Waterloo State Recreation Area

Waterloo Recreation Area

Waterloo State Recreation Area of Jackson and Washtenaw County, Michigan

Hiking the Waterloo State Recreation AreaCross country skiing the Waterloo State Recreation AreaHorseback riding the Waterloo State Recreation Area

Trail Distance:

41 miles long.


From I-94: Discovery Center, exit 157; Headquarters, exit 156; Sugarloaf Lake Campground, exit 153; Portage Lake Campground / Picnic, exit 150 or 147; or call park for directions.

Directions: Because the park is so large and spread out, finding where you want to go may require some extra time. The park map can be obtained by clicking on the link at the top of this page. Each location described here will refer to a letter/number locator on the park map. Please call the park for additional directions. Written driving directions are available here.

Trail Difficulty:

Hiking: Easy to Difficult

Cross Country Skiing: Novice to Advanced

Horseback Riding: Novice to Advanced

Trail List:

Trail Description:

Area Headquarters
16345 McClure Rd.
Chelsea MI 48118
Phone Number: (734) 475-8307
TTY/TDD711 (Michigan Relay Center)
Motor Vehicle Permit Required: Yes
Approximate Size: 20500 (Acres)
Make a Reservation at this Park

Ski trail is not groomed.

Waterloo Recreation Area is the largest park in the Lower Peninsula. At more than 20,000 acres, the park boasts two modern campgrounds, a rustic campground, an equestrian campground, a swimming beach, several picnic sites, 11 excellent fishing lakes, eight boat launches, 12 miles of interpretive nature trails, 47 miles of hiking trails, three rustic cabins, numerous equestrian trails and the Gerald E. Eddy Discovery Center.


  • Visitor Center - Exhibits, interactive displays, multi-image slide shows and other nature programs to orient visitors to Michigan's unique cultural and natural features. Feature is ADA Compliant. The Gerald E. Eddy Discovery Center, located on Bush Road at (F10) is open year-round. It introduces visitors of all ages to the fascinating world of geology and the diverse natural wonders found at the Waterloo Recreation Area. Groups can schedule a guided experience by calling 734-475-3170. The center is located on Bush Road between Pierce and McClure roads in Chelsea. To get there, take I-94 to exit 157 (Pierce Road) and go north to Bush Road. Take Bush Road west to the center. The center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday and closed Mondays except for Memorial Day and Labor Day. While visiting, be sure to visit the gift shop and check out programming organized by the Waterloo Natural History Association which is dedicated to helping support the education mission of the Discovery Center and the park.
  • Hunting - Waterloo Recreation Area is open to hunting for all species following regular State Regulations between September 15 and March 31. This park boasts excellent deer and turkey hunting, with prevalent numbers of both species. Rabbit and squirrel can be found to a lesser degree throughout the park. In addition, there are pockets throughout the park with decent populations of pheasant, quail, grouse and woodcock. The park is also open to trapping. The terrain is a mixture of open brush land to mature hardwood forest, with some pockets of open meadows mixed in with several large areas of wetland habitat. All users are reminded that private property is interspersed within many of the park and recreation area properties. It is the responsibility of all users to determine where they are and to stay off private property. Waterloo does have hiking and equestrian trails within the open hunting areas.
  • Designated Watchable Wildlife Site - The Wildlife Viewing Guide is now on line at www.michigan.gov/miwildlifeviewing Haehnle Audubon Sanctuary.
  • Playground - These play areas offer a variety of playground equipment for children. Feature is ADA Compliant Playgrounds are available at the Portage Lake day-use area and the Sugarloaf Campground.
  • Beach House - Provides clothes-changing area for swimmers. Feature is ADA Compliant A beach house is available at the Portage Lake beach.
  • Swimming - Sugarloaf Lake Beach Information. A public beach is located at Big Portage Lake, E4. Hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with a beach store open during the summer. A beach is also located for campers only at the Sugarloaf Campground, G8.
  • Fishing - Feature is ADA Compliant Fishing piers are located at Big Portage and Crooked lakes. The pier at Big Portage Lake is the only one considered universally accessible by ADA Guidelines. Bass, panfish and pike can be found in the many lakes in Waterloo Recreation Area.
  • Picnic Area - Picnic tables and fire pits/grills Feature is ADA Compliant A picnic site is located at Big Portage Lake (E4) and has tables, grills, water, toilet facilities, and a picnic shelter which may be reserved. Hours of operation are 8 a.m. - 10 p.m. daily. The smaller picnic sites are at Crooked Lake located at F8 and Mud Lake located at D8. Both have tables and grills. The picnic area at Big Portage Lake meets current ADAAG standards for universal accessibility.
  • Picnic Shelter(s) - Feature is ADA Compliant. Two picnic shelters are available to rent at the Portage Lake day-use area. Contact the park headquarters for reservations: (734)475-8307.
  • Alcohol Restrictions Apply - Alcohol is prohibited from the Portage Lake campground and day-use areas from April 1 through Labor Day.
  • Hiking - Feature is ADA Compliant. A variety of trails are available for hiking, skiing, mountain biking, horseback riding and nature study can be found in the recreation area. The Trails of Waterloo's Discovery Center can help guide your exploration of all the natural features to be found.
  • Bridle Trails - Trails may have other designated uses. Fifteen miles of bridle trails provide ample horseback riding for equestrians. Bridle trails are located at E6 and E7 on the park map. Be sure to check out information about the Waterloo Horsemen's Association which helps support equestrian activities in the park. Click here for a map.
  • Mountain Biking - Five miles of trails provide a challenging ride. Mountain Biking trails are located at G6 on the park map. Trails can be accessed from Katz and Glenn roads.
  • Snowmobile Area - Allowed with 4" of snow or more on the ground.
  • Boating Access Site/Launch - Access for boating and fishing. Public boat launches are located on Big Portage(E4), Cedar(F10), Green(D10), Crooked(F8), Mill(E9), Mud(E8), and Walsh(E10) lakes and the Winnewana Impoundment(D9). Access by foot across state land is available at Clear(E7), Doyle(F9), Cassidy(E10), Little Portage(D4) and Merkle(C6) lakes. Only the launch site at Big Portage Lake meets ADAAG standards for universal accessibility. Access is limited to registered campers at Sugarloaf Lake(E8) because it is located within the campground.
  • Cross Country Ski - Cross country ski trails start at the Discovery Center. Trails are not groomed. Click here for a map.
  • Metal Detecting Areas - Metal detecting is recognized as a legitimate recreation activity when it is conducted in ways that do not damage the natural and cultural resources in Michigan State Parks nor violate applicable state statutes. If you wish to use a metal detector in this state park, here is a map that shows clearly where this activity may take place. Any items found must be reviewed by park staff and may be retained for further investigation.

Return to Jackson County, MI Trails Page

Return to Washtenaw County, MI Trails Page

Waterloo State Recreation Area Map

Permission and information sources are from Contributers to this Web Site, the Department of Natural Resources, Michigan.gov, National Park Service, and the USDA Forest Service.


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