This time of year, when trees dangle gems the color of rubies and garnets, I'd rather wind along M-22 in Leelanau County than on M-1 in Oakland. But when reality favors travel of five minutes rather than five hours, Birmingham shines with plenty of fall jewels.
1. Rouge River trail: A wood chip trail meanders scenically along flowing water for more than a mile between and , with a brief return to reality as you cross Maple
2. : The eight-acre park just west of downtown has a sinuous path around the lake, with a walk-out viewing platform on the east shore and several flat stone overlooks at water's edge on both sides. , nearby on Oak Street, has a one-lane road loop through this heavily wooded seclusion.
3. North Old Woodward Deck: The five-level parking structure just above Oakland Avenue overlooks Booth Park, colorful foliage along the Rouge River and leafy North Woodward. It's well worth a free visit by car or foot, with an elevator at the rear and stairs at three corners.
4. : Another convenient, elevated vantage point is the municipal garage at downtown's west end, where you can take an elevator or stairs to the fourth level to see Baldwin Park and the edge of Quarton Lake Park at one end and Shain Park at the other. This also is a highly recommended treat for a look at familiar landscapes in a way we don't see at street level.
5. Manresa Jesuit Retreat: This heavily wooded enclave, just over the Birmingham-Bloomfield Hills line at Quarton and Woodward, is open to the public as a convenient, quiet spot for nature walks. It's designed for spiritual reflection, with winding paths, benches and arched wooden bridges spanning the Rouge River as it flows toward Quarton Lake. Visitors of any denomination, or none, are welcome to stroll, snap photos and marvel at scenery that seems distant from two active thoroughfares at its edges. Patch blogger earns a hat tip for after he enjoyed the grounds.
6. /Manor Road: A quiet nature trail in Manor Park off North Adams at Shepardsbush has several loops below a foliage canopy, emerging at unpaved Manor Road. That scenic lane in Bloomfield Township heads up to Big Beaver after crossing small bridges and skirting two ponds. The park trail is on mulch and posted with "No Dogs" signs.
7. Trackside trail/Yorkshire Road: Directly off East Maple at Eton Street, just west of the railroad overpass, is an attractively landscaped public stairway to a short mulch trail through woodland to Yorkshire Road.