A 13,000 Acre Playground: Grand Island
If you’ve driven through Munising, you’ve likely looked over toward Grand Island, across Munising Bay. As you leave town to the west, you can see much of the southern shore of Grand Island, off to Muskrat Point and Murray’s Bay. In the clear summer waters of Murray’s Bay you can sit atop The Bermuda; an ominous shipwreck, just feet below the surface.
It’s winter now. The ice over the West Channel has formed a solid path from the Grand Island Landing. For the adventurous who make the journey, Grand Island will deliver an unforgettable winter experience.
On February 10th, 2011, Pure Michigan travel writers were given a firsthand tour on snowmobiles of this 13,000 acre playground. With snowmobiles from Munising Snowmobile Rentals for Steve and Dave, and our own personal sleds for Kevin and me, we left the mainland at 9a.m. sharp and made our way to Trout Bay.
The Grand Island National Recreation Area is part of the Hiawatha National Forest and offers outdoor adventure for every interest.
After watching the sun climb higher into the cold morning sky, we saddled our machines and headed up the west rim of Trout Bay. The morning view over Trout Bay is simply stunning.
From the Trout Bay Overlook, the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is viewable in the distance.
Farther north, we see signs of the extreme weather that hits Grand Island. Windswept cliffs see very little snow accumulation due to drifting. Drifts, often 5 to 10 feet tall, are common on the north and west rims of Grand Island. For the second time in as many days, travel writer Steve was heading straight into true Upper Peninsula snowmobiling.
The road on Grand Island is accessible in winter by snowmobile, but is marked as private property. The Lighthouse is a privately owned parcel on Grand Island. While many on the island make their way to the North Light, it is simply a matter of time before too many visitors will lead to a gate or additional security to protect the property.
The North Shore presents a rugged opportunity for ice climbers, who descend upon Munising the first weekend in February for the Michigan Ice Festival. The most adventurous climbers make their way to the island if the conditions for crossing are favorable. 2011 was a banner year for ice climbing on Grand Island.
From the North Shore, we made our way south along the West Rim Trail. This trail presents the greatest challenge for snowmobiles, with the largest snow drifts on an island trail. (Larger drifts can be found in Trout Bay). We all enjoyed the thrill of riding over huge drifts and along the cliff line!
We completed our counter-clockwise trip around Grand Island, arriving back at the Island Landing. Sleds turned off, we sat and marveled at the pure enjoyment, and the perfect day we were given for the trip.
Grand Island is an un-groomed, un-monitored recreation area. Ice conditions can change overnight, affected by water currents below the ice and obvious temperature changes. If you or someone you know is considering the trip across to the island, be sure to check with local authorities or ask us about the conditions on the Upper Peninsula Overland discussion forums.
Tom Dolaskie IV is the Co-Founder of Upper Peninsula Overland. Tom is a business owner and lives in Munising. He serves on the Munising City Commission and Board of Directors for the Alger County Chamber of Commerce.