10 Michigan Trails to Experience This Winter

Crisp winter air and the sound of crushing snow beneath your feet on a Michigan trail are cravings snowshoe enthusiasts and cross country skiers can’t wait to satisfy.

With thousands of miles of trails throughout the state, Michigan offers a winter wonderland of picturesque scenery and distinct features that can feed this need.  These are trail systems that vary in terrain and level of difficulty – from wide, groomed pathways to more natural, narrow lanes – allowing everyone to get in on the fun.

So if you’re already thinking about where you want to go this winter, you might want to consider adding these to your list.

Heritage Trail
Drummond Island

The Heritage Trail is a 3-mile nature and snowshoe trail offering picturesque landscapes of Drummond Island Township Park.

Visitors can experience beautiful forest scenery and the Potagannissing Bay shoreline on its lower levels, while the upper levels wind along limestone ledges and shallow caves. There is also a 50-foot drop in elevation along the trail.

The majority of Heritage Trail can be snowshoed easily by beginners, although the upper level does have some uneven terrain.

Visitors may also see a wide array of wildlife inhabiting the area, from forest birds to whitetail deer.

Snowshoeing through the snow

Snowshoeing, Photo Courtesy of D. Kenyon

Big M Cross Country Ski Area
Manistee

With a 37.9-mile trail system, the Big M Cross Country Ski and Mountain Bike Trail is located off of M-55 between Cadillac and Wellston.

The trail includes 18-miles that are groomed specifically for skiers, taking them up and down hills and through a snow-covered forest of hardwoods. While the best skiing taking place during January and February, snowfall can average about 130 inches from December to March.

Corsair Cross Country Skiing Trail
Oscoda

From gently rolling to slightly more challenging, the 28.3-mile, one-way Corsair Cross Country Ski and Hiking Trail offers a splendid way to take in Michigan’s winter beauty.

The blue diamond-shaped confidence markers and the Silver Valley Trailhead offers a gentler and less hilly experience for skiers, while the Wrights Lake Trailhead is more challenging with longer loops and steeper hills.

Keweenaw Trails
Calumet

The Keweenaw Peninsula is always a great choice for anyone looking to experience beautiful trails under a canopy of Michigan forests.

The cross country ski season can run from Thanksgiving to mid-April with the region boasting 250 inches of annual snowfall, making it a great way to satisfy your hunger for winter sports. The area also has a wide variety of trails, from the wide and groomed daily to the more narrow striding-only wooded trails.

Keweenaw Trails include four trail systems – the Chassell, Michigan Tech, Swedetown and Maasto Hiihto/Churning Rapids – where visitors can get a combined annual pass or get a day rate for an individual trail.

Winter on the Keweenaw Peninsula

Keweenaw Peninsula, Photo Courtesy of Suzanne M.

Muncie Lake Pathway
Traverse City

Groomed and marked for novice skiers, the 11.5-mile Muncie Lake Pathway is one of the most popular trail systems in Grand Traverse County.

The trail is about 13 miles south of Traverse City and takes visitors through fantastic views of Muncie Lake. While there are numerous hills, there are no sharp grades or sudden changes of directions.  The back loop of the trail system does include three long downhills for more experienced skiers.

Loud Creek Cross Country Ski and Hiking Trail
Mio

With its seven interconnecting loops that go from 1.36 miles to 4.34 miles, Loud Creek Cross Country Ski and Hiking Trail is a great experience for people of all skill levels.

The complete trail features signage that indicates difficulty information and blue diamond confidence markers.

Visitors will experience the peaceful solitude of northern hardwoods and large pine, as well as bridge crossings, beaver ponds and rolling hills on the groomed trail.

Ogemaw Hills Pathway
West Branch

Experience the scenic beauty of the Au Sable State Forest by hitting the 13.6 miles of groomed trail known as the Ogemaw Hills Pathway.

Located at the corner of Clear Lake and Fairview roads, the trail is perfect for the beginner, as well as intermediate and more experienced cross country skiing enthusiast.

With its distinct features formed thousands of years ago by retreating glaciers, the opening to the Ogemaw Hills Pathway is actually what is left of abandoned pioneer farms that are being reclaimed by the forest. The location and elevation of the trail also means it will get between six to 10 inches more snowfall than surrounding areas.

Cross Country skiing

Pine Baron Pathway
Gaylord

Loved by locals and built specifically for cross country skiing, the Pine Baron Pathway has four interconnected loops that range from 2 to 2.5 miles.

While much of the trail is flat with some minor changes in elevation, the 2-mile Whoopsy Loop does feature some descents and climbs, but isn’t too challenging for beginners. And since area averages about 180 inches of snow every winter, the Pine Baron Pathway makes for a quick and pleasurable experience for anyone who loves cross country skiing.

Valley Spur Trail System
Munising

Known for getting up to 200 inches of snow during the winter, the Valley Spur Trail is located in the snow-belt of southern Lake Superior.

The trails reside in heavy forest cover, sometimes following old logging roads, in a 27-mile stretch that is groomed daily from December to March. Beginners, as well as more intermediate and expert skiers, can enjoy the mixture pine and hardwoods that populate the forest as they traverse through the winter snow.

Wolverine Nordic Ski Trails
Ironwood

Another great trail on Lake Superior’s southern shore is Wolverine Nordic Trails, where the average winter starts early and lasts longer than other parts of the Midwest.

The trail has five different loops for a combined 10 miles on a natural rolling terrain that is suitable for striders and skaters. The system’s four snowshoe trails are marked with red or blue diamonds and ribbons too indicate difficulty. The hardest of these is the Hospital Loop Trail, which is marked with blue. The easiest, the Snowflake Loop Trail, is marked with red.

Which winter trails do you love to visit during the season? Let us know in the comments below. 

Four Thanksgiving Recipes Inspired by Local Michigan Produce

On a chilled November day, warmth and conversation will fill the room as family members converse over a delicious Thanksgiving feast that was prepared with love. Thanksgiving is a time to savor everything you have to be thankful for. There is no better way to celebrate life’s abundance than with a comforting home-cooked meal made with fresh ingredients that moved from the local farm to your table. Local Michigan produce is just one of many reasons to be thankful for the mitten state.

Delicious seasonal fruit and vegetables such as pumpkin, squash, apples, carrots, and sweet potatoes from local Michigan farms will make this year’s Thanksgiving dinner one for the books. The following recipes are meant to bring you ideas and creativity while planning your Thanksgiving dinner, and encourage you to take advantage of the wonderful seasonal produce that Michigan has to offer, courtesy of guest blogger Kristen Guilbert from Awesome Mitten.

Pumpkin Twists

Pumpkin Twists

Photo and recipe courtesy of The Novice Chef

These fancy pumpkins twists are sweet, flakey, buttery, and look a lot more difficult to make than they actually are. Made with local Michigan pumpkin, these tasty twists are much more interesting than the common dinner rolls and will make your relatives think you are way more handy in the kitchen. Add these to the dessert table, serve as appetizers, or maybe even as a side dish! These are versatile and will be a sweet addition to your Thanksgiving table.

What you need:

Makes 4 large twists

Twists:

1 large egg

2 teaspoons water

4 sheets puff pastry

1 cup fresh pureed sugar pumpkin, or canned pumpkin

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

coarse sugar, optional

Glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together egg and water, set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, sugar and pumpkin pie spice.
  4. Lay puff pastry flat and divide pumpkin mixture evenly across the top. Spread pumpkin into an even layer.
  5. Starting at one end, roll the pastry over the pumpkin mixture.
  6. Using a sharp knife, slice down center, but leave about an inch on one end of the pastry connected.
  7. Crisscross  the two pieces together, making sure to keep the pumpkin filling sides facing up.
  8. Form the pastry into a circle by pulling the two ends together and pressing together.
  9. Place pastry on prepared baking sheet leaving room for spreading.
  10. Brush the pastries lightly with the egg wash you made earlier (the egg and water). Sprinkle with coarse sugar.
  11. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes.
  12. In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, milk and vanilla extract. Drizzle on top of warm baked pumpkin twists and serve!

Butternut Squash Apple Bruschetta

Butternut Squash Apple Bruschetta

Photo and recipe courtesy of Whitney Bond

I bet you didn’t think that butternut squash could get any better…  until you added apples and made this awesome autumn-inspired bruschetta! This recipe creates the perfect combination of tart, savory, and sweet, and will be the perfect appetizer before the big feast. What better way to start off the Thanksgiving festivities than with a bang? This bruschetta will do all that and more.

What you need:

Makes 8

2 cups diced butternut squash

1 cup diced apples

6 tbsp olive oil (divided)

½ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

¼ tsp allspice

¼ tsp ground cloves

1 tsp kosher salt (divided)

1 tsp black pepper (divided)

8 slices french bread

1 cup ricotta cheese

4 cloves garlic (minced)

6-8 fresh sage leaves (chopped)

2 tbsp balsamic glaze

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425° F.
  2. Toss the butternut squash and apples with 2 tbsp olive oil, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, ½ tsp kosher salt and ½ tsp black pepper.
  3. Place in an even layer on a baking sheet and into the oven for 15 minutes.
  4. While the squash and apples are roasting, brush the sliced bread with 2 tbsp olive oil and set aside.
  5. Combine the ricotta cheese with the remaining ½ tsp black pepper and ½ tsp kosher salt, set aside.
  6. In a small skillet, add the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil over medium high heat.
  7. Add the garlic and sage leaves, saute for 1-2 minutes.
  8. Remove from the heat and toss with the squash and apples when they come out of the oven.
  9. Place the slices of bread into the oven for 4-5 minutes, or until toasted to your liking.
  10. Remove the bread from the oven and top with the ricotta cheese, then the roasted squash and apple mix.
  11. Drizzle with the balsamic glaze.

Brown Butter Garlic Honey Roasted Carrots

Brown Butter Garlic Honey Roasted Carrots

Photo and recipe courtesy of RasaMalaysia

This may just be the perfect side dish for your Thanksgiving feast. The combination of locally grown carrots, browned butter, garlic, and honey is simply delicious. These jazzed up carrots are satisfying and will be a comforting addition to your amazing home-cooked meal. It pairs wonderfully with turkey, stuffing and other Thanksgiving sides. You won’t regret giving this recipe a try!

What you need:

Serves 3

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb baby carrots

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 dashes ground black pepper

1/2 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon chopped thyme or parsley.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. Heat up an oven-safe skillet and cook the butter on medium heat until it starts to form and turn into golden brown.
  3. Add the garlic and quickly sauté before adding the carrots and stir a few times.
  4. Add the salt, black pepper, honey and thyme or parsley.
  5. Transfer the skillet and roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the carrots become tender. Serve immediately.

Brown Sugar Sweet Potato Pie

Brown Sugar Sweet Potato Pie

Photo and recipe courtesy of Sally’s Baking Addiction

This pie will be an excellent addition to the dessert table. This is the dessert that your relatives will rave over! Different and unexpected, this pie is a great alternative to pumpkin pie, and will have everyone asking for more! Made with Michigan sweet potatoes, and sweetened with brown sugar, you cannot go wrong making this delightful dessert for your Thanksgiving festivities!

What you need:

Serves 8-10

Homemade or store bought pie crust

1 lb sweet potatoes (about 2 medium)

1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

1 cup (200g) packed light or dark brown sugar

1/2 (120ml) cup heavy cream

2 large eggs

2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

egg wash: 1 large egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon (15ml) milk

optional: whipped cream

Directions:

  1. Prepare crust if using homemade.
  2. Place sweet potatoes in a large saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil on the stovetop. Boil for 45-50 minutes, or until super soft.
  3. On a floured work surface, roll out one of the discs of chilled dough. Turn the dough about a quarter turn after every few rolls until the crust is about 12 inches in diameter. 4. Carefully place the dough into a 9×2 inch pie dish. Tuck it in with your fingers, making sure it is smooth. Use a small paring knife to trim excess dough off the edges. Flute the edges then set aside.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C).
  5. Drain the boiling water and run the potatoes under very cold water. The skin should peel off easily at this point. Allow them to cool until they are easy to handle. Slice the potatoes into large chunks, then place into a mixing bowl.
  6. Using a handheld or stand mixer with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the potatoes on medium-high speed until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients except the egg wash and whipped cream. Beat on high speed until smooth and combined.
  7. Spread filling into prepared pie crust.
  8. Brush the edges of the crust with egg wash.
  9. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until the center of the pie is only slightly jiggly. A toothpick inserted into the center of the pie should come out mostly clean. After 30 minutes and if desired, place a pie crust shield on top of the pie to prevent the edges from over-browning.
  10. Place the pie on a cooling rack and allow to cool for at least 1 hour at room temperature before serving. The pie will slightly deflate as it cools; this is normal. Decorate with whipped cream. Cover leftovers tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Kristen Guilbert (2)

Kristen graduated from Grand Valley State University and now resides in Eastern Michigan. She is artsy and loves expressing her creativity through her writing and art. She enjoys coffee, cooking and baking, and can frequently be found practicing yoga, or spending time in nature. She especially loves the nature to be found in her home state of Michigan, and thinks there is nothing quite like a cozy camping trip to one of the Great Lakes.

 

 What do you love to eat on Thanksgiving? Share with us in the comments!

End the Year with These Michigan Events in December

December is nearly here! Holiday season is in full swing with New Year’s and Christmas events all month long, including some fun shopping opportunities! Get into the spirit with the below events.

Visit our events page to see everything going on all month long.

December 1-4

America’s Tallest Singing Christmas Tree
December 1-3, Muskegon

The Mona Shores High School Choir’s Singing Christmas Tree got a new look last season with an entirely new tree structure, complete with more versatile LED lighting, gaining international attention compliments of the Associated Press, who took great interest in their holiday spectacle.

With its 25,000 colored lights that coordinate to the beautiful singing, 15 tiers that reach 67 feet up into the majestic Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts, over 260 singers and accompanied by the 50 piece Mona Shores High School Orchestra, the Singing Christmas Tree must be seen to be believed.

This year’s Singing Christmas Tree is being held at the Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts, on Dec. 1, 2 and 3 at 7:00 p.m. each night with a 3:00 p.m. matinee Saturday as well.

Gateway to the StarsGate-Way-To-The-Stars
December 2, Bay City

Come and see the stars! This is a live and interactive show that demonstrates how to explore the sky using binoculars and telescopes. Planetarium Manager Mike Murray teaches you observing techniques that can maximize the stargazing experience. The show runs on the first Friday of every month.

Danú: A Christmas Gathering
December 2, Midland

Hailing from historic County Waterford, Danu is one of the leading traditional Irish ensembles of today. Their concerts throughout Ireland feature high-energy performances and a glorious mix of ancient Irish music and new repertoire. The acclaimed Irish ensemble will celebrate Christmas with Feile na Nollag’ (A Christmas Gathering). Christmas in Ireland is one of the most important holidays for families and friends, as many Irish people living abroad come home to gather in celebration. Music and dance gatherings, in communities both urban and rural, have often combined for generations to offer a great variety of songs, music, and stories for the holidays.

Santa’s Arrival, Tree Lighting & Holiday Open HouseSanta's-Arrival-Tree-Lighting-and-Holiday-Open-House
December 2, Traverse City

Join Traverse City downtown for the holiday season kick-off featuring a night of fun, music and activities!

34th Annual Lexington Christmas Tree Lighting
December 3, Lexington

Experience small town charm during the 34th Annual Christmas Tree Lighting in the Village of Lexington. Join in the Christmas Sing A Long with the Cros-Lex Pep Band, and enjoy a cup of hot cocoa from the fire station. Santa arrives at 7:30 p.m. with treats for all the boys and girls. Adults can enjoy the Merchants Walk and taste fresh roasted chestnuts, listen to the Salvation Army Band and enjoy wagon rides to view the decorated homes.

December 5-11

Santa Parade and Christmas Tree Lighting
December 7, Algonac

Saint Nick give his reindeer a night off and arrives on the back of a decorated in lights antique tractor for Algonac’s Santa Parade! Come for this very unique and fun event.

Wine & SteinWine-Stein-Lansing
December 7, Lansing

You love wining and steining in the summer! Now, celebrate the wintery season with a WINTER casual after hours bash at the zoo! Enjoy tastings of beer and wine and sample fabulous hors d’oeuvres from local restaurants as you listen to holiday tunes and meander through the zoo, featuring our holiday favorite Wonderland of Lights.

Treetops Crafts & Drafts
December 8, Gaylord

Crafts & Drafts is a unique paint & sip where a wine bottle is your canvas! Throwing out the traditional paint & sip ways for Crafts & Drafts with Mary B. You’re not limited to paint, use multiple mediums to create a unique craft that you can keep for yourself or give as a gift this holiday season.

Guests can enjoy beer and pizza while creating this fun craft.

Farm By Lantern LightFarm-By-Lantern-Light
December 9-10, Grayling

Wellington Farm, USA, a 60-acre living history farm is now accepting reservations for their annual “Farm By Lantern Light” event. Due to the limited seating per showing, reservations are an absolute must.

This most unique event is presented each year during the Holiday Season. It has been said to be, by many who have attended previous years’ productions, the most unique and memorable Christmas Season experience in the Midwest. The full evening’s experience consists of a tour through the historic farm by lantern light. The interior of all major buildings and the geographic landscape is breathtakingly illuminated by over 100 kerosene lanterns.

DIYpsi Holiday Market
December 10-11, Ypsilanti

Head to DIYpsi (dip-see) a handmade art fair that takes place in Ypsilanti’s business districts once each summer and winter. For two weekends each year, the city hosts the best indie artists our city and region have to offer for a one of a kind shopping experience that will take care of everyone on your list.

There will be incredible hand-crafted food and drink when you get here! (and occasionally an eclectic mix of live music)

On top of finding unique hand crafted gifts, doing your shopping at DIYpsi means you’re contributing to a larger cause- keeping thousands of dollars invested in our local economy and supporting the arts.

December 12-18

Wizards of Winter
December 15, Kalamazoo

Head to Kalamazoo State Theatre for a performance by The Wizards of Winter! Featuring former members of Trans-Siberian Orchestra and some of the mid-Atlantic’s finest rock and progressive musicians, The Wizards of Winter will be performing a holiday rock opera in Kalamazoo! This 12 member ensemble boasts soaring vocal harmonies, precision string instrumentation, powerful percussion and stunning keyboard work, layered around a rich storyboard that evokes December’s past!

Michigan History Museum – Panel: 21st-Century Michigan through Native Eyes
December 15, Lansing

Rock Your Mocs is a three-part series exploring 21st-century native perspectives in Michigan; it is presented in partnership with arts, academic and tribal organizations.

Join in the Learning Center for a moderated panel discussion touching on topics of native governance, traditions and environmental sustainability. Tribal members from across the state and from diverse backgrounds and affiliations dive deep into native perspectives and cultures. You can submit a question for possible inclusion in the panel discussion via Twitter or Facebook.

The Secret Society Of Twisted Storytellers
December 16, Detroit

The Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers presents “WHIZ OF THE WIZ: Story Time with George Faison!” This will be a live, curated, multimedia storytelling event. Stories told and directed by Tony Award Winner, Dr. George Faison, internationally celebrated producer, director, choreographer, writer, composer and dancer. Show features excerpts from theatre, film and concerts Faison has choreographed. Including The Wiz, Josephine Baker Story, Cotton Club, Alvin Ailey and more with songs and dance performed live from The Wiz with orchestra.

Full Moon Night Skiing
December 16, Roscommon

Experience the magic of winter in a whole new light! Every full moon during the ski season, the Trapper’s Cabin trail is lit with torches, creating a truly unique and memorable nighttime experience. There will also be a bonfire and hot chocolate at Trapper’s Cabin. Skiers who need to rent skis must do so before 7 p.m. Join for an evening you’ll never forget!

Winter Solstice CelebrationWinter-Solstice-Celebration
December 17, Midland

The Winter Solstice is here! For centuries, people have gathered with family and friends to recognize the longest night of the year and to celebrate the return of longer days to come. Take part in earth-friendly traditions as you roll a beeswax candle and make an evergreen wreath and a small Yule log to take home. Also learn about evergreen trees and why the seasons change, and listen to solstice stories and music from across the globe. You can also shop for the holidays at the Nature Center Store.

December 19-25

Bronner Family Christmas Sing Along
December 22-23, Frankenmuth

Join the Bronner family as they lead everyone in singing a variety of Christmas carols. It take place on Dec. 22nd from 1:30-2:00 pm and Dec. 23rd from 1:30-2:00 pm.

Dablon Winery Features the Film ‘Mozart’s Sister’
December 21, Baroda

Mozart’s Sister is a re-imagined account of the early life of Maria Anna ‘Nannerl’ Mozart, five years older than Wolfgang and a musical prodigy in her own right. Once the featured performer, Nannerl has given way to Wolfgang as the main attraction, as their strict but loving father Leopold tours his talented offspring in front of the royal courts of pre-French Revolution Europe. Approaching marriageable age and now forbidden to play the violin or compose, Nannerl chafes at the limitations imposed on her gender. But a friendship with the son and daughter of Louis XV offers her ways to challenge the established sexual and social order.

Grand Rapids Symphony’s Cirque de Noël
December 22-23, Grand Rapids

Experience the magic of Christmas, the wonder of Cirque and the beauty of live orchestra all in one show! Running from December 22 to December 23, this ultimate family tradition feature performances by aerialists, acrobats, contortionists, and jugglers, choreographed to seasonal favorites as Cirque de la Symphonie artists share the stage with your Grand Rapids Pops.

Shen Yun 2017Shen-Yun-2017
December 22-27, Detroit

Consisting of about 20 pieces, a Shen Yun performance takes you to a magic journey through 5,000 years. Breathtaking animated backdrops, exquisite hand-made costumes, high flying leaps, thunderous drums, and mesmerizing live orchestra music will transport you to another world.

December 26-31

Dog SleddingDog-Sledding
December 29-31, Gaylord

Join Team Evergreen and Liza Dietzen and take an exhilarating ride through the trails on the Jones Masterpiece Golf Course behind a team of dogs that is training for the ultimate sled dog race, “The Iditarod.”

Torchlight Parade
December 31, Harbor Springs

There’s no ticket required to watch the New Year’s Eve fun at Nub’s Nob! This event at Nub’s Nob takes place at 6 p.m. so even the younger kids can get in on the fun as the Nub’s Nob Ski Patrol and the Winter Sports School Skiers make a couple of runs down Smokey creating a pretty light display.

New Year’s Eve Ball Drop
December 31, Marquette

Every New Year’s Eve the intersection of Washington St and Front St in Downtown Marquette becomes the location where locals and visitors to the area come together in a large crowd to welcome in the New Year. On the 12th strike an illuminated ball is lowered from the historic Savings Bank Building.

Traverse City New Year’s Eve Cherry Ball DropTraverse-City-New-Year's-Eve-Cherry-Ball-Drop
December 31, Traverse City

This New Year’s street party features the lowering of a massive, illuminated cherry, accompanied with live music and entertainment!

What are you doing this December? Let us know in the comments!