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. 

Spring Skiing, Punxsutawney Phil and Misplaced Enthusiasm

Winter in Michigan is unlike anything else. Between the trails, hills and snow-covered landscape, it truly is an outdoor-enthusiast’s dream destination. One of the many great things to take advantage of during a Pure Michigan Snow Day is the beautiful ski and snowboard hills at Shanty Creek Resorts. Guest Blogger Chris Hale from Shanty Creek shares more on the iconic Pure Michigan destination, and some things you can do as the weather gets warmer.

For many years I’ve struggled with what I call “misplaced enthusiasm.” You see, it won’t be long until spring is in the air. And for many, the first hint of warmer, spring-like temps elicits throngs of skiers to pack up their winter gear. The pursuit of golf clubs, mountain bikes, and unwrapping winterized boats begins. And this is where misplaced enthusiasm lives.

Photo Courtesy of Shanty Creek

Photo Courtesy of Shanty Creek

Think back to November. Social media pages light up like Christmas trees with questions about “When are you opening?” “How much snow do you have?” “Are the snow guns on?” and on and on. Winter can’t start soon enough, and regardless of when that opening day is, diehards willingly spend a day skiing even if that’s only on a few runs. And while that’s great, like clockwork their enthusiasm wanes by mid-March.

Sure, on some level it makes sense. Everyone loves the anticipation of what’s next. And after a long, cold winter, spring offers the promise of rebirth and blooming flowers, and blah, blah, blah. But let me be the loudest to say it: Spring skiing in Northern Michigan is simply brilliant!

The snow-pack is deep. Temps are warmer. There’s sunshine, and the slopes are 100% open. For skiers and boarders, it is nothing short of amazing!  Plus we, the industry people who live it day-in and day-out, are ready to have some fun too. That’s why all ski resorts throw our Krazy festivals this time of year!

Photo Courtesy of Shanty Creek

Photo Courtesy of Shanty Creek

Here at Shanty Creek, the first weekend of March is our annual Slush Cup at Schuss Mountain. 46 years and counting! The day is filled with family-fun including a Seal Slide, a Frozen Fish Toss, and Shovel Racing before the big finale, and après-ski entertainment. There are s’mores around fire pits and drinks flowing at ice bars. The energy is rocking and contagious.

Photo Courtesy of Shanty Creek

Photo Courtesy of Shanty Creek

The following weekend is our Cardboard Classic where guests bring sleds made from nothing more than cardboard, tape and glue. We race and have prizes for best design and best use of the Shanty Creek logo/brand. Then there’s Canadian March Break, St. Patty’s, the Blarney Stone slope style jam, a lot of basketball Madness on the big screen, and finally our Last Weekend Luau to close the month.  (Not to mention some incredible deals on lodging and lift tickets. Trust me. Call our reservations department or check us out online. You’ll be pleasantly surprised!)

TonyDemin-11168

Photo Courtesy of Shanty Creek

So grab your sticks, some shades and sunscreen, and enjoy what I consider to be the most wonderful time of the year at Shanty Creek Resorts.

Chris Hale

Chris Hale has been vice president of sales and marketing for Shanty Creek Resorts for the past 6+ years where he manages all aspects of the Shanty Creek brand. His career includes various advertising and marketing gigs and has taken him from St. Louis, MO to Boulder, CO to Atlanta, GA before making the move “up north.” He now resides in Traverse City where he is proud to call Pure Michigan “home.” Check out Shanty Creek’s Facebook and Instagram for fun updates and great pictures!

The Chairlift Awaits – Winter Adventures at Shanty Creek

There’s nothing quite like winter in Pure Michigan. The snow and ice turns the state into a winter wonderland, creating an ideal destination for skiers and snowboarders alike. As we anxiously await another snowfall, guest blogger Chris Hale of Shanty Creek shares some reasons to head north.

Life in Michigan delivers the best of all four seasons—from the blooms of spring to the sandy shores of summer to the brilliant colors of fall and the wonderlands of winter. For travelers and residents alike, embracing winter in Michigan means getting outside and playing in the snow.

At Shanty Creek Resorts in Bellaire, located in the northwest Lower Peninsula, the snow is plentiful and we love to celebrate winter. Smack dab in the middle of Antrim County, receiving on average the most lake effect snow of all counties in the lower peninsula, Shanty Creek is a winter wonderland with two ski mountains, a six-lane alpine tubing park, terrain parks, dogsledding, horse-drawn sleigh rides, 30km of cross country ski trails, 5km of snow shoe and fat biking trails, and more! Plus four ski-in/ski-out dining options, and hundreds of lodging options.

Family Skiing in Shanty Creek

Photo Courtesy of Shanty Creek

This January, Shanty Creek is supporting National Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month with a variety of promotions designed for families to hit the slopes affordably. For children, newbie skiers 8 and under who take a lesson from SCR’s Ski School will receive a free season pass valid for the remainder of the 2015-16 season.

Need more reasons to head to Shanty Creek?

Shanty Creek is proud of the ski experience they provide guests.  This season, they’re inviting skiers and riders who have season passes to any other Michigan-based ski area to come TEST RIDE Schuss Mountain for free. That’s right, just present your valid 2015-16 season pass and get a free one day lift ticket.

Alpine tubing in Shanty Creek

Photo Courtesy of Shanty Creek

The fun doesn’t end there. Shanty Creek has partnered with Domino’s and Pure Michigan to create box-top coupons for discounted lodging, lift tickets and alpine tubing this season.

There are always Hooky Specials where guests can get deeply discounted lodging starting at just $69 for Thursday or Sunday nights (to ski the following day when everyone else is at school or work!).

And finally, don’t miss Shanty Creek’s Sardine Specials where guests squeeze and stuff as many friends and family into a car and everyone skis or rides for one price—just $59. Sardine Specials happen on the 18th of each month of the ski season: December-March. Enjoy a Pure Michigan Snow Day this winter and go outside and play.

What are your favorite memories from Shanty Creek?

Chris Hale is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Shanty Creek Resorts. For the latest on Shanty Creek Resorts, including snow conditions, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. For more information, visit the website.