The Beginner’s Guide to a Pure Michigan Winter Adventure

The car is packed with warm clothes, good boots and a whole bunch of outdoor gear. You’ve even put together a special Michigan mix of Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band and Motown favorites consisting of heavyweights like The Temptations and lesser known acts like The Velvelettes. But do you have an honest clue of what sights, sounds, tastes and experiences to take in, making you want to come back to Michigan for more every winter?

Well, that’s where we’re here to help.

If you’re going to Michigan for the first time this winter, we’ve got some activities and places you have to put on your list to get the true Michigan experience. These are the places that make the Mitten State a distinctly great destination when the snowfalls.

So throw on that mix and open up the navigation app on your phone, because you’re going to experience what a Pure Michigan winter really is.

Festivals

Just because there’s snow on the ground and the mercury isn’t rising above the 30s doesn’t mean you should stay indoors snuggled under blankets all day.

Some of Michigan’s best festivals happen during the winter at destinations that are thriving with action and fun.

Frankenmuth is famous for its celebration of German heritage, but it’s also where you’ll be able to experience the long-running Zehnder’s Snowfest on Jan. 25-30. With larger-than-life snow sculptures and intricately detailed ice carvings, Zehnder’s Snowfest also features a warming tent, petting zoo, children’s activity area and fireworks display.

Zehnders-Snowfest

Zehnder’s Snowfest is an annual favorite for many Michiganders, PC: Frankenmuth

Over on the shores of Lake Michigan is Ludington where you can experience the Pure Ludington BrrrewFest. Held on Jan. 28, this annual festival celebrates bundling up and enjoying a cold beer during a Michigan winter. Enjoy live music while sampling the some of the best beer from brewers across the state.

If you’re more interested in visiting the Motor City during the winter, then you should check out the Meridian Winter Blast, held during the month of February in downtown Detroit. From live entertainment that will have you moving to the beat and local cuisine even the fussiest of foodies would drool over, Winter Blast is a tradition that is beloved by Detroiters and visitors alike.

Snowmobiling

Does tearing down a freshly groomed snowmobile trail sound like a great way to spend a winter day?

Well Michigan has more than 6,500 snowmobile trails and one of the most extensive systems of interconnected trails in the United States. The state also boasts a varied terrain, which includes national forests and 11,000 frozen lakes.

Snowmobiling-in-Boon

A snowmobiler exploring the winter season in Boon, PC: Instagrammer andypeninger

Some of the most popular places for snowmobiling are Grayling, Gaylord, Cadillac and Mancelona, with a large number of trails that allow you to take off in just about any direction.

Farther north in the Upper Peninsula, the snowmobile season goes from Dec. 1 to March 31. A popular spot for snowmobilers is Trout Lake Township, which is just 30 miles from the Mackinac Bridge and is home to one of the main crossroads for Upper Peninsula snowmobile trails. Heading southwest from there is the Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum in Naubinway, where you’ll find loads of vintage snowmobiles.

Skiing

The feel of fresh powder on your face as you rip down some of the best skiing spots in the Midwest is a true Michigan winter tradition.

With pitch and vertical drops on par with what you’ll find in New England and out West, Michigan is home to 51 ski areas and more than 260 lifts and 1,000 runs.

Two of the most popular places to go are Boyne Mountain Resort in Boyne Falls and Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville. Boyne Mountain offers 60 downhill trails, 12 lifts and ski-in/ski-out accommodations. Crystal Mountain, located 28 miles southwest of Traverse City, is a family-owned resort with 58 downhill slopes and almost 19 miles of cross country skiing.

Ice-Skiing-in-Michigan

Michigan’s ski scene offers fun challenges for first-timers to pros

In the Upper Peninsula is where you’ll find the Mont Ripley in Hancock and Porcupine Mountain Ski Area in Ontonagon.

Mont Ripley gets an average 250 inches of dry lake effect snow every year, adding to the experiences you’ll have with its 440-foot vertical drop ski area on 173 acres and 24 runs

Billed as the place with trails and views that get kids outdoors, the Porcupine Mountains Ski Area, has 600 feet of vertical drop with 13 trails and four gladed areas. Visitors can also choose to rent snowshoes and experience the peaceful solitude of Michigan’s northern forests as they enjoy a quiet trek through the snow.

Ice fishing

Are you looking forward to landing a big one from one of Michigan’s 11,000 inland lakes as you breath in the fresh winter air?

Then grab a bucket and pole because the Great Lakes State has some of the best ice fishing in the nation, making for a relaxing way to spend a day angling.

Almost any fish available in the summer can be caught during the winter months through the ice. And the ice fishing tradition is so strong in Michigan, that many lake communities host festivals centered on the sport.

Ice-fishing-in-Michigan

Ice fishing offers a unique experience for those looking to relax while enjoying the outdoors

One of the most popular ice fishing events is Tip-Up Town U.S.A., held Jan. 20-24 and Jan. 29-31 in Houghton Lake. Attracting thousands from the Midwest, the annual winter festival is great fun for the entire family with children’s activities, a parade and chili cook-off, as well as an ice fishing contest weigh in and fireworks.

Scenic beauty

Sure there’s plenty to do in Michigan during the winter, but what if you just want to spend some quiet time enjoying the natural beauty of the outdoors, filling up your social media with picturesque photos of sunsets and wildlife.

Maybe you should consider a trip to Tahquamenon Falls State Park in Paradise, which has 50,000 acres of beauty surrounding the Tahquamenon River and waterfalls. The Upper Falls is one of the largest waterfalls east of the Mississippi with a length that is more than 200 feet across and a drop that almost reaches 50 feet.

Another remarkable place to experience is Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Munising, which is rated as one of the most beautiful places to visit in the United States. Between the solitude and beauty of its forest and the elegant ice formations along the jagged cliffs, visitors will have the adventure of a lifetime witnessing this exquisite backdrop.

Something different

What if you want to do the unexpected?

Well if you’re craving to come home with a great story to tell about your winter Michigan trip, than here are a couple of ideas to consider. For example, have you ever considered taking a dog sledding tour?

Nature’s Kennel Sled Dog & Racing Adventures in McMillan offers tours and day trips for guests of all ages and abilities. Guests can learn to drive their own dog sled team and can select from 10- and 20-mile dog sled trips. They can also choose between day rides or an overnight adventure.

Dogsledding-in-Michigan

Dogsledding should be on everyone’s Michigan bucket list, PC: Gina Dewey

Another great exploit is learning to ice climb. Michigan’s miles of sandstone cliffs are lined with hundreds of frozen waterfalls, creating some of the best ice climbing spots in the nation ranging from 20 to 210 feet in height. There’s even the Michigan Ice Fest, held Feb. 15-19 in Munising. Filled with classes for all skill levels and after parties, attendees can have fun while getting great experience from some of the best climbers in Michigan.

So what are you waiting for?

Pack your bags, set the vacation notice on your work email and prepare for a Pure Michigan winter adventure that will have you coming back for more.

What would you suggest a newbie do to have a fantastic winter in Pure Michigan? Let us know in the comments!

7 Reasons to be Thankful for Michigan

Today, guest blogger Joanna Dueweke of the Awesome Mitten brings us 7 reasons to be thankful for the state of Michigan.

With winter just around the corner, November is the perfect time to reflect on just what it is about Michigan that is so grand. Thanksgiving reminds us to be thankful for what we have, and we have so much to be thankful for in this dynamic state.

Seasons – Depending on who you’re talking to (namely the staunch summer or winter lovers), the changing of the seasons is one of the most magical aspects of living in the Mitten. We have so much opportunity to diversify in hobbies, wardrobes, moods, and scenery with the passing of the each season. No one can deny that when the heat of an Indian Summer gives way to a crisp fall wind that there isn’t some sense of relief. Similarly, we all jump the gun to break out our flip flops and shorts on the first day the weather returns to the high 50s, knowing full well it could still snow the following week.

Seasons_Collage

Michigan’s four seasons, PC: Instagrammers dweidnerphoto, bechased1122, catchupandrelish & jfongtorres

Variety - Just like Goldilocks, Michiganders are privileged to be able to find a town that is just right for them. We have them in all sizes; from the booming large metropolises to those dainty and quaint villages, there’s a city for everyone in the Mitten. That variety lends itself to so many aspects of the state, right down to the diversity of people. We have a conglomeration of beliefs, backgrounds and passions that come together to create a community dedicated to taking care our home.

Water – You can’t drive for more than 20 minutes anywhere in the state without running into a body of fresh water, whether it be a great lake, regular lake, river, creek or pond. We are blessed to be positioned in harmony with so many fresh water resources. Whether you like to fish, kayak, swim, sail, you name it, we musn’t forget that, “Four out of five Great Lakes prefer Michigan.”

Betsie-Bay-Frankfort-Summer

The reflective Betsie Bay in Frankfort, PC: Instagrammer nsorensenphoto

LibationsBeer, wine, liquor – the folks in Michigan are doing it all and most likely just down the street from you with ingredients found in our collective backyards. The innovation and enthusiasm coming out of the state’s alcohol industry is nothing short of a marvel. We may be relatively young in our development in these industries, but we are making a name for ourselves with haste that tastes fantastic.

SportsLions and Tigers and Wings and Pistons, oh my! Our professional sports teams are a point of pride, not to mention the countless high performing college teams showing up every week giving us hope. Michigan is host to some of the most voracious fans which should not be taken lightly. Whether we steal the World Series or take home the Stanley Cup, we are out there (or behind the TV) watching, wishing, and winning.

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Comerica Park during the warm summer months, PC: Michelle Forte

People – Michiganders are just plain great. We should be grateful for one another. Without that, we wouldn’t have a state that is coming back strong from a devastating economic downturn, or creative artists making a name for our state on a global scale, or musicians showing up on awards ceremony stages. No, the people pointing out where they’re from and where they’ve lived with an open palm are the reason this state is flourishing and making noise on a national scale.

Adventure – Finally, the Mitten is full of adventure. Whether you’re looking for an urban experience steeped in rich cultural heritage, or looking to escape it all and camp beneath the stars, Michigan is the place to be. Not only is there variety in what can be found in the state, but it is supported by quality folks making sure that adventure is not one to be forgotten.

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There’s much adventure to be found in Michigan, PC: Instagrammers katefaced & tara12891

The list could go on and on. Why are you thankful for the state of Michigan?

Joanna Dueweke writes for the Awesome Mitten and is the Interactive Marketing Coordinator for the Detroit Regional Chamber. Born and raised in Traverse City, she is enjoying new adventures in the Detroit area, but also values her roots in Northern Michigan. Exploring the outdoors, sailing, travel, and enjoying the Mitten’s beer industry consume her time when she is not pursuing her Master’s in Library and Information Science at Wayne State University.

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.