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.
Bonfire

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!

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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.

17 Ways To Use The Year’s First Vacation Days On A Pure Michigan Snow Day

New year, new you, right? Except it still feels the same. More Mondays, more meetings, more gazing out the window thinking, “I wish I was out there skiing right now. Have we even taken the kids sledding this season? Maybe they’ll cancel work tomorrow, like a snow day …”  Ha! Work is never cancelled (ever). 

But, psst! You’ve got vacation time, and you’ve worked hard to earn it! Don’t waste it waiting around.  Get out there and make those memories before the fluffy stuff is gone! Now’s the time to make your own #PureMichiganSnowDay happen when you Go Great Lakes Bay!

You + Yours

Photo Courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

“Honey, let’s get away together, just you and me.”

Say these magical words to your significant other, and watch how fast this #PureMichiganSnowDay can snowball! Live it up and cozy up, too – opportunities for snow day smiles and snuggles are just around the corner:

Let Nature Soothe You: The soft crunch of snow underfoot will put you and yours in sync on a free, guided snowshoe hike at Midland’s Chippewa Nature Center.

Feel Exhilarated: Ski or snowboard down the The Ski Slopes At Apple Mountain Resort together in Freeland, and yell it out together: “B’bye work meetings, hello snow day!”  Afterward, cozy up for a cup of hot cocoa and a bite to eat at Kathleen’s Apple Mountain, while you watch other skiiers hit the slopes!

Enjoy the Warmth: Stare into each other’s eyes while wine tasting at Frankenmuth’s St. Julian Winery, share good times during a free tour at Frankenmuth Brewery, or lounge in overstuffed leather chairs and play footsie by the roaring fire at Whine in Midland. You and yours will be rested and ready … for another #PureMichiganSnowDay!

Family Q Time 

Photo Courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

“School, work, dinner, baths, bed, repeat. There’s got to be more to family life than this!”

Oh, there’s more-so much more! Break the routine, and declare a #PureMichiganSnowDay! Then grab your phone to forever capture the look on the kids’ faces when you say: We’re going to …

Splash Village! Zehnder’s Splash Village Hotel and Waterpark is 50,000 square-feet of “we needed this”! With a six-story, family raft ride and super loop, lazy river, indoor arcade, two spacious hot tubs (and, ahem, memorable Bloody Marys for the oh-so-deserving parents), and much more, the whole family is sure to have the BEST SNOW DAY EVER!

Toboggan together! Sled until little hearts are content at City Forest in Midland, rent a toboggan ($6/hour) for a whole new experience, or maybe even cross-country ski the .6 mile groomed trail. Pack a thermos of hot cocoa, and simply enjoy!

Aftershock! When you go to Midland’s new indoor trampoline extravaganza, please let us know one thing: Who had more fun, the kids or the adults?! (Psst! Aftershock runs daily specials, including Dollar Jump Night on the first Tuesday of each month.)

Go mini-golfing! The Family Fun Center at Bavarian Inn Lodge has an indoor, 18-hole miniature golf course, four indoor pools, two waterslides, and a 15-foot waterfall to play in! Family fun center, indeed!

See the stars! Winter stargazing sounds cool … like burr! But you can beat the winter chill at Delta College Planetarium and still discover astronomical fun on your snow day! Check out “Led Zeppelin”, January 23 – April 30, for rock sounds and laser lights.

Adventure Bound

Photo Courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

“The walls are closing in! Must. Get. Outside.”

Feeling suffocated, adventure enthusiasts? Outdoor-induced adrenaline and blood-pumping experiences await – just take a #PureMichiganSnowDay, and they’re all yours!

Hit The Trails: The rail trails, that is! Plans are in action to eventually connect the Saginaw Valley Rail Trail, Midland County Pere Marquette Rail Trail and Bay County Riverwalk and Rail Trail into The Great Lakes Bay Regional Trail, but each are currently multi-use meccas for walking, running, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and even fat tire biking! (Want to know more about fat tire winter biking? Go to the gurus at Jack’s Bicycle Shop in Bay City, and ask about their guided bike tours!)

Drop a Line: In the Saginaw Bay, of course! Local ice fisherman know that our freshwaters are full of hot spots for good eats of the walleye, perch, bass and catfish-kind! (Need gear? Little Forks Outfitters in Midland; staff might even have hints about lucky spots …) Before you get here, brush up on our recent Saginaw Bay Icefishing post from local guest blogger Tom Bennett for even more insider tips on uncovering those high-yield icefishing honeyholes.

Shred it Up: Strap on a set of skis or a snowboard, and hit The Ski Slopes at Apple Mountain! Check for their Cool Deals before you go!

Now that you’re well-versed in all the ways to sled, ski, snowshoe (and, yes, even swim!) your way past the winter blues with the perfect Pure Michigan Snow Day, be sure to share your adventures out into the fluffy white beyond using #PureMichiganSnowDay and #GoGreatLakesBay on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook!  You can even enter Pure Michigan’s Show Us Your Snow Day Dance contest on Instagram using #MISnowDayDance!

Guest Blogger - Wainwright O'Deay

Guest Blogger: Jen Wainwright O’Deay

Jen is a freelance writer in Bridgeport, Mich. She specializes in creating effective connection through marketing communications copy, feature articles and content/blog posts. You can find her camping with her family or reading Thoreau.

5 Indoor Staycation Destinations Around Michigan

Going on vacation is an incredible way to recharge. Studies suggest that taking a vacation is good for your health and can help boost your happiness, particularly when it’s cold outside.  While weeklong getaways to far-away destinations are popular, Michigan offers incredible staycation destinations that aren’t too far from home. If you need some ideas to get started, we’ve put together a few suggestions for your own Pure Michigan staycation.

zehnders

Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth

Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth has a ton of attractions that are appealing to all ages. Bring your family and stay at the Splash Village Hotel and Waterpark. It offers great accommodations and suites perfect for larger groups. The waterpark  is mid-Michigan’s largest indoor waterpark and has over 50,000 sq. ft. of aquatic fun. There is no shortage of activities for everyone to enjoy. In addition to the pool area, Mushroom Grille concession area and locker rooms, the new Atrium Waterpark includes: A six story family raft ride, action river, The Super Loop – a thrilling 6-story speed slide, zero entry pool with water geysers, water basketball, private family cabanas and large family hot tub.

Even if you don’t enjoy the water, there are still  activities to partake in such as the expanded arcade with games that will keep you and your family entertained for hours.  If you’re more concerned about what food is available, fret not. Eat your fill with traditional All You Can Eat Family Style Chicken dinners at Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth or visit the Marketplace for delectable goodies. Z Chef’s Café, located in the Marketplace, offers a unique dining experience as well.

MGMGrand

MGM Grand Detroit

For the adults looking to get away, step inside MGM Grand Detroit for a whole new world of gaming and luxurious accommodations. There are over 90 table games and 4,500 of the latest slots and video poker to choose from. It’s easy to get recharged by staying in one of the 400 luxury rooms and suites. For restaurant fare, there is no shortage of options. Three signature restaurants from Wolfgang Puck and Michael Mina provide an upscale experience. Add to that their creative new tapas concept, Palette Dining Studio, and a quick serve area, Breeze, and you’ll never be tired of the food.

For those who want to relax and rejuvenate, IMMERSE Spa is a great way to unwind after a long day of fun. There is even a personal spa concierge who can help you design a custom body treatment! If you decide to stay at MGM Grand, don’t forget to go out and explore Detroit! There are many must-see destinations such as the Detroit Institute of Arts, Campus Martius and the Charles H. Wright Museum.

greatwold lodge

Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City

Take a trip to Traverse City with your family and have blast at Great Wolf Lodge! There are many accommodation options including suites with whirlpools or even a KidKamp suite, which includes a private tent for your children to enjoy. Of course, you can’t visit Great Wolf Lodge without splashing in the waterpark! With over 38,000 square feet of splash-loaded rides, slides and pools you’re sure to find a favorite. It features eight waterslides, five unique pools, a multi-story interactive tree house, and a 1,000-gallon tipping bucket.

However, there are even more fun activities on land. Grab a wand and battle a dragon in MagiQuest or get an ice cream-themed manicure at Scooops Kid Spa before gathering your family in the Grand Lobby for nightly fireside Story Time. There’s plenty for the adults too with a full-service Spa, fitness room, and plenty of shopping and dining options like Camp Critter Bar & Grille or indulge in pizza at Hungry As A Wolf.

Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark on Boyne Mountain

avalanche

Your trip wouldn’t be complete without playing in the arcade with over 50 games and a redemption counter providing awesome prizes. After you’ve worked up an appetite grab a quick bite at the Snack Shack or fill up with a full menu at the Apres Ski Pub, both located inside the park.  And if you don’t mind the cold, Boyne Mountain is an excellent skiing location.Even further north is Avalanche Bay!It is the largest indoor waterpark in Michigan offering huge amounts of water fun no matter your age.

Centrally located at the heart of Boyne Mountain Resort, this waterpark is always 84 degrees and open all year ’round, making it the perfect vacation destination. Avalanche Bay features six exciting water slides, including the park’s newest thrill, The Big Couloir – a ProSlide SuperLOOP with the steepest drop in the industry, as well as a Rip Zone surf simulator, Splasherhorn Mountain interactive play structure, lazy river, children’s pool, relaxing hot tubs, and many other unique waterpark attractions.

Shanty Creek Resorts in Bellaire

Shanty Creek Resort has activities all year for any season. During the spring and summer, you can play 72 holes of championship golf on four different courses. Right now in winter though, it’s the time to ski! Shanty Creek has 53 ski runs on two mountains, Schuss Mountain and Summit Mountain, along with 30km of cross-country skiing, a 6-lane alpine tubing park, winter sleigh rides, and Michigan’s most awarded terrain parks. You can also bike or hike in the resort’s 4,500 acres or explore the single track of nearby Glacial Hills trail system.

There are over 400 lodging choices including hotel guest rooms, suites, condos and private rental homes so you are sure to find the right fit! There are other amenities available for the whole family to enjoy including indoor and outdoor pools, a fitness center and wellness spa, tennis courts, and now FootGolf, a combination of soccer and golf.

What staycation destinations did we miss? Tell us below!