Experience Winter Cycling in Grand Rapids This Season

If you’re looking for a new activity to enjoy during your Pure Michigan Snow Day, or just need a new way of staying active, try winter cycling! Using fat-tire bikes, you can experience the joyful scenery of the state while also staying fit. Guest blogger Howard Meyerson provides some suggestions of top Grand Rapids trails for your cycling pleasure. 

When the lure of winter woods grows strong and the urge to ride is even stronger, Grand Rapids is the place to be. Outside magazine, in 2010, named Grand Rapids a “Best Town for Mountain Biking.” Michigan’s second largest city is also now becoming a hub for winter biking trails.

Grand Rapids and the surrounding area offers riders a choice of groomed, winter cycling trails. Free demo-days are offered on some by bike shops in the area. Curious riders or enthusiasts can come out on those days and test-drive the newest fat-tire designs.

Fat-bikes, as they are commonly called, have soft, wide tires and comfortable frames that make riding in wet and snowy conditions easy. They appeared on the Michigan cycling scene several years ago and were considered a fad, but riders soon found their utility and comfort appealing. Stable with enhanced traction, they opened the door to winter riding at a time of year when most bikes stay in storage.


Lance Climie, clubhouse manager at Indian Trails Golf Course, Photo Courtesy of Howard Meyerson

If you’re looking for a good winter cycling trail, or to try-out a fat-tire bicycle, visit these top trails around Grand Rapids, in no particular order:

  1. Indian Trails Golf Course:  Located 15-minutes from downtown Grand Rapids, at 2776 Kalamazoo Ave SE, the golf center has become a popular in-city riding destination with 3-miles of groomed trail in rolling, wooded terrain. Riders gather at the heated clubhouse for hot chili and beer by the fireplace.  The trail is open to the public from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. every Wednesday in January and February. It closes at 7 p.m. on race nights. A $5 daily trail-pass or $20 seasonal pass is required to ride. Wednesday is free demo-day on the trail and area bike shops bring 10 to 15 fat-bikes to try.
  2. Merrell Trail: The very popular 4 to 5-mile groomed winter forest bike trail at 2908 10 Mile Rd. NE, Rockford, has become a destination for intermediate and advanced riders. It is maintained by the West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance. There is no charge to ride. The trail opened in 2012 and was developed by WMMBA, Plainfield Township, Kent County Parks, the Wolverine World wide Foundation and Merrell.
  3. Deep Lake Trail: The hilly woods of Yankee Springs State Recreation Area are a magnet for mountain bikers year-round. The long-popular Barry County cycling trail at 2526 S. Yankee Springs Rd., Middleville, offers seven groomed miles for winter riding. It is maintained by the West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance.  There is no charge to ride.
  4. Cannonsburg Ski Area: This is hilly terrain. The ski area at 6800 Cannonsburg Rd. NE, Belmont, grooms a 5 to 6-mile loop for fat-tire bicycles. Trail fees are $5/day, $30 for the season. Rental bikes are available.

James Gunderman riding at Indian Trails Golf Course, Photo Courtesy of Howard Meyerson

If you’re thinking to try winter fat-tire cycling, be sure to:

  1. Wear a helmet.
  2. Dress warm, but not too warm. Think hat and gloves.
  3. Choose layers for active play.
  4. Pick footwear that will keep your feet warm.

Howard Meyerson is lifelong outdoor enthusiast and freelance writer/photographer in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His work appears in a variety of publications.

Have you ever cycled in the winter? Share your experiences with us by commenting below!

Snowshoe Your Way Through a Pure Michigan Snow Day

Tahquamenon Falls State Park is an ideal destination to snowshoe, whether you are trying it for the first time or are looking for someplace new to explore. Theresa Neal with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, sells readers on why snowshoeing is a great way to get outside this winter season.

Winter can be a tough time for people to stay active. It’s cold outside, it gets dark early, and curling up in a blanket with a tablet or book sounds SO good! But if you are feeling a bit dreary, maybe gained a few pounds over the holidays, or find yourself in a routine that is getting a bit old, I would suggest giving snowshoeing a try. Many people are intimidated to strap giant paddles to their feet and try walking around, understandably so. I find that once people are outfitted correctly, and given a few pointers, the majority are amazed at how easy it is to snowshoe.

Photo Courtesy of D. Kenyon

Photo Courtesy of D. Kenyon

Snowshoeing Tips:

  1. If you can walk, you can snowshoe! You may need to adjust your stride slightly, and many people find poles helpful in the beginning.
  2. Aluminum snowshoes are best for icy or hard-packed snow conditions. The crampons (pokey-grips on the bottom) will give you traction, but can trip you up if you drag your feet.
  3. Traditional wooden snowshoes are great for deep, fluffy snow conditions. They are very quiet (no squeaky noises) compared to aluminum, and they leave beautiful tracks in the snow where you have walked!
  4. Used cross-country ski poles from a second-hand store or garage sale work great for snowshoeing.
  5. Expect to sweat! Avoid cotton base layers, as they soak up moisture and can make you cold. Fleece, polyester and wool are good options. Dress in thin layers so you can easily adjust your body temperature while snowshoeing.
Photo Courtesy of T. Neal

Photo Courtesy of T. Neal

Benefits of snowshoeing:

  1. You burn twice as many calories snowshoeing versus walking!
  2. You can be outside WITHOUT getting cold!
  3. After the initial investment of purchasing snowshoes, it’s free! Many state parks offer free snowshoe rental, including Tahquamenon Falls, Ludington, Hartwick Pines and Porcupine Mountains.
  4. You can explore places that are inaccessible during the summer. At Tahquamenon we hike ‘off-trail’, across marshes and through forests that are usually too wet or thick with vegetation to get through.

Photo Courtesy of Michigan DNR

My favorite part of winter is snowshoeing at night. The cold, crisp air seems so clean and refreshing, forcing the fog from my head and waking up my senses. The light from my headlamp glistens off the snow, and I enjoy scanning the trail for animal tracks to see who has been out since my last hike. Red fox, coyote, snowshoe hare, ruffed grouse and deer mouse tracks are most common. The best nights are those without cloud cover, when the moon is shining and the sky is filled with stars, lighting my path without needing a headlamp.

With an average annual snowfall of over 15 feet, Tahquamenon Falls State Park is a great place to explore winter on snowshoes. The park is open year-round, with two main destinations for snowshoeing (Upper Falls and Lower Falls). Check our website to print winter maps and join us on Facebook or Twitter to stay up to date on current conditions and events.

Have you ever been snowshoeing? Comment on your experience below!


Theresa has served as the park interpreter at Tahquamenon Falls since 2005. She began her career as a naturalist with the DNR at Holland State Park as an Adventure Ranger, delivering nature programs and leading hikes for park visitors. She was then hired as a naturalist for DeGraaf Nature Center in Holland, designing and presenting programs for children and school groups. During the summer of 2005, she again worked for the DNR Explorer Program as a mentor for the Explorer Guides in southeast Michigan. Theresa is a proud graduate of Michigan State University.

Spring Skiing, Punxsutawney Phil and Misplaced Enthusiasm

Winter in Michigan is unlike anything else. Between the trails, hills and snow-covered landscape, it truly is an outdoor-enthusiast’s dream destination. One of the many great things to take advantage of during a Pure Michigan Snow Day is the beautiful ski and snowboard hills at Shanty Creek Resorts. Guest Blogger Chris Hale from Shanty Creek shares more on the iconic Pure Michigan destination, and some things you can do as the weather gets warmer.

For many years I’ve struggled with what I call “misplaced enthusiasm.” You see, it won’t be long until spring is in the air. And for many, the first hint of warmer, spring-like temps elicits throngs of skiers to pack up their winter gear. The pursuit of golf clubs, mountain bikes, and unwrapping winterized boats begins. And this is where misplaced enthusiasm lives.

Photo Courtesy of Shanty Creek

Photo Courtesy of Shanty Creek

Think back to November. Social media pages light up like Christmas trees with questions about “When are you opening?” “How much snow do you have?” “Are the snow guns on?” and on and on. Winter can’t start soon enough, and regardless of when that opening day is, diehards willingly spend a day skiing even if that’s only on a few runs. And while that’s great, like clockwork their enthusiasm wanes by mid-March.

Sure, on some level it makes sense. Everyone loves the anticipation of what’s next. And after a long, cold winter, spring offers the promise of rebirth and blooming flowers, and blah, blah, blah. But let me be the loudest to say it: Spring skiing in Northern Michigan is simply brilliant!

The snow-pack is deep. Temps are warmer. There’s sunshine, and the slopes are 100% open. For skiers and boarders, it is nothing short of amazing!  Plus we, the industry people who live it day-in and day-out, are ready to have some fun too. That’s why all ski resorts throw our Krazy festivals this time of year!

Photo Courtesy of Shanty Creek

Photo Courtesy of Shanty Creek

Here at Shanty Creek, the first weekend of March is our annual Slush Cup at Schuss Mountain. 46 years and counting! The day is filled with family-fun including a Seal Slide, a Frozen Fish Toss, and Shovel Racing before the big finale, and après-ski entertainment. There are s’mores around fire pits and drinks flowing at ice bars. The energy is rocking and contagious.

Photo Courtesy of Shanty Creek

Photo Courtesy of Shanty Creek

The following weekend is our Cardboard Classic where guests bring sleds made from nothing more than cardboard, tape and glue. We race and have prizes for best design and best use of the Shanty Creek logo/brand. Then there’s Canadian March Break, St. Patty’s, the Blarney Stone slope style jam, a lot of basketball Madness on the big screen, and finally our Last Weekend Luau to close the month.  (Not to mention some incredible deals on lodging and lift tickets. Trust me. Call our reservations department or check us out online. You’ll be pleasantly surprised!)


Photo Courtesy of Shanty Creek

So grab your sticks, some shades and sunscreen, and enjoy what I consider to be the most wonderful time of the year at Shanty Creek Resorts.

Chris Hale

Chris Hale has been vice president of sales and marketing for Shanty Creek Resorts for the past 6+ years where he manages all aspects of the Shanty Creek brand. His career includes various advertising and marketing gigs and has taken him from St. Louis, MO to Boulder, CO to Atlanta, GA before making the move “up north.” He now resides in Traverse City where he is proud to call Pure Michigan “home.” Check out Shanty Creek’s Facebook and Instagram for fun updates and great pictures!