Abundant lake-effect snows make northern Michigan a reliable and renowned cross country skiing destination. Resorts like Crystal Mountain offer Nordic skiing with all the trimmings, including lessons, rentals and well-mapped (and even lighted) trails. But the region is filled with kilometer after kilometer of lesser-known groomed trails, too, often maintained by local ski clubs or municipalities. Whether your tastes lean toward skate skiing or classic stride, gentle grades or heart-pumping hills, you'll want to explore these locals favorite treks through Michigan forests.
Near Tawas City, the Corsair Trail System offers one of the largest groomed trail networks in the state, with 35 miles of paths meandering along Huron-Manistee National Forest lands in the Silver Valley. Well-designed and well marked, its a great choice for all ability levels.
Near Traverse City, the 10-mile Muncie Lakes Pathway wanders among small glacial lakes and along the Boardman River in the Pere Marquette State Forest. If you don't require groomed trails, you may also want to explore the nearby Sand Lakes Quiet Area, where a 7-mile trail passes through a DNRE preserve that prohibits snowmobiles.
Near Vanderbilt, the Shingle Mill Pathway traverses the elk country of the Pigeon River Country State Forest. The trail parallels the fast-flowing Pigeon River, then climbs above the river valley, where you have a good chance of spotting the resident elk herd.
The VASA Trail near Acme is a well-known, well-designed and well-maintained trail, thanks to the large Nordic ski race held here every February. Enjoy it at your own pace the rest of the season and do pace yourself: The VASA is hilly and long, with loops of 6.5 and 16 miles. Its groomed for both classic and skate skiing.
The Lake Ann Pathway offers several loops through state forest land, taking you along the shore of Lake Ann, past smaller lakes, a stretch of the Platte River, bogs and natural springs. Its particularly well designed, with loops for all skill levels.