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. 

Four Photos That Will Convince You To Strap on Some Snowshoes and Explore

Guest blogger and landscape photographer Aubrieta Hope shares her tips for a Sleeping Bear Dunes snowshoeing trek to remember.

Winter brings ever-changing dramatic vistas to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Ice sculptures form on the beaches, every tree in the forest sparkles, and the dunes become snow-swirled works of art.  In deep snow, hiking can be a struggle; but with snowshoes, those drifts are no longer obstacle courses!  Strap on a pair of snowshoes and meet your inner explorer.  Over the next hill or through the woods, snowshoes can take you where you want to go. Blaze your own trail!  Don’t worry about dropping breadcrumbs to find your way back – just retrace your tracks.

Photo by Aubrieta Hope - Michigan Scenery.

Photo by Aubrieta V. Hope – Michigan Scenery

You can begin your explorations anywhere.  Snow season is an especially lovely time to visit the overlooks at Sleeping Bear Dunes, particularly Pyramid Point and Empire Bluff.  The Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive (though closed to vehicular traffic in winter) offers panoramic views to snowshoers and cross-country skiers.  With the absence of summer visitors and songbirds, these popular areas are quiet, but you won’t feel alone.  All season long, shy creatures venture out and stitch mysterious tracks in the snow, revealing the presence of wildlife that summer visitors rarely notice.  Another silent, but spectacular snowshoe destination is Sleeping Bear Point, accessed by the Dunes Trail just west of Glen Haven.  The Lake Michigan shoreline also offers amazing scenery, and snowshoes provide good traction for traversing icy beaches. Wander at will, but use caution.  Never venture onto the lake, even if it looks frozen.

Photo by Aubrieta V. Hope - Michigan Scenery

Photo by Aubrieta V. Hope – Michigan Scenery

If you don’t mind company, consider snowshoeing the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail.  This recently-constructed multi-use trail runs nine miles from Empire to Glen Arbor (with the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, the Dune Climb, and Glen Haven Historic Village along the route).

Photo by Aubrieta V. Hope - Michigan Scenery

Photo by Aubrieta V. Hope – Michigan Scenery

Snowshoes are remarkably stable and easy to use.  It’s tough to topple over on them unless you try going backwards without thinking (I’ve tried that).  Some people snowshoe without poles, but hills require less effort when you have poles.  When snowshoeing up a hill, lean forward and press your toes into the slope.  On the way down, lean back a bit and dig in your heels. Snowshoeing will make you warm, so dress in layers.  Be sure to wear waterproof, insulated boots and gloves (or mittens).  Stay safe by bringing a buddy or letting someone know where you are going.  Stuff a few high-energy snacks and maybe a hand warmer into your pocket, and you’re good to go!

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 3.23.32 PM

Photo by Aubrieta V. Hope – Michigan Scenery

You can rent snowshoes and poles from Crystal River Outfitters in Glen Arbor if you’d like to strike out on your own.  Or, if you’d prefer snowshoeing with a guide, sign up for a ranger-led snowshoe hike through Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  These hikes are offered every Saturday afternoon during the winter months.  Call 231-326-4700 x 5010 to register (you can borrow a pair of snowshoes free of charge for the afternoon if needed).  Visit the website for details.

What’s your favorite way to spend a snow day? Share your photos enjoying the snow using #PureMichiganSnowDay on Twitter and Instagram or visit michigan.org/snowday.

Aubrieta V Hope Snow PortraitAubrieta V. Hope is a landscape photographer with a special interest in northern Michigan and a lifelong, incurable affection for winter!   To view more of her images, visit www.michiganscenery.com or stop by Great Goods in Suttons Bay, Michigan.

 

15 Reasons to Love Winter in Michigan

Photograph courtesy of John McCormick

Winter has arrived in Pure Michigan! To celebrate the season we asked our fans on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Instagram “What does winter in Pure Michigan mean to you?” 

From skiing and snowboarding to warm fires and hot cocoa, winter means something unique to everyone. Below is a roundup of just some of our favorite responses from fans. If yours is missing, tell us in the comments section below what winter in Michigan means to you!

Finding the perfect tree and having apple cider with the family putting it up.  -Angela Blasingim

When I was a kid in Petoskey and Grand Rapids it meant lots of ice skating!  -D Kay Graham Hostettler

Snowshoeing all over the north woods going to places I can’t get to in the summer because of too much brush. Going right across frozen lakes and ponds – walking on water.  - Starlajane Thunder

Crisp clean air and pretty snow flakes.  -Sandy Little-Wolney

Playing in the snow. Enjoying the beautiful white trees.  - Jackie Daniels

Lots of snow and skiing!  - Instagram user @_rangerous

Pure beauty. We live in a state that gives us the magnificence of all the different seasons and winter brings purity.  - Kaitlyn Smith

Cross country skiing, hot cider, snuggling under covers.  -Dianne Thole

Frozen Lake Michigan with ice as far as you can see.  - John-Carolyn Hinch

Beautiful snow! Crisp fresh air.  - Jill Schultz

Winter in Michigan means long afternoons and evenings on my uncles farm. Roaring fires and playing the piano. Horseback riding with the neighbors. Maybe taking out the four wheelers or ice skating on the pond if it’s frozen enough. Bliss.  - Instagram user @alicialouise5193

Serene beauty.  - Amy Socrainte

A b&b up north in the thumb and keeping warm!   – Twitter user @AmyJoyHagen

My last winter in Michigan was ’77-’78. It was long, cold, and record breaking, but I enjoyed everyday.  - Mike Jackson

Snowboarding. Sitting downtown Traverse City with friends and hot beverages. Seeing my family again while I’m on break from school. Being where I belong.  - Instagram user @klostrowski

Why do you love winter in Michigan