-owned land along the creek, but anglers currently have no problems obtaining landowner permission to fish most of the creek. The creek has many faithful anglers who have been fishing there for decades. It is very good dry fly water, being sufficiently wide to permit fly casting by the novice. This feature is rare in many southern Michigan trout streams. Anglers do quite well, catching trout from 5-24 inches. Many limit catches are reported. Historically, Dowagiac Creek has been managed for trout since at least 1933. Brown, brook, and rainbow trout have all been planted; however, only browns have been stocked since 1964.
Location: 20379 Marcellus Highway, Decatur, MI 49045 – Directions
Rudolphi Woods wildlife refuge
Dowagiac is also the home of Rudolphi Woods, enjoyed year-round for hiking, running, and cross-country skiing. Located off Dailey Road, 325 acres of high-quality open space abound, featuring more than eight miles of nature trails and identification of natural flora.
Wildflowers are abundant within the Claspy Estate section that is owned by Southwestern Michigan College, and within 120 acres adjacent to Riverside Cemetery and the Dowagiac Creek.
Location: 57000 Daily Rd, Dowagiac, MI 49047 – Directions