Address: 1099 Main Street, Ann Arbor MI 48103
Hours and Rules
Open 6 a.m.-midnight with quiet hours beginning at 10 p.m. Refer to Chapter 39 of the City of Ann Arbor Code of Ordinances for park regulations and rules. Smoking is prohibited and dogs must be on leash.
Bluffs Nature Area is a roughly 40-acre tract of land that engulfs you in nature yet is close to the comforts of the city. View the Ann Arbor Parks and Nature Areas map for location context. On a glacially formed ridge above the Huron River and N. Main St., it is an important link in the corridor of natural areas surrounding the Huron River and supporting wildlife.
Footpath trails wind throughout Bluffs, with a lot of ups and downs. Some paths are quite steep, with many twists and turns. After a heavy rain and during snow melt, streams cross the paths in several spots. Although the city acquired various bits and pieces of Bluffs over the period 1952-2013 from all appearances it flows as a seamless expanse of land that is almost entirely wooded.
Bluffs has a variety of natural features of note, including an oak-hickory forest, wooded ravines, an open meadow with remnant prairie species, and glimpses through the trees of the Huron River in the distance. There are also a few examples of large older trees including open grown oaks and pine. A small prairie grew on an exposed gravelly slope that once served as a staging area when nearby M-14 was built. Tough prairie species that have sprung up here include bluestem grasses, goldenrod, mountain mint, butterfly weed, boneset, lanceleaf coreopsis, blue-eyed grass and vervain. Three species of hickory: shagbark, pignut and bitternut are among the native nut trees growing in the park. It has been said that the largest collection of butternut trees in Ann Arbor can be found here as well. Uncommon understory trees and shrubs found are blue beech, witch hazel, hazelnut and highbush cranberry. Hikers are sure to enjoy the rugged trails throughout Bluffs, and it has long been a favorite place for bicycles.
In spring, expect to see all shades of green in the trees, plus violets, trout lilies, wild geraniums, and may apples. Into summer flowers shift to black-eyed Susans, boneset, butterfly weed, yarrow, and bee balm, with dragon flies (natural predators for mosquitoes) and butterflies flying about. Fall brings all sorts of colors in the trees and ground covers. Do be careful about poison ivy (an important food source for wildlife, but a skin irritant to many people), which can appear as low plants or vines growing up trees. Bird sounds and sights are common and a real treat. Deer sometimes appear. Small streams flow in several places, especially after heavy rains and snow melts.
Access and Parking
There is street parking available at the Sunset Road entrance. There is street parking at the unsigned Orkney Drive entrance. There is a small dirt parking lot on Main Street. There is some street parking on Huron View Boulevard on the north side of the park. Refer to posted signage regarding parking rules and restrictions.
The park is accessible on bike and foot by riding and walking to the Sunset Road entrance through the neighborhood streets. There is no bike lane on Main Street. There are no bike racks at the park.
Public Transportation: The nearest stop is less than a five minute walk from the Sunset Road entrance. Visit The Ride for closest stops and route details or check out the parks ride guide.
There are ongoing and limitless opportunities for volunteering and getting engaged with the Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation Services Unit. Natural Area Preservation has volunteer opportunities that support their mission to protect and restore Ann Arbor's natural areas and to foster an environmental ethic among its citizens. If you are feeling the call to volunteer or give some time, reach out or explore the website above to see what’s upcoming or how to get involved.
Report a Problem - A2 Fix It
To report any maintenance issues or other problem during your park visit, please report through A2Fix It. When reporting an issue in a park please include location details. There is a details and description section near the end of the request process to help you provide this. In addition, users can utilize the pin (website) or X (mobile app) feature to provide specific location information inside the park. Finally, please consider including a wide angle photo or include background landmarks, which helps staff find and fix the problem.
Gifts and Donations
Information on donating to the parks and the Guide to Giving can be found here. For special projects ideas in natural areas, Natural Area Preservation staff will guide you and provide project guidelines unique to natural areas.
The first 20 acres that comprise Bluffs Nature Area were acquired by the city in 1952, for the purposes of preserving the land and having it be a public space. In 2001 the city acquired nearly 20 additional acres of land for Bluffs, saving the land from development and doubling the size of the nature area. The southern entrance on Sunset Road was added in 2010 after the city purchased a small parcel of land from the bordering Elks Lodge to make that possible. A new trail entrance was added off of Orkney Drive after the city purchased a small parcel of land from neighbors who bordered the park in 2013.
To read more about Bluffs Nature Area history, volunteer efforts, ecological restoration and other Natural Area Preservation activities, check out the NAP Newsletter features that have highlighted Bluffs Nature Area:
2001 Park Focus: Bluffs Nature Area by Chris Cookingham
2012 Bluffs Nature Areas: Welcoming Additions by Anne Rueter
Updated September 2021. Email [email protected] for incorrect/outdated information.