Nordic Tracks in Pure Michigan

Aaron Peterson, a contributing photographer for Michigan Travel Ideas, shares one of his favorite Upper Peninsula cross-country ski spots, Noquemanon Trails, which raises his adrenaline and challenges his technique.

They may be hard to find, and difficult to pronounce (no-kay-mun-on), but once you locate the Noquemanon Trails and learn the local lingo (Noque, “no-kay,” for short) you’ll understand why Marquette is gaining a reputation as the Nordic skiing capital of the Midwest.

The core of the Noque trails can be found at the Forestville Trailhead just outside Marquette. Follow Wright Street to Forestville Road, a rough and tumble 3.5-mile drive into the pine-forested hills. Follow the blue arrowhead signs.

Once you get to the large parking area, grab your gear, change in the heated chalet and get ready for quite possibly the best Nordic skiing you’ve ever had. Yes, it’s so good it’s worth the bumpy drive.

At the Forestville trailhead, access 45K of looping trails that range from flat and kid-friendly to hang-on-for-dear-life thrill ride, my preference. When it comes to Nordic skiing, I like to challenge both my cardio and my technique, and the Noque trails are some of the few places that consistently do so.

One of my favorite runs is the 5K Bagwaji (it means “Into the Wild” in Ojibwe) that snakes and snarls through wooded hillsides. By the time I reach the woodstove in the lodge, my adrenaline masks the exhaustion.

There’s more to the Noque trails than just the Forestville Trailhead. Ask the staff at the chalet about the nearby Al Quaal, Saux Head Lake, Blueberry, Big Bay and Valley Spur trails, too. Is there such a thing as too much skiing?

More information: An $8 day pass is required. Passes, heated changing and eating area, rentals and restrooms are at the Forestville Trailhead. Be sure to check the website for detailed driving directions (906/235-6861; noquetrails.org).

Aaron Peterson is a travel photographer based near Lake Superior on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. His work has appeared in several publications, including Michigan Travel Ideas, Outside, National Geographic Adventure and Outdoor Life.