Take your young hikers out on a half-mile trail through the swampy area north of Tradition Lake. It could even be their first hike! The trail is solidly-constructed, with good footing, no mud and it's almost all level. It's designed with the young visitors in mind. But hey, it's OK if you older folks enjoy it, too!
Start out from the main parking lot, pass the bulletin boards and the convenient toilets, and then note the small trail sign directing you to the right to find the Swamp Trail. You will come to the actual beginning of the trail in about 100 yards where a big sign greets you (see photo).
Additional signs along the way tell the story of Zoe's visit there, and her encounters with various wetland critters (Zoe might herself be a critter...) and their uneasiness about a possibly-mythical Swamp Monster. A brochure often is available at the trailhead, and it offers supplementary material for accompanying adults to enhance the visit.
The surroundings are very green, with lots of moss and ferns but you won't see much standing water and definitely no alligators! If you're just out for a short walk, then hike the Swamp Trail a half mile and, when it meets the Gas Line and a Power Line, turn around there. By then you will have read all of Zoe's story, so you can just head back to your trailhead.
Extending Your Hike
Of course, if time and your little hiker's enthusiasm allow, there are a number of possible extensions. You might consult the Green Trails Map (204S) for possibilities before you start out. There's one posted on the bulletin board at the main trailhead. Better yet, take along a copy of your own so you can improvise along the way.
Here's one suggested extension you might particularly enjoy. It offers a variety of attractions: one of the largest trees still standing in the Tigers, a really wet swampy area, tiny Round Lake, the remains of an old bus and views of larger Tradition Lake. In fact, you will be hiking our Tradition Lake Loop, but you will be hiking it in the reverse direction. No worries, that works fine too!
Here's a brief summary, and you can consult the Tradition Lake Loop entry in our WTA Hiking Guide for more detail.
When the Swamp Trail meets the power line, just keep going. The trail changes names to Big Tree Trail and it will take you by the big tree (you can't miss it). Just past the tree, be sure to take the very short--just a few feet--side trail to the right to see some of the best swamp you will find in the Tigers. Then continue on. The Big Tree Trail soon joins the Brink Trail and you will head left there. The ongoing trail crosses under a powerline, passes the sign for the Adventure Trail, then heads left, going slightly uphill for about 0.1 mile. There you will turn right onto the Wetlands Trail (sorry, no sign there, but it will be obvious.) In 0.2 mile stay right and avoid the Wetlands Connector (it goes to a power substation) and soon pass tiny Round Lake. When you come to another power line, go right 200 feet, then left onto the Bus Trail. In 0.3 miles see what's left of the bus on your left. Then backtrack about 100 feet and take the trail heading north. It will take you to the Around the Lake Trail. Turn right there, and enjoy views down on Tradition Lake as you head back toward the main trailhead. Along the way, note the in-ground displays that show what some animal tracks look like.
Whew! That sounds like a lot when it's all crammed into a few brief sentences like that. The Tradition Lake Loop write-up offers a more pedestrian exposition. But it's all on good trail, with a total distance of 2.9 miles and a cumulative elevation gain of only about 150 feet. If your young hiker seems up to it--and assuming you are too--you should go for it.
Along the way, try to identify any wildflowers you see, and point out different kinds of trees--particularly their bark, and their needles or leaves, and how different they all are. You'll undoubtedly hear the calls of a few wild birds, and perhaps be able to identify some of them. And by the time you are done, if you are lucky, you might meet up with one of those friendly critters that Zoe encountered on her hike, way back there along the Swamp Trail.