Russ Forest is one of my favorite spots for spring wildflowers but I hadn't visited it in the winter. Last weekend, before the snow melted, we skied its trails.
This park makes an ideal outing for the beginning cross-country skier. It offers a substantial outing (over 4 miles of trails) without any difficult terrain. The trails are wide, well-marked, and easy to follow. I'm not sure why loop 3 was designated "intermediate" on their maps, since it seemed perfectly level and easily negotiable. The biggest "hill" was the gentle slope to the bridge over Dowagiac Creek.
Russ Forest is less than an hour's drive from Kalamazoo. Only a few visitors had made the trip since the last snowfall, so over half of the distance we were able to ski unbroken snow. While no wildflowers are visible in January, the big tulip poplars are still there, as are the large beech trees marred by pocketknives.
Fred Russ Forest County Park
Marcellus Highway, eight miles east of Dowagiac
(269) 445-8611 Office
Fred Russ Research Forest (MSU)
20673 Marcellus Highway
Decatur, MI 49045
Directions to Fred Russ Forest
From US-131 -- Just north of Three Rivers turn west on M-216 (Marcellus highway). Proceed 18 miles, traveling through Marcellus, to the research station office located on the left side. Travel another 1/4 mile to the roadside park entrance.
From I-94 -- Take the Paw Paw M-40 exit (exit 60). Travel south on M-40 through Lawton to Marcellus Highway. Turn west and travel approximately 5 miles to the research station office on the left side. Travel another 1/4 mile to the roadside park entrance.