Nature Trails



The Ecology Trail (Length: 0.6 miles)

The Doris and Dick Richards Ecology Trail was completed in 1995 and provides an excellent overview of the preserve's various natural communities. Interpretive signs identify the plants and animals that live in the preserve and explain their relationships. Communities that can be observed and studied along the Ecology Trail include dry forest, wet forest, spring, stream, pond, and river. Steps and sturdy boardwalks make this the easiest trail for visitors to use.
The Fern Trail (Length: 0.04 miles)

The Jim Karaffa Fern Trail connects the Ecology Trail with the Streamside Trail. A variety of ferns, wildflowers, and shady wetland plants can be seen along this relatively short trail. The ferns are all indigenous to southwestern Michigan, giving visitors an appreciation for the diversity of ferns found in this part of the state.

The Streamside Trail (Length: 0.15 miles)

The Marion Ossmann Streamside Trail connects the Summer House with the St. Joseph River. The music of moving, falling water accompanies the trail from beginning to end. Visitors enjoy wildflowers, a spring-fed creek, wetlands, and frogs as they follow this aptly named trail.

The River Trail (Length: 0.16 miles)

The River Trail connects the lower end of the Ecology Trail with the lower end of the Streamside Trail. It follows a sand ridge along the banks of the scenic St. Joseph River, through a dry forest of oaks and other trees. A deck on the river provides a place to rest, sun, and watch aquatic wildlife.

The Wilderness Trail (Length: 0.6 miles)

Visitors who want to “get away from it all” or take a longer hike should choose the Wilderness Trail. It passes through some of the least disturbed woodlands at Fernwood, offering views of towering trees and carpets of spring wildflowers. A portion of the trail follows the St. Joseph River.

The Old Field Trail (Length: 0.22 miles)

This trail connects the Wilderness trail with the tallgrass prairie. At the top of the hill, It passes through a young forest of trees and shrubs, growing on land that was once an open field.

The Prairie Trails

A series of trails run through Fernwood’s 5-acre reconstructed tallgrass prairie. The views along the way change remarkably as the growing season progresses. Early in the season, one can see across the entire prairie from anywhere along the path. By late summer, when the tall grasses mature, one’s view may be restricted to only a few feet ahead.

Other Woodland Trails

Three short trails, Arboretum (0.07 miles), Oak Woods (0.11 miles), and Pine Woods (0.06 miles), connect the Arboretum with the Wilderness Trail and the gardens below. All cross steep slopes through dry upland forest.