Nordic Skiing in Marquette County

With an 1896 lighthouse as a base lodge, Michigan Travel Ideas freelance writer Tina Lassen samples the wealth of Nordic ski trails that weave through the woods between Marquette and Big Bay.

Maybe the skiing can wait. Cradling a mug of coffee, I’m curled deep in an overstuffed chair in the living room of the Big Bay Point Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast. The enticing aroma of innkeeper Linda Gamble’s homemade scones wafts from the kitchen and a fire dances before me. It will take some resolve to pull myself from the seductive comforts of this lighthouse-turned-inn.

Big Bay Point Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast

Big Bay Point Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast

But a fresh sifting of snow has settled over the hilly forests northwest of Marquette. The other—and more convincing—part of me is eager to snap into Nordic skis and explore. Marquette County maintains miles of ski trails, and some of the most extensive networks happen to be along the scenic road to Big Bay (CR 550).

Twelve miles south of Big Bay, 12 kilometers of challenging trails rollercoaster alongside Saux Head Lake. Part of the nonprofit Noquemanon Trail Network, the Saux Head Trails are well-marked and beautifully groomed. As I struggle up a steep pitch near Wilson Creek, I’m grateful for the user-friendly corduroy surface. As I pause to catch my breath, I marvel at the shadows of stark-white birches against swales of untouched snow.

Next, I continue south on CR 550 to sample the Forestville trails. This area on the outskirts of Marquette, serves as the finish line of the annual Noquemanon Ski Marathon, a popular 50-kilometer race. Some 40 kilometers of trails wind along the Forestville ponds and Dead River. The spot is popular with locals, since some trails allow dogs and another loop is lit for night skiing.

Saux Head/Noquemanon Trail

Saux Head/Noquemanon Trail

But by the time Forestville’s lights flicker on, I’m headed toward the flashing lighthouse beacon at Big Bay. I’m eager to explore in this beautifully preserved 1896 light keeper’s home—to bask in the sauna and maybe browse through the bookshelves of its library. And inn guests are welcome to scale the tower steps for a private Lake Superior view. It’s always a treat to tour a lighthouse, but how often can you do it in your slippers?

Travel Guide

Rates at Big Bay Point Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast start at $135/night, including full breakfast. Spa treatments available for an additional cost.

Rent ski gear ($20/day) from Down Wind Sports, 514 N. Third St., Marquette.

Pick up the free Marquette Region Cross Country Ski Trail Guide from the Marquette Country Convention and Visitors Bureau, 337 W. Washington St., or area ski shops.

Tina LassenFreelance writer Tina Lassen has spent more than 25 years exploring and writing about Michigan’s outdoor adventures. She is a frequent contributor to Michigan Travel Ideas and has written extensively about Michigan in guidebooks such as National Geographic’s Guide to America’s Outdoors: Great Lakes.