Cross Country Skiing in Pure Michigan

The start of a new year means new goals and for many of us, getting in shape is on the list.

A Michigan winter provides the perfect terrain and scenery to get in shape outdoors while enjoying the sights and sounds of nature. One activity that is great for families, beginners and experienced athletes alike is cross country skiing. You can burn up to 500 calories per hour while enjoying the peaceful Michigan winter landscape far away from the crowds at the gym.

Michigan cross country skiing trails stretch over 3,000 miles and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources grooms various state forest pathways to provide trails across the northern Lower and Upper Peninsulas. It is also a great way to observe wildlife – from tracks in the snow to seeing birds and animals up close, it’s an experience that you can only get outdoors.

With cross country skiing being one of the many activities featured in A Pure Michigan Winter, we compiled a list of just a few trails to check out this winter. For a complete list of cross country skiing trails in Michigan, visit Cross Country Ski Trails in Michigan State Parks and Recreation Areas.

Cadillac Pathway has 11.3 miles of groomed trail with varying terrain that allow users to determine the length of trail and degree of difficulty they desire. Trailhead parking lots are located five miles northeast of Cadillac on 13th Street and on Seeley Road, north of Boon Road.

Bring your skis, snowshoes or just your hiking boots to Van Riper State Park for enchanted evenings of fun in the snow from 6-9 p.m. on Saturdays, Jan. 19 and Feb. 16. Experience the beautiful lit trail at Van Riper with your family and friends or make it a romantic date night.  The trail will be lit from 6-9 p.m. For details, call the park, 906-339-4461. The park is located at 851 County Road AKE in Champion, Mich. 49814 in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Enjoy an evening ski or snowshoe along a lantern-lit trail through the snow covered forests of the Upper Falls at Tahquamenon State Park during one of their Lantern-Lit Cross-country ski and strolls. Events take place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Saturdays, Feb. 2, 9, 16 and 23. Warm up by the bonfire with refreshments along the 1-mile loop. A limited number of snowshoes are available to borrow at no charge. Participants must provide their own cross country ski equipment. A headlamp is recommended during overcast evenings. Meet at the Upper Falls Fact Shack.  The park is located at 41382 W. M 123 in Paradise, Mich., 49768 in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. For details, call 906-492-3415.

Pine Baron Pathway, southwest of Gaylord, provides beginners and intermediate skiers with nearly 9 miles of well-groomed trail that meanders through beautiful woods. The trailhead parking lot is located on Lone Pine Road. Three of the four loops are fairly level, and the remaining loop has several good downhill runs that will interest the intermediate skier.

Join other cross-country skiers for a magical winter evening from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 9 when the snow-covered forest at  Hartwick Pines State Park is warmed by the glow of lantern light. Skiers can traverse the 1.25-mile, groomed cross-country trail, guided by more than 75 lanterns along the way. Meet at the Hartwick Pines Logging Museum. It is recommended that skiers be of intermediate skill to participate in this event.

Wildwood Hills Pathway, a three-looped trail covering approximately 9 miles of beautiful rolling hills in Indian River near Petoskey, offers a more challenging course for the intermediate skier.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, located on the south shore of Lake Superior near Silver City in Ontonagon County, is offering cross-country skiing and snowshoeing by lantern light in late December, and on Saturday evenings in January and February. Nearly 80 old-fashioned kerosene lanterns will illuminate a 1-mile trail for a unique and memorable experience. Stop halfway around the loop at the warming shelter and join the park naturalist for a campfire and refreshments.

Blueberry Ridge, just south of Marquette, has the bumps for advanced skiers, the flats for beginners and is very well maintained. There are 12 miles of groomed trails. The three north loops have side-by-side diagonal-groomed tracks so people can ski next to each other. The 1.7-mile lighted central loop is groomed for both diagonal-stride and ski-skating, as are the south two loops.

Algonquin Pathway, located south of Sault Ste Marie on 16th Avenue West. This pathway has 15 km (9 miles) of groomed trail that is laid out in three loops. The 1.6 mile lighted trail is the first loop off the trailhead parking lot. This pathway straddles old beach ridges and passes through mixed-age aspen intermixed with pine and hardwood.

Learn more in Cross Country Skiing | A Pure Michigan winter, from the Pure Michigan winter video series.


Do you have a favorite cross country skiing trail in Michigan? Share with us below!

Tweetable Facts About Pure Michigan Winters

Winter in Michigan is full of activities and fun. With that in mind, here are 10 quick facts about winter in Michigan that you can share with your friends on Twitter. Simply click on any fact and it will automatically populate on your Twitter status bar. And while we’re talking Twitter, remember to follow Pure Michigan on Twitter as well.

For more information about some of these winter activities, check out these articles on michigan.org:

Fun fact: @PureMichigan is home to 43 downhill ski areas – more than any other Midwest state http://bit.ly/xoNZRr
No matter where you are in @PureMichigan, you are only a two-hour drive from a downhill ski area http://bit.ly/xoNZRr
Fun fact: There are more than 6,200 mi. of maintained, interconnected snowmobile trails in @PureMichigan http://bit.ly/xoNZRr
Like snowmobiling? The Upper Peninsula offers 3,000 miles of groomed trails @PureMichigan http://bit.ly/xoNZRr
The International 500 in Sault Ste. Marie in @PureMichigan is the oldest and fastest snowmobile race in North America http://bit.ly/xoNZRr
Fun fact: @PureMichigan has more than 2,000 miles of dog sledding trails http://bit.ly/xoNZRr
Did you know some areas of the Upper Peninsula can get more than 25 ft. of snow a year? @PureMichigan http://bit.ly/xoNZRr
Peabody Ice Climbing in Fenton in @PureMichigan has ice climbing towers that range from 45 – 75 ft. tall http://bit.ly/xoNZRr
Fun Winter fact: Otsego Ski Club in @PureMichigan serves as an Olympic snowboarding training facility http://bit.ly/xoNZRr
Did you know @PureMichigan has more than 100 miles of snowshoeing trails? http://bit.ly/xoNZRr

Cross-Country Skiing in Pure Michigan

Photo courtesy of Upper Peninsula Travel & Recreation Association

Michigan may not be known for mountainous terrain, but it does offer some of the best cross-country skiing in the country – great for both fun and exercise.  More than 3,000 miles of trails stretch across the state, Mackinac Island included.  Come winter, the entire east side of the island is reserved solely for cross country fun, with ski rental and instruction available.

For those unwilling to brave the icy Straits, there’s plenty of prime skiing available on the northern Michigan mainland – from the Sand Dunes Ski Trail in St. Ignace, to the Peek-A-Boo Hill Ski Trail in Cedarville.  For a more adventurous trek, the 35 mile Petoskey to Mackinaw Trail stretches 35 miles through eight cities.

There’s plenty of fun to be had downstate as well:

Bald Mountain Recreation Area in Lake Orion is known for its eight miles of groomed cross country skiing trails, and is also a great destination for snowmobiling, sledding and ice fishing.

Bernard W. Baker Sanctuary in Bellevue was the first sanctuary of the Michigan Audubon Society.  Well-known as a refuge for Greater Sandhill Cranes, cross country skiing is welcomed along its trails in-season.

Blandford Nature Center in Grand Rapids is a 143 acre facility, giving visitors the opportunity to explore a variety of nature areas along its cross country trails.  It’s also possible to warm up indoors with special exhibits and Blandford’s popular wildlife care program.

For more information on cross country skiing in the Mackinac Island region, or throughout the state, visit www.michigan.org.