As of February 2015, smoking is prohibited in about half of the City of Ann Arbor's 158 parks. The ban covers all parks with playgrounds, and four downtown parks--if in doubt, look for signs. For an indexed Google map of all Ann Arbor parks, see tinyurl.com
Ann Arbor boasts several miles of diverse parks along the Huron River. Connected by trails, they provide the perfect setting for a long scenic walk or bike ride, as well as the chance to stop and enjoy activities ranging from bird watching and fishing to disc golf and swimming. Here's an overview, downstream from northwest to southeast.
Located on the northwest side of town, the Bird Hills Nature Area is the city's largest park, a favorite of hikers for its unpaved wooded trails through steep hills and ravines. To the east, across the river and Huron River Drive, the low-lying Barton Nature Area contains several different ecosystems, including prairie, emergent marshland, wet meadows, and former farmlands, and is home to the century-old Barton Dam. To the east stretches Bandemer Park, frequented by many for its 9-hole disc golf course, dirt bike jump course, and views of Argo Pond. The pond is circled by a trail connecting Bandemer Park with Argo Park to the east. A pedestrian boardwalk and then a dirt trail follow the eastern shoreline south through dense willows and oaks to the Argo watersports livery off Longshore Dr. On the west side of the pond, the paved Border-to-Border Trail (B2B) runs from Bandemer to Argo Dam and follows the Huron River all the way to Ypsilanti. A new addition to Argo Park, the wildly popular Argo Cascades is a bypass channel featuring a series of nine narrow drops and pools that carry paddlers and inner-tubers from Argo Pond down to the main river just upstream of the Broadway Bridges.
The B2B Trail goes under the bridges and passes through the picturesque Riverside Park, located on a relatively shallow portion of river suitable for fly-fishing. Downstream, off Maiden Lane, there are many inviting outdoor tables, grills, and a stunning Greek Revival picnic shelter at Island Park. In the woods at the back of the park, an old dirt road, now a walking path, ascends to the Cedar Bend Nature Area, a high, forested slope (also accessible from Broadway via Cedar Bend Dr.) whose view of the city's skyline is partially obscured by oaks and hickories.
Across the river from Island Park, Fuller Park bustles with people playing on its soccer fields, large playground, and in its outdoor pool and water slide. From here, the B2B Trail runs east along Fuller Rd. and around the U-M's Mitchell Field and softball diamonds, leading to Gallup Park. The city's most popular park, it has two playgrounds, a canoe and paddleboat livery, and over 3 miles of bucolic trails and arched footbridges joining a series of small islands. A pedestrian walkway connects Gallup with its quiet neighbor to the west, the Furstenberg Nature Area. The most ecologically diverse park in Ann Arbor, it contains several rare species of flora native to wetlands, woodlands, prairie, and oak savannah.
Teeming with roller bladers, joggers, and cyclists, the B2B Trail continues from Gallup Park east to Parker Mill County Park, where there is a historic grist and cider mill, and then Forest Nature Area, a wet forest of black maples, hackberries, and rock elms traversed by a boardwalk trail with interpretative signs.