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Waterloo Recreation Area - Trails, Fishing, Kayaking and More

Waterloo Recreation Area is a scenic area for outdoor fun. Trails for hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and cross-country skiing wind around the park, and several lakes are available for fishing, boating, and kayaking.

Recreational Trails

The Waterloo Recreation Area's trails are mostly dirt, with grass, rocks or tree roots sometimes located in the trail. At the Portage Lake Unit, there are several paved paths that connect picnic areas, the beachhouse, fishing pier, and parking areas. NOTE: Much of the Waterloo Recreation Area's land is open to hunting, so you will NOT want to use most of the trails during the fall's hunting seasons. The Discovery Center Trails are located within the no-hunting area.
  • Waterloo-Pinckney Trail - The longest trail in the recreation area is used for hiking and cross-country skiing. It stretches 22 miles from the Portage Lake Unit to the Green Lake Campground area. You can can continue hiking from there for another 13 miles through the Pinckney Recreation Area, ending at the Silver Lake Day Use Area. The trail meanders through wooded areas, past marsh lands and lakes, and winds over hilly terrain. You may see squirrels, chipmunks, deer, birds, or other wildlife near the trail.

  • Equestrian Trails - Waterloo Recreation Area features some lengthy horseback riding trails. The trails traverse through wooded areas, past marsh lands and lakes, and winds over hilly terrain.

  • Discovery Center Trails - Near the Gerald E. Eddy Discovery Center, there are several trail loops that connect to the Waterloo-Pinckney Trail. You can park at either of the Discovery Center's two parking lots to access the trails. The Discovery Center Trails are located within the no-hunting area, and the routes can be used for hiking during most of the year and cross-country skiing during the winter. The Lakeview Trail and Oak Woods Trail lead to scenic views of Mill Lake.

  • Mountain Biking Trails - On the west side of Maute Road, there is a single-track biking trail loop. The trail is not well marked from the road, but there is a series of short wooden posts near the road where the trail leads to the road. The recreation area also allows you to bike a trail on the east side of the road; this trail can be very narrow at times. You can park along the side of Maute Road to access the trail.

Swimming Beach

The Portage Lake Unit has a sandy swimming beach on Big Portage Lake. There is a beachhouse not far from the beach and day use parking area. The beach is also not far from the Portage Lake Unit's campground.

Scenic Lakes

The Waterloo Recreation Area features numerous lakes for fun on the water. Fishing boats and kayaks commonly use the lakes. Boat launches are located at Big Portage Lake, Cedar Lake, Crooked Lake, Doyle Lake, Mill Lake, Mud Lake, Walsh Lake, and Winnewana Lake. Big Portage Lake has a paved boating access area with a large parking lot for vehicles with trailers. The other lakes features dirt access ramps with smaller parking lots. The launches at Mud Lake, Mill Lake, and Walsh Lake are best suited for small boats and kayaks.

Campground visitors can use the boat launches at Green Lake and Sugarloaf Lake.


Whether you like a modern campground or something more rustic, the Waterloo Recreation Area offers several choices for camping. The two modern campgrounds are located at the Portage Lake Unit (136 camping sites) and Sugarloaf Lake (164 camping sites). The Green Lake Campground is a rustic camping area with 25 sites. Boat launch access are available at these campgrounds. A few rustic cabins are also located at Waterloo Recreation Area.

The Equestrian Campground is a rustic campground for campers with horses. The equestrian trail is accessible from the camping area.

For campground reservation details, please visit the Michigan DNR's web site.

Picnic Areas

Near several lakes within the Waterloo Recreation Area, there are scenic spots for picnics. The Portage Lake Unit features picnic tables not far from Big Portage Lake, and there are picnic shelters for larger gatherings. At Crooked Lake and Mud Lake, there are parking areas with picnic tables nearby that offer nice views of the lakes.

Gerald E. Eddy Discovery Center

The Gerald E. Eddy Discovery Center offers exhibits, interactive displays, and educational programs. The center sometimes offers weekend programs for the general public, focusing on the recreation area's wildlife and wildflowers. It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sunday from noon to 5 p.m., from the week after Easter until the Sunday before Thanksgiving.


The Waterloo Area Historical Society maintains the Waterloo Farm Museum and Dewey School Museum, which are located in historic structures that date back to the 1800's. The museums are open for tours starting in late May through the summer. In December, the Waterloo Farm is decorated for the Christmas season and is open for special events.

Chelsea-Stockbridge Bike Route

Cyclists can ride on the shoulder of M-52 to travel between Chelsea and Stockbridge. The road shoulder bike route offers panoramic views of rolling farmland. The paved shoulder is over a foot wide in most spots, starting on the north side of Chelsea. The road typically has moderate traffic, but can be heavier depending on the time of day or day of the week. When riding on the shoulder of the road, obey traffic laws and stay alert.

Before you go, it's a good idea to check the State of Michigan's construction database to make sure there will not be any construction on the road that can interfere with your ride.

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